On a sunny day a walk in these gardens will make you feel like you are in the grounds of a French Chateau. They are breathtaking and easily reached by cycling 10 miles from Gleneagles station. Read on to find out more...
Highlights of this route:
Begin at Gleneagles station
This route begins at Gleneagles station which was beautifully restored in 2014. You can read more about it in this blog.
3.5 miles from Gleneagles station you come to a chapel that was built by one of the wealthiest families in Scotland. The Murray's founded Tullibardine chapel around 1446 as a place of private worship and burial. In those days it would have been richly decorated, but today you find a building that is rather austere.
Originally the interior was divided in two by a screen. One one side, the priests conducted their services and the public stayed on the other side.
Some interesting things remain, such as the roof beams, fine stone construction and carvings. One of the carvings has a skull and hourglass- a reminder of death, meant to encourage people to live good lives and not sin.
The outside of the chapel is a cheerier place. On my visit trees rustled in a gentle wind and in the fields there was an occasional cow feasting on grass
5.5 miles of cycling on a minor road brought me to the pretty village of Muthill. I loved the community garden with the children's wellington boots filled with flowers
The Post Office and village store is equally resplendent in floral decorations and has antlers above the door.
There is a ruined church and bell tower in the village. In the 1100s a monastic community, called the Culdees, once lived here. There is not much to see, but it is a pleasant site to walk around and admire the substantial stone construction.
To the Castle
From Muthill it is only 2 miles to Drummond Castle Gardens. A small part of this is on the A822, which can have fast moving traffic. but during my visit vehicles were infrequent.
The castle entrance is by means of a long, narrow, uphill driveway. It is a bit of a slog and felt like it went on forever and ever.
"Where is this castle!" I said this to myself many times.
On the plus side it is a really beautiful road, tree-lined, peaceful and filled with birdsong. It is worth pulling over for a rest so that you can enjoy this magical stretch of tarmac.
Tickets and Ice Cream
Ticket purchase takes place in the imposing castle gatehouse. They also sell ice cream from local producer, Stewart Tower Dairy. I thoroughly enjoyed my small tub of chocolate and hazelnut flavour, which hit the spot after climbing up that driveway.
Once you come out of the gatehouse the first sight of the gardens is incredible. There are many turning a corner moments in Scotland that make you go 'wow' and this is one of them.
Everything is so neat. The layout of the hedges, trees and flowers is sheer perfection. It makes you want to get down there and explore.
You can walk down the grand stairs, passing statues, to walk the paths and take a closer look at the flowers and decorative hedges.
From the gardens there are fine views of the castle. You cannot visit the castle as it is still the home of a Baroness. The window blinds were down, so it was not even possible to have a peek inside.
I discovered greenhouses with tomatoes and peppers grown for the castle kitchen.
My favourite thing here, by far, is the mushroom shaped tree. There is a bench underneath it and that makes it one of the best seats I have ever come across.
Considering that it was a warm sunny day I knew exactly where I was going next. Less than 5 miles down the road is the rooftop terrace cafe of The Famous Grouse whisky distillery. It is an excellent place for a refreshment. In particular, a bottle of Ginger Grouse, a ginger beer with a nip of The Famous Grouse whisky. It is fizzy, sweet, zingy and ideal to quench your thirst. The sound of the gently flowing Barvick Burn is pretty much the only sound from this terrace.
"Honour and duty were the guiding stars of his destiny: Piety and charity the leading characteristics of his mind. He felt no jealousies. He harboured no resentments." Part of the inscription on The Baird Monument
On my road atlas I spotted something intriguing- The Baird Monument. This is my surname, so I had to see what this was all about. General Sir David Baird appeared to be perfect in every possible way from the glowing description on the side of the monument. It is written with typical Victorian gusto and this makes it all the more bizarre to find it in this location.
To get there I walked through forest and ferns. The trees were layered in moss and I rubbed my palms across it. It felt like a rough carpet or a sponge. Even though the monument is on a hilltop there was no view because the trees were so tall and thick. Scottish nature was taking over and it all seemed at odds with a military man used to campaigns in India and Egypt.
The monument is incredible, not only for the inscription, but the impressive height and size of the stone blocks. Gone are those days when grieving widows built such structures in remote countryside.
It was only 3.5 miles to get to the monument from the distillery, although I had to use the A85 for some of this journey and this is a road of fast moving traffic.
I parked my bicycle next to a pretty little cottage. I wondered if it had once housed a caretaker for the monument. On a patch of grass opposite the cottage there was a couple having a picnic lunch.
"Don't suppose you have a spare bicycle wheel?" The man with the ginger beard asked.
He explained his predicament. They had a cart with bicycle wheels that contained all of their belongings. They pulled this cart along old drover's trails, but one of the wheels ended up bent. He said that they were part of a travelling circus and walked with their cart across Perthshire to perform shows.
They did not seem too concerned about the broken wheel, "We'll just knock on the door of every house that we pass and ask if they have a spare wheel."
The road that I took to make my way back to Gleneagles station is the kind of thing that keeps cyclists awake at night. When I want to think about my next cycling trip it is likely to be a place like this that I imagine. A place of dense forest, moss covered stone walls and fern jungles. It smelt green and earthy. Give this place a few months of neglect and nature would reclaim the narrow road.
There was nobody else using this route and I felt that I had come across a secret world. Whilst everybody else was driving on the nearby A-roads I was here, on my own, in silence. It does not get much better than this.
There is some steep climbing required, but the reward you get is the stunning views of the hills.
I spotted a deer on this road. You can just about make it out in the picture below:
Further along this road there is a great view over the Loch of Balloch, a small oval shaped loch that is fringed by trees. Stick to these quiet roads and they will take you back to Muthill from where you can retrace your steps to Gleneagles station.
Trains to Gleneagles are infrequent and a bicycle reservation is sometimes required, so this cycle route requires a bit of advanced planning.
This route is around 33 miles in total. It is mainly on quite roads with negligible vehicle traffic, although there are some sections on A-roads. The A822 has to be used to reach Drummond Castle and Gardens, but I did not find the traffic volume to be concerning.
I would not recommend using the A85 unless you are very comfortable cycling with fast moving traffic. I did use it, because I was short on time, to reach The Baird Monument. It can be avoided using quieter roads that run parallel to the A85.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.