North of the Tay valley, Perthshire doesn’t discard its lush richness immediately, but there are clear indications of the more rugged, barren influences of the Highlands proper. The principal settlements of Pitlochry and Blair Atholl, both just off the A9, are separated by the narrow gorge of Killiecrankie, a crucial strategic spot in times past for anyone seeking to control movement of cattle or armies from the Highlands to the Lowlands. Greater rewards, however, are to be found further from the main drag, most notably in the winding westward road along the shores of Loch Tummel and Loch Rannoch past the distinctive peak of Schiehallion, which eventually leads to the remote wilderness of Rannoch Moor.
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Rannoch Moor occupies roughly 150 square miles of uninhabited and uninhabitable peat bogs, lochs, heather hillocks, strewn lumps of granite and a few gnarled Caledonian pine, all of it more than 1000ft above sea level. Perhaps the most striking thing about the moor is its inaccessibility: one road, between Crianlarich and Glen Coe, skirts its western side, while another struggles west from Pitlochry to reach its eastern edge at Rannoch Station. The only regular form of transport is the West Highland railway, which stops at Rannoch and, a little to the north, Corrour Station, which has no road access at all. From Rannoch Station it’s possible to catch the train to Corrour and walk the nine miles back; it’s a longer slog west to the eastern end of Glen Coe, the dramatic peaks of which poke up above the moor’s western horizon. Determined hillwalkers will find a clutch of Munros around Corrour, including remote Ben Alder (3765ft), high above the forbidding shores of Loch Ericht.
SYHA Loch Ossian
A mile from Corrour train station on the shores of Loch Ossian. This comfortable, cosy – and remote – eco-hostel is a great place for hikers seeking somewhere genuinely off the beaten track. Good wildlife-watching opportunities, too.