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ADVENTURE OF THE MONTHJANUARY, 2005
Old Rob Roy MacGregor knew this path. Doubtless he walked it with
his boys as they moved from grazing range to grazing range 300 years ago. Likely, the
MacGregors moved cattle along this trail. Some of the cattle probably belonged to the
MacGregors. Somecalled "blackmail"probably did not. You can hear the
echoes of those times in the rush of the wind at the pass, and in the rushing streams that
plunge down both sides of the mountain.
From the broad, long, open valley to
the north called Glen Dochart the path leads up across ever-steeper meadows to a saddle
pass between peaks on a ridgeline. These peaks separate the Glen Dochart from the narrow
box canyon valley to the south, called Balquhidder Glen. The floor of Balquhidder Glen
holds two relatively shallow lochs, Loch Voil and Loch Doune. (A third loch, which appears
to the east of Loch Voil after periods of heavy rain, is known locally as "Loch
LOCH VOIL & THE BRAES O' BALQUHIDDER
that separate Balquhidder Glen from Glen Dochart are known as the Braes o
Balquhidder. Their beauty has inspired poets and dreamers, and at least one
cattle-thieving Highlander turned Scottish legend. Rob Roy MacGregor lived the last
peaceful years of his life in Balquhidder Glen. When he died, he was buried in the
churchyard at the Balquhidder Kirk. His wife, Mary, and two of his sons lie buried next to
Rob Roy. Our walk to Glen Dochart begins at the Balquhidder Kirk, and follows a steep side
valley called the Kirkton Glen to pass in the Braes o Balquhidder. Along the way you
may see what the poet Robert Tannahill saw that caused him to write the poem "The
Braes o' Balquhidder" just a few years after Rob Roy MacGregor was laid to rest at
Balquhidder churchyard in 1735.
ROY'S GRAVE, BALQUIDDER CHURCH YARD
|Let us go, lassie, go
Tae the braes o Balquhidder
Whar the blaeberries grow
'Mang the bonnie Hielan heather
Whar the deer and the rae
Lichtly bounding tegither
Sport the lang simmer day
On the braes o' Balquhidder
|I will twin thee a
By the clear siller fountain
And I'll cover it o'er
Wi the flooers o the mountain
I will range through the wilds
And the deep glens sae dreary
And return wi their spoils
Tae the bowr o my dearie
|When the rude wintry
Idly raves roun' oor dwellin
And the roar o the linn
On the nicht breeze is swellin
So merrily well sing
As the storm rattles o'er us
Till the dear shielin ring
Wi the licht liltin chorus
Noo the simmers in prime
Wi the flooers richly bloomin
Wi the wild mountain thyme
A the moorlans perfumin
Tae oor dear native scenes
Let us journey tegither
Whar glad innocence reigns
'Mang the braes o Balquhidder
FROM BALQUHIDDER UP KIRKTON
This hike from Balquhidder leads uphill from
Rob Roy's grave via Kirkton Glen to a pass in the mountains called the Braes o'
Balquhidder. It is a walk for anyone who considers himself a hiker or even just good
walker. The climb is steady, but not hand-over-hand steep. The scenery is ever changing
and often glorious. And you can elect to return to Balquhidder or descend into the next
valley north for a full, interesting day in the Highlands.
Begin at the Balquhidder Church. Take the track
behind the church, which parallels the burn (stream) north and uphill through the forest.
Proceed into the forest of fir and larch on the
wide track recently opened up by forestry digging. Initially the road is fairly steep, but
it levels out after five minutes or so. The path becomes a jeep road that parallels the
burn (stream) that keeps to the left (west) of the track. The stream defines this inclined
valley as the Kirkton Glen.
There is a fork at about the ten-minute mark.
At the fork continue straight ahead for about twenty minutes. Here the jeep road takes a
sharp right-hand turn (east). On the left you will see a signpost reading "Glen
Dochart" pointing uphill (north) through the forest, keeping parallel with the burn.
Take that path through the trees to your left. This section of the hike is quite steep but
lasts only 5-8 minutes. Do not give up; what you find at the top is worth it.
CLIMB BEGINS AT BALQUHIDDER KIRK
The path comes quickly out of the trees after
about 8 minutes climb into the open meadows above. Follow the zigzag path towards
the fence and stile about 50 yards in front of you. You may be huffing and puffing by now,
but make your way at least as far as the stile and stop and turn around.
Looking south you have a glorious view of the
Trossachs mountains spread out below you. You can see forever, or so it seems. In truth,
you can see as far as Stirling on a clear day.
HIKERS IN KIRKTON
GLEN ABOVE BALQUHIDDER
CONTINUED ON PAGE 2
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