I am not your long distance, endurance walker but I do love being outside and I have found a fabulous place to be outside! When I say I have found it – I am pretty sure I am not the first to find it but I have just discovered it. Crianlarich is in Stirling, Perthshire and it sits at the bottom end of the Crianlarich Hill range and in the Trossasch’s National Park – right on the doorstep of the 96 miles of the West Highland Way. The Gaelic meaning of Crianlarich is ‘low pass’ reflecting the low setting at the foot of the hills.
We stayed at the Kirkton Farmhouse in Crianlarich over Christmas. It is a traditional white washed stone farmhouse that sleeps 12 people, removed from the beaten track, it offers the most stunning scenery in all weathers as well as peace and quiet (ok there is the odd moo and baa and hello from passing walkers but that’s all). It is also on a working farm, with the animals being about thirty feet away on the shelter of a barn or out on the land. Beef cattle and sheep with the odd border collie keeping them in line along with the odd farmer or two. There are a couple of local village shops and a pub – The Rod and Reel which is not open weekdays in winter or closer still is the Tyndrum Inn where the food is fabulous and plentiful (I can vouch for the chicken and Haggis dish which was amazing).
The farmhouse is a part of Strathfillan Wigwams site which a twenty minute walk away (there is a store there on site too for essentials) along the pathways through the fields, if you prefer smaller, wooden accommodation, they are worth a look! There is another farmhouse 5 minutes walk where the owners of Kirkton farmhouse live. It is based on the SRUC – Scottish Rural College site and is around the walk with information boards about the work being carried out by SRUC. The strath/floor flood planes and fields are home to a biodiverse range of plants, animals and birds.
The Crianlarich Hills were still snow topped whilst there and Ben More is the highest of the peaks along with Stob Binnein and are just two of the local Munros for those wanted to bag some (PIC). The dramatic shifts in the landscapes range from straths to sweeping heights, rocky outcrops on hills, pathways to dramatic waterfalls – it is a walkers and photographer’s dream!
2 miles from Tyndrum and 3 from Crianlarich, Kirkton Farm and farmhouse are set by the river Fillan, in fact you have to drive over the wooden bridge that crosses to reach the farmhouse.
St Fillan was a Celtic monk that settled in the area and there is the remains of a priory outside the farmhouse directly on the pathway (West Highland Way) along with the historical burial ground being opposite on the other side of the West Highland Way.
The priory dates from 1317 and was established by Robert the Bruce and it has scheduled status and is worth a visit. History says that Robert the Bruce was challenged by Alistair Mac Dougall to a battle for killing John Comyn at the priory and Bruce and his men fled throwing off their swords into Lochan nan Arm at Dalrigh (King’s Field) so it might be worth a quick look to see if you can see them! The priory was said to be quarried by the Campbells clan and some of the stones used to construct the farmhouse. The wintery famous Scotch mist added to the atmosphere of the area – mist always make things seem still.
Following the West Highland Way from the farmhouse – around ten miles in (I did not do all 96 miles!) you will also come to the Bridge of Orchy – a nice hotel and a picnic clearing alongside the A82.
The A82 might just look like a nice shiny new road, but there is an old military road too that crosses over the Bridge at Orchy just beyond the white washed Bridge at Orchy Hotel.
The bridge dates to 1751 and was built by Major Caulfield to be used quickly by troops to stamp out any rebellious behaviours from locals and the road carries on to the local hotel as does the route of the West Highland Way, towards the Inveroran Hotel northwards to Glen coe.
For landlubbers like me, there is a picnic site – for the brave amongst you – you can canoe/raft along the river but as it was -6 degrees nobody seemed to be up for a bit of white water the day I visited.
We based ourselves at Kirkton Farmhouse because I wanted to be in a remote place and it is a good base site for exploring the surrounding area at the same time as being away from people. It is half an hour to Killin and the falls of Dochart which lie at the west of Loch Tay. White frothy crashing waters can be viewed close up from the bridge that crosses over into the village are a feast for the senses! There is also a choice of places to have lunch/dinner in Killin and is a scenic stop off point when exploring beautiful Loch Tay.
Less than half an hour away is Loch Lomond, with the Inveruglas visitor’s centre, parking and a chance to cruise around the Loch to see more of it. It was a crystal-clear winters sunshiny day and the Loch looked like glass, with reflection of the trees, clouds and birds in the water (PIC). The scenery is breath taking and from the Visitor Centre you can see along the Loch and there is a telescope at the top if you don’t mind climbing the steps. I am not sorry about the amount of pictures – it was just too good not to take them.
Heading back north towards Rannoch Moor, the Glencoe Mountains lie at the top of and Lochaber in the Highlands running alongside the A82 on the road to Fort William. On one side of the road is the ridge of tops for 6 miles – Aonach Eagach Ridge and across the other side are the 3 sisters – Beinn Fhada, Gearr Aonach and Aonach Dubh. The spectacular sight of Buachaille Etive Mor Glencoe looking volcanic and daunting and wrapped intermittently in mist to add to the sheer scale makes me feel so tiny and insignificant! As Glencoe is formed from ancient volcanos I should not really be surprised but the landscape makes you feel like you are in a hanging portrait of Scottish fine art.
Glenncoe has a Mountain Ski resort – I am not going to lie – this is not my kind of activity but, for those of us who just like to watch others do this kind of thing – there is coffee and cake at the café with the best views ever whilst you let others do the chair rides, dry slopes, walking, climbing or take lessons at the Snow Sports school, mountain biking or freeriding events and lots lots more.
Although I visited in winter, or more precisely, Christmas, there are still lots to see and do. The photography was the key thing for me and it did not disappoint. The accommodation was well priced at £700 for a week (it sleeps 12 remember) but the best part is that this area is unspoilt – it is wild, unpredictable at times, but despite its popularity, it is also big enough to lose yourself in, literally and figuratively and that is what I needed.
Loch Long and Loch Awe are a dream to photograph. The birds and wildlife are worth the wait! We spent Christmas Eve on a brilliantly sunny cold day, eating fish and chips on Oban sea front watching people scurry around doing their Christmas shopping, knowing that we had decided not to do Christmas – not do the stress, fuss, clutter, food shop etc – we had the West Highland Way, board games and some local fire water to toast Santa with, but no stress or fuss and I loved it.