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Thursday June 19th 2014 - Aberfeldy to Crieff - Day 8

Third last day and we were now thinking differently of how it was only a matter of a few days left and how the end in sight, but we knew getting past today it would basically be downhill to Bannockburn, literally. This was to be a long day’s walk of about 25 miles, which would only leave us approximately 30 miles thereafter.

8am John and I sat on a wooden bench in the square at Aberfeldy the sun was shining and the air was dry it promised to be another fine day for walking. Aberfeldy was beginning to wake up, with a few delivery vans dropping off supplies and a few folks meandering about, we obviously stood out in the back ground as we had done throughout the duration of the walk with us both still donning the plaid. As we sat on the bench a couple of people stopped out of curiosity to enquire and wishing us well. Having made an itinerary, we abided by what we said although we did not expect anyone to join us at 8.30, but to full fill this and just in case we used the waiting time by having a make shift breakfast. We gave it 10 minutes after 8.30 and decided we should go as no one had appeared and it was also biting into our walking time.

Rucksacks organised and supplies replenished we left the west side of the square and headed along Bank Street, the road towards Kenmore, at the first set of traffic lights we took the road to the left, Crieff Road the A826. For the first ½ mile you are still within the perimeters of the town, but the road instantly goes uphill be it gradually, passing a sign for the Birks of Aberfeldy. The road continues to climb up and out of the town, for anyone who intends to follow our route please be careful when road walking particularly this road as it is quite narrow for vehicles and blind corners make it more dangerous, on the bright side when you get a mile or two up from the town there are fantastic views looking back. Anyway we continued on the winding uphill road for approximately 5 to 6 miles where it levels off to where Loch na Greige is on the right, there is a deviation to the Wades Road, but somehow we missed the entrance gate which we believed doubled up as a forestry road, regardless the road we were on runs parallel to this as we saw it periodically a few hundred yards on the right. As we walk along this stretch of road a car draws into the side and an older couple appear from the car, to our surprise it is a couple who we had met two days before at the Queens view between Blair Atholl and Loch Tummel. We considered this a good time for a break and had a laugh and chat with them for a while and we were humbled when they said they admired what we were doing. Having spent half an hour with them we both knew we had to crack on so we parted company with a fond farewell and headed on our way.

The road begins to go downward though the hamlets of Scotston and Milton until we came to a junction which joins another military road and comes from Dunkeld on the A822. Our route took us right at the junction towards another hamlet called Aumerlee, where according to our map there was a hotel, but unfortunately on reaching the place a couple of miles down the road we found it was sadly all boarded up and no longer trading, this was to our dismay as we were looking forward to some refreshment.

Obviously realising there was no hostelry available we carried on thinking there was no point in stopping. The road ahead was on much flatter terrain although the road twists and winds onward, we passed Glen Fender on our right and followed the Giron Burn for a while on the left. A few miles further and the road goes downhill with fabulous mountainous views over the countryside. At the bottom, the road crosses the River Almond and at the right of this is a place called the Sma Glen it has similarities to a view at the end of Glen Clova in the Angus Glens, the road then veers to the left and the views disappear as the road runs between thick forestry on either side. Again for the next few miles we had to be careful walking on the road as there were plenty blind corners, John uses the Bruce Standard once again to indicate to oncoming cars that we were there by holding it out towards the road.

It was a beautiful afternoon but with the road seeming endless and still having many miles ahead of us we kept our heads down. The road runs alongside the River Almond until it reaches the junction with the B8063, but you to continue along the A822 and as we headed along this road we realised we are running out of water, but by good luck we came across the Fendoch Guest House and luckily enough the owner has just arrived home after being at the local pipeband practice. We asked if we could have our water bottles refilled and she duly obliged and even offerred us a lift to Crieff, which we politely declined, but with bottles filled with fresh cold water we head on saying our farewells.

A few miles further on and the landscape opens up with views over the open countryside, we were passing the Foulford Inn Golf Club, as some of the tees are road side we see some of those who are playing, a woman shouts across the road and comes across to give a donation towards our cause, she goes onto say that she and her husband had saw us walking days ago between Killiecrankie and Loch Tummel, what was the chances of that. Being amused with this fact and thanking the woman for her donation we carried on our journey still surprised by what she said.

Having walked about 20 miles already we knew we did not have that far to go, but five or six miles is not just a 10 minutes jaunt like it is by car and can feel never ending when one has walked a great distance already. The road starts to go wind downhill once again you come to a sign for the Famous grouse distillery unfortunately we were too late to participate in their tasting as it was now early evening, we continued onward passing through the small village of Gilmerton until we finally reach the junction where the A822 meets the Perth Road the A85 here you need to go to the right towards Crieff.

Although we have already walked about 24 miles, Crieff itself from the junction is still a couple of mile away, this walk seemed endless and on reaching the sign welcoming us to Crieff the walk to the town centre is soul destroying. What is classed as the centre of Crieff “James Square” is at the west side of the town and to reach this from our position meant walking right through from the outskirts and town itself, which is about another mile ( The square is presumably named after James Drummond the 3rd Duke of Perth). There is one thing about walking you take in a lot more of the surroundings, it was quite evident that the town was quite run down compared to days gone by, a thriving market town once upon a time.

