Bring it on. Bring in the rich red leaves and vivid yellows of the birch. Bring on the ground covered with shiny crimson mushrooms. Bring the berries illuminating the rowan tree. The leaves are just starting to turn now, a reminder that fall is a time of promise and glory, rich colors and lofty forest drama. What better time, writes Vicky Allan, author of For The Love Of Trees, to start planning a few fall walks?
Cammo Estate, Edinburgh
On the outskirts of Edinburgh is a country park that feels like an experience of what would happen if we let nature take over. Fallen trees have collapsed to the ground, home to countless other life forms, others twist and wrap around each other. To the north of the ruined house is a grove of five old yews. It is home to one of the oldest ash trees in the city. Giant sequoia, cedar and Douglas fir also dominate here. Now a refuge for wildlife, it was once a manicured and ornate estate and is said to have been the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s House of Shaws in Kidnapped. Particularly wonderful is a figure-eight route that crosses the estate and returns via the tree-lined Almond River to Cramond Brig.
Since 1757, generations of Dukes of Atholl have been planting trees in this landscape along the Braan River and its roaring Black Linn Falls. They created a “fun playground” for themselves and their visitors, which still gives a lot of joy today. It housed, until 2017, one of Britain’s tallest trees, a Douglas fir, until it tipped over, during a storm, into the River Braan below, but it there are still a lot of giants. One of the groves is often described as “the cathedral” because it gives the impression of being inside a sacred and imposing space. The trunks stand like the columns of a church. Visit the madness of Ossian’s Hall or take a longer stroll to the Rumbling Bridge. Fall is also a great time to spot salmon leaping over the falls as they make their way to the spawning grounds further along the river. Managed by the National Trust for Scotland, it has parking just off the A9 which costs £ 3 for non-members.
Glenmore Forest Park, Cairngorms
The waters of the magical An Lochan Uaine (the Green Loch) are of such an extraordinarily rich emerald hue that it is said to have taken on this color because the local fairies wash their clothes there. The route to this remarkable loch also takes the walker through a vestige of an old Caledonian pine forest undergoing restoration. Take the Ryovan Trail from the Glenmore Visitor Center through stands of ancient pines, one of which is over 300 years old, and, in the fall, glistening gold-leaved birches and red rowan trees. But this is only part of the ancient Cairngorms pine country, there are many more in Rothiemurchus, as well as all the wildlife that lives there. Watch out, while you are in Glenmore, for red squirrels and, if you are very lucky, pine marten or a wildcat.
Faskally Wood, Pitlochry
Most famous for its nighttime sound and light show, the Enchanted Forest, Faskally Wood, is equally enchanting by day, especially as its bronze beech leaves and birch trees turn a dazzling yellow. Stroll around Loch Dunmore, admire its boathouse and wooden bridge, and observe the foliage magnified by the reflection in the water. This woodland was created by the owners of the Faskally house in the 19th century and later became a school for young foresters. Pitlochry Navigation Station, a loch side cafe, is also the perfect stop for home cooking or lunch.
Pollok Country Park, Glasgow
The most famous tree in Pollok Country Park, of course, was the Pollok beech, a wish tree “named one of Scotland’s 100 heritage trees in 2002, but it was set on fire by vandals ago. was a few years old, and the damage was so extensive that it was split in half. But there are many other magnificent trees to admire in its vast forests, from beech groves to dawn redwoods, over 15 meters tall. High. The trails lead the walker past Highland cattle grazing in a woodland setting. Collectors of Conker will also find treasures under the horse chestnut trees. It will also house the National Covid Memorial.
Bois des Cris, Newton Stewart
You don’t have to go to the Highlands to see ancient woods. The Wood of Cree is the largest ancient oak forest in southern Scotland, believed to date back over 5,000 years to the last ice age, and an RSPB nature reserve. Pass the waterfalls and visit the Otter Pool on the Cree River. The oaks here, however, are not themselves ancient, just the forest itself. About 140 years ago, wood, cut into thickets for centuries, was almost flush. What grows there is a young generation of its old elders.
READ MORE: Fellowship of the Rings: Why we need to protect our old growth forests
Ardkinglas Woodland Garden, Cairndow
On the shores of Loch Fyne, this woodland garden, started in 1875, is a place to experience all the drama of the trees at almost any time of year, but especially in autumn. Its European champion fir, “the most powerful conifer in Europe” with a circumference of 10 m, dominates everything. But there are also, for fall glory, hundred-year-old beech trees and a collection of rowan trees that offer a range of berry colors: white, pink, yellow and orange-red. There is even entertainment for children in the form of their Gruffalo Trail.
Dalkeith Country Park, Midlothian
See some of Scotland’s oldest oak trees as their leaves begin to turn golden red. The Old Wood Walk takes you past trees believed to be the last remnant of the ancient Lothian Forest. They are also home to an incredibly rare beetle species, which gives the site an SSSI designation. For my book, For The Love Of Trees, I spoke to dendrochronologist Dr Coralie Mills who studied the rings of fallen dead oak trees and found they date back to the 16th century. She said, “We need to take care and further expand the tiny fraction of the old growth forest that we have. Such trees are so precious for their natural and cultural heritage. Stop for coffee at the Restoration Yard Cafe or let the kids run wild in the park’s Fort adventure playground.
Dawyck Botanical Garden, Peebles
This arboretum in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in the Borders, home to one of Britain’s finest tree collections, takes on its technicolor glory in the fall. Maple trees, rowan trees, charcoal beech, golden birch, all moving across the spectrum. Even the ground is strewn with bright poisonous mushrooms, mushrooms and scattered fallen leaves. Some of the magnificent evergreens here date from the 1680s. It is also during the autumn months that the Japanese katsura, or cotton candy tree, emits its scent of burnt sugar, and the heart-shaped leaves turn into colors, yellow, orange, pink and red. Open daily, entrance fee, see www.rbge.org.uk
READ MORE: Roaming In The Wild, BBC Scotland’s Frozen Adventurers
Native Forest of Cashel, Loch Lomond
Home to the ‘Thousand Year Forest’, a working native Scottish forest, which began its creation when Cashel Farm was acquired in 1996 by the Royal Scottish Forestry Society. The shores of Loch Lomond are brought to tree life by fragments of native sessile oaks, as well as English oaks planted for charcoal between the 17th and 19th centuries, and birch. The long-term objective of the project is to ‘demonstrate the restoration and regeneration of native woods in Scotland through good forestry practices for the benefit of the public’. Follow one of their well marked trails. The more adventurous can take a boat ride from Balmaha village to Inchcailloch, an island of fairytale trees.
For The Love Of Trees by Vicky Allan and Anna Deacon is published by Black & White
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