“Romans and Nazis and Fatdogs…Oh No!

The Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Fatdog inched their way up the creepy forest track.  From the arboreal depths came the sound of creaking.  Dull, ominous, creaking.  The sort of creaking you get from two trees rubbing together…when you know they certainly shouldn’t be.  The creaking that comes from the tearing of roots from rock as something large and leaf laden moves…when it should be staying on the same spot on which it has always stood.  The creaking that comes from…

“Aaaarggghhhh!”  

Should never have watched Lord of the Rings.  Now every forest we walk through gives me the creeps.  At least I haven’t started thinking about big cat sightings.  Mind you, given the The Fatdog’s near pathological detestation of cats…my money’s on the black hairy canine.

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(Please remember to click on the photos – they are much sharper when enlarged)

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Today you find myself, Cap’n Jack and The Fatdog to the west of the town of Crieff, just short of the Perthshire hills.  We will be doing a wee bit of hillwalking in the morning and a bit of car touring in the afternoon.  Our hill – Torlum – has the reputation of being a wee hill with big views.  Given it’s piddly 393m of height it does rather suggest that we won’t have to put in too much effort to reach the top, which is just as well given our current state of fitness.

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The forestry road at the start is less than exciting, but thankfully short, the most exciting part being our “ent”, looming threateningly from the end of a fire break.  Fortunately it doesn’t take us long to clear the dull commercial plantation before we reach a gate into a protected area of native planting.

A few minutes later and we’re out through another gate and bashing our way through the gale-fallen soldiers of older pine woodland before breaking out onto the sun-drenched open hillside.  Yes, sun-drenched…in January!  It’s all very pleasant in Perthshire; almost balmy.

Remarkably, FD has managed to find a solitary patch of snow for a quick roll.

We’re almost at the top and it can only have been an hour from leaving “The Tank” in the forestry bell mouth below.  I debate whether or not I need the spikes for the snowfield now looming in front…but decide against them.  The Fatdog charges on through regardless.  Nearly there.

We deposit the packs just in front of the summit’s solitary tree next to the trig pillar.  Cameras out.  As we step past the tree to the pillar there’s a God Almighty blast of cold air searing through jackets and base layers.

“Where the Hell did that come from!?”

We step back one pace.  No wind.

“Eh?”

Again forward one pace.

“Argghh!”  “Jeez…that’s bloody cold!”

It’s all a bit weird.  On one side of the summit tree things are relatively calm but on the other there’s an icy gale a-blowin’.

Completely baffled we opt for lunch…on the warm side of the tree.

To the north the start of the Perthshire mountains…

The view across the farmland south of Crieff is a patchwork of green, its squares separated by tree-lined roads and fences.  There’s something very French about its appearance but I can’t put my finger on why I should think so.  At the foot of the hill, near Drummond Castle, intermittent plumes of smoke billow up from a garden bonfire (or at least I hope it’s a garden bonfire!).

Cap’n Jack manages an impressive zoom of Crieff itself…

…whereas I have made sure I have included the Knock of Crieff – that tree covered lump just behind the town.  Another “Marilyn” yet to be conquered.

It’s soon time to begin the descent so Cap’n Jack prepares for a possible encounter with the “ent” of the lower forest.  I should never have let him watch the “Karate Kid” when he was younger.

But we’re not heading back to “The Tank” immediately…there’s the small matter of some crags to investigate.  Descending as far as the first gate we then follow an indistinct trail to Craig Gregarty in the hope of interesting views.  The crags are low at this point but are providing an interesting wee wander.  There’s no view south as the trees are too high but further west a displacement of the ridge gives us a sneaky peek at the face of the crag itself.  I doubt many people have seen this aspect for some time.

On top of the crags…

…and a side-on view.

The notion of trying to follow the top of the crag to the next hill appeals but I reckon The Fatdog and I have had enough hill time for today.  Not only that but we still have a couple of places to visit.

It is a very speedy descent with only the appearance of a couple of small deer providing anything of interest.  Luckily the tree monster decides to stay put and we make it back to the car unscathed.  Hill day over – time to visit the nazis (or at least their onetime abode).

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A few miles to the west we arrive at the old POW camp at Cultybraggan.  These regimented Nissen huts once held some of the Third Reich’s most fervent nazis.  There were only two such establishments in Britain, this being the more northerly.  I think it would be fair to say that there weren’t many happy campers in this Butlin’s prototype.  Latterly a cold war bunker was built on the site although this too is decommissioned.  We wander between the huts trying to get the feel of the place but in the happy Perthshire sunshine it doesn’t have the much anticipated bleakness of a WWII prisoner of war camp.  Time to switch to black and white.

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Leaving the crumbling remnants of 1945 behind there is one last stop left on our itinerary,  It’s time to drive southwards for a few miles to the village of Braco.  Here we can drop back a couple of millennia and imagine this is the final frontier – for the Romans.   The site at Braco is apparently the best preserved camp of its kind anywhere!

From the OS map this camp would appear to have serviced a whole line of signalling towers.  This area was part of the northern boundary of Roman land acquisition around AD70.

One thing you have to say about the Romans – they knew how to build ditches!  The multiple northern ditches provide a significant barrier to unwelcome visitors.

The mid-afternoon shadows are lengthening. Adding to local legends surrounding the mysterious disappearance of the 9th Legion, three shadowy figures walk the ramparts of the ancient fort…to vanish with the setting sun.

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Once again my thanks to Cap’n Jack for supplying some of the photos  😀