The Birks of Aberfeldy & Robert Burns
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Made popular in a poem by Robert Burns
Bonie lassie, will ye go,
Will ye go, will ye go,
Bonie lassie, will ye go
To the birks of Aberfeldy!
Poet Robert Burns visited the Den of Moness, a wooded area on the edge of Aberfeldy, Perthshire in August 1787. He was inspired by the beauty of the woodlands and the waterfall tumbling down the steep glen to write a poem entitled 'The Birks of Aberfeldy' ('birks' being a Gaelic term for birch trees).
Burns is said to have found his inspiration while resting on a natural rock seat on the eastern side of the glen, now known as Burns' Cave. Modern visitors can sit on the same rock ledge and enjoy the same beauty that inspired Burns. Near the footbridge at the bottom of the Upper Birks is a bench with a sculpture of Burns with a pen and paper (which unfortunately had been temporarily removed to be cleaned when we visited).
In Burns' time, the woodland was primarily beech, oak, hazel, and ash. In the late 1780s it was planted with new species of trees.
The Birks of Aberfeldy woodland is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The damp conditions along the burn provide the perfect environment for mosses and ferns. Birds such as the great spotted and green woodpeckers thrive, as do dippers, sparrowhawks, and treecreepers. The area around Moness Burn has probably been continuously wooded for 8,000 years. It is incredibly photogenic, particularly in autumn when the colours are at their vibrant best.
The popularity of Burns' poem, which was turned into a song, led to the area being renamed as the Birks of Aberfeldy. Today the gorge of Moness Burn is a woodland nature reserve, with trails leading up both sides of the glen, following the burn and offering wonderful views of a series of waterfalls.
The eastern trail follows the Rob Roy Way long-distance trail. The trails join at the Upper Falls of Moness, so you can enjoy a lovely circular walk up one side of the gorge and down the other. The Rob Roy Way continues on from the Upper Falls of Moness, on its way west to Loch Tay. The Upper Falls drop 380m in three distinct steps.
Overlooking the Upper Falls is an observation point with railings carved with verses from Burns' poem 'The Birks of Aberfeldy'. It is a memorable experience to read the verses and see the striking waterfall that inspired them at the same time.
If you follow the trail from the Aberfeldy War Memorial off Bank Street at its northern, the circular walk will cover 3.7km (about 2.3 miles) with a height gain of 150m. Count on at least 90 minutes to cover the whole distance, including time to stop and admire the views.
The going is not difficult, as the trail is well maintained in most places, but it can be wet and muddy after periods of rain.
Near the car parks off Crieff Road is an area known as the Tree Collection. This area was planted in the 1960s by Bobby Masterton of nearby Cluny House Gardens. Masterton was an avid plantsman with a passion for Himalayan and North American plants. Here in the Lower Birks, the acid soil is perfect for these plants, which include Japanese maple, Tibetan cherry, Hupeh Rowan, Spindle trees, Western Hemlock and rhododendron.
The Birks of Aberfeldy is owned by the Perth and Kinross Council and is part of Perthshire's 'Big Tree Country', an area famous for its tall trees and woodland heritage sites. Other nearby sites also part of Big Tree Country include Cluny House Hardens, Weem Forest, Drummond Hill, and the Fortingall Yew.
There are two parking areas signposted off Crieff Road (A826). Or you can start your walk at the war memorial off Bank Street. This takes you through the Lower Birks, which is relatively level and takes you very close to a series of lovely little waterfalls on Moness Burn.
At the southern end of the Lower Birks, you emerge onto Crieff Road, where there is a pedestrian crosswalk with lights. On the southern side of the road you come to the Tree Collection mentioned above.
Immediately beside the entrance to the Birks of Aberfeldy on Crieff Road is the Moness Cup-Marked Stone, a prehistoric carved stone discovered on what is now the Moness Heights housing estate. The stone is carved with at least 20 cup-marks and is thought to date to sometime between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago.
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About Birks of Aberfeldy
Address: Crieff Road, Moness, Aberfeldy, Perthshire, Scotland, PH15 2BJ
Attraction Type: Countryside
Location: Free car parking off the A826 (Crieff Road), signposted from central Aberfeldy, or footpath by the war memorial off Bank Street.
Website: Birks of Aberfeldy
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Moness Cup-Marked Stone - 0 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Aberfeldy Water Mill - 0.3 miles (Museum)
Aberfeldy, St Andrew's Church - 0.3 miles (Historic Church)
Black Watch Memorial - 0.4 miles (Historic Building)
General Wade's Bridge - 0.5 miles (Historic Building)
Old Kirk of Weem - 1.1 miles (Historic Church)
Weem Forest & St David's Well - 1.1 miles (Countryside)
Castle Menzies - 1.4 miles (Historic House)
Nearest Accommodation to Birks of Aberfeldy: