Walking in the Atholl Deer Forest

Walking in the Atholl Deer Forest

A few years ago on my old blog “Over the Hills” – still available online as an archive – I described a walk we took up into the hills above Blair Atholl, climbing up into the snowline and seeing distant stags (see blog April 26th 2012). On an autumn day we went again, hoping to hear stags bellow.

The car park below Glen Tilt was chock full of ramblers from Edinburgh, as we squeezed into the last available space, setting out ahead of them up Glen Banvie, following the waters of the Banvie Burn. The autumn colours were nearly there, but needed a week or two to be at their most glorious. Passing through the deer fence at the edge of the woodland, we headed out on to the hill, first above the Banvie Burn, then up a stalkers track across the Allt na Moine Baine water and then around the slopes of Carn Dearg Beag.

Then out into wilder countryside above the waters of Allt an t-Seapail. As we approached the little wooden bridge across the tumbling burn, we heard the distant bellowing of a stag somewhere around the misty heights of Beinn Dearg. Not as loud as some I have heard before, but still unearthly, an echoing vibrational tone of raw nature. As we headed over to the edges of Glen Bruar we heard another stag bellow, the air filling with the sound, albeit still at a distance. A grouse jumped from the heather with its loud cry of “Go Back”!

One of the reasons people go hillwalking, I suppose, is to get away from the turmoil of modern life. Looking across the vast mountains and moorlands of Atholl, it seemed a world away from grubby politicians holding meaningless party conferences where the hopes and desires of most of society seem to be ignored.

Putting on the news that night, back in Pitlochry, I thought how our politicians might benefit from days in the hills. Few do nowadays, compared to the happy decades when it was not unusual to see cabinet ministers out on the Pennine Way, or tallying up their latest Munro.

In wildness lies the hope of the world, to paraphrase the poet. A good hard day in the hills, feeling the cold air sweep up the course of a highland burn, hearing a stag bellow might do our politicians the world of good.

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