The Birks of Aberfeldy

By Colin Hogarth

Scots poet Robbie Burns was so inspired by a visit to the Birks of Aberfeldy in 1787 that he wrote a complete song extolling its virtues. The seat where he perched himself above the spectacular Den of Moness and its famous waterfalls is preserved and forms part of a fine trail through this lush gorge which can be linked in with some of Aberfeldy's other historic sites.

From the public car park, set off into the den, following a good path past a strand of imported Japanese trees. A short way on, the way forks. Bear left and cross the Moness Burn by a solid bridge, then continue through the trees, a more native mix of oak, birch, hazel and ash.

The route enjoys a gentle start alongside the river but soon starts to rise, a succession of wooden steps and boardwalks helping you gain height with minimum difficult. As you progress, the gorge narrows and the calm waters give way to an altogether more spectacular watercourse.

From the left, a tumbling fall - cascading down over a progression of moss-clothed stone shelves - interrupts the peaceful serenity and the Moness Burn transforms itself into a frothing cauldron of white water as the rock walls on either side of the glen draw closer.

At around this point, you'll pass Robbie Burns' famous seat on the left - it's little more than a damp cut in the rock. It was here that he is said to have paused on August 30, 1787, for a rest and was so impressed he put pen to paper soon after.

A little higher up, the wooden boardwalk cuts sharply back on itself to climb a flight of steps. Before you ascend, it's worth carrying straight on for a short detour to a viewpoint with a spectacular outlook on one of the Moness Burn waterfalls.

The path continues to climb from the top of the steps and in due course the most impressive of the day's falls hoves into view. At first there's only the occasional glimpse because of the vegetation, but there's a clear view higher up which is breathtaking.

At the top of the den, the way drops to cross a bridge immediately above the top waterfall. On the other side, bear right and the path descends steadily, returning you to the car park. If you're feeling fit, its worth leaving the car here for a little longer and heading down into Aberfeldy on foot. Join the road below the car park, follow it down a short distance and, in the wall on the right, there's a gap leading to a path which follows the Moness Burn downstream, emerging beyond a stone arch on Bank Street. Turn left and walk a short distance through the bustling town until you reach Mill Street on the right. A little way down this narrow lane is Aberfeldy Water Mill.

Dating from 1825, the mill was restored in 1987 and is now open to visitors from Easter until mid-October, offering demonstrations of oatmeal being made in the traditional Scottish way.

Continue down Mill Street and, at the bottom, turn left along Taybridge Terrace. This skirts along the top of Victoria Park and the local golf course and will bring you out just short of Wade's Bridge. Built in 1733, it formed part of General Wade's famous road network. Nearby is the Black Watch Memorial, unveiled some years later in 1887.

The final leg of the walk follows Taybridge Road up past the putting green. At the crossroads at the top, carry straight ahead up Crieff Road to reach the car park where you started.


Distance 3 miles/5kms.
Map OS Landranger sheet 52.
Start/parking Birks of Aberfeldy car park, off the A826 Crieff road, Aberfeldy (grid ref NN 855486).
Grading An easy walk for all ages and abilities. The path up through the Birks of Aberfeldy can be muddy in places, and keep an eye on young children as there are some steep drops.

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