Joe Crowley goes on a Highland journey, starting in the wilds of the Craigvinean Forest and ending in the beautiful surroundings of Loch Katrine.
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Today I'm on a journey through the magnificent Highlands of Scotland.
Starting here, in Perthshire's Big Tree Country,
and finishing at the beautiful Loch Katrine.
From the Craigvinean Forest I head north
to the historic village of Moulin
and on to the picturesque town of Pitlochry.
From there, I continue south-west to Loch Tay,
stop off at Doune,
before finishing on the waters of Loch Katrine.
And along the way, I'll be looking back at the very best
of the BBC's rural programmes from this part of the world.
This is Country Tracks.
I'm starting my journey through this legendary landscape
in one of Scotland's oldest managed forests, Craigvinean.
I'm meeting Charlie Taylor to find out more about Big Tree Country.
-So we're in Big Tree Country?
-Welcome to Perthshire.
You're right in the heart of it.
Fantastic. It looks so natural, but I'm led to believe
-this is a man-made forest.
-It is, but unlike many others
this is quite an old forest, it was planted over...
On the hill we're on, Craigvinean hill,
it was planted by the Dukes of Atholl over 250 years ago.
This side is managed by the Forest Commission of Scotland -
the Atholl estate manage the other side of the glen,
-Why did they plant a forest?
-They were looking to improve the productivity of the estate back then.
They introduced larch trees from the Alps in Europe in the 1750s.
The first major planting was on this hill -
they still have larch trees in this area.
It's part of a tradition of growing larch,
and they introduced conifers in this part of the world.
I can see some snow on the hills behind us.
Are we in the Highlands here?
We are on the cusp of the Highlands. This is the Highland Boundary Fault.
We're almost sitting right on top of it as we look across the glen.
The Craigiebarns hill and the Craigvinean Hill
are right on the boundary fault.
There is a gap here, with the A9 going north, and the railway line,
this is the main entrance to the Highlands in this part of the world.
There is a river down there, I have seen a boat out there this morning.
-The River Tay, the biggest in Scotland.
-This is a gateway, then?
It's a gateway to the Big Tree Country
but also to the whole of the Highlands.
That makes this forest very important. It's a shop window,
-the first Forest you see as you come into the Highlands.
-Let's get into the forest, shall we?
There is a wonderful smell of pine and fresh-cut timber in the air.
Have you been felling trees around this bit?
We've been felling out the overstorey.
We're trying to allow the next generation of trees to come up
under the existing ones.
That's a practised called continuous cover foresting.
It's relatively new in British terms.
It has been practised on the Continent for many generations.
But we're just testing it out, and this is one of the test beds.
-The idea is that it keeps regenerating itself?
Do you plant trees here now?
No, we try and achieve the next generation by natural regeneration.
The seeds come off the older trees and fall on the ground.
So we've got to open up to allow
the light to come in to let the young trees come away.
How varied are these trees?
To the untrained eye, it looks like lots of pines.
Coming through, behind us, we have got Sitka Spruce,
from Northwest America,
Norway Spruce, from Europe,
further up, we have got Douglas Fir, from Northwest America,
beyond that, Scots Pine, which is native.
These forests were originally planted for productive reasons,
but now we are trying to use them to deliver a wide range of benefits,
not just for wildlife, but it is a very important recreation area.
-It is a very active forest in that respect.
People come to enjoy the forest, to walk, cycle, or ride through it,
but it's also producing timber, and this is all sustainable product,
going into building timber,
and it also employs local people in the forest.
-Fantastic. Let's explore a bit further.
'Deep in the forest is one tree which dominates the skyline.'
One of the tallest trees in Britain, in fact in Europe.
It is a Douglas Fir, planted just over 150 years ago.
It's only about a quarter of a way through its life.
It's still a baby, this tree.
Come back in 150 years' time, this will be even bigger tree country.
Wow! That is phenomenal. It is some tree.
-It is huge.
You have got one final experience to enjoy before you leave.
Lie back, relax and get to a real feel for how big these trees are
from a different angle.
That's fantastic, a cone specially carved out to lie on.
It has a great quote from David Douglas,
who found these trees in the first place.
"One of the most striking object in nature."
I'd better experience it for myself.
-Enjoy your time. Nice to meet you.
Wow, look at that.
Look at that! This really is Big Tree Country.
It is strange to think that this forest
which seems so natural is man-made.
It is not just forests that have been created.
A few miles away there is a man-made loch -
part of a huge power generating scheme back in the '30s.
This is Loch Faskally.
Half a million people a year come to see it.
What is remarkable about the loch
is that it didn't exist 60 years ago.
It is part of an ambitious scheme to harness power from the glens.
Hydroelectricity uses running water to turn turbines.
This movement creates electrical power.
It's Britain's oldest source of renewable electricity.
The mountains and rain in Scotland provide the ideal conditions
for a network of hydropower stations including this one at Pitlochry.
Peter, Loch Faskally is totally man-made,
but it looks like it was created by nature.
