Learning about trees is a fantastic way to increase your love and understanding of the countryside. And, with the leaves stripped off our deciduous trees, you can concentrate on their distinctive and varied barks. This is one step to discovering their characteristics. A fabulous place to begin your education is species-rich Abbey Craig, and all you’ll need is a good tree ID guide
to help you.
Start from the visitor centre below the Wallace Monument and follow the access road steeply upwards. Halfway along, bear right to join a gravel path roughly lined with sycamore and ash, which predominate in this part of Abbey Craig’s mixed woodland.
Look for the silvery grey bark of the native and disease-threatened ash tree. Also take time to examine the dormant buds. Those of the ash are particularly striking. Black and sooty in appearance, they resemble a bishop’s mitre.
With sycamore in winter you are best looking at its green- or pink-pointed egg-shaped buds, as the bark varies considerably with age.
The Wallace Monument
From the top of Abbey Craig, William Wallace swooped to victory over the English army at Stirling Bridge in 1297. There’s a dramatic vista to enjoy here before continuing past the imposing monument to the great warrior – you could climb the tower’s 246 spiral steps for even better views.
At an information board, veer right – watch out, as this track runs above a drop. Look down over the River Forth and across to Stirling Castle.
Into the woods
Follow the path to descend by the edge of the woods and crags, ignoring any turn-offs. Towards the bottom of the slope, ignore a minor path on the right and follow the path round to the left. Where the path branches, go either way to walk beside a wall. Take the next left, up three old stone steps.
This runs through the heart of the woods, away from the crags. There is a wide range of trees: oak is dominant but there are also plenty of majestic Scots pine, beech, ash, sycamore, and bird cherry as well as holly, hawthorn and blackthorn.
In common with most pines, the Scots pine does not lose its needles. Look for the rusty red bark at its extremities to help with identification.
Bird cherry, a relatively small tree, is trickier to spot in winter. It has smooth grey-brown or dark grey bark. Its elongate buds are pointed, with dark scales and pale edges.
After some five minutes walking uphill, you’ll come to a crossroads by a large tree and a red and white marker. Go right to reach the far side of the crag and a grassy opening.
Watch for roe deer in this tranquil spot before continuing uphill as the path narrows and winds through a beech copse. Beech, with its beautiful smooth grey bark, was introduced to Britain after
the last ice age.
The path comes to benches and a now nearly defunct viewpoint marker. From here,
a few paces lead back to the monument access road.
HOW TO GET THERE
Stirling lies 25 miles north-east
of Glasgow on the M80. It is
served by First Edinburgh Bus number 62 and there are
regular trains from Edinburgh.
FIND OUT MORE
Stirling Tourist Board
7 Alloa Road, Stirling FK9 5LH
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