It's hard to believe that it's our last full day in Blairgowrie at The Jute Store. Tomorrow we'll be packing up and heading for an overnight stay in Spean Bridge on our way to Uig on the Isle of Skye for a week.
Today started gloomy and overcast but the weather forecast promised a fine day until 4pm when the rain would close in for a wet evening. We started later than usual and gave the sky a chance to brighten up a little and by 10.30am we were on our way, just a little way out of Blairgowrie this time, to walk a 7.5 km circuit through Drimmie Wood.
Armed with backpacks and a packed lunch we parked in the Drimmie Wood carpark (whoever described this was an incredibe optimist as the area was a dent in the road with enough room for maybe three cars at a pinch), and followed the signsposts marking the trail. Initially the trek wound through dark pine forest - very Hobbit-ish - and there were a few muddy spots but generally it remained dry underfoot.
We saw a number of tiny frogs, each no bigger than my thumbnail (and very well camouflaged with their muddy brown livery), so we had to take care when planting our big, heavy boots not to inadvertantly tread on one of the poor little things. I'm not sure what kind of frogs they are but we saw similar ones when hiking near Lochinver on our last visit to Scotland.
The trail finally emerged into a more open rural landscape and after an uphill climb we were rewarded with impressive views of Perthshire. The track lead between hedgerows dividing farmer's fields as it wound towards the single-track road to Tullyfergus and we discovered a wealth of ripe, red wild raspberries to either side of the path. I think these must have been the last of the season but I foraged about a handful of medium-sized berries and they were simply delicious! There's something incredibly satisfying about finding - and eating - food foraged on the trail. I also recognised rose-hips but as my only experience with these is many, many years ago and from a bottle of Delrosa rose-hip syrup, that I wasn't game to see if they were truly edible!
The weather had brightened considerably and there was blue sky visible between the clouds. In fact, it had developed into a lovely day and became quite warm once out of the shadow of the forest.
For the next few kilometres we were obliged to walk along the road and we discovered that this is quite a busy thoroughfare on a Thursday morning as we had to share the bitumen with a steady procession of cars. With views over Perthshire to our right, we recognised Mount Blair in the distance and agreed that it looked pretty impressive, and felt pretty chuffed that we had actually managed to climb it!
Hiking past a number of farms we came upon a field of cows but they fled, in that heavy and ungainly way that cows have, the minute we approached. One then turned back to look at us with a baleful eye and moo-ed what sounded like a bovine insult. Duly chastised I took a photo and we pressed on.
Finally the trail turned back towards the woods and we left the road to join the rural track again, where at least we didn't have to make any room for passing cars. We had planned on having lunch at the half-way point but there was nowhere to stop and rest, not even a convenient rock so we kept going and instead, broke open a pack of Dean's petticoat tails shortbread.
Now, readers, let me give you some advice (learned first-hand) regarding shortbread. Never try to eat shortbread and walk uphill at the same time! The body just cannot cope with chewing, swallowing, breathing and walking all at the same time. I think the texture of partially-chewed shortbread may put it in its own league in this department. Of course no sooner had we begun contentedly munching on a petticoat tail than the path became a deceptively hard slog up a (seemingly) never-ending slope. It was hardly a steep incline but it was relentless. I have never been so relieved to finish a piece of shortbread as on this occasion!
At last we reached the end of the uphill section and eventually rejoined the path that we had started on. We stopped briefly at a clearing where some previous but long-departed visitors had made a fire and there were some conveniently placed log benches. Here we finally ate our lunch of Quorn "chicken" and lettuce sandwiches with just 250 metres to go before the end of the walk. We stayed just long enough to eat as we could feel the first scattered spots of rain so, hefting our packs again we made our way back to the car. We had walked a total of 7.89km with a climb of 181 metres and an average pace of 17 minutes per kilometre. It had taken us 2 hours and 16 minutes and we had burned around 649 calories.
With the morning taken care of, we made a quick stop at The Jute Store and decided that we'd head out to Cairn o' Mohr, a forty minute drive away in Errol, and have a look at the fruit winery there.
It was a very quick stop as it didn't take long to look around the shop and take the brief "Elder Walk" where the eldeberry plants are grown with nettles as companion plants.
I came away with a bottle of cider and a bottle of elderberry wine as well as a jar of bramley apple jam and then it was back to Blairgowrie for an evening in.
Sadly, this is our last night at The Jute Store, so I started the task of packing up ready for our departure. It's not yet an onerous task as our gear is shared between a number of bags, and we're using our backpacks rather than having to find room in the suitcases for them. (The true test is always the last night when we have to cram everything back - and somehow it never quite goes back the same way).
So we are now at the end of Week 1 and after a stop-over in Spean Bridge it's off to the Isle of Skye for Week 2.