Yes, totally man-made, built between 1947 and 1950.
It actually dammed the River Tummel.
Prior to that, it was just a river flowing on its natural course.
And it's part of quite a big system that makes electricity out of water.
It sits at the bottom of the Tummel Valley Hydro Scheme.
The water going through the station here
may well go through five power stations
on its way through the valley.
How many homes does it produce electricity for?
The output of the Tummel Valley
would probably supply about a quarter of a million homes.
People didn't want it, did they, when it was first talked about?
Not at all.
It was the ruination of the tourist industry in Pitlochry, all of that.
When you look at it now, it is the exact opposite.
We have about 500,000 people cross the dam each year.
Hundreds of men from around Britain, Ireland and post-war Europe
were recruited to build the Hydro network.
It was just one piece of a giant jigsaw
to bring electrical power to the Highlands.
What was it like on site when the dam was being constructed?
Well, it was all heavy work.
You didn't have the technical plant and transport.
Although we had massive cranes and that type of thing on site.
It was, well, just heavy work.
But you came away with more than just wages.
Ah, well, I took a bride away from here.
It was happy days. Very happy days.
It didn't turn out so happily for all who worked on the scheme.
Conditions were dangerous
and health and safety legislation was less rigorous.
This arch commemorates some of those who died building the Hydro network.
When Pitlochry power station was built on the River Tummel,
one of the main considerations was how to continue to allow salmon
to travel upstream to their spawning grounds.
Having a great big dam in the way can pose a bit of an obstacle.
Engineers came up with a unique way around the problem -
a fish ladder.
Here it is. Alistair, how does it work?
It works on the principle that adult salmon trying to get upstream
to their spawning grounds, follow a directional flow.
The engineers devised a scheme where they could
allow the fish past a 55-foot high obstacle
by creating 34 pools.
How do they get up the steps?
They swim through the steps.
There is a metre diameter orifice between each of the steps
so that the fish find their way through, pulled upstream,
if you like, by the flow that's flowing down.
We have a fish counter that enables us to determine how many fish
actively migrate through here annually.
This year, we have counted more than 7,000 fish.
The Hydro network was completed 50 years ago,
and transformed the face of the Highlands.
New power stations, dams, tunnels, even new lochs
provided electricity for the first time
to the remotest parts of Scotland.
It was a remarkable piece of engineering.
So, Peter, this turbine has not been worked on since it was built.
Correct. The turbine was built in about 1950.
This is the first time it has been stripped to this extent since.
The generator above our heads has been rewound once in all that time.
So the technology is the same as it is today, it hasn't advanced much?
-Is there a positive future for hydropower?
The drive for renewables
and government targets for renewable energy,
very positive future for hydro.
It has served us well for the last 50 years and I see no reason
why power stations like this should not continue for the next 50 years.
The concrete may not be very pretty,
but it's a testimony to the people who built the Hydro network,
that what was seen as a threat to local tourism
is now a cornerstone of Britain's green energy supply.
The Hydro Dam, like the Craigvinean Forest has been successful
in attracting tourists into this part of Scotland.
Of course what draws many people to the country is the rich history.
My journey into the Highlands now takes me from the Craigvinean Forest
through the village of Moulin.
The village stands at an ancient Scottish way point.
Historically important Highland routes AND people
passed through Moulin.
Legend has it that in 1306, Robert the Bruce
retreated through this very village.
He was a great Scots hero
and I will be finding out more about him as well as
some other historical figures with links to this part of the world.
The River Tummel starts its life 60 miles to the west of Pitlochry,
on the windswept Rannoch Moor.
It runs east, passing through numerous lochs
until it reaches the main stem of the River Tay.
It seems pretty placid here,
but further downstream, things get decidedly more rapid.
As Michaela Strachan found out back in 2005.
Perthshire in Scotland is a beautiful place to visit.
There is loads of different things you can do here.
If you're into wildlife, there is a great variety.
You can spot the osprey, see the majestic red deer,
check out the cheeky red squirrels
or if you're really lucky, catch a glimpse of a capercaillie.
If you want something less sedentary, Perthshire has that too,
because it is home to some of the most thrilling
and exciting adventure sports to be found anywhere in the British Isles.
-Peter, why have adventure sports taken off recently?
-Well, I think,
people are working in stressful jobs, they're busy.
Come the weekend, they want to do something more
adventurous than go to the pub or a club like they did in the past.
Are we getting more sporty?
We are in the sense that they want an experience.
Hopefully we're introducing them to something they like,
and they are coming back two or three times a year.
Are people diversifying from agriculture to tourism?
Yes, we work with business partners.
A lot have used their old buildings and made bunkhouses,
self-catering bunkhouses and have customers staying at weekends.
Some run activities on the farm.
So we do team-building games, corporate games -
the landscape they'd used for farming,
they're now using for adventure sports.
Lots of B&Bs are being converted from old buildings,
so accommodation's doing well.
Some farmers are going into restaurants
where customers are going after they've had a hard day with us
-to get a good meal on the farm.
