Perth & Kinross/Angus, Scotland
Distance: 64 miles (103 km)
Time: 5 days
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Surface: Forest Trails, Meadows
The Cateran Trail is named after the Caterans, the marauding thieves and rustlers who prowled and plundered their way through the lawless hills and valleys of the Scottish Highlands from the Middle Ages to the l600s.The rich farmlands around Glen Isla, Glenshee, and Strathardle were often the target of their raids, and they would ride back into the night as quickly as they appeared using ancient drove roads running through isolated glens. The Caterans were more feared than wolves, and their raiding parties often numbered in the hundreds. Now, you can trace their footsteps on the Cateran Trail, a 64-mile (l03-km) waymarked trail through the very heart of Scotland, an hour and a half north of Edinburgh. The trail passes through what The Great Outdoors magazine has called “the sort of Scotland walkers dream of” in a little-visited corner of Perthshire largely unknown to the wider walking community.
The Cateran Trail traces some of the old tracks and drove roads that the Caterans would surely have used. It starts in the market town of Biairgowrie, near the Ericht River, home to wild Atlantic salmon that spawn in its waters before passing through the Blackcraig Forest and into Strathardle, a glen farmed since the Bronze Age, before ascending to 2,100 feet (640 m) at Lai rig Gate to the spectacular Spittal of Gienshee. Mount Biair at the southern end of Glenshee (the “Fairy Glen”) can be climbed as an option, and then you enter Glen Isla, with its persistent links to Arthurian legends (Queen Guinevere was held captive here on Barry Hill by Mordred). After a traverse over the hills by Alyth, the Cateran Trail passes the massive standing stones at Heatheryhaugh, where you can rest and ponder, before returning to Biairgowrie.