By the time we reached Crieff about 7.30pm most shops were closed, in fact there only appeared to be the odd pub and a couple of takeaways still open. It was relief to reach the mercat cross at the centre of the town, where we are glad to put our rucks sacks down and have a seat. As a bonus directly across from the square was an off licence with a Chinese takeaway next door and without hesitation we decided to sit for a while in the square and have some food and drink. The guy in the Chinese was brilliant, after speaking with us he obviously knew we had walked a long distance and on ordering food he insisted that he would take it over the street to us when it was ready. As good as his word he served us across the street, not the most comfortable surroundings, but we enjoyed just chilling with all our aches and pains. As we sat eating our take away we chatted about what we had done so far and how we had not seen or heard news from the football World Cup, no longer had we said that than the guy from the Chinese came running over the road excitedly to tell us England were beat, England are out, apart from cheering we could not help but laugh at the excitement of the Chinaman from the takeaway, it made our night.

Just a few doors along to the right of the Chinese take away stands the Drummond Arms Hotel which stand on the corner, unfortunately also closed down presumably also falling on hard times, but this was the place where Charles Edward Stewart and his officers held a last counsel in February 1746 before heading northwards to Inverness. A red plaque on the wall marks the location.

Crieff was also famed for its market. During the October Tryst (as the cattle gathering was known), Crieff was the prototype 'wild west' town. Milling with the cattle were horse thieves, bandits and drunken drovers. The inevitable killings were punished on the Kind Gallows, for which Crieff became known throughout Europe.

By the eighteenth century the original hanging tree used by the Earls of Strathearn had been replaced by a formal wooden structure in an area called Gallowhaugh - now Gallowhill, at the bottom of Burrell Street. What is now Ford Road was Gallowford Road which led down past the gallows to the crossing point over the River Earn. In such a prominent position, Highlanders passing along the principal route would see the remains of so punished dangling overhead. The Highlanders used to touch their bonnets as they passed the place, with the words: "God bless you, and the Devil damn you." In Lord Macaulay's history he talks of a score of plaids hanging in a row, but the remains of the Gallows - held in Perth Museum - suggest the maximum capacity was only six.

Robert Roy Macgregor visited the town on many occasions, often to sell cattle. In the second week of October 1714 the Highlanders gathered in Crieff for the annual market. Most people expected civil war to break out at any time. By day the town was also full of Redcoats and undercover government spies! One night, just after midnight, Rob Roy and his men marched to Crieff Town Square. There they tolled the Town bell, awakening everyone, and in front of the gathering crowd sang Jacobite songs and drank a good many loyal toasts to their uncrowned King James VIII. Eventually the Redcoats arrived from their camp outside the town and Rob Roy left into the night to fight another day.

In 1716 Jacobites burnt the towns and villages of Lowland Strathearn on their way back from the battle of Sheriffmuir which hadn't gone too well for them. This was ordered by the Earl of Mar to deny food and shelter to the troops of the Duke of Argyll. No doubt many Highlanders settled old scores against the Lowlanders. Comrie was spared, presumably as the most Highland of the Strathearn towns it's sympathies were Jacobite. The people of Strathearn suffered greatly at this time.

Things couldn't have been all bad as huge cattle sales continued to take place at Crieff. In 1723 30,000 cattle sold at one great fair with many driven south 800km to Smithfield in London.

Communication improved dramatically through the 18thC. Prior to this only rough tracks had existed. There were no bridges over the rivers of Strathearn and these must have acted as formidable obstacles in poor weather. Movement by wheeled vehicle for any distance must have been impossible. The River Earn at Crieff was bridged around 1700, but this was destroyed by retreating Highlanders after Sheriffmuir in 1716 and had to be rebuilt. After 1715 rebellion it was obvious that military roads were required to move government troops into and around the Highlands. General Wade began to oversee work from 1724. Around 1730 a road was driven from Tummel Bridge in the north down to Crieff and in 1741/2 a military road was laid from Stirling to Crieff.

By the time we finished our food darkness was beginning to fall and we thought we should be looking for the campsite, as we had sat for a couple of hours we both kinda seized up and were unwilling to move, but knew we had to. We knew there were at least two campsites in the vicinity but were not exactly sure where they were, so we thought the best way to find out was to ask at the taxi office which was no more than twenty yards away. Finding out the best and closest option we also discover the road between us and there is closed because of road works and although only about a mile away we saw the benefit of getting a taxi not only to help us with our kit, but to ensure we went to the right place. With Burrell Street the A822 being closed off we were dropped off fifty yards short of the campsite and had to make our way through the workmen to the site. Being late on the scene the site office was closed, but seeing a phone number on the side of the building John made a call, after speaking with the guy who had an English accent who we believed to be the owner or manager of the site John broke the bad news that the site was for caravans only. As it was late in the day with the daylight nearly gone we decided we had no choice but to pitch our tents anyway, we went in search a hidden out of the way spot on the site where we decided that if we were up and away early no one would even know we had even been there, this we did and we had a laugh thinking to ourselves that it was twice in one day England had lost out. With this it was straight down with our heads in preparation for the following day and brought to an end to the 8th day of the walk.

Click here for Day 9

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