Stage 1: Through the wilderness of the Cairngorm Mountains – Pitlochry to House of Bruar

Travelling through the remote glens of the southern Cairngorms National Park from Pitlochry to the House of Bruar, the first section of the route features classic Highland scenery, a remote bothy and the famous Falls of Bruar.

Distance: 90.5 km
Ascent: 1442 m

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Allt Scheicheanach bothy near Glen Bruar

Route Description

The route starts in the Highland Perthshire burgh of Pitlochry, a Victorian town which developed into a tourist resort after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited the area in 1842. Well-connected with trains to Inverness in the north and Perth in the south, the A9 for cars and Sustrans NCN 7 for cyclists, the town is known for its Pitlochry Festival Theatre, salmon ladder and as a centre for outdoor activities. The Escape Route bike shop and café is a great starting point for a bikepacking journey, where bikes and equipment can be hired. Pitlochry has a well-stocked supermarket and several smaller shops. A great variation of accommodation is available, ranging from hostels to luxury hotels.

From the centre of Pitlochry the route follows quiet roads to Moulin. The Moulin Inn has been inviting visitors since three centuries and, with its own brewery, is a popular stop for cyclists for food and refreshments. From here the route crosses a field past the ruins of Black Castle, so named due to its abandonment in fear of the plague in the 16th century. A network of small walking paths is followed to Milton of Edradour, with Edradour Distillery, the smallest distillery in Scotland, is just a few hundred metres off the route.

From Milton of Edradour the route follows tarmac roads to Straloch at the eastern end of Glen Fearnach. The road crosses a busy farm, caution is needed here. A smooth tarmac road turns into a well-maintained gravel track at Daldhu. From here the glen narrows and the gradients become steeper, until reaching a pass at 655 m, the highest point on the entire route. Entering a truly remote glen with no shelter, a good gravel track ends at Fealar Lodge. This a working sheep farm and its grassy surroundings provide a welcome change from the heather-clad hills. Please treat the environment with respect and follow the signs around the lodge, not through the lodge.

On a small road in Glen Fearnach

From the lodge the going gets much tougher. Although a track is often clearly visible, some of it from here is over boggy upland areas and requires pushing the bike. Once leaving the surroundings of the farm, a washed out path descends steeply towards the River Tilt. Several sections require pushing the bike. Crossing the river can be dangerous if it is in spate.

After crossing the Tilt the route joins a popular route from Blair Atholl to Deeside through Glen Tilt, which is often described as one of the most beautiful glens in Scotland. Heading south the track gradually improves until reaching the Falls of Tarf. Both the falls and Bedford Bridge are impressive landmarks. Crossing the deep pool at the falls would otherwise be impossible. After another pretty technical section the route uses a well-maintained double track past Marble Lodge.

Shortly afterwards the route leaves the gravel road and climbs on a grassy track on the eastern side of Auchghobal towards Fenderbridge. The turnoff is marked with a small yellow arrow on a wooden post. Before reaching the village the route joins a small tarmac road. The next section might seem like an unnecessary detour on tarmac, however the descent towards Bridge of Tilt and Blair Atholl through a stunning section of woodland is worth the extra effort.

Both Bridge of Tilt and Blair Atholl have small shops and places to stay and eat. The Atholl Country Life Museum, including the recreated Trinafour Post Office, and Blair Castle and its gardens, are both worth a visit. The route follows a small path along the River Tilt to Old Bridge of Tilt, from where it crosses the river and continues for a short section on tarmac to Old Blair.

Into the wilderness of the southern edges of the Cairngorm National Park

From Old Blair a well-maintained gravel track climbs steadily north, following Allt Stanaidh past Carn Dearg Mor, reaching the highest point at 610 m before descending on a washed out and rough track through Allt Scheicheachan to the MBA bothy with the same name. The small bothy is an ideal place to spend the night or shelter from bad weather. It has two spaces on sleeping platforms and a fireplace in the main room, and additional space to sleep in the attic.

After crossing the stream the route follows a very boggy footpath north towards Glen Bruar. It passes through deep heather and crosses another small stream, where extra care is needed due to the boggy and wet ground. For most this will be a straight push all the way to Bruar Lodge, before joining a well-maintained gravel track and crossing the river. Bruar Lodge is a working sheep farm, one of the most remote in Scotland. The route heads south on the gravel track.

At a fork, marked by a private hut (Cuilltemhuc), the route leaves the smooth gravel again to ford the Bruar Water and passes Ruichlachrie, where an abandoned house once provided shelter. The route continues over open moorland before joining a good forestry track at the top of Glen Banvie through Glen Banvie Wood to the Falls of Bruar. When reaching a lookout, a newly-built walking trail zigzags through the forest and crosses the Falls of Bruar at an old stone bridge. Due to its outstanding natural beauty this area gets very busy with walkers. After the bridge extra care is needed to negotiate a few steps. The House of Bruar is a very popular stop with travellers, and offers plenty of opportunities to eat. The shop offers local delicacies.

Continue to stage 2