Hiking Glenturret – The Grouse Experience

Famous Grouse ExperienceGlenturret is a small glen in the Scottish Highlands of Perthshire, just north of the little town of Crieff. Within easy reach of nearby Glasgow and Edinburgh, this is the southern edge of the true Scottish Highlands, that extend from here to the rough North Coast. It is an area famous for a typical Scottish bird: The Grouse. The easy access makes this a great area for hiking and camping in the hills. It literally takes minutes to go from friendly Crieff town square to the rugged and remote hills of the Highlands. With my company Expedition Factory I organized an early spring mini-expedition to this wonderful place. Please follow me on a virtual tour to Glen Turret:

In April 2015 we fly to Glasgow and rent a car for the two hour drive to Crieff. In this typical Scottish town we stay at the historic Crieff Hydro Hotel, a very nice family resort just outside of town. This hotel is a perfect base to explore the rich history and culture of the Perthshire area.

Crieff Hydro Hotel

The Crieff Hydro Hotel is one of the oldest hotels in the Highlands. It offers a great Scottish atmosphere (and food), plus all the amenities for luxury travelers.

Awaiting the group that arrives a day later, we do some shopping in preparation of our three-day hiking and camping trip in the Highlands. We like to use local ingredients and cook local specialties for our customers. Not always easy in an expedition camp.

We find this small organic greengrocer in Crieff where buy all vegetables needed for a Highland Stew.

We find this small organic greengrocer in Crieff where we buy all vegetables needed for a Highland Stew.

We then move to the starting point of our mini expedition. This is the Glenturret Distillery, the oldest distillery in Scotland, located literally on the foot of the Highlands.

We then move to the starting point of our mini expedition. This is the Glenturret Distillery, the oldest distillery in Scotland, located literally at the foot of the Highlands.

The Glenturret distillery was built in the 1700’s along the small Turret Burn (River Turret), that flows down the valley from the Highland peaks to the North. The distillery uses this water to make the most famous Scottish export product: whisky. A few years ago the Glenturret Distillery was rebranded into the Famous Grouse Experience, marketing the well known Famous Grouse whisky brand. As a result it receives many thousands of visitors for distillery and warehouse tours and tasting sessions. In addition, the distillery houses a very pleasant lounge bar and small restaurant. A perfect place to welcome our guests the Scottish way!

Glenturret Distillery

The Glenturret Distillery offers the perfect backdrop for typical Scottish pictures.

Loch Turret

Only a few miles upstream of Turret Burn you enter the mystical world of the Highlands. Glen Turret (Turret Valley) is home to Loch Turret, a large drinking water reservoir, created by a small dam, that also produces hydroelectric power for the area. From the parking at the dam hiking trails lead into the U-shaped valley around the loch.

Loch Turret

Our route this afternoon takes us along the north-eastern banks of the Loch, towards the small valley at the end, underneath the majestic Ben Chomzie mountain in the distance.

When we set up our camp on a small flat and relatively dry piece of land, the weather deteriorated dramatically. We spend the rest of the evening in pooring rain.

When we set up our camp on a small flat and relatively dry piece of land, the weather deteriorates dramatically. We spend the rest of the evening in pooring rain.

The rain and cold (temperatures drop to 5C) give it a very expedition feel. This is not your average comfy camping trip!

In the pooring rain we prepare our Highland Stew. See the recipe below:

Highland Stew Recipe

Making a Highland Stew is relatively simple. You fry some chopped beef and lamb meat in a large pot with butter, salt and pepper. Bake it brown all around and then add some nice dark local ale, beer or stout. At the same time chop potatoes, onions, carrots, leeks and whatever other vegetables you have and add to the brew. Then add broth (water from the river and beef cubes) to the mixture and let it simmer for at least half an hour to 40 minutes. This can be done on a single camping stove! As our group was rather large, we split over two pots and two stoves. In the pooring rain, but fun to do. Especially when you drink the rest of the ale while waiting. The result is a very tasty meat and vegetable stew. Perfect mountain food!

Our guests really enjoyed the food. The scenery added a lot too. These are the Highlands as they are meant to be!

Our guests really enjoyed the food, despite the very wet and cold conditions. The scenery added a lot too. These are the Highlands as they are meant to be!

The next morning the clouds have moved up, so we can see the mountains around us.

The next morning the clouds have moved up, so we can see the mountains around us.

We enjoy our expedition breakfast before breaking up camp.

We enjoy our expedition breakfast before breaking up camp.

While breaking up, the sky clears and the sun comes up. Weather forecast was wind, rain and snow. Instead, spring returns!

While breaking up, the sky clears and the sun comes up. Weather forecast was wind, rain and snow. Instead, spring returns!

After ascending the flanks towards Ben Chomzie we meet blue skies and a nice sunshine. Time for a group picture!

After ascending the flanks towards Ben Chomzie we meet blue skies and a nice sunshine. Time for a group picture!

From the valley we ascend up the northern flanks of the hills, towards the flat summit of Auchnafree Hill.

From the valley we ascend up the northern flanks of the hills, towards the flat summit of Auchnafree Hill.

