When Robert Burns came to visit Aberfeldy in 1787, he was so impressed by the spectacular waterfalls and birch woods outside that he wrote a poem celebrating the area’s natural beauty.
Today, a 4½ mile circular path allows you to follow in his footsteps and be equally inspired by this amazing place.
Start in the main square of this pretty stone-built town, which sits on the banks of the mighty River Tay and in the shadow of Highland Perthshire’s grandest hills. It’s also Scotland’s first Fair Trade town, with lots of signed-up cafés and delis as well as galleries, pubs, hotels and a tourist information centre. Take the road towards Kenmore then turn left under the stone arch of the war memorial opposite the Breadalbane Arms Hotel.
‘Birks’ is the old Scots word for birch trees, and there are plenty of them around as you follow the path that crosses the Moness Burn. Walk upstream to the A826 and turn left before crossing the road. On your right is a boulder, covered with examples of Stone Age rock art in the form of cup marks. Walk through the car park, watching out for exotic trees planted here in the 1960s, such as moosewood and Chinese juniper.
Stroll through charming woods of oak, ash, hazel and birch until the path splits.
Aberfeldy and Loch Tay in autumn ©Getty
2. Inspiring barn
Turn left over a footbridge above a small waterfall. Soon afterwards you can sit on a bench alongside a statue of Burns poised, pen in hand. Prior to Burns’s visit, the whole gorge was known as the Den of Moness but was renamed when his poem The Birks of Aberfeldy made it famous.
From here, the going gets tougher: it’s a clear path but it climbs steeply. Thankfully, army engineers have built wooden stairs, bridges, walkways and railings to make life easier.
Zigzag upwards for views over increasingly impressive waterfalls. Where the gorge becomes steeper and narrower, pass a damp rock ledge where Burns allegedly paused for inspiration. A viewpoint at the head of the gorge overlooks the Falls of Moness, a spectacular 25m (82ft)-high waterfall. A sign quotes the most famous lines of Burns’ poem (for non-Scots, the ‘wa’s’ are walls and ‘fa’s’ means falls).
The braes ascend like
The foaming stream deep-roaring fa’s,
O’erhung wi’ fragrant
The Birks of Aberfeldy.
Follow the path across a bridge, from where you can peer down into the thundering cascade.
watch out for red squirrels and woodpeckers ©Getty
3. Tay views
Turn right and follow the path on the west side of the gorge back to the start, enjoying glimpses through the trees across the broad valley of the Tay and the glorious mountains beyond. This whole area is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, so watch out for red squirrels and woodpeckers. Back at Aberfeldy, if the walk’s made you thirsty, check out the distillery tour at Dewar’s World of Whisky, or enjoy a meal at the Schiehallion Hotel. If the falls have put you in the mood for whitewater, then sign up for a river-rafting trip with local company Splash. Or perhaps you could be inspired like Burns and simply decide to set pen to paper.
FIND OUT MORE
Aberfeldy Caravan Park
Dunkeld Road, Aberfeldy
A great site with good facilities on the outskirts of Aberfeldy.
Main image ©Getty