At McKinlay Kidd we love to get off the beaten track. We encourage our customers to do likewise by providing them with “Robert’s Recommendations” – our tips for things worth seeking out in an area. A couple of weeks ago, Robert and I spent the weekend in Perthshire, not far from the shores of Loch Tay. We decided to revisit an old favourite: the 25-mile drive along the single-track road into Glen Lyon. In our recommendations we proudly proclaim, “The further you go, the more rural solitude you’ll find.”
It was a bright and beautiful Saturday morning, the spring sun coaxing the last of the leaf buds into unfurling on the branches overhead. We anticipated meeting the occasional local vehicle running errands. We were not surprised to encounter – every now and then – energetic cyclists, adventurous motor-bikers, determined Munro-baggers and other visitors on exploratory missions like ourselves. Nevertheless, we’d been encouraged to read the description adorning the hotel information of Glen Lyon as Scotland’s “longest, loneliest, loveliest glen”.
It wouldn’t be difficult to find complete solitude, we envisaged, as we kept a keen eye out for red squirrels and listened to twittering birdsong, punctuated every now and then by the squawk and clapping wingbeats of a pheasant, startled by our presence on the virtually-empty road.
Just over halfway into the glen, we passed the tearoom, shop and post office at Bridge of Balgie, slowly awakening for the day ahead. Refreshment stop noted for our return. Here, a side road branches off towards Ben Lawers and the north side of Loch Tay, taking much of the touring traffic with it. We continued further into Glen Lyon, feeling the cares of the modern world slip away as we left most signs of civilisation behind us.
The view opened out, ringed with jagged mountain peaks, their looming presence beckoning us to continue. We caught a glimpse of Meggernie Castle, painted a brilliant white in blunt contrast to its dark past – this was once the home of Robert Campbell who led the Glencoe massacre. Here and there we spotted a fisherman, wading thigh-deep in the meandering River Lyon.
The twentieth century intruded in the curvaceous shape of the hydro-electric dam and power station at Cashlie. In the distance the brutal concrete slopes of 1950’s-built Lubreoch Dam loomed into view, stoutly holding back Loch Lyon. We’d get to the far dam, we thought, then park up and go for a stroll, just the two of us, soaking up the much-anticipated rural solitude.
Our car crested a small hill and revealed the full vista around the huge dam. The sun glinted off a hundred or so vehicles of all shapes and sizes. Colourful tents adorned the grassy slopes, while bony runners in numbered vests straggled along the trail. Cobalt-blue banners fluttered in the gentle breeze. Welcome to the Glen Lyon Ultra Marathon!
We hastily retreated to the by-now bustling Bridge of Balgie tearoom. Homemade soup and locally roasted coffee would fortify us to continue our search for rural solitude. On this particular morning, even in Scotland’s loneliest glen, it had proven to be as elusive as those pesky red squirrels…
By Heather McKinlay