I take the route newly marked to pass a number of archaeological features. Relics of shieling huts have been located to the south of the summit and the practice of taking animals up to the summer grazing there is memorialised in the sunken paths that climb steadily across the land between Dùn Beag and Dùn Coillich. They are marked now by the rustle of bleached grasses underfoot and the absence of heather.
The route turns off this track to the north, into a lovely corrie above the shieling huts, up a small gully, and takes you zigzagging onto the summit. This last part needs more pioneer feet to establish it, and this is a good time of year for it. The bracken is weak now, crisping back into the ground and giving the hills their gorgeous tawny autumn colour. It’s forgiven its thuggish summer stronghold of sap and fibre.
It feels appropriate on this day where living and spirit worlds open to each other, to follow the people who walked before us, their trails and piles of stones still ghosting the land. I like to think that by walking old ways such as these, we forge a link across the centuries. It hasn’t taken long to find myself back in Halloween territory.
A walk always rewards with observations and feelings -- the unseasonably warm blush of sun on my face; the buzzards mewling; a chainsaw yawing faintly. It also reminds us of things we know or have experienced before. But if we walk with a curious mind, we learn even more.
Today I place my feet carefully, tiptoeing around trails of large dark hairy caterpillars, each sporting golden-yellow stripes. They bask on the grass as if it’s summer. Fortunately the hut that I return to is a mine of information (and one of the good reasons to become a HPCLT member). Here I answer my curiosity. Recent sightings and ‘hearings’ in the visitor’s log include raven, hare, stag and 'fox moth larvae'. I look the last up in the Moths and Butterflies book and there is my ‘fancy dress’ caterpillar and the fox-coloured moth that it will become after its hibernation in these hillside grasses.
Take your pick. The eve of the Celtic New Year approaches…
Dùn Coillich is a lovely hill owned by the Highland Perthshire Community Land Trust. It needs more feet on it to lay and revive trails. The route described is easily found from the hut (on the left of the B846 just north of Glengoulandie as you head towards Tummel Bridge). Cross the burn below the hut on the obvious stepping-stones, climb the path between two gates up to the head dyke, from where bamboo poles with red and white flags will lead you to the summit. Be prepared for some rough and wet ground but for a very pleasing walk.