The summit of Auchnafree Hill is flat with a small cairn. This hill is classified as a 'Corbett', a hill between 2,500 and 3,000 feet in altitude.

The summit of Auchnafree Hill is flat with a small cairn. This hill is classified as a ‘Corbett’, a hill between 2,500 and 3,000 feet in altitude.

After traversing Auchnafree Hill we encounter some snow fields, giving at least some winter expedition feeling.

After traversing Auchnafree Hill we encounter some snow fields, giving at least some winter expedition feeling.

We take a break at a small stream valley, filled with snow. Out the wind, facing the sun it feels like early summer! Until a snowball hits you of course...

We take a break at a small stream valley, filled with snow. Out of the wind, facing the sun, it feels like early summer! Until a snowball hits you of course…

Boiling water for tea and coffee alongside a small stream in the sun. This is the Highlands at its best.

Boiling water for tea and coffee alongside a small stream in the sun. This is the Highlands at its best.

Using the right camera angle you could pretend to be in the Arctic...

Using the right camera angle you could pretend to be in the Arctic…

The summit of Choinneachain Hill (787m) is only two meters lower than Auchnafree Hill, but doesn't qualify as a Corbett because its prominence from the surrounding hills is not sufficient.

The summit of Choinneachain Hill (787m) is only two meters lower than Auchnafree Hill, but doesn’t qualify as a Corbett because its prominence from the surrounding hills is not sufficient.

Towards the end of the U-shaped mountain range around Loch Turret you will find the large 'King Kenneth's Cairn'. This cairn is said to commemorate King Kenneth III and his son Giric, who both died in 1005 at the Battle of Monzievaird which took place nearby.

Towards the end of the U-shaped mountain range around Loch Turret you will find the large ‘King Kenneth’s Cairn’. This cairn is said to commemorate King Kenneth III and his son Giric, who both died in 1005 at the Battle of Monzievaird which took place nearby.

From here it is an easy walk down to the reservoir dam, following these Landrover tracks.

From here it is an easy walk down to the reservoir dam, following these Landrover tracks.

We cross the dam to the other side of Loch Turret to find a good spot for our second camp.

We cross the dam to the other side of Loch Turret to find a good spot for our second camp.

We find a great spot on a flat terrace in a hilly field, overlooking the Strath Earn valley in the distance.

We find a great spot on a flat terrace in a hilly field, overlooking the Strath Earn valley in the distance.

As the temperature drops to below freezing, we make a nice campfire to keep us warm.

As the temperature drops to below freezing, we make a nice campfire to keep us warm.

In the evening we see the lights of Crieff in the distance.

In the evening we see the lights of Crieff in the distance.

In the morning we find our tents and packs frosted in the grass. The sun quickly burns away the frost.

In the morning we find our tents and packs frosted in the grass. The sun quickly burns away the frost.

In the early morning we walk back to the parking at the dam and drive back to the Crieff Hydro Hotel for a quick shower and a hearty Scottish breakfast.

In the early morning we walk back to the parking at the dam and drive back to the Crieff Hydro Hotel for a quick shower and a hearty Scottish breakfast.

Practical Information – Hiking in Glen Turret

The Highlands are best accessible through the international airports at Glasgow or Edinburgh. There is decent public transport to Highland towns, but depending on your destination, renting a car may be the easiest and most convenient option. Just remember to drive on the left hand side.

Map of our hike in Glen Turret

Map of our hike in Glen Turret [Click to Enlarge]

For several years we have been using the nice 4-star Crieff Hydro Hotel as a base for Highland trips in the area. It is a large family resort, situated around the historic castle-like hotel main building. It has a full spa and swimming pool, several very nice restaurants, a good bar, a large conference centre and many sports fields. The hotel organizes many activities in the hotel grounds and beyond.

The Famous Grouse Experience may sound a bit tacky, but is in fact one of the nicest distillery visitor centers in Scotland. The distillery tour through the small Glenturret Distillery is very nice. Small groups are led through the different stages of the whisky making process, and visitors have good opportunities to chat with the very nice master distillers and other staff. Of course you get to taste a few wee drams at the end. I recommend ‘upgrading’ your tour to a warehouse tasting experience, where you are guided to the warehouses across the road. Here you get to taste some of the more exclusive whiskies, surrounded by thousands of aging casks and the magical ‘Angel’s Share’. In addition, the ‘Wilde Thyme‘ restaurant above the shop is a great place for coffee, lunch and your weekend dinner.

Glenturret is a great place for hikers of all levels. This being the Highlands though, visitors must be warned that weather is never a given in this part of the world. Winter storms may happen without notice, at any time between October and May. Always come prepared for all types of weather, whatever the official forecast says. Chances are that you will experience all seasons in one day, as this blog post clearly shows. Always bring a map, a GPS and a fully charged phone. Note that there is no phone coverage at most places, but you will have signal on some of the summits mentioned in this post.

You want to be aware of grouse and deer hunting season, when access may be restricted. Fishing is not allowed in Loch Turret and swimming is very dangerous. Wild camping is tolerated, away from any private property and as long as you make 100% sure to leave nothing behind and not destroy any vegetation. Making campfires is dangerous and not recommended in dry conditions, due to the risk of heath fires.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.