This is not an official trail with waymarkers but existing paths and tracks combine to offer an easy to follow 91 mile route, setting out through the flat, fertile agricultural land to the north of the Fair City and progressing to wilder and more remote country as you rise into the heart of the Cairngorms.Popular through routes - Glen Tilt, Glen Dee and the Lairig Ghru - are included alongside less well walked territory and there are opportunities along the way to take in a number of Munros and other peaks.The A9 Trail, as we've christened our route, follows the banks of the River Tay for its first section from Perth to the village of Luncarty and then on north to Bankfoot, a charming little community now bypassed by the busy A9 Perth to Inverness road.From here, we leave the A9 corridor briefly, veering west into altogether remoter terrain, eventually meeting up with the popular network of paths around Dunkeld and neighbouring Birnam.
The villages sit by the River Tay and there's plenty to see and do here, from window shopping in the various antique outlets to visiting the impressive riverbank cathedral. Dunkeld is also a good supply point.The wild open lands to the north see a complete change in aspect. The rough moorland of heather and conifer plantation is scattered with tiny lochans, great spots to pause and reflect in complete peace and quiet.The next stop is the bustling tourist town of Pitlochry, famous for its dam, salmon ladder and festival theatre which runs a varied programme of entertainment throughout the summer months.
Craggy Ben Vrackie - just short of 3000 metres in height - stands guard over the town and this is the next destination. The climb is straightforward enough and the views from the top are spectacular. The descent to Blair Atholl, dominated by its famous castle, is through open country, a relaxing end to another day. Next morning it's time to say goodbye to civilisation and head north through Glen Tilt, the feeling of remoteness increasing with every step. There are no towns, villages or public roads between here and Aviemore, the end of the walk. Instead a landscape of wild moors and empty hillsides await as you push up through Glen Tilt and emerge into Glen Dee where a detour can be made to Braemar.
Following the River Dee north takes you to Corrour Bothy, a tiny refuge sitting in the heart of the Cairngorms. From here, it's into the Lairig Ghru, a narrow pass rising below Ben Macdhui, Scotlands second highest peak. Once over the high point, near the Pools of Dee, the way descends towards the Scots Pines forest of Rothiemurchas, a well walked path swinging east to Loch an Eilean, a peaceful stretch of water complete with island castle. The final bit is by road, into Aviemore via Inverdruie.
If you want to walk on further, the recently opened Speyside Way continues north, following the River Spey from Aviemore to Spey Bay, on the Moray coast.
OS Landranger sheets 53, 43 and 36.
Perth SYHA, Glasgow Road. Tel 01738 623658. Full range of services. Outdoor shops. Railway station.
Luncarty B&Bs. Shop and Post Office (PO).
Bankfoot Hotel and B&Bs. Convenience shop, newsagent, PO, petrol station.
Birnam Guest houses, B&Bs and camp site. Convenience store, newsagent and PO, petrol station. Railway station.
Dunkeld Hotels, guest houses, B&Bs. Shops, PO.
Dunkeld to Pitlochry Sarah's Bothy (map 53, GR: 53/037541).
Pitlochry SYHA, Knockard Road. Tel 01796 472308. Wide choice of hotels, guest houses and B&Bs. Takeaways, restaurants, Penny's Supermarket, shops, camping, petrol station. Railway station.
Blair Atholl Hotels, guest houses, B&Bs and camping. Convenience stores. PO, petrol station. Railway station.
Pitlochry to Aviemore Corrour Bothy (map 36, GR: 36/982958).
Aviemore SYHA, 25 Grampian Road. Tel 01479 810345. Wide choice of hotels, guest houses, B&Bs and camping. Takeaways, restaurant, shops, Tesco supermarket, petrol stations. Outdoor shops (2). Railway station.
Transport Rail services are operated between Perth and Aviemore by ScotRail. Bus services are operated between the two towns by Scottish Citylink.