Lochearnhead to Crieff – The High Road to the North including Glen Lednock

Here we must return to our starting point on the Braes of Balquhidder and pick our leisurely eastern sojourn along the northern side of Loch Earn going towards Crieff with the Loch on our right and in full view. In stark contrast to the south side of the Loch, the northern side offers quite a different topography - it displays large expanses of treeless high hill ranges (well above 500m above sea level) with the tree line being in evidence in sections and stopping about 450 metres above it. Our perambulation of the northern portion of the Loch starting at Glen Ogle takes us between the massif of Meall na Cloiche (663m) and its smaller eastern neighbour, Meall a’ Mhadaidh (hill of the dog or wolf) above Lochearnhead and continues into that lesser known Fault Line which created Glen Beich (glen of the birches) and which goes under Loch Earn to join Glen Ample on the other side of the Loch. The land above 450 metres is rounded and softer and expanses itself into broad moorland punctuated with fewer glens of less defined features than its counter parts on the south side of the Loch.

Its highest point, and a bit inland, is Sron Mhor (671m) (great slope running from a mountain to a strath and the surrounding area is one of bog and heather but fairly flat land at this height. The going is relatively easy although one should always come prepared for the weather which can change rapidly. Creag Each (672m) (crag of the horse) is a rocky outcrop supported by Meall Reamhar (round lump of a hill) leading towards Glen Tarken (tearc - glen of the cows) over open moorland to the now, long abandoned clachans of Easter and Wester Glen Tarken. These clachans once housed possibly 150 people (of which more later). In Wester Glen Tarken there is a house called “Jerusalem” - no-one knows why it is so called! The clachans lie just below an enormous boulder which was left from the Ice Age. It rests rather precariously on the edge of the hill and it was said that near here the MacNabs of Killin abandoned their boat after slaughtering the Neishes (see chapter on the massacre). The Glen Tarken Burn flows passed the abandoned villages and further east we come across Allt an Fhionn (burn of the chief) which sources itself in Creag Odhar (dun-coloured crag). Continuing onward to the east and more inland lies Loch Boltachan. At this place another earlier battle between the MacNabs and the Neishes was fought. Passing the knoll called the Girron we come down to the waterside at the picturesque village of St. Fillans with its lonely crannog, Neish or Neish’s Island, 150 yards off shore. Originally the village was called several names including Little Port, Portmore, Port of Lochearn, Meikleport, and at one time, Lochearnend. Here the Loch empties into the River Earn.

Turnpike Bridge, St.Fillans

Staying on the high ground and beyond Loch Boltachan (botachan-mounds and/or bothach-marsh) we come to Little Port Hill (459m) arcing over to Creag Bhuide (460m) (yellow crag) to Creag an t- Sidhein (crag of the fairy hill) and Creag Lhiath (grey crag) passing that ancient place Drum na Cille with its cup-marked stones to the Crappich Hill (craobhach - wooded?). On yet and down through the Chapel Pass with Sgorr Racaineach (405m) (rounded hill with furrowed surface) on our left, we reach Dun More with Lord Melville’s monument at its summit. Below, lying in the flat land lays the Village of Comrie with its three rivers, the Earn, the Ruchill and the Lednock clearly in view.

Melville Monument

Reaching over our shoulder to the left and north is Glen Lednock. This Glen is narrow from the village of Comrie to the Shaky Bridge and Kingarth and then broadens out beyond continuing for another five miles. From our position atop Dun More and taking the easy going high ground to the North we pass over the shoulder of Creag Liath by way of Sgor Racineach (405m) (rounded hill with furrowed surface), Bad na Beithe (birch copse) and Am Binnein up to Balnacoul (site in a corner, back-lying castle). Strange to say there is no trace of a castle here. Westwards and northwards we find Dubh Choire (little dark hollow) passing over Gleann Mathaig (Glenmaik) with its stream the Allt Mathaig and there before us at the head of the recently created artificial Loch Lednock, is Ruadh Mheall (682m). The streamlets from these mountains flow and funnel into the original bowl-shaped basin created the River Lednock, now Loch Lednock at this point, and then spilled over in magnificence in spate into the once great waterfall called Spout (Sput) Rolla.

Sput Rolla (Spout Rolla)

Across the expanse of burns and rivulets, marsh and bog, cracks and crevices, and heather and bracken, we approach Creag Uchdag (879m) and Creag nan Eun (850m) (crag of the birds) towards the shoulder of Beinn a’Chonnaich (929m) (Ben Chonzie). Below lies Innergeldie (bright and shining) and the Lurg (ridge of a hill gradually declining into a plain, shank) and Carroglen (glen of the sheep). Sweeping over its shoulder to Carn Chois (786m) (cairn of the cavern or crevice) we see the plain of Strathearn below with the estate of Lawers (labhar - is the name first of a stream, then as a district - originally there were three areas in Strathearn called Lawers - labhar shios (easter), labhar shuos (wester) and labhar na craobhe - Lawers of the tree). The original place name for this estate was Lawers, Loch Tayside, and was brought over by the clan Campbell when they bought the ground in the early 16th century.

In the middle distance we see the monument to Sir David Baird of Seringapatam atop Tom a’Chasteil (castle hill) at Strowan, (Graham land), and the rising slope to Turleum (bare hill) top (Drummond land) and beyond the Ochill Hills. Our onwards journey passes the lands of Ochtertyre, (Murray land) (uachdair thir, upper part of land), and skirting by Loch Turret approach the town of Crieff.

This sojourn provides us with incomparable vistas of Highland Strathearn - its Highlands and its Lowlands.