-What adventure sports do you do?
Predominantly white-water rafting,
that's what we have most coming to do.
We do that 12 months of the year.
We do canyoning, spending time sliding down waterfalls,
jumping off cliffs into canyons. We climb.
We do mountaineering, abseiling.
And the newest thing that we've brought in from New Zealand
is called river bugging.
River bugging. Being a fan of wildlife and of water,
sounds like the one for me!
Now, when Peter said "bugging,"
this wasn't quite what I had in mind.
'The bugs are like huge inflatable ladybirds
'without the spots.
'The River Tummel is one of the few places in Europe
'where you can learn the art
'under the full guidance of qualified instructors.'
Just before we jump on the river and cause some carnage,
I'll introduce you to Si, who'll be with us, and Sanu.
The bug, think of it as a nice, easy armchair.
You're going to sit back in it.
You've all sussed out the lap-belt that goes across over your waist.
When you fall out, if they flip upside down...
just remember where this red handle is - right in front of you.
That's the first thing you want to go for.
Don't ever try to stand up.
If you're in moving water and you try to stand up,
and maybe your fin gets caught under a rock,
the water will keep pushing you forwards,
so your head's between your legs before you know it.
How fast is it? It looks fairly tame. It gets faster as you go down.
That's the idea. We start off with some fairly tame water,
and you can't see round the corner yet, but there's our first rapid,
called The Narrows.
I think we've kind of delayed it enough, actually having a go,
-Let's go and do it! High five!
I thought it would be quite a sedate ride down the river.
I didn't realise it would involve going off four-foot high waterfalls
and things like that.
Four-foot high waterfalls?! No-one's told me that!
-So you are the only other first-time bugger.
-I am a rank amateur.
-Are you up for this?
-I am, I am.
It was also described to me as a sedate ride
in an armchair down the river. But look at that.
-They are taking the mickey!
-I think so.
-Do you think you're going to go in?
-I hope so.
I want to come out with my hair dry. What a girly thing to say!
'I was in fact the only girly on this ride.
'But as far as the others were concerned,
'I was just one of the boys.
'A few more delaying tactics while we splashed about a bit,
'and then we were off.
'It was time to bite the bullet, take the bull by the horns
'and keep my fingers crossed
'that I wouldn't drown.
'From a safe distance, it was actually quite good fun watching
'the others take a good dunking,
'especially the instructor!
'That slightly frozen smile is because of the cold water,
'not fright, as some of you might think.
'And look at that hair! So far, so good!'
Yes! Still dry!
'I thought I was doing pretty well for a first-timer,
'but my fellow first-time bugger was, well,
'having a few problems.'
'But he certainly wasn't the only one to do a ladybird turnover.
'Look at that technique! Arms and legs everywhere!'
How am I doing so far?
Fantastic. Second hardest rapid on the river and your hair is still dry.
One more down there,
-and hopefully we will see you taking a big swim on that one.
The boys'll be happy.
I've noticed a lot of the boys have got their hair wet!
'The next rapids were a few hundred yards down the Tummel - enough time
'for people to reflect on what they were letting themselves in for.
'Mind you, even if you wanted to bail out,
'it would have been difficult to escape!
'Ooh, there's that smile again!
'Whoa, that's what you call a proper rapid!
'These big rapids are actually quite dangerous,
'although I've been assured by the instructors
'that no-one has seriously damaged themselves - yet.
'It is a long way down. And it's a bumpy ride!
'Looking a little worried now.
'I mean, I might actually get my hair wet on this one.
'But there was no turning back.
'The first bit was quite easy. But then - oh, my word!
'But I managed to stay in.'
# Baby, I'm ready to go... #
'Disappointed by the fact that my hair was still reasonably dry,
'the boys gave me another challenge.
'And I never like to turn down a challenge.
'You've got to be joking! I hate heights!
'But I'm not going to wimp out now.'
-From the village of Moulin,
I head across to the picturesque Victorian town of Pitlochry.
It's a town which was made fashionable as a tourist resort
when it found favour with Queen Victoria, who visited in 1842.
The arrival of the railway in 1836 confirmed it
as one of the premier mountain resorts of the day.
But the thing that caught my eye when I was reading up on this area
is that this bridge marks the end of the Rob Roy Way.
For the rest of my journey,
I'll be following a route across Rob Roy country.
The Rob Roy Way is a 79-mile unofficial walk
linking Drymen in the south-west with Pitlochry.
The walk brings together a lot of the places
associated with the famous folk hero, Rob Roy.
Most walkers start in Drymen and go to Pitlochry
to keep the weather behind them.
But for my sins, I am going against the flow and starting at the end.
Rob Roy - it's a name which rolls off the tongue.
The image is of a hero outlaw.
But who was the real Rob Roy?
And why is there a path cross the Highlands named in his honour?
I've got the Sir Walter Scott version of the Rob Roy story,
but it's a novel.
What I really need is some local knowledge.
I am meeting local tour guide Sally Spaven who moved here 25 years ago
after marrying a Scotsman.
