Walk: Bridge of Allan to Dunblane, Stirlingshire

The earthy scent of mosses, ferns and wild garlic are heavenly on this exquisite riverside 3 mile ramble, where fish leap, herons stalk and weirs rumble

 

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Home to salmon and trout and edged with lush ancient woodland, the gentle Allan Water is loved by Generations of walkers and fishermen. On a warm summer’s day, there are few rivers quite as idyllic as this. 

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Born from the Devonian rock of the Ochil Hills, the Allan Water spills for 22 miles through Stirlingshire and Perthshire, eventually joining the River Forth

Weir and Mills

Begin your riverside adventure at Bridge of Allan train station. Follow Station Road and then cross the A9 and turn right. Turn left, ascending Blairforkie Drive. Go left down Darn Road, an old lane used by horse and carts until 1854. The path soon levels at an old weir, a reminder of the river’s industrial past. Between Bridge of Allan and nearby Dunblane, some ten mills relied on the weirs to power the production of items such as flax, tartan and dyes.

Enchanted Woods

Watch out for herons and the occasional kingfisher, and then continue upstream on the narrow path above the river, first passing old beech trees, then ash and hazel. A flight of stone steps leads down through a magical little gully filled with ferns, mosses and wild garlic. In this dark, damp spot, the pungent smell of the thriving ramson and its white, star-shaped flowers envelops you, while the drier slopes above are filled with enchanting carpets of glossy, green shoots. 

Further on, after steps, a sandy stretch appears on the far side of the river. Look for a small cave on your right.

The author Robert Louis Stevenson, who holidayed here as a child, is said to have visited this shelter, transforming it into Ben Gunn’s cave in his novel Treasure Island

"Vintage engraving of Robert Louis Stevenson a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer. His most well known books include Treasure Island, Kidnapped and the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde."
Robert Louis Stevenson visited the area as a child

By the burn

Tarry a while and enjoy a cooling paddle at one of the river’s idyllic little beaches, listening to the gurgling flow. After your rest, carry on by a wildflower meadow and cross the little Wharry Burn – the gorge it flows through and the riverside woods are known as Kippenrait Glen and are protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Victorian plant collector George Don, ancestor of BBC gardener Monty Don, spent much of his time here, hooking mosses from the gorge walls with a long stick to aid his botanical studies.

Open ending

The final section of the path, set away from the riverbank, enters an open landscape, passing a country estate and golf course. Stroll on to meet a main road. Cross carefully to enter Dunblane. Look out for a left turn that leads over the faithful Allan Water to the train station for your return to Bridge of Allan. 

Golden goodbye

Before boarding the train, divert up High Street to see the gold post box painted in honour of local Olympian ace Andy Murray.

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Image: Getty