Birnam Hill

By Colin Hogarth

A low craggy peak to the south of Dunkeld, Birnam Hill was made famous by William Shakespeare's Scottish play, Macbeth. More recently, the area attracted the author Beatrix Potter, who spent many holidays here and is said to have drawn the inspiration for some of her famous characters from the Perthshire countryside.

Set off from the main street through Birnam and head up a narrow street named Birnam Glen to the right of the Beatrix Potter garden.

The way passes under the A9 and, when it reaches a bridge under the railway line, the path separates from the road and heads left at a red marker post. It climbs up to houses and then a sign for Birnam Hill points left along a single track Tarmac roadway which soon gives way to a track running straight ahead through mixed woodland.

This leads to a private house but, as it curves right towards this, a path breaks off to the left, descending a little over the hillside towards the railway below.

It sets a course through a woodland of predominantly oak, beech and silver birch, climbing through the trees before dropping down towards an open area below old quarry workings on the hillside to the right. The path meets up with a track from the quarry and this should be followed left down to open ground. Skirt along the edge of this and pick up a path on the right which is signed for Birnam Hill.

The way rises again and continues to do so for some distance as it climbs up around the south shoulder of the hill.A strenuous pull eventually brings you up to the Stair Bridge viewpoint which is a short but worthwhile detour from the main route.

The track continues up through the trees before curving right to level off for a short way below Birnam Hill. A flight of wooden stairs and a final short climb lead to the large summit cairn. The top is a fine viewpoint with the hills to the north, including the prominent peak of Schiehallion, visible on a clear day.

To descend, follow the path north down over open hillside and it winds its way through a woodland of Scots pine and larch trees. A slabby viewpoint is the next stop and from here you can look down on the houses of Birnam and, just over the river, Dunkeld. The Loch of the Lowes nature reserve is just beyond.

The way becomes steeper from here and care should be taken as you walk down through the bracken and silver birch trees to meet up with the path coming up from Birnam Glen just above the railway.


Distance 4 miles/6.4km.
Map OS Landranger sheet 52 or 53.
Start Beatrix Potter Garden, Birnam (GR: NN 033418).
Parking Roadside layby just north of the start or railway station car park.
Grading A short hill walk with good paths but a fairly strenuous ascent and steep descent.

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