Perthshire Tourist Route
|Perthshire Tourist Route|
|Distance:||45 miles (72.4 km)|
|Meets:||A9, A85, A9|
|Old route now:||A822, A85, A822, A826, A827|
There is no denying that the A9 from Stirling to Perth is normally a good fast road. However, it can be a little on the dull side, with mile after mile of dual carriageway cutting its way through the undulating landscape. The Perthshire Tourist Route is the antidote for those not in a hurry, as it takes the explorer into the hills of Perthshire, through the historic towns and villages that each have a fascinating story to tell, and with the majestic scenery and rugged landscape in between, this is a thoroughly enjoyable drive.
Sadly, the slog along the A9 has to be endured for a few miles out of Stirling, even if the old route through Bridge of Allan and Dunblane is followed (in which case, the Forth Valley Tourist Route may be an interesting precursor to this route). Beginning at the A9 in Greenloaning, the route heads north on the A822 to Braco. Just north of the village are the earthworks associated with a series of Roman Forts, a rare enough site north of the Central Belt, and these are reasonably well preserved. Continuing north, the road is dead-straight, not because it is a Roman route, but because it was built 1500 years later by Major Caulfeild, successor to General Wade, as one of the Military Roads. Soon, however, the A822 forks right and winds around the pleasant countryside to Muthill, where an old church stands at the heart of the village.
From Muthill, the military road is resumed and leads north to the lovely town of Crieff, one of the gateways to the Highlands and a historic market town, once home to some of the largest cattle sales with drovers bringing livestock from across the Highlands and Islands to be sold here and then taken on south, perhaps as far as London. In the days before refrigeration it was easier to walk the cattle hundreds of miles for slaughter than transport the carcass. Crieff sits on the banks of the River Earn, and a short diversion westwards on the A85 leads through the pretty village of Comrie to St Fillans and Loch Earn, where a variety of watersports are on offer, as well as fishing on the shores of the loch.
The tourist route, meanwhile, heads east, via a brief merger with the A85 to Gilmerton where it resumes the military road route north. The road climbs steadily up past Monzie and into the Sma' Glen, which is one of Scotlands most scenic glens, with the River Almond burbling along the valley floor and at the right time of year multi-coloured hillsides rising up in the greens and purples of vast heather banks, and the bracken turning to oranges and browns as the autumn approaches. In the summer months, a splash around in the river next to Newton Bridge is possible, but should be discouraged when the river is in spate. The road turns here and climbs over the hills to the tiny, but picturesque hamlet of Amulree, once the last staging point on the drovers journey south to Crieff.
From Amulree, a minor road heads west past Loch Freuchie into Glen Quaich and then over the hills to Kenmore on Loch Tay. This is a fabulous drive with some stunning views, but as the signs say it shouldn't be attempted in winter conditions! The tourist route continues north, however, turning onto the A826 at Milton. This is still the military road, give or take, although more often than not the older route lies up the hillside a little on one side or the other. Some sections are easy to walk, and provide a fine route through the hills, whilst other bits can be very boggy or even overgrown in the forestry. The A826 climbs Glen Cochill, with picnic sites and forest walks from the car parks at the summit, before descending steeply into Aberfeldy.
Aberfeldy, like Crieff to the south, is an important old town whose history is intertwined with Droving. Today, however, there are other reasons that the town draws tourists, not least the 'Birks of Aberfeldy' - a poem by Robert Burns drawing tourists from across the globe to view the narrow glen of birches and waterfalls that inspired his writing. The town is also home to the Black Watch Memorial, which stands next to General Wades Tay Bridge, his masterpiece and memorial to his work in the Highlands. A little downstream is a suspension foot bridge which provides a stark contrast to the solidity of Wades stone arches.
A detour west up the A827 leads to Kenmore at the foot of Loch Tay, a pretty little estate village for Taymouth Castle, with the fine Kenmore Bridge across the river. It is also home to the Scottish Crannog Centre, an excellent place to visit which gives a real flavour for how some of our ancestors lived. If you have the time, there is plenty to explore to the west here, heading along Loch Tay to Killin, and then back via Glen Lyon, another of Scotland's fine glens. However, if you don't have the time, take the minor road from Kenmore back via the B846 to Aberfeldy, perhapsd stopping at Castle Menzies along the way. The tourist route now follows the A827 eastwards down the Tay to return to the A9 at Ballinluig Junction south of Pitlochry. There is some fine scenery along the way, and a detour across Grandtully Bridge leads to the pretty, scattered villages of Strathtay. Just before the end of the route, at Logierait, the old railway bridge has been restored and can be driven across at the drivers own risk.
This is the end of the route then, on the A9 midway between Pitlochry and Dunkeld. Both places are worth visiting, with Pitlochry offering the power station and visitor centres around Loch Faskally, the pretty village of Moulin on the hillside above the town, and in autumn some fantastic colours in the trees of the loch shore. Dunkeld, meanwhile, offers the Cathedral set in parkland on the river bank, Telford's Dunkeld Bridge across the Tay and the Beatrix Potter connection at Birnam.