Lonely Planet has recently voted Scotland one of the top places in the world to see autumn leaves. I suspect this probably comes as little surprise to many Scots but an accolade such as this certainly helps to reinforce Scotland’s scenic tourism credentials at this time of year.
The leaves are already starting to change colour and will burst into a riot of bronze, red, crimson, yellow and brilliant orange throughout October until the wind blows the last of the leaves off the trees in early November.
I think this year is likely to be a bumper year for autumn colour. Why ? Well at this time of year, cooler weather and shorter days trigger trees to stop producing chlorophyll and as it is broken down other pigments become prominent. These include carotenoid (which turns the leaf a golden colour) and anthocyanin (which produces shades of orange and red). In previous years, wet summers have boosted carotenoid levels while warmer, drier weather – such as we had this year – saw anthocyanin levels dominate, leading to a great glow of reds and rich bronzes.
So, where’s best to go to see the autumn foliage in its full glory ?
In short, anywhere with a mix of different kinds of deciduous trees (including beech, birch, horse chestnut) is likely to put on a good show of colour, although a smattering of evergreens provide good colour contrast. However, the best places to go are likely to include areas with large swathes of mature woodland – with a range of walks on which to enjoy the scenery.
The Woodland Trust’s website provides a way to search for autumn foliage by postcode. I hope that the Forestry Commission in Scotland will develop a similar map to that for England and Wales that shows woods flagged from green through to yellow and red as they change over the autumn.
In no particular order, here’s my list of ten great places to see autumn leaves:
10. Queen’s View, Loch Tummel
On the north side of Loch Tummel, just west of Pitlochry, Queen’s View is a classic viewpoint where Queen Victoria picnicked in 1866. There’s a visitor centre which has a tearoom, and waymarked walks and a high level cycle ride from the nearby Allean Forest (the car park is first right after Queen’s View) .
9. Dawyck Botanic Garden, near Peebles
Dawyck, just outside Peebles, is operated by the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh and has a wide variety of exotic trees and shrubs that take on an almost infinite variety of shapes, colours and textures in autumn.
8. The Meikleour Beech Hedge
A hedge, you may ask ? Well, the Meikleour beech hedge is not any old hedge but the highes hedge in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records. It forms a hedge ‘wall’ 30 metres high and 500 metres along the A93 between Perth and Blairgowrie.
7. Crieff, Perthshire
Crieff (and nearby Comrie) offer great autumn colour with a range of walks and other sights to enjoy. Around Crieff, short walks include St Mary’s Walk, The Knock and the Glen Lednock circuit (Deil’s Cauldron).
6. The Hermitage, Dunkeld
Owned by the National Trust for Scotland, The Hermitage includes a woodland walk alongside the River Brann to the Black Linn waterfalls. The contrast between the dediduous and Douglas fir trees is at its greatest during autumn, and there are many types of fungi and red squirrels to look out for.5. Royal Deeside
4. Drummond Hill, Kenmore
The area around Kenmore and Loch Tay in Perthshire has lots of possibilities for walks and cycling. The forested slopes of Drummond Hill dominate the surrounding landscape and provide a fine backdrop to Taymouth Castle and the village of Kenmore. The south face overlooks Loch Tay and is planted with larches which turn golden yellow and are at their best in either early morning or late evening sunshine.
3. The Trossachs
Glen Finglas, surrounding the small hamlet of Brig o’ Turk in the Trossachs, is well worth a visit this time of year. There are a variety of walks around these parts including a short walk in Drum Wood, the 17-mile Mell Circuit and longer climbs up the two Corbetts of Ben Ledi and Ben Vane. The Brig o’ Turk Tearoom is on hand for some light refreshments before or after.
2. Glen Affric
Glen Affric, a National Nature Reserve, is awash with hues of ochres and brown this time of year. There are a range of fantastic walks of all lengths around the Glen.
1. Loch Faskally, Pitlochry
Loch Faskally is a man-made reservoir surrounded by steeply wooded hills, just north of Pitlochy. There are good walks around here, including the chance to see salmon leaping up the fish ladder in the reservoir. Each October the Enchanted Forest, a dazzling sound and light experience, also attracts over 30,000 visitors. Make a day (or weekend) of it – there’s a real buzz in Pitlochry this time of year.
These aren’t necessarily the ‘best’ places to see autumn leaves but they’re certainly ten great places to go. Is there anywhere else that should be added to the list ?