According to Ben Ross, the head of Telegraph Travel’s, the spine of Scotland is one of the most scenic roads in the world. It commences at Falkirk and goes all the way up to Thurso, the northernmost point in Scotland. During fall, the road passes through a landscape ablaze in fall colours. In Perthshire, fall sets in by the end of September and the entire county is submerged in a hue of yellow, orange, red and green. There is an abundance of autumnal produce; elderberries, blackberries and hawthorne berries begin to ripen and the hazelnut trees shed their nuts before the onset of winter. Autumn heralds the growth of wild mushrooms and the white and round puffballs begin to appear in the fields and hedgerows. Hedgehogs go into hibernation and the red squirrels get ready for the bleak and frosty winters.
Pitlochry, a quaint Victorian town in Perthshire is one of the finest destinations to witness the autumn colours. River Tummel flows through the town and becomes Loch Faskally as soon as it flows past the Faskally woods. It was late October and I was on my way to Loch Dunmore. Loch Dunmore is a serene, picturesque lake situated in the heart of the Faskally woods. The road to the Loch was unlike anything I had ever seen before. It was late afternoon and the last rays of the autumnal sun came flaring in on the hilltops. The evergreen pines were fiery and glowing ! My surroundings were on fire !
Loch Dunmore is one of the most iconic lochs of Central Scotland. A charming little boat house sits on its bonnie banks. The Oak, Beech and Birch trees embrace the coming of autumn and shed their red and golden leaves on the lake and the surrounding woodland. The Faskally woods is a leafy paradise and the forest floor is enveloped in dry brown leaves, twigs and pine cones. Wooden bridges get lit up at night and the trickling fountains produce a magnificent display of water works.
Faskally woods is the site for the annual Enchanted Forest festival. At night, the trees are beautifully lit up and the woodlands echo the mystical Celtic music from the Gaelic times. Beneath the starry skies and over a glass of mulled wine, the Enchanted Forest festival is a good opportunity to get acquainted with the ancient folklores of Scotland.
On my way back to Pitlochry, I was once again greeted by the flaming conifers. The roads were deserted and the sound of the screeching jays resonated in the neighbouring woodland.
Loch Tummel is a wonderful place to watch the sunset. As the sun began to set, an arresting shade of diffused golden graced the skies. Ember-red leaves floated along the gently flowing river and lofty pines formed deep reflections in the shimmering waters.
The next morning, I decided to follow the Killiecrankie path. It is a 12 miles circular walk that offers some of best views of Pitlochry and the fall colours. The days were short and I started at seven in the morning amidst nasty winds and freezing temperatures. It was a comfortable stroll along the gentler slopes of the hills before a moderately steep ascent that led to a golf course. It was beginning to get warmer and the first few streaks of a rising sun illuminated the lush green grass of the valley.
After a while, the road forked into two. One of them led to Craigower and I followed the other path towards Killiecrankie. It was still early and I was the sole wanderer in the woods. The wind had momentarily stopped and the woodland was immersed in a profound silence. I was enticed; the stillness had almost lured me into the deep.
Just before the forest track descended into Killiecrankie, I received an unobstructed view of the rolling countryside. Silver clouds sailed in the sky and the Perthshire landscape was encompassed in an eclectic mix of green, violet and orange.
Killiecrankie is one of the most visited towns of Scotland. Where the Faskally woods end, River Tummel divides into two and River Garry flows into Killiecrankie. Killiecrankie is a Gaelic word which means Wood of the Aspen. A large number of Oak, Beech, Birch and Aspen trees grow along the banks of the river and on the low lying hills. The Pass of Killiecrankie is a mountain pass that runs along the river gorge for about a mile. The Scottish railway can be seen at a distance and the trees are a riot of colour.
The battle of Killiecrankie was fought on 27th July, 1689 between the Scottish highlanders and his majesty’s government. It was a part of the first Jacobite uprising to regain Scottish independence from the English crown. When King William of Orange was crowned king, many Scots were displeased and remained loyal to James VIII. Viscount Dundee was one such man. He gathered the Scottish forces and led them to a temporary victory over the government’s men. He didn’t survive the battle and lies buried at St. Bride’s church. In a narrow section of the gorge, it is believed that Donald MacBean, a government soldier, had jumped across the river while trying to flee from the Scottish forces. This is known as the Soldier’s leap.
The Killiecrankie walk goes past the village, crosses the river and continues all the way up to the Garry Bridge and the Linn of Tummel. The river Garry meanders its way through the surroundings and flows towards Inverness.
The Craig Fonvuick is another circular walk that starts and ends in the Killiecrankie path. This is a moderately steep walk that goes past scattered Birch woodland, undulating moors, all the way up to the rugged top. This area is a conservation site and is home to rare species of flora and fauna. This walk was an addition to my itinerary and the breathtaking views from the top of the Craig were worth the climb.
The Killiecrankie path joins the Garry Bridge, which is one of the most photographed locations in the world. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine anything to be so ravishing. The trees were glowing and the river was pitch black ! With an apparent movement of the sun, the black waters slowly changed into a sapphire blue colour; it looked like a yarn of the finest blue silk. Had it not been a race against early sunset, I would have surely captured all the different moods of the river.
I sat by the banks of the river and savoured the beauty of the fall colours. The yellow leaves dazzled in the brilliant bright sunlight, complimenting the electric-blue waters of the river. It was a celebration of autumn and I was glad to be a part of that celebration.
The Linn of Tummel crosses the river Tummel and the Killiecrankie path completes a circular loop after passing through the Pitlochry dam and the festival theatre before ending at the car park.
That night, I dreamt of the enchanted forest – the wooden boathouse, the placid Loch and the yellow Aspens.
The following day, I decided to climb the Ben Vrackie mountain and complete the circular loop of the Bleach path. The temperature was below freezing point and I made my way to the mountain amidst dense woods and a barren moorland. Ben Vrackie reaches 841m in height and Loch a’ Coire lies at the foot of the mountain.
There are well laid stone steps to the summit and within forty five minutes, I was at the summit. The day was clear and I could see Pitlochry and the whole of Perthshire at a distance.
The Bleach path trails along the eastern side of river Garry. Once again, I crossed the soldier’s leap, the Gary Bridge, the Pass of Killiecrankie and the Faskally woods.
Closer to the woods, river Garry joins River Tummel. The confluence of the two rivers creates a lovely scenery and the Bleach path follows the River Tummel all the way to Pitlochry.
The Pitlochry boating station is a popular tourist destination during the summers. In the autumn, the river bank is littered with colourful leaves and the crystal clear waters reflect the vibrant surroundings.
After covering a distance of 14 miles in less than six hours, I made up my mind to watch the sunset from a popular spot. The autumnal sunset is truly a blessed sight.
How beautiful the leaves grow old.
How full of light and colour are their last days.
In Pitlochry, the spirit of Autumn is reflected in every tree and rock and creature. Like the leaves, Fall has filled my life with colours. One day, I will return to Pitlochry and grow old amidst the molten-red leaves and the deep blue waters. Until then, I will keep singing praises of nature and her creations.
For more information on the walks, click here.