Kicking autumn leaves is something you never grow out of. Perhaps it's something to do with the rebellious streak we all seem to possess. Whatever the reason, there is certainly no shortage of leaves to be kicked in the Den of Alyth come the season when the trees shed their summer coats.
This is the perfect time of year to take a wander down the den. There's a magical transformation in the hue of the landscape, lush greens replaced by a mellow air of golden brown, a moment of quiet contemplation before the icy hand of winter tightens its grip on the countryside.
The walk begins at a stone pillar on the eastern edge of the car park. A path drops down to an open grassy picnic area and skirts right to reach the river. Head upstream, through a fairly narrow gorge with tall red sandstone cliffs rising on the far side of the burn, to reach a wooden footbridge.
Cross over and the way climbs above the stream, but never strays particularly far from the gurgling flow. The path winds a course through the trunks of tall deciduous trees, the swaying branches above shedding their leaves on to the forest floor during the autumn to create a wonderful golden carpet underfoot. The woodland is full of variety thanks to a mix of beech, ash, alder, oak and hazel that provide sanctuary for birds and insects. In parts of the den, the tall beech trees cast too much of a shadow for much to grow on the slopes beneath them, while in other areas, where the beech is less dominant, shrubs and other forest floor plants flourish.
In due course the path emerges from the trees at Bridge of Tully. Cross this and pick up a path leading back into the forest. With the Alyth Burn now to your left, the route passes under a fallen tree creating a natural wooden arch across the path.
In due course, the way reaches the moss-covered remains of an old stonewall where it curves right, rising up the slope to join the road at the top. Turn left here. The next section of the walk is on asphalt, but it's a quiet tree-lined country road and the walking is no less pleasant.
The Alyth Burn remains your travelling companion, down to the left, and on the right fields slope up towards the summit of Hill of Alyth. Half a mile on, the road passes a small hamlet and bears right to reach a junction not far on. Go right here, following a sign for Glenisla. The single-track road climbs through a plantation of tall coniferous trees, emerging at a cattlegrid.
Walk along the road for another 500 yards to reach a cluster of signs, some for the Cateran Trail and others marking local rights of way. Turn right, leave the road and follow the sign for Hill of Alyth. A muddy path rises through jagged gorse bushes. The path, an old drove road, continues to ascend for some way before flattening off to strike out across an open plain of grass and gorse where sheep graze. The route is not always very distinct but if you stay well up to the left of the farm over to the right (Whiteside) and keep the plantation in view ahead to your right you shouldn't go wrong. Ultimately you want to arrive at the top of a narrow wedge of trees that soon comes into view, beyond a line of overhead wires crossing your path.
At the top right-hand end of this band of trees there's a gate, tied closed with rope. Go through and follow a muddy track down to another gate. This leads into a field where there are two tracks on the left, one running level towards Kirklandbank, and the other descending through trees. Take the latter. It zig-zags down across an open field to reach a gate at the bottom, leading to a farm track.
Turn left and follow the track to the next junction. The route on the right goes into Westfield Farm and is marked 'Private'. Don't take this, but carry straight on along a grassy path hemmed in by open fields to reach Alyth. Stay with the track as it curves right, descending along the edge of a new housing development to reach a road junction. Turn right here, walking this time along the front of the new houses. Continue to follow this road to its next junction. Turn left and, a few steps walk away on the other side of the road, there's a metal gate leading into Den of Alyth. Follow the path down into the den and cross the grassy picnic area to reach the car park.
Distance 6 miles/10km.
Map OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 53.
Start Den of Alyth car park nearest to Alyth (grid ref NO 236487).
Parking Free public car park. To reach this, follow Bamff Road west out of Alyth and the entrance to the car park (located opposite Westfield Farm) is signed.
Grading An easy walk with track and path throughout. Some sections can be muddy underfoot, so stout footwear is recommended. There is sheep grazing on Hill of Alyth where dogs must be on the lead.