Autumn: the most moody and romantic of seasons, often spectacular in England, and even more so in Scotland. Why? The rugged mountains and sprawling forests turn to a collage of fiery reds, burning golds and deep oranges. Robin McKelvie, our Man in Scotland, explores some of the best autumn hotspots in his homeland, from towering trees in Argyll to fabulous walks in Perthshire. Continue reading for his top picks.
Up in The Highlands, this well-run estate deep in the Cairngorms National Park is home to a swathe of indigenous Caledonian Forest. Most of this once mighty native woodland was culled across Scotland many years ago, but there are occasional virginal patches left, as well as areas where indigenous flora and fauna are being encouraged to come back. Rothiemurchus also offers superb walking and mountain biking, with a rich web of well-marked trails, and the hulk of the Cairngorms adding omnipresent drama at every turn.
This forest-clad oasis lies just off the A9 road artery between Perth and the Highlands. Perthshire is known as ‘Big Tree Country’, and here, it's easy to see why: a series of walks lead off from the car park, and soon you'll be lost amid a jungle of indigenous trees, plus many more exotic species. Look out in particular for the Douglas firs, including some of the tallest trees in the country, as well as Ossian’s Hall, a folly overlooking the Black Linn Waterfall, and a rather unlikely totem pole.
Staying in Argyll, this natural treasure is owned and managed by Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden, set in a spectacular spot with a fold of rugged mountains towering all around. A sprawling garden that spreads over 120 acres, it's a network of tree-shrouded trails taking you through giant redwoods that soar over 40 metres into the heavens, with over 250 plant species to admire in total. There's also an excellent café next to the car park – a Godsend in what's a pretty remote spot.
Still in Argyll, the Ardkinglas Woodland Garden is a little-known haven of tree life – a unique collection spread across 25 acres on the eastern shores of Loch Fyne. There are numerous forms of flora to admire, but the highlight is surely one of the tallest trees in the UK, an Abies Grandis thought to have been planted as far back as 1875 – when famous Scot Alexander Graham Bell had just invented the telephone!
Just north of Glasgow, the Trossachs is a sort of Highlands in miniature – a wildscape of rolling hills and rugged mountains peppered with vivid autumn colours. Park your bike or car at the David Marshall Lodge Visitor Centre in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park to pick up information on the local walking trails and cycle routes. Or drive across the legendary Duke’s Pass from Aberfoyle right across to Callander, revealing a blanket of spectacular seasonal colour.
If you're visiting Scotland and fancy an autumn break, we have a range of destination guides for you to peruse, including: