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The Braes o' Killiecrankie

A deeply wooded riverside leads from the famous battlefield to Loch Faskally.

Distance 8.7 miles (14.1km)

Minimum time 4hrs

Ascent/gradient 492ft (150m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Wide riverside paths, minor road, no stiles

Landscape Oakwoods on banks of two rivers

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 386 Pitlochry & Loch Tummel

Start/finish NN 917626

Dog friendliness Off leads on riverside paths

Parking Killiecrankie visitor centre

Public toilets At start

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1 Cross the front of the visitor centre to steps, signed 'Soldier's Leap', leading down into the wooded gorge. A footbridge crosses the waterfall of Troopers' Den. At the next junction, turn left ('Soldier's Leap'). Ten steps down, a spur path on the right leads to the viewpoint above the Soldier's Leap.

2 Return to the main path, signed 'Linn of Tummel', which runs down to join the River Garry below the railway viaduct. After a mile (1.6km) it reaches a footbridge.

3 Don't cross this footbridge, but continue ahead, signed 'Pitlochry', along the riverside under the tall South Garry road bridge. The path runs around a huge river pool to a tarred lane; turn right here. The lane leaves the lochside, then passes a track on the right, blocked by a vehicle barrier. Ignore this; shortly turn right at a signpost, 'Pitlochry'.

4 Immediately bear left to pass along the right-hand side of Loch Dunmore, following red-top posts. A footbridge crosses the loch, but turn away from it, half right, on to a small path that becomes a dirt track. After 110yds (100m) it reaches a wider track. Turn left, with a white/yellow waymarker. After 220yds (201m) the track starts to climb; here the white/yellow markers indicate a smaller path on the right, which follows the lochside. Where it rejoins the wider path, bear right at a green waymarker and cross a footbridge to the A9 road bridge.

5 Cross Loch Faskally on the Clunie footbridge below the road's bridge and turn right, on to a quiet road around the loch. In 1 mile (1.6km), at the top of the grass bank on the left, is the Priest Stone. After the Clunie power station, you reach a car park on the left. Here a sign indicates a steep little path down to the Linn of Tummel.

6 Return to the road above for ½ mile (800m), to cross a grey suspension bridge on the right. Turn right, downstream, to pass above the Linn. A spur path back right returns to the falls at a lower level, but the main path continues along the riverside (signed 'Killiecrankie'). It bends left and goes down wooden steps to the Garry, then runs upstream and under the high road bridge. Take the side-path up on to the bridge for the view of the river, then return to follow the descending path signed 'Pitlochry via Faskally'. This runs down to the bridge, Point 3. Return upstream to the start.

'If ye'd hae been where I hae been

The song commemorating the victory of the Battle of Killiecrankie in July 1689 is still sung wherever anyone with an accordion sits down in a pub full of patriotic tourists. In fact, both sides in the battle were Scots. When James II was ousted from England in a bloodless coup in 1688, the Scots Parliament (the Estates) voted to replace him with William of Orange. The Stuarts had neglected and mismanaged Scotland, and had mounted a bloody persecution of the fundamentalist Protestants (Covenanters) of the Southern Uplands.

John Claverhouse, 'Bonnie Dundee', had earned the rather different nickname 'Bluidy Clavers' in those persecutions. He now raised a small army of Highlanders in support of King James. The Estates sent a larger army north under another Highlander, General Hugh Mackay, to sort things out. Dundee, outnumbered two to one, was urged to ambush Mackay in the Pass of Killiecrankie. He refused, on the grounds of chivalry. The path above the river was steep, muddy and wide enough for only two soldiers; a surprise attack on such difficult ground would give his broadsword-wielding Highlanders too great an advantage against Mackay's inexperienced troops. Just one of the Lowlanders was picked off by an Atholl sharpshooter at the Trouper's Den (below today's visitor centre), and the battle actually took place on open ground, to the north of the pass.

Killiecrankie was the last time the claymore conquered the musket in open battle, and it was down to a deficiency in the musket. Some 900 of the 2,500 Highlanders were shot down as they charged, but then the troopers had to stop to fix their bayonets, which plugged into the muzzle of the musket. By this time the Highlanders were upon them, and they broke and fled. The battle had lasted just three minutes. Half of Mackay's army was killed, wounded, captured or drowned in the Garry. One escaped by leaping 18ft (5.5m) across the river; the 'Soldier's Leap' is near the start of the walk. But the victory led nowhere. Bonnie Dundee died in the battle. A month later his army was defeated at Dunkeld, and 25 years later, when the Highlanders next brought their broadswords south for the Stuarts, the troopers had learnt to fix a bayonet to the side of a musket where it no longer blocked the barrel.

While you're there

At the Pitlochry dam that forms Loch Faskally, Scottish and Southern Energy has a small visitor centre celebrating its hydro-electric schemes. It also has a window into the salmon ladder beside the dam. From March to October you can watch the fish battle their way up towards Killiecrankie.

What to look for

Between the two world wars, much of the southern Highlands was developed with small scale hydro-electric schemes. Loch Faskally is artificial, and you'll pass the Clunie power station. Its stone arch commemorates the five people who died in the construction of the Clunie Tunnel, which brings water from Loch Tummel. Small hydro schemes do less damage than most forms of energy generation, but there is a price to pay: the Linn of Tummel was the Tummel Falls until it was half-drowned by Loch Faskally.

Where to eat and drink

There are cafés at the start and at Lochside, Pitlochry. Pitlochry itself is the town of the tea room. One of them is Macdonald's, on the main street. You can get good bar meals at the Old Mill Inn, which also offers 100 malt whiskies and a waterwheel (children welcome; dogs in the outside seating area only).

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