LOCHEARNHEAD TO COMRIE
 

The Perthshire Advertiser newspaper article cited (see here) seems to be a lot of hype about very little in mileage terms. What is correct is that the railway path project is being delivered in three stages, as described below.

Phase 1 has provided about 1 mile (1.5 km) of surfaced cycleway on the east side of St.. Fillans along the formation from the A85 bridge at Tynreoch (grid reference NN 715234) to the Fank Burn (NN 703244), beyond which a farmyard has taken over the trackbed, and the cycleway then deviates to the north, zigzagging up the hillside (it is believed that the photo in the newspaper article was taken on the deviation, not on the former railway). The A85 overbridge has been re-opened, but with a much reduced arch. Users, especially cyclists, are not helped by the fact that a local farmer has taken to storing a piece of machinery in this narrow space, severely restricting passage. The section between this bridge and Dalchonzie remains a good forestry track with two fine bowstring girder bridges and a concrete viaduct along the way. However, it is not suitable for cyclists with road bikes, which will clearly reduce usage of the new section, so it may be that Phase 3 will involve putting tarmac on this stretch. Path users are directed between Dalchonzie and Comrie over a rather indirect route via minor roads (NCN775). East of Dalchonzie, the trackbed is adjacent to the road for a distance and this could potentially be used as a path in the future, if it was thought desirable to provide a shorter and entirely traffic free cycle route. The final section into Comrie has the two missing bridges mentioned in the previous post and it seems unlikely that this part would ever be reconstructed, particularly the eastern bridge which now abuts directly onto property on the eastern bank. The Dalchonzie to St Fillans stretch is the only part of the A85 east of Lochearnhead that does not have a minor road alternative, so a cycleway has presumably been prioritised here for that reason.

Phase 2 seems to consist of nothing but a substantial new bridge across Glen Tarken. The trackbed between St Fillans and Lochearnhead is mostly in use as farm or forestry tracks of varying standard, with informal footpaths (provided with basic step stiles) across the gaps or around the occasional obstruction. One such deviation, around the fenced-off short tunnel west of St. Fillans, involves a precarious scramble through crags on the hillside to the south! The new bridge with its aluminium girders and non-slip surfacing is therefore overkill in the context of what exists at present, so presumably further phases are imminent to build a proper cycleway either side, eventually reaching Lochearnhead. The South Loch Earn road, however, already provides a reasonably traffic free route between St Fillans and Lochearnhead and is arguably more attractive to ordinary users (i.e. not promarily interested in the old railway) with its lochside location, whilst the railway passes mainly through forest with restricted views.

Unfortunately, linkage with NCN7 at Lochearnhead would need to be through the village and the A85/A84 and not directly across the fine curved concrete viaduct over Ogle Burn. Although the structure is in apparently good condition and accessible from the west, there is property immediately to the east that cannot easily be bypassed.

Report by Dr Keith Potter
20th November 2016