Since humans first arrived, Tilt has been a natural highway. Robert the Bruce marched down Glen Tilt in 1306 on his way to a minor defeat near Tyndrum. Some 200 years later James V and Mary, Queen of Scots attended a deer drive in 1529, but the next monarch to complete the whole route was Queen Victoria. She came this way with Prince Albert on the third of their 'great expeditions' from Balmoral. Along with the Christmas tree and the 'Scottish Baronial' style of architecture, multi-day hill walks were ideas introduced by the Prince Consort. Today we'd call it backpacking, except that then the packs were carried by ponies and so were the people for much of the way. Even so, 69 miles (111km) from Dalwhinnie to Balmoral in a day was a considerable trek. Two bagpipers forded the Tarff side-stream waist deep, playing all the time, while the Queen came behind on her pony, led by John Brown.
An angry duke
Kings and cattle thieves, soldiers and shepherds have used Glen Tilt for thousands of years, and its right-of-way status is self- evident. But in 1840, the then Duke of Atholl, whose castle lay at its foot, felt he could make his own law. He did, after all, boast Britain's only private army. He tried to turn back a botanical expedition lead by Professor Balfour. The professor won the right to walk here, and his victory is commemorated in a ballad:
There's ne'er a kilted chiel
Shall drive us back this day, man.
It's justice and it's public richt
We'll pass Glen Tilt afore the nicht,
For Dukes shall we care ae bawbee?
The road's as free to you and me
As to his Grace himself, man.
Today a general right of responsible access to all hill ground has been made law by the Scottish Parliament. An 'Access Code' defines responsible access. During the deer-stalking season, from mid-August to October, polite and reasonable requests from the estate will be respected by hill walkers. Atholl Estate today is exemplary in its guidance to walkers, with daily information on deer stalking posted on the internet – though this will not affect walkers on the route given here.
Turn right in front of the castle to a six-way signpost, and bear right for a gate into Diana's Grove. Bear left on a wide path to Diana herself. Turn right on a path that leads to a giant redwood tree and then bear left, to cross Banvie Burn on a footbridge alongside a road bridge. Soon a gate leads you to the road.
You are now at Old Blair. Follow Minigaig Street ahead uphill. It eventually becomes a track and enters forest. Ignore a track on the left and, in another 0.25 miles (400m), fork right. In 60yds (55m) you pass a path down to the right with a green waymarker. This is the return route if the firing range ahead is closed. Otherwise keep ahead to emerge from the trees at the firing range gate.
A red flag flies here if the range is in use, but read the notice carefully as on most firing days the track route through the range may be used. Follow the main track gently downhill, well below the firing range targets, until you get to the riverside, then fork right to reach Gilbert's Bridge.
Cross and turn right over a cattle grid. Follow the track for 220yds (201m), then turn left up a steep little path under trees to a stile. A green track now runs down-valley with fine views. It passes along the top of a larch wood. Once through a gate into the birchwood, keep on the main track, gently uphill. After the gateway out of the wood, there's a view across Blair Castle to Schiehallion. Another gate leads to a gravel track, then a tarred road.
Turn right, down a long hill, crossing some waterfalls on the way down. At the foot of the hill turn right, signed 'Old Blair', to cross the Old Bridge of Tilt, then turn left into a car park.
Just to the right of a signboard, yellow waymarkers indicate a path that passes under trees to the River Tilt. Turn right through an exotic grotto until wooden steps on the right lead up to the corner of a caravan park. Cross an earth track to head directly away from the river under pines. At the corner of the caravan park, keep ahead under larch trees following a faint path and a couple of waymarker posts. Cross a track to take the big beech avenue towards Blair Castle. Bear left when you reach a statue of Hercules, passing the Hercules Garden to the front of the castle.
Estate tracks and smooth paths, several stiles
Castle grounds, woodland, wild river valley and mountains
Keep on lead in open grazing land
OS Explorers 386 Pitlochry & Loch Tummel; 394 Atholl
Blair Castle main car park
Blair Atholl Centre; Blair Castle
Track goes through firing range and is closed on a few days each year. Consult Atholl Estate Ranger service (www.athollestatesrangerservice.co.uk)
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Discover Perth and Kinross
Perth and Kinross, sheltered by the Grampian Mountains, is often regarded as the Heart of Scotland, and its mountains, lochs and glens yearn to be explored. Just outside the ancient city of Perth is Scone Palace, home of the mystical Stone of Destiny, on which 42 Scottish Kings were crowned. Not far south-west lies the world-famous Gleneagles Hotel.
The Tay Valley is one of the region’s most scenic features, with its popular holiday resorts of Pitlochry and Blair Atholl, while Rannoch Moor is a magnificent wilderness that represents one of Scotland’s great walking experiences. The long and beautiful hidden valley of Glen Lyon lies sandwiched in the mountains between Loch Tay and Loch Rannoch, separated from Loch Rannoch by the broad summit of Carn Mairg. Said to be the longest glen in Scotland, it exhibits an enormous diversity of scenery.
In recent years Perth has developed as Scotland’s adventure capital, with an ever-longer list of adventure sports and activities to take you out and about across the region. So, if the more traditional sports seem tame, you can get your adrenaline rush by quad biking, off-road driving, abseiling, canoeing, waterskiing, cliff jumping, white-water rafting or even paintballing.