I have heard that Robert the Bruce passed by near here,
and yet, this is the end of the Rob Roy Way.
I'm conscious of not confusing my Scottish heroes.
Can you untangle it for me? Who was Rob Roy?
Rob Roy MacGregor - and that means "Red Roy" in Gaelic -
was a well-known cattle trader.
He took cattle from the farms in the north
down to the cattle trysts in central Scotland.
Unfortunately for Rob Roy,
he borrowed £1,000 from the Duke of Montrose,
and one of his associates made off with it,
so because of that, he was outlawed by the government,
and had to go into hiding,
and was proscribed for a number of years.
It was that time in his life that was romanticised
by Sir Walter Scott in his novel.
I have been reading about it.
He came up here to plead his cause with the Duke of Atholl
in the local court,
and was arrested and put in jail, just a few miles from here,
from where he managed to escape.
How long was he an outlaw for?
It was for about 10 years.
Is it right people refer to him as the Scottish Robin Hood?
Yes, I think because of Sir Walter Scott's romanticising of his story,
he was seen as someone who stole from the rich and gave to the poor.
While he was an outlaw, who was he fighting against?
Against the government.
The government at the time consisted of the Duke of Atholl,
-and the Duke of Argyll.
-That's cleared that up.
Rob Roy, done. Now tell me about Robert the Bruce.
Well, he is possibly one of our most famous Scottish kings.
He passed through the area in 1306 after the Battle of Methven,
but if you come with me,
-we'll go and have find more about him.
Robert the Bruce was one of his generation's famous warriors
and became one of Scotland's greatest kings.
He is remembered most for leading Scotland
during the Wars of Scottish Independence
against the kingdom of England.
We are driving a few minutes down the road to visit a place
that Robert the Bruce knew only too well.
So, here we are, Joe, what do you think of this place?
-Isn't it beautiful?
-It looks very nice. The sun's just gone in,
but it's still gorgeous.
This is the Queen's View, and it is named, we think, legend has it,
after Isabella, the wife of Robert the Bruce.
-So this was his hideout?
-Yes. He hid here.
There was a crannog in the middle of the loch here,
where Robert the Bruce was trying to get to
to escape further down the valley.
He actually hid in woods just at the far end of Loch Tummel here.
And he was trying to escape away down the valley, beyond Schiehallion,
you can see with the snow on there, and down towards Loch Rannoch,
which takes you across and over to Loch Tay.
But it was his wife it was named after, possibly.
Possibly. It's like a lot of Scottish myths and legends -
some people think she did come here, I personally am not so sure.
The myths and legends are great for business.
There is a real sense of celebrating it here in Scotland.
I think Sir Walter Scott was responsible for the beginning of this...tourism, as we call it now.
His romantic version of Rob Roy MacGregor set the standard.
In fact the very first tourist day trips went through the Trossachs, after Rob Roy came out.
-Today, the Rob Roy Way is even popular with Hollywood films. It's all in there.
-It is, yes.
Two of the biggest films that have been made in this area were
Rob Roy with Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange,
and Mrs Brown with Judi Dench and Billy Connolly.
The scenery is all set. It's beautiful.
It's fascinating how the legends of Scotland's past are still being told and retold.
Pressing further into Rob Roy country, I could feel the land around me alive with history.
So far, my journey has taken me from the Craigvinean Forest through the historic village of Moulin
and on to the town of Pitlochry.
Now I've arrived at the beautiful Loch Tay.
Loch Tay is a narrow loch, around 14 miles in length.
It's the sixth largest loch in Scotland and is over 150 metres deep.
Like most Scottish lochs, its waters are steeped in history.
You see that island, it's actually a crannog, the remains of an ancient man-made settlement.
From the surface most crannogs look like uninteresting mounds of stone.
But these islands were constructed as far back as 3,000BC and lived in as recently as the 17th century.
I'm meeting Gavin Leighton at the Scottish Crannog Centre
where they've recreated one using the findings
from an archaeological site here on the shores of Loch Tay.
Gavin, this crannog looks spectacular from the shore but what exactly were crannogs?
Primarily built as a defensive homestead,
obviously a status symbol as well.
We can tell from the excavation work that our people were farmers.
So it was a farm house, it was a farming family.
What's the significance of them being on water and not on the land?
Much more easy to defend from the water. You've got access for trade,
for people passing through. You've got a vantage point.
You can see both ends of the loch. So quite a few advantages from being on the water.
Is it a localised thing, is it a Loch Tay phenomenon?
Not at all. You'll find crannogs throughout the UK.
You find them in Ireland, obviously in Scotland and there's one or two in Wales.
This loch has 18 crannogs in it.
There are roughly 30,000 lochs in Scotland
and almost every loch that you drive past, if you see a small stone island quite close to the shore,
-there's a very high chance there's one of these structures below the stone mounds.
-Here, you've basically recreated one, haven't you?
This is as exact as it can be from the old bank crannog. They've taken all their findings from underwater.
The divers have gone down and pulled back mounds and mounds of materials and found the timbers.
