Glen Tarken Trail
By Colin Hogarth
On summer weekends the waters of Loch Earn are abuzz with watersports activities - from jet-skiers and power boat enthusiasts to the more laid back yachtsmen and women. But you can escape into the peace and quiet of the surrounding hills with this walk into heather-clad Glen Tarken.
The route starts next to the Four Seasons Hotel, where a track branches off from the main road on the north side of the building. It climbs past tiny St Fillans Power Station and then skirts by a series of houses, all boasting excellent views over Loch Earn.
A little further on, the track takes a sharp right hairpin turn, rising to cross a bridge over the former Comrie, St Fillans & Lochearnhead Railway. The line opened for business at the turn of the century but closed less than 50 years later on October 1, 1951. Much of the trackbed remains as do the old platform buildings at St Fillans Station which is now a caravan park. Carry on up, passing through a gate, and prepare yourself for a steady ascent through the forest.
In due course, the way reaches a junction. Ignore the track on the right and carry straight on. A short distance beyond this point the way emerges from the trees at a high gate. This may be locked but there is space in the fence to climb through.
An open moorland of purple heather and bracken, dotted with rocks, extends ahead, rising ultimately to the summit of Meall Reamhar to the north.
Further up, the track turns back on itself to gain height via a wide zig-zag below Creag Odhar and, half a mile beyond this, it dips to cross the Allt an Fhionn burn.
The way rises again before flattening out to skirt though a shallow valley and then descends to another track junction. Turn left here and the route drops into Glen Tarken, passing by the entrance to a tunnel which forms part of the local hydro-electric water catchment area. Continue down for a mile or so and the track fords the Glen Tarken Burn. There are plenty of stepping stones here to help you over when the burn is at its normal level. If itís in spate, thereís a wooden footbridge a short way downstream.
Once over, turn left at the next junction a few yards on and the track continues down the glen, passing through a gate next to a set of fenced sheep enclosures. It descends through grazing land with open views over Loch Earn, curving right and then left as it skirts by a pair of stone cottages. Lower down, the way crosses the old railway again and then emerges on to the A85 at a gate next to a farm.
Turn left and follow the road east back towards St Fillans. There is a grassy verge which, although not very wide, is sufficient to keep walkers off the road and away from the traffic which can travel quite quickly here, so take care. Initially you pass a small caravan park and yacht club and onward from here there are views to be enjoyed over the loch to the craggy hills on the far side. To the west, Ben Vorlich rises majestically to 3231 feet.
Clusters of houses cling to the hillside above to the left, Glentarken Wood providing a leafy back drop as you complete the final stretch of the route, alongside Loch Earn.