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May 2018+

Scottish Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve, the River Tay and Dunkeld.

Map - X379 - DUNKELD, ABERFELDY & GLEN ALMOND.

Distance - 5 miles Strenuousity - 2.

Scottish Wildlife Trust Logo

The parking might be in Dunkeld for this wildlife odyssey but your faith in humanity will be restored.

The traffic warden in the car park will believe that your ticket must have blown off the 'dash'[1] while getting your boots out of the boot and you've no more change on you. Turns out he's fond of a ramble himself and he'll write you out a replacement ticket before wishing you well although, technically, there was a lack of the laws.

[1] Honestly guv but a schoolboy error, really.

Loch of the Lowes, however, is just that, one of a number of small, interconnected bodies of water that ultimately drain into the River Tay.

Since it's the largest, it caught the eye of the  Scottish Wildlife Trust who established a watery nature reserve here in 1969. You can bypass the reserve but if you choose not to pay, there's a good chance you won't see an osprey when in season but more on that in a minute.

DUNKELD, ABERFELDY & GLEN ALMOND

This moderate, circular OS X379 5-miler heads north-east from Dunkeld to the loch before anti-clockwising it back with your binocs to take in a stretch of that River Tay.

There's just the one major intersection in Dunkeld so where Atholl Street turns into Bridge Street, head off up Brae Street[1]. The clue's in the name and this will have you huffing and puffing early doors.

Dunkeld - Brae Street Near Dunkeld - Ardea cinerea

After ½-a-mile, having passed some horses in fields, there's the first real glimpse of some wildlife and that's a joke, of course.

I'm not prepared, just yet, to admit to thinking this thing was real from a distance. All that will be said is that Specsavers™ might be getting some new business in the not too distant.

[1] It's fairly narrow so keep an eye out for traffic especially after the houses when it goes all national speed limit.

Just opposite the 'heron' you'll need to turn left towards Haughend Farm. If you're in any doubt this is the right way, it's right there in triplicate.

Near Dunkeld - Loch of the Lowes Path Near Dunkeld - Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Head north ignoring the track on the right towards the farm to pass through a wooded area. Give it another week and this will be a carpet of bluebells, probably.

There's an uphill haul where you'll be met by a gate at the top. This whole area is fenced off so divert left to follow the footpath while you figure what's going on up Fungarth Hill that's so furtive?

Near Dunkeld - Access Denied Near Dunked - To Loch of the Lowes

You'll soon end up heading downhill on the now walled path. Down and to the left, a glimpse of the Loch of the Lowes just beyond the Dunkeld and Birnam Golf Course, neither shown.

Hole in one? Well, obviously not the loch otherwise it would have drained away and dried up!

Cross the road that you will soon meet and turn left to a screened, wooden viewing platform. Is that a? No, surely it can't be?... A nesting osprey?

Loch of the Lowes - Viewing Platform Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) on nest, Loch of the Lowes

Well, it might have been, a little bit of the head possibly just visible so this one's been borrowed from elsewhere.

The same pair are annual visitors here, breeding inbetween their winter holidays in West Africa or Portugal if they're just plain lazy. Early April they'll generally arrive with on average 2 or 3 chicks hatching in May. Job done, mum usually leaves towards the end of July leaving dad to provide the fish for another month.

By September, all gone and everyone's fingers are crossed for next year.

You'll find all of this out at the Scottish Wildlife Trust's  Visitor Centre. They've a webcam on a nest nearby although nothing much showing today.

KP2 and LM12 the pair have been affectionately but isn't Lizzie and Ozzie much better? They're still waiting for three eggs to hatch and there's a chance of seeing some aerial action fending off gulls, crows and other ospreys.

No such luck, the best that could be done was at the feeding station where a woodpecker and a pair of yellowhammers, one not shown, put on a colourful display together with a pied wagtail and some dowdy, female pheasants on the floor, none shown.

Loch of the Lowes - Dendrocopos major Loch of the Lowes - Emberiza citrinella

Turns out that despite the no-showing ospreys, this is still pretty good value at £4 a pop!

THIS JUST IN... BREAKING NEWS... happening to be passing 2 years later, this time there's some osprey fuelled action on the same nest. The experts say they're the same pair, definitely, but they've never been met before, the ospreys, so their word will have to the taken, the experts.

Lizzie's head is just about visible, honestly, as she incubates three eggs and, good timing too, Ozzie is in with some fish every couple of hours.

Loch of the Lowes - Pandion haliaetus (Lizzie) Loch of the Lowes - Pandion haliaetus (Ozzie) Loch of the Lowes - Pandion haliaetus (Ozzie)

It seems he knows what's in store as he takes advantage of a chance for a little ' me time' before August comes round.

The staff, volunteers and regular visitors all know their stuff and it turns out that with ospreys on display, this is even better value at, still, £4 a pop!

If you've an hour or so to spare and don't want to head back to Dunkeld just yet, there's a not too unpleasant dilemma to be had. Carry on past the Visitor Centre and walk west along the  A923 until you see a path on the right up into the woods.

Or, head back the way you came and just after enjoying the view that you've already enjoyed before, bear right to sneak across the golf course.

Near Loch of the Lowes - To Dunkeld

Just after the clubhouse you'll hit that A923 over which it's a short hop and up into those woods.

Things are a bit sketchy for a while, it started to rain, you see. Let's just say you need to pass through a car park and avoid a sawmill before you arrive at this enchanting pond or, Polney Loch if you'd rather.

Near Dunkeld - Polney Loch Near Dunkeld - Bufo bufo

There are millions of these, tadpoles, in there although you too will lose count at forty odd. Nothing to get too excited about, soon to be common toads, it's thought. Either that or eaten.

Crossing a road at the bottom of the loch, a clear track brings you down into the grounds of the Dunkeld House Hotel****. It used to be run by Hilton™ but unlike the lightbulbs, they left the fallow deer behind when they sold up.

Dunkeld House Hotel - Dama dama Near Dunkeld - River Tay

This is right down by the River Tay and this is a proper river with salmon in it and everything. The problem is in these parts, fisherfolk will pay a premium and this is a rare stretch that you're actually allowed next to.

The path along the river soon brings you to Dunkeld Cathedral. Nearly 250 years this was in the building and was eventually finished just after 1500[1].

Dunkeld Cathedral Dunkeld Cathedral

It's all free since you ask although donations are welcome and they'll go some way to fixing that hole in the roof.

[1] Unlike the parking, which finishes just after 17:00.

It's a short hop back to Dunkeld and the Thomas Telford bridge where a pint in the  Taybank beckons.

Dunkeld - Bridge Street

'How much for the drinks? £4.80? But I've already paid and have no more change!'

Seems that one only works on traffic wardens who are inclined to the outdoors.

Fauna Saw...

What Number Behaviour  
Deer 6 Fallow.
Osprey 2 Are you kidding?
Tadpole Millions Appetising.
Woodpecker 1 Great and spotted.
Yellowhammer 2 Colourful.