A lot of them were still standing out of the bed of the loch.
So they could get an idea of the shape of the structure.
Then obviously build from that, they can take it up. Large portions of the floor were left,
parts of the walls, sections of roof and stuff like that as well. So, yeah...
So it is a bit of a jigsaw puzzle?
Getting this underwater archaeology to bring it alive.
Exactly, it is a jigsaw puzzle.
Does water not deteriorate the wood?
Because there is little light and very little oxygen, it goes into an anaerobic state.
We found very small cherry stones that still had pieces of flesh on them after 2,500 years.
There was a dish with four holes in the bottom of it.
They analysed the material around the side of a dish and found it to be animal.
We are quite sure it was butter or cheese from the Iron Age still in the dish.
Butter or cheese, that is staggering.
-So it is a massive treasure trove. Perfectly preserved.
It seems incredible that the icy waters
in the lochs around Scotland could preserve minute details so well.
In crannogs, we have a key to the secrets of the past.
These buildings aren't just robust, they are surprisingly warm and comfortable.
But for the next leg of my adventure I'm leaving the crannog comfort zone
and opting for the full wilderness experience.
I am wild camping next to a loch in the Scottish Highlands.
I feel like it is one of those experiences I have just got to try.
Well, ever since 2005, you have had the right to wild camp in Scotland, unlike the rest of the UK.
You have to obey common sense.
You can't pitch your tent in a field of cows or anything like that.
But look at this fantastic view. It's the perfect place to do it,
and I have got permission from the landowner to pitch my tent right here.
It's not the best of conditions. I've got a feeling this is going to
blow away as soon as I get the poles in, but we'll see what happens.
It's going to be quite a blustery night.
I think this is going to be a thorough test for this tent.
Some good, strong Loch Tay weather.
This is crazy, it's actually windy inside the tent.
I'm not sure my pitch is going to stand up to this buffering all night long.
All I can do is snuggle up in my sleeping bag. I've got a hat here
to keep me warm and I've got a head torch in case anything goes wrong.
Hopefully, I'll still be here in the morning.
All I can do now is try to get some sleep.
I tell you what, the wind is so strong, it's impossible to sleep.
it sounds like someone's got a vacuum cleaner and they're hoovering my ears.
And the tent - well, the tent is just being lifted right up.
It feels like it's about to take off any minute.
What a night.
That was incredible.
At least it's not really raining.
But I think I chose the most exposed point on Loch Tay.
Boy, did I feel it.
One of the most important things to remember when wild camping
is to leave the campsite exactly as you found it,
leaving nothing but your footprints behind.
In 2005, Ben Fogle was here at Loch Tay and actually did a stretch of the same journey that I'm doing.
But he was on two wheels.
# Oh, you'll tak' the high road and I'll tak' the low road
# And I'll be in Scotland afore ye... #
Well, today, I'm taking both, because I'm following the Highland-Lowland trail.
And I'm already in Scotland - in Perthshire.
# ..the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond... #
My journey begins here at Dochart Falls in Killin.
Route 7 is actually 60 miles long,
of which I'm going to be doing 25 miles, from here to Callander,
which will take me across the beautiful Trossachs mountain range.
This area is steeped in early Christian history and it's said that
an early Irish missionary called St Fillan came and preached on these very rocks and blessed
some stones in the water that were said to have healing powers.
I can't get over how beautiful this place is.
And this is only the beginning.
The beauty of this trip is that very little is on public roads.
It's mostly along purpose-built cycle tracks, so there's no traffic to worry about.
In fact, this part of the route used to be the Caledonian East-West railway line.
Built at the turn of the 19th century, it closed in 1964.
The track has now been given a new lease of life.
This is Glen Ogle, the link between the Highlands and the Lowlands.
This path was actually an old railway line, but it's even been used by Roman legions.
And Queen Victoria dubbed it, "Scotland's very own Khyber Pass."
All of these mountains you can see around me have just gone to make Scotland's first National Park.
And I'm off to meet a ranger who's going to tell me a little bit more.
I believe it's only the second country not to have had
a National Park in the world, so it's quite special.
It's the first one in Scotland, it's quite special to us.
So why was this area chosen to be the first National Park?
Because it's about an hour's drive from most of the central belt
of Scotland, which has 70% of Scotland's population.
It's always been the traditional place that folk from Glasgow came out to come and enjoy at the weekend.
It's an area where you can go from Highland to Lowland in one day.
The flora and fauna is as spectacular as any.
And I'm sure as you saw, going around every bend, there's a new surprise.
And at Kilmahog, you're actually crossing the Highland Boundary Fault,
which is basically a fault line that runs from Arran all the way up to Stonehaven, near Aberdeen.
And it's basically the boundary between the Highlands and the Lowlands.
And it defined not only geology, but also defined the cultural heritage of the two areas.
So you're crossing through eons of history and different cultures.
'This has to be the most spectacular part of the route.
'It's brilliant to know that all that engineering that went into
'the building of the railway can be used by people again.'
