This year's upcoming Crieff and Strathearn Drovers' Tryst walking festival is now open for bookings, and the programme of events is online. Guided walks include several classic Munro routes in the southern Highlands.
Taking place 8-15th October in and around the town of Crieff and surrounding hills, the walk festival offers a wide choice of Perthshire walks led by local experts. The programme of more than 30 guided walks ranges from challenging mountain routes on the nearby Tarmachan Ridge, Ben Vorlich and Ben Lawers, and peaks slightly further afield such as Beinn a'Ghlo and Ben Lui, to easier walks with themes as diverse as photography, General Wade, geocaching and bats.
Walks are at its core but the festival also offers many other events and activities during the week: ghost story and quiz nights, talks, a mountain film night, drama, poetry and traditional music, dancing and even pipes and drums (a mixed blessing, some might say). On the opening Saturday the popular Hairy Coo Mountain Bike Race is open for riders of all abilities on a network of purpose built bike trails.
The festival celebrates the cattle drovers who made Crieff one of the most important financial centres in Scotland in the 1700s, when the Crieff Tryst was the largest cattle market in Scotland. The cattle were brought to Crieff by teams of drovers, who travelled hundreds of miles on annual journeys from as far as The Isle of Skye. This typically took weeks of walking through remote glens and rough terrain, fording rivers and sleeping rough.
In the Scots language, a 'tryst' (pronounced optionally with a vowel that rhymes with 'rye' or with 'wrist') is an arranged meeting place and is a word that is also linked to standard English 'trust'. Crieff was the place where dealers 'trysted' to meet the cattle drovers in order to transact business; Falkirk later took over as the preferred market centre.
Anyone interested in this fascinating chapter of history should read the definitive work on the subject The Drove Roads of Scotland by A.R.B.Haldane.