Beset by harsh beauty; Crianlarich

The mountains might almost sweep over it without noticing, this tiny place in a glen, dwarfed to insignificance by the mountains, but I keep coming back to it, in spirit as much as in body. Crianlarich; at the meeting of ways in the Highlands. ‘Place o’ the wee ruin’ it means and maybe it was once no more than a shattered bothy, but today the village stands as neat as can be in a gash through the forbidding Perthshire mountains, where Strath Fillan, Glen Falloch and Glen Dochart meet, and with them the roads and railway that they carry.  Eventually, everyone comes to Crianlarich, if they care for the hills.

A clutch of houses, a kirk, a hotel, a shop and a youth hostel strung along a road, and the station that fills them. The profusion of signposts pointing to this place belie its tininess.  You do not come to Crianlarich for the village though but because it is the meeting of roads going elsewhere or because of the hills amongst which it hides.

The last time we were in Crianlarich was on the way from Stirling to Oban. The afternoon was drawing in towards evening (which is a long, slow process here). We grabbed a scratch picnic from the village shop (possibly the best stocked village shop I have ever seen outside Ulster), stocked up with Smidge, and followed a path up to see what we could see above the village.

The village soon vanishes in its landscape. The glen is broad enough, but the village is just clinging to the side of a mountain and would barely be noticed if it were to disappear within.  All among the blooming heather, Perthshire reveals itself and all curtaining the southern view were the Crianlarich Hills; mighty fells of which seven are Munros, over 3,000 feet in height, the mightiest being Ben More at 3,852 feet.

My feet began to itch. My eyes flicked involuntarily to the OS map and the vista to choose routes, until reminded gently that I had a family in tow and a B&B booked in Lorne. There would be time for that later.

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