So this is a spectacular setting for a cycle ride, how far could I actually go if I kept going?
You're about halfway between Inverness and Glasgow.
If you want to continue, you can go all the way to Dover, Land's End,
it's part of a national cycle network.
So do you plan to extend this specific cycle route here?
There are strong plans to continue southwards and eastwards into Stirling,
and perhaps westwards to the west coast and to link in with the West Highland Way.
Gosh, so big plans. Do a lot of people use this cycle route?
It is a very busy section of the cycle route network.
It avoids the busy A35 down there.
And it's all year round. Whenever I've been going past,
or in the course of my work, there's always people here.
-Depending on the weather, obviously.
I'm very envious of your job, that you get to cycle all day along places like this.
It's not all the time I'm cycling.
There is a lot of work to do - fences, drainage,
boundaries and dealing with all the landowners all the way through.
-Then people like me come along and enjoy it!
-Yep, that's the way it should be.
This is one of the few parts of the journey that actually takes in a country road.
But it's worth it, because this is Rob Roy country.
And he's buried here, at Balquhidder Church.
Rob Roy MacGregor is perhaps Scotland's greatest hero - a Jacobite who led his clan
in defiance against the English landowning aristocracy.
He lost his home and his land, becoming an outlaw.
To this day, people argue as to whether he was a cattle thief or a Robin Hood.
I can't believe I'm standing in front of Rob Roy's grave.
And the amazing thing about this church is not only is it home to his grave,
and about a zillion midges, but it's also home to some of the earliest Bibles in Scottish history.
The originals are too valuable to be kept here.
These are copies of the first Bibles written in the native Scottish language back in 1680.
Except they made a mistake and used Irish Gaelic, so they had to be translated all over again.
Believe it or not, this stone here is supposed to date from the 7th century.
But the thing that I find most amazing about this church
is this book that was written by the Reverend Mr Kirk in the 1600s, who was the Minister of this church.
And it's called The Secret Commonwealth Of Elves, Fauns And Fairies.
And it's said that when he died, he was spirited away by fairies, which I find totally bonkers.
Time for me to be spirited away, because I've still got half my journey to do.
Soon, I'm back on quiet woodland tracks, which make for really easy cycling and some great views.
They're perfect for any age or ability, you don't need to go into training to do this route.
That's Loch Earn down there.
And this, in case you hadn't noticed, is Scotch mist.
Well, I'm nearing my journey's end. I've crossed into the Lowlands and
have reached Kilmahog and there's just one more thing I have to do.
You can't come to Scotland without getting a kilt.
I'm looking for a kilt, actually.
Oh, well, sorry, we don't actually do them here.
Go to the Kilmahog Mill, ask for Maybel, she'll measure you.
She'll measure your inside leg for it as well.
I'll leave you to your noisy machine, thank you.
OK, thank you.
-I have to give you a measurement first.
-I've got to measure you.
Now a hip measurement.
Do you have a tartan to wear?
I don't know!
You're able to wear the MacDonald tartan...
-So there is a tartan I can wear?
-There is a tartan for you to wear through the mother line.
-And this is it.
-That's your tartan.
-Oh, wow, Mum did a good job choosing a nice one!
-She did indeed!
-Lovely leg you've got.
Well, I don't mind being your dresser!
-Beautiful, isn't it?
I don't know if I can continue on my cycle ride wearing this.
-I'm not wearing any pants.
-That's what a true Scotsman should wear - nothing!
Well, sadly, that's the end of my trip.
You'll find that you can hire bicycles all over the place.
But you might have noticed one thing about my trip. And I'll give you a few clues.
It was all downhill. Which means if you're lucky,
you'll get someone to help you take your bike back up the hill.
-From a very blustery Loch Tay,
I'm heading south towards the quaint village of Doune.
I've come here on the trail of one of Britain's biggest birds of prey.
In 1996, after a 130-year absence, red kite were reintroduced into these parts.
And I've come to the only place in Scotland where you can see these beautiful wild birds being fed.
The red kite became extinct in Scotland in the late-19th century due primarily to human persecution
by sporting estates and the taxidermy trade.
Between 1989 and 2005, a joint RSPB and Scottish National Heritage
project was undertaken to reintroduce red kites to Scotland.
Birds were brought in from as far afield as East Germany, Sweden and Spain.
Argaty Farm was chosen to release the birds, as it offered a perfect environment for the red kites.
Word soon spread and the farm were overrun by visitors wanting to see the birds.
The solution - a viewing point for visitors, leaving the birds in peace and quiet.
I'm meeting ranger Mike McDonnell to experience these beautiful raptors first hand.
Mike, how successful has the reintroduction of kites been in this area?
It's been a real success.
In 1998, we had our first five chicks to hatch in the wild.
They were the first in 118 years.
And then if you think of the last summer, we had 78 chicks, so having to pinch yourself a little bit.
Big numbers, aren't they? We have seen quite a few here today.
They seem to kind of group in the air and then all come down together, is that right?
