It wasn’t difficult to bask in a truly feel good moment, writes FRANK CORLESS
Not with the sun in a deep blue sky, a gentle breeze whispering through the trees, and vistas of glorious Perthshire before me. But it was only the start.
In three memorable days, the going turned from brilliant to awesome as I stepped back in time – 230 years to be exact - to visit two places of outstanding beauty.
Click here for fantastic Perthshire deals
Both captured the heart of Scotland’s greatest poet, Robert Burns, prompting him to pay tribute in the way only he knew best - in rhyme.
He wrote ‘The Birks of Aberfeldy’, a song lyric, while he rested on a natural seat in a rock amid the ‘birks’ (Scots for birch trees) that flourish among tumbling waterfalls, and an abundance of flora and fauna, only yards from Aberfeldy town centre.
Part of the song says:
Now Simmer blinks on flowery braes,
And o’er the crystal streamlet plays;
Come let us spend the lightsome days,
In the birks of Aberfeldy!
Isn’t that lovely? Doesn’t it inspire you take a peek at the ‘Birks’ just to see why he was so impressed? It did for me.
That’s how I came to tackle a two-and-a-half mile circular walk starting in Aberfeldy, following a path that winds upward alongside several small waterfalls.
Eventually, the route leads to a bridge across the spectacular Falls of Moness , where the sight and sound of water cascading down the glen is spectacular.
Hand rails and occasional benches help to take the strain . But, in a mini heat wave, one of the hottest on record, I found the hike a bit of a challenge. It was definitely a case of the spirit being willing but the legs hardly holding up.
It didn’t help my pride to see a middle-aged woman running UP the gorge as I was gingerly picking my way down. There was me, thinking I had conquered a mini Eiger!
I needed a drink, or several. Exhausted and perspiring, I found a seat at the town centre Watermill café, where I lingered for a couple of hours enjoying coffee and reading the papers.
Aberfeldy boasts a handsome main square with colourful shops, art galleries, a distillery, an 18-hole golf course and a lovely children’s park.
But the town’s biggest claim to fame is a pretty road bridge named after, General George Wade, a soldier and road builder, who played a big part in opening up the Highlands more than 250 years ago.
The riverbank path put me on the way to a lovely hotel, Ailean Chraggan, where I booked for a meal. It was so delicious that I returned the following night for more and got to sample a guest beer that was an extra treat.
It’s only a six mile drive from Aberfeldy to the conservation village of Kenmore where ‘Rabbie’ again felt compelled to wax lyrical. It was easy to see why.
Framed by mountains and beautiful woodlands, the village enjoys the bonus of being where the River Tay and Loch Tay come together.
The village – enhanced by the seven arched bridge spanning the river – is ‘drop dead’ gorgeous.
I paid homage by lingering on the beach before sitting beside the loch to watch boats. In the afternoon sunshine, the water lay so still that it looked like a sheet of glass.
Nothing surprises me much any more, but I was taken aback when a group of bikini-wearing girls emerged from the lochside beach to buy soft drinks and ice creams at the village shop.
It was hot, but bikinis in the Highlands!
Now I’ve seen it all.
Kenmore’s village square comprises cottages, an elegant church, a stone gateway to the 19th century neo-Gothic Taymouth Castle, and Scotland’s oldest hostelry, the Kenmore Hotel.
Queen Victoria stayed at the castle and was so impressed by Kenmore, and its surroundings, that she bought her own estate at Balmoral.
Click here for incredible Perthshire deals
But it is ‘Rabbie’ who gave us all a rhyme and a reason to remember a corner of a Scottish heaven. After sampling the views from the bridge, he wrote his tribute poem in pencil on the hotel chimney breast. It remains there to this day…
This is part of it:
Th’ outstretching lake, imbosomed ‘mong the hills,
The eye with wonder and amazement fills;
The Tay meand’ring sweet in infant pride,
The palace rising on his verdant side,
The lawns wood-fring’d in Nature’s native taste,
The hillocks dropt in Nature’s native taste,
The arches striding o’er the new-born stream,The village glittering in the noontide beam
Run by husband and wife Claire and Mark Dimmock, the splendid Balnearn guest house in Crieff Road, Aberfeldy, is yards from the town centre, and a two minute walk to ‘The Birks of Aberfeldy’. Summer rates from £45 for a single room with breakfast, to £80 for a suite.
Tel: 01887 820431 or contact www.balnearnhouse.com