From gentle woodland rambles and riverside trails to more challenging hill climbs and Munro adventures, Crieff is a paradise for walkers of all ages and abilities.
To celebrate its credentials as a walking hotspot, the town holds the popular Drovers Tryst Walking Festival (www.droverstryst.com) when locals and visitors enjoy a series of guided walks over a wide variety of terrain. These outings are enriched by wildlife, plants, trees, history and the company of like-minded people.
However, if you can’t wait until October for the Tryst, Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust (PKCT) has produced a great wee leaflet highlighting eight local trails (www.pkct.org/crieff-walks). Ranging in length from 1km to 13km they are all start and finish from the town centre. Here are four of our favourites:
The Knock Path
Distance: 1km (½ mile) or 6km (4 miles).
Time: ½ hour or 2 hours.
Start & finish: Walk from Crieff Town Centre or park at The Knock car park.
It’s a short, but steep, climb to the top of The Knock, but the views from the summit make it well worth the effort. You might even catch a glimpse of the area’s famous red squirrels!
Walkers can either return the way they came or descend through a conifer forest – taking extra care when crossing the busy A85 – to Highlandman’s Loan, so named for the drovers who used the road to avoid paying Crieff’s heavy tolls.
From there you follow the Spoke Road, the ancient coffin road to Crieff. Callum’s Hill then takes you through an oak wood before returning to Crieff through its backstreets.
Lady Mary’s Walk
Distance: 5.5km (3.5 miles) including a few steep slopes.
Time: 2 hours.
Start & finish: Walk from Crieff Town Centre or park at Taylor Park.
Beginning on public roads, this circular path passes through the distinctive gateposts marking the old Ochtertyre Estate. The peaceful woodland trail – which is suitable for most abilities – then crosses the disused Crieff to Lochearnhead railway bridge before joining the original Lady Mary’s Walk on the banks of the River Earn.
This stunning path through an avenue of mature oak, beech, lime and sweet chestnut trees was named after Lady Mary Murray’s whose family were local landowners in the early 19th Century.
Some of the larger trees are over 150 years old and the walk can be enjoyed at any time of year. It is particularly beautiful during the autumnal months when beech trees are a display of rust and gold. Herons, kingfishers, grey wagtails, oystercatchers and dippers live on the river and otters and beavers have been seen at dusk.
For a longer walk, turn right through a gap in the old railway embankment (at the end of Lady Mary’s Walk) and the circular route onto nearby Laggan Hill is well signposted.
This walk goes through mixed woodland and gives splendid views to the surrounding countryside.
There are many well placed seats and viewpoints along the way and Lady Mary’s Walk, which has been upgraded to make it accessible to wheelchairs and pushchairs. It forms part of the Crieff Waymarked Walks network and further information is available from Crieff Visitor Information Centre.
The River Earn Path
Distance: 9km (5 ½ miles) with some steep slopes and stops in the town
Time: 3 hours (one way).
Start & finish: James Square, Crieff, or join at Stuart Crystal car park. Return by bus from Muthill.
South of Crieff, close to the Stuart Crystal centre, this riverside route can be followed for around 5 miles, all the way to the conservation village of Muthill.
The route runs alongside the playing fields with their mill lade, a channel once used for carrying water to power factories. Clues to the history of Crieff can be glimpsed in the place names and milestones. Most of the path follows the Earn, but the derelict piers crossing the river mark the point where the path follows the old railway line. The walk then detours into Sallyardoch Wood before joining the quiet road to Muthill.
Bennybeg Nature Trail
Distance: 1.5km (1 mile).
Time: 40 minutes.
Start & finish: Car park and café at The Ceramic Experience/Bennybeg Plant Centre.
A level, circular path which passes below the cliffs of Bennybeg Craig and beside Bennybeg Pond. From the car park go through the gate onto the nature trail and turn left towards the cliffs (turning right you would reach Bennybeg Pond first).
Bennybeg Craig is a spectacular south facing cliff. The dyke, made of Quartz-Dolerite, is in frequent use by climbers who are clearly visible to users of the path. The path then passes through farmland to reach Bennybeg Pond where there is a seat.
The next part of the route is slightly undulating beside the pond, where birds such as mute swans and mallards may be seen. There is a table just off the path which is suitable for wheelchair users, and a sloping path down to a viewing overlooking Bennybeg Pond. It is now only 500 metres back to the car park.