Kites are generally a social forager, you'll find, I suppose like the British equivalent of a vulture.
And quite often, they will hunt together or forage together.
If one spots food, they'll call and call.
And as soon as one goes, it's safety in numbers, they all tend to dive down like you've seen today.
It has been very successful here, what sort of impact
has that success had on the farm and the local area here?
It has been quite useful for the farm, obviously, having a nice diversification.
The problem we had was that although the site was kept top secret, the cat got out of the bag.
When you've got so many kites in the air, like you've seen today, you can't hide that for long.
Everyone wanted to see the kites.
So it's just a way for people to enjoy the kites and also to bring a bit of extra money for the farm.
And what is it you're feeding them there?
It's game-dealer scraps. So bits of rabbit, bits of pheasant, venison,
just bits they come across themselves in the wild naturally.
So these are still wild birds, aren't they?
You're not just feeding them... It's just ducking there.
Very much so. I mean, we just put the food out once a day.
The kites tend to gather up in the afternoon.
They've had all day to forage for themselves.
-Did you see that tail?
Well, we've got some quite good numbers out there, so red kites are doing well here.
How are they doing in other parts of the UK?
Generally, throughout Britain, the kites are doing really quite well.
The population now is approximately about 1,000 pairs and we are actually
donating chicks from this area at the moment to a new site which started two years ago
on the outskirts of Aberdeen, so that became the fourth site in Scotland.
So rather than bringing birds in from Europe, like with the original reintroductions,
we'll get a few chicks from here, a few from there, mix them up and pop them
into a new location to try and speed the whole process up.
So you're using the eggs, it's kind of a self-sustaining programme now.
The growth in numbers here shows there is huge potential for that across the UK.
Yeah. One day, we'll have kites all throughout Britain.
-If you think, they used to be in the streets of London.
Yeah, kites will be everywhere.
The spectacle of these birds is proving popular, with 6,000 people visiting here last year.
But there is another airborne Highland resident whose presence could work against Scottish tourism.
Miriam O'Reilly reported for Countryfile.
-There are 37 different types of midge in Scotland.
They're tiny, with a wingspan of just 1.4mm,
but they are increasing problem which scientists are in a race to solve.
I wouldn't be wearing a hat like this if I didn't have to.
Midges may be tiny, but they're very irritating,
and they have a nasty bite.
At this time of year, there are around 10 million midges to every acre of land.
They're unpleasant for people, and they're very costly for the tourism industry.
The Highlands of Scotland are breathtaking in their beauty.
The Scottish Tourism Board has no problem drawing in the tourists.
But the lush green hills and wide expanses of open water
breed billions of midges, and they like to have their presence felt.
-Have you been affected by the midges?
-Last night in the tent, covered in them.
Even with repellent on.
They've pretty much eaten me alive.
They didn't get me when I went to Australia, but they seem to like me at the minute.
-Did you hear about the midges in Scotland?
We have lots of medicine against them with us, but we didn't need them yet.
-You've really been eaten by the midges.
-But is it putting you off having a good time?
-Oh, no, not at all.
Midges can detect you from up to 100 metres.
A swarm of midges can deliver 3,000 bites an hour.
It's the female that does the biting,
and she can land on the skin and suck blood for up to four minutes.
We're not getting any reports that they're losing business
or people are not coming to Scotland because of the midge.
It's a factor, it's part of the experience.
It's not one of their best experiences, I have to say, but it's not turning people away.
But it can be a dreadful experience.
You can be eaten alive by those midges at certain times of the day.
Yeah, I've experienced it myself out in the hills or out walking.
It's not an issue that is turning business away.
For heaven's sake, Scotland has got so much to offer.
It's part of the experience.
It can be fairly unhappy at times, but Scotland is growing as
a destination for outdoor pursuits, so we've got a growth product here.
Putting up with midges on holiday is one thing, but it's not only the tourists who suffer.
Forestry workers have to wear protective clothing, and often can't work because of midge attacks.
Obviously, you try and avoid doing jobs where there are a lot of midges, but you can't always do that.
I've actually seen them that bad that people are actually physically sick,
where they get in your eyes, in your nose, everywhere you can think about.
They can be actually quite...distressing.
Do people ever have to be pulled off the job because it's impossible to work?
Occasionally. It's not that we lose work time out of it -
they'll change what they do.
They may be moved to an inside job, or they move to a site where there's
a bit more of a breeze and they're not going to suffer from the midges.
The worst we've seen is when we've had visitors to the area and they're not aware of
the midges and they set up their campsite and their stoves
and everything, the midges descend on the site and they just abandon it,
leaving their sleeping bags, tent and all the food and everything.
A recent survey of first-time visitors to the Highlands
found 62% were put off returning because of the midges.
86% of people said they'd warn their friends about the problem.
The loss to the tourism industry is running into tens of millions of pounds.
Finding a solution is potentially a big money-spinner.
The midge population has grown in Scotland because
mass deforestation has increased their preferred boggy habitats.
They've evolved so quickly, they have few predators, except man.
