As a girl who grew up in the gritty and troubled city of Belfast during the 1970s, moved to teach English in another city, this time in Zaragoza, Spain, then onto East London to work in an Inner Comprehensive, I never for a second considered that I would live in any conurbation of under half a million. No chance that Alyth, a small Scottish town in East Perthshire would become home to this confirmed city dweller. It was a whirlwind romance that brought me here, the usual story!, but it was also those gentle hills, the miles of quiet country lanes and the beautiful rolling landscapes around the Valley of Strathmore which captured me and made me stay.
Marrying here, and soon after a little baby bundled into a backpack off we would set every weekend discovering the hidden tracks around Alyth and Blairgowrie. We purchased the Ordnance Survey Landranger Map 53. “What on earth has ordnance got to do with country walks?” I wondered. Each week we would pore over the map to find a new route which involved somehow linking up farm tracks and old Drovers’ paths to make a loop back to the car. Of course this inevitably involved legging it over a fence, tramping across some fields and on occasions getting a little closer than we anticipated to farmers’ cottages. Thankfully, meeting the residents in their farmyards always resulted in a friendly chat with useful pieces of advice on how best to get to the next stage of our walk and what sites to look out for on the way.
The years of family ramblings continued until one day a wonderful thing happened.
Our little boy, who had known these walking roots from toddler days reached the end of Primary 7 at Alyth Primary School. And guess what every child in his class was awarded as a farewell gift! The ORANGE Explorer Ordnance Survey map 381. Twice the scale of our old faithful – fantastic – but BEST OF ALL. There were lines and swirls of a green triangular route linking all our favourite paths. So many of our little walks had been joined together to become the wonderful The Cateran Trail, 64 miles of stunning walks in the heart of Scotland. And who knows, perhaps that little toddler, now 25 and living in London will come back some summer to do the Cateran Yomp!