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Crieff

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Overlooked by the forested slopes of The Knock, Crieff has always been an important transport and communications hub. It used to have a renowned cattle market, and today lies on a key east-west road from nearby Perth towards the West Highlands. In summer there are now herds of tourists, browsing a congested main street full of gift shops, bakeries, numerous chocolatiers and delicatessens (the cheese straws from McNee's are to die for), and too many Indian takeaways. Touristy but still charming is the verdict, a judgement shared with Glenturret Distillery - Scotland's most visited distillery due to its links with the Famous Grouse brand, but itself one of the country's smaller distilleries. With the hills of the Highlands immediately to the north and fertile Strathearn to the south, you're also spoilt for choice for walking in these parts, with a number of walks starting right from the town centre.


Name: Crieff ★★★☆☆
Location: G.R.: NN 865216 ///poems.flush.beauty


Within …

Muthill Old Church & Tower

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This church's striking arches and Romanesque tower dominate Muthill village, straight ahead of you as the main road bends left towards Crieff in the village centre. It may look like a single site, but the tower is much older than anything else in the village, built in the 1170's and originally a freestanding religious and defensive icon. The nave was added around the tower 3 centuries later, probably on the orders of Dunblane Cathedral. By the 1820's the congregation had moved elsewhere; soon after, parts of the stonework were used to construct an Episcopal church nearby, leaving the incomplete structure visible today.


Name: Muthill Old Church and Tower★★☆☆☆
Description: Large 12th century tower and arches of a now ruined, central parish church. Location: Muthill village centre, G.R.: NN 867171 ///yourself.unusually.refreshed Open: Always Cost: Free



Caiy Stane

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The Caiy Stane (or Camus Stone) is a 2.8 metre-tall, 5,000 year-old standing stone found on a quiet residential street in the southern part of Edinburgh. Apart from a few faint graffiti marks, it appears to have survived miraculously well; you can even make out a row of Neolithic cup marks on the back.


Name: Caiy Stane ★☆☆☆☆
Location: Caiystane View, Edinburgh, G.R.: NT 242684 ///shut.sing.desk
Open: Always
Cost: Free

Walk: Braid Hills - surveying the seven summits

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The Braid Hills are a belt of high ground rising out of the southern suburbs of Edinburgh. This is the southernmost of the city's "Seven Hills", and there's a superb panorama of the other 6 (Arthur's Seat, Castle Rock, Calton Hill, Corstorphine Hill, Craiglockhart Hill and Blackford Hill) from the summit. The latter of these is also included in the varied, 7 km route featured here, which feels surprisingly rural despite its location amidst residential streets. You won't be alone - the number of dogs taking their owners for a walk along the Hermitage of Braid puts paid to that - but it's a great way to escape the crowds of the Royal Mile.


Name: Braid & Blackford Hills ★★★☆☆
Length: 7 km / 4 miles
Ascent: 320 metres
Main summits: Blackford Hill (164 metres);  Buckstone Snab / Braid Hills (208 metres)
Points of interest: Braidburn Valley; Hermitage of Braid (doocot, ice house & visitor centre); Blackford Pond
Start / finish: Street parking on Riselaw Cres…

The Snow Roads

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The Snow Roads is a recently-created, 90-mile scenic route (on existing roads) through Scotland's eastern Highlands. En route from Blairgowrie in the south to Grantown-on-Spey in the north, the journey takes in two of the UK's highest roads (the Cairnwell Pass and the Lecht Pass) and fabulous views of the Cairngorms National Park. In an age of rising temperatures, the road might seem optimistically named; indeed, while snow by the roadside is possible from November to April, it's certainly not guaranteed. However, catch it after a rare winter storm when walls of snow on either side dwarf the size of your car and you might understand the rationale. We think it's a great driving route at any time of year, and an excellent (slower) alternative to the busy A9 if you're driving north from the Central Belt. Art installations have been commissioned at various points on the route to liven up the already beautiful panoramas; beyond these, there are dozens of places of inte…

Persie Distillery

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Based at the foot of the scenic Cairnwell Pass, Persie Distillery is a welcome recent addition to the southern Cairngorms tourist scene. Official tours can be booked in advance, but most visitors just turn up for a browse and free, informal tasting; the distillery stays open quite late, so you could tag it onto the end of a day elsewhere. As with most Scottish gin distilleries, liquor is distilled in small batches on a few days each week. You can peek at Phil the Still (yes, really) through a large window in the shop, or if it's quiet you might be taken for a closer look around. Three contrasting gins are currently on sale, marketed as a "starter, main course and dessert". We were impressed by the variety on offer: indeed, impressed enough that we bought a trio to take home.


Name: Persie Distillery★★☆☆☆
Location: A93 3 miles north of Bridge of Cally, G.R.: NO 140549 ///nylon.fluid.fuel
Open (2017): Saturday to Thursday afternoons, February to December; by appointment outwi…

Walk: Ben Gulabin winter wonderland

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Heather-clad Ben Gulabin (Hill of the curlew) seems to loom large above the main road as you drive past the Spittal of Glenshee. Actually, at 806 metres above sea level it's a mere cub in comparison to the main bulk of the Cairngorms just to the north. A high start point on the approach to the Cairnwell Pass and good tracks almost to the summit make its ascent a straightforward, half-day walk in good conditions, though when blanketed in white it's a more serious affair. Detour to the lower, eastern summit for the best views, and look out for wildlife throughout; huge numbers of grouse, red deer and mountain hare on our chilly trip made for an entertaining outing.


Name: Ben Gulabin winter wonderland ★★★☆☆
Length: 6 km / 4 miles
Ascent: 450 metres
Main summits: Ben Gulabin (806 metres, Corbett)
Start / finish: Space for a few cars at track junction (don't block gate) on A93, a mile north of Spittal of Glenshee, G.R.: NO 114714 ///later.gaps.riverside

Route: Start - track junction…