The potential threat to future tourism is putting pressure on scientists to find an answer.
This is the Midgeater.
And we can see what it's been catching overnight.
There's a bag there of about a million midges.
The bottom is full of it.
How long did it take to catch all those?
That's been running since
-about the same time yesterday, so about 24 hours.
-How does it work?
The trap mimics something the midge would want to blood feed from -
you or I, or a cow or a deer.
It burns propane gas to produce carbon dioxide which is the main midge attractant in our breath.
You can feel warm CO2 coming out of the top of the trap. As it comes out,
it goes over a sachet of, effectively, essence of cow.
-It's a by-product of cow digestion.
-Smells of mushrooms.
That enhances the catch. Midges fly towards the trap and get sucked in here into the collecting bag.
For those who want to get out into the wide-open spaces, the team has come up with a way
of forecasting where midges swarm.
It's like the pollen forecast. It gives information
about the likely risk of midge attack in any area across Scotland
on a scale of 1, which is no problem at all,
to 5, which is a high risk of midge attacks.
The midge problem is uppermost in the minds of the developers.
The owners of this luxury holiday complex on the banks of Loch Lomond
plan to spend £35,000 a year on ways of defeating the midge.
Last year, 17 million people made overnight trips to Scotland, spending £4.2 billion.
With so much of money at stake,
new resorts include ways of combating midges at the construction stage.
Customers and our chairman both complained about them to me.
Getting him satisfied was one thing,
but getting the customer satisfied was far more important.
-As well as technology, you're using nature to combat the midges.
We're encouraging bats who eat the midges. We have bat boxes all round the site here.
This is a great resort, we've put a lot of money into it,
It would be madness not to consider not to consider doing something about the midges.
At last week's international congress of parasitology in Glasgow,
scientists from Aberdeen revealed how the human smell could be manipulated to repel midges.
Some people are very attractive to midges, others not at all.
We wanted to find out why some people aren't bitten by midges.
-Why aren't some people bitten?
-Out of the 400 or so compounds that we give off all the time from our skin,
there are about 30 that the midges recognise as being a host.
Of those, there are about 8 are different in people that are not attractive to midges.
-So it's all down to odour?
-It's all to do with odour.
Midges and other biting insects are driven by the smell of their hosts,
that is how they find their hosts. Now we have defined the difference between
attractive people and non-attractive people to these biting flies, we have the key to creating a new repellent.
Scientists are examining plant life for a solution.
The Indian neem tree is harmful to insects and has been found to repel the midge.
Even if the midge lands,
it cannot bear to insert its proboscis through the skin.
-It doesn't like the smell?
-It doesn't like the smell or the taste.
Some say midges are the guardians of the wilderness. They've been in Scotland for about 8,000 years.
They're an essential part of the ecosystem.
You don't get used to them, you just learn to live with them.
If you could really find the solution, you could possibly be a very rich person.
The West Coast is still one of the most popular destinations and fully booked is proof of the pudding.
Tourism in Scotland is in a healthy state, but finding a way of enabling people and midges
to live comfortably alongside each other would open up the Highlands even more,
allowing everyone to enjoy this spectacular beauty
without having to run for cover.
-Research into ways of protecting ourselves from midges goes on
with an ever-increasing number of products available on the market.
I'm now heading to my final destination - Loch Katrine,
deep in the heart of the Trossachs National Park.
My travels have taken me from the Craigvinean Forest
in the north through the picturesque town of Pitlochry,
where I joined the Rob Roy Way, and on to the shores of Loch Tay.
I stopped at Doune, before heading for journey's end at Loch Katrine.
Loch Katrine winds for eight miles through some extraordinarily beautiful landscape.
The word Katrine comes from the Gaelic for "Highland robber,"
and of course the most notorious outlaw of that kind was Rob Roy MacGregor.
His clan came from these hills, and in fact, he was born on these very shores.
The loch and the hills that fringe it were the heartland of Rob's territory.
He knew these waters well, and the secret paths and byways surrounding them.
But Loch Katrine is also famous for its association with another man,
the author of my copy of the Rob Roy novel, Sir Walter Scott.
This boat I'm on is called the Lady Of The Lake, named after his famous poem.
It was not only set here, but in fact, he started writing while he was here on holiday with his family.
The poem was so popular that it sold thousands of copies in the months after it was published.
Scott's romantic novels and poems were hugely successful.
In addition to immortalising their subjects, they turned the Highlands
into a tourist destination, with thousands drawn here to see this magical place for themselves.
It's been a blustery trip at times,
but it's been the most fantastic journey
through the breathtaking and rugged scenery that is the Highlands.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Joe Crowley goes on a Highland journey, starting in the wilds of the Craigvinean Forest and ending in the beautiful surroundings of Loch Katrine.
En route he walks a stretch of the Rob Roy Way, camps wild on the shores of Loch Tay, and goes on the trail of one of Britain's biggest birds of prey, the red kite.
Along the way, Joe looks back on the best of the BBC's rural archive from this extraordinary part of the world.