Strathtay Walk

Yesterday the cashier at The Sheep Shop in Pitlochry told us that it’s a lovely walk to Strathtay, a village to the southwest of Pitlochry. He also mentioned that there’s a chocolatier there. That was all I needed to hear.

We set out. Sam’s magic boots required an adjustment early on.

boot adjustment

And then we came to this neat footbridge at Port Na Craig. Unfortunately it distracted all of us so much that AC left his walking stick (pictured above on the ground) behind, and by the time we realized it, it was gone. So far he’s donated a hat and a stick to some lucky Scots.

Port Na Craig bridge

We crossed a highway and then it was up and up the hills to the west of Pitlochry.

Here’s Pitlochry:

Pitlochry

Kissing Gate. They’re just so much fun.

Kissing gate

We follow a stream up through the Fonab forest.

Forest girl

It gets greener and greener.

Great green forest

And then we come upon the Stone Circle: Clachan An Diridh, which means “Stones of the Ascent.” No kidding. But they were worth it: lovely, lichen mottled, and patient.

Stones of the Ascent

A short ways away we came to the edge of the forest and the edge of the hill, to a laddered stile:

Ladder stile conquest

Here it is in better light:

Ladder stile 2

We climbed the ladder down onto a moor which gave us a view of our destination, Strathtay:

Strathtay

It took us over an hour to make the descent, down the moor, across streams and through rocky paths. We could hear sheep bleating in the distance, but the first one we came upon was dead, just off the path, its woolly coat looking as though it had been draped over its bleached bones. This was startling, to say the least, and it led to a long discussion with Sam about how and why the sheep may have died. It was curious: earlier she had been quite squeamish about the many black slugs we encountered on the forest path, but she was downright fascinated by the sheep carcass.

Then we saw another sheep corpse: older, browned bones that nearly looked like twigs from a distance. And then another. We started wondering what in the world was killing sheep in the Scottish highlands: bobcats? surely not wolves? I thought briefly of the bĂȘte de GĂ©vaudan that plagued southern villages of 18th-century France, but chased that image away.

And down we went, through mud and rocks and reaching, twining trees

Bendy trees

some of which giggled.

After a steep descent that seemed like it took an age, we came into a golf course (of course!) and into the village of Strathtay and across the river Tay into Grandtully.

Grandtully rapids

There were rafters and kayakers on the water, as well as flowers on the bridge for a recently deceased boy who died in the water when he and his kayak were swept under a rock. It seemed like we were tracking death in the Highlands.

Lunch, a visit to the chocolatier (no pictures and the creamy chocolate is long eaten), and AC and I made the uneasy decision to hike back over the hill, rather than take the bus to Pitlochry. Sam was tired, though, so she got to ride on her father’s back for the ascent back to Fonab.

But first we had to ring a bell to let the golfers know that walkers were coming through:

Ring the bell

Ergo ride

We marked the way back by milestones: the golf course, the bendy trees, the place where we saw the red squirrel scamper along the stone wall, dead sheep number 1, dead sheep number 2, dead sheep number 3.

Departing Strathtay we had overtaken two elderly ladies walking on the road. They congratulated us, and particularly Sam, when they learned that we were going to walk “over the hill.” Then I asked them about the dead sheep on the moors.

“What would hunt them?” we asked.

“Oh it was a terrible winter, just fierce,” said the one lady. The other one just stared at me bright eyed and I wondered if it was my American accent or the fact that I was asking them about dead sheep. Maybe both.

“So there’s nothing up there that preys on sheep?” I asked again.

“Oh no. 6 weeks of snow. It was terrible hard up there.”

Frozen to death, trapped under river rocks. There’s terrible hard life in the Highlands. And terrible hard beauty.

Rain cloud

We were fortunate to walk in it and walk out of it, munching on chocolate, singing songs, playing Botticelli, ending up back in Pitlochry at the Indian restaurant, where we ate, and drank, and rested our feet, and were sad about the loss of AC’s walking stick. But I, for one, was glad that the stick was all the Highlands took from us.

One Response to “Strathtay Walk”

  1. MonsterFool » Blog Archive » 28 April 2011 Farm Girl Says:

    […] Last year on April 28 we found three dead sheep on a hike in the Scottish Highlands. […]

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