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Scotland Magazine Issue 46
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10 Best Autumn Walks
Keith Fergus explores the best walks to catch some seasonal colour.
Peebles & Kailzie Hill The Borders Scotland’s south east corner has great walking to suit all levels. Kailzie Hill is an energetic stroll taking in some spectacular autumn colour. Beginning at Kingsmeadow Car Park on the banks of the Tweed, walk east along Springhill Road to the road end from where a signpost directs you into Gypsy Glen which houses a vast array of woodland plants and old trees.
The path is an old drove road, and from Gypsy Glen the road becomes more prominent as it climbs south-east onto the open slopes of Kailzie Hill. It is a stiff climb from here but the colours of heather and the views over the Borders towards East Lothian, and Galloway are magnificent. To return simply retrace your steps into Gypsy Glen, and back into Peebles.
OS Landranger Map 73. Start/Finish Grid Reference NT 255403 Shambellie Wood New Abbey Shambellie Wood lies a few miles from Dumfries at New Abbey and houses the National Museum of Costume. A short autumnal walk can encompass the Museum as well as New Abbey’s other two attractions, Sweetheart Abbey and the Cornmill. From the car park at Sweetheart Abbey walk west onto the main street and then walk north along road (the pavements are narrow) and continue past the Cornmill. As you cross the bridge the pavement stops but it is only a short walk into the grounds of Shambellie. Once there a signpost directs you towards Shambellie House and it is a simple matter of following path to the house although several short diversions are recommended to allow full enjoyment of the colours of the season. The main path then returns to the museums car park from where the short return journey to Sweetheart Abbey can be made.
OS Landranger Map 84 Start/Finish GR NY964663 Machrie Moor Isle of Arran The Standing Stones of Machrie Moor lie a short distance from the coastline but the sense of history, space, and wildness give the location a very remote feel. A small car park south of Machrie Bay is the start point (although the bus would drop you there). Cross the A841 to the Stone Circles signpost from where a stile leads to an obvious track cutting its way through fields towards the first arrangement of stone circles.
The walk to the main set of stones is not far from here and, depending on the weather, it can be a wild, desolate place with a tremendous atmosphere. The stone circles date back to the Neolithic and Bronze Ages and are impressive in their own right but the setting of Machrie Moor is spectacular, with superb views of Arran’s iconic mountain ridges.
Retrace your steps back to the start point.
OS Landranger Map 69 Start/Finish GR NR895330 Kelvingrove Park Glasgow Glasgow translates from Gaelic as Dear Green Place and, with more than 70 parks, finding a place for a pleasant stroll is easy.
Kelvingrove Park with its magnificent buildings, tree-lined paths, and plethora of routes make for an ideal city based autumnal walk, the colours at this time superb. My own favourite is to start on Byres Road and walk east along University Avenue past the towering magnificence of Glasgow University and down to Kelvin Way.
Enter the eastern side of the park from here and follow the paths south out of the park at Royal Terrace, and walk west onto Gray Street then south to Sauchiehall Street. A short walk west will lead back to the Kelvin Way Bridge from where the Kelvin Walkway can be accessed heading west past the iconic Kelvingrove Art Galleries and to the finish point at Dumbarton Road.
OS Landranger Map 64 Start GR NS565669 Finish GR NS567664 Princes Street Gardens Edinburgh If Glasgow has the quantity of parks, then Edinburgh has the quality of skyline. Edinburgh Castle and the jumble of jagged buildings that rise sharply from the streets contrast nicely with the softer surrounds of Princes Street Gardens which allow a crumb of peace and serenity away from the crowded buzz of the Capital. The best place to view its striking autumn colours is from The Scott Monument. This is a tremendous starting point for a walk and the 287 steps to be climbed should set the heart pumping allowing for a magnificent 360° panorama of the city’s aforementioned skyline. Once back on Terra Firma a walk through Princes Street Gardens is a joy, the variety of trees and plants on show offering a vast array of colours, and a quieter spot to enjoy Edinburgh’s skyline.
OS Landranger Map 66 Start/ Finish GR NT256739 Ben Lomond Loch Lomond National Park Although generally classed as an ‘easy’ Munro (Scottish mountains over 3000ft), a walk to Ben Lomond’s summit should never be underestimated, such is the terrain and speed with which weather can change. On a crisp autumn day the colours of birch, rowan, and oak trees turn the banks of Loch Lomond and the surrounding hills wonderful shades of oranges, yellows and browns, and the panorama extends for miles. From Rowardennan car park the route initially climbs through woodland before climbing onto open hillside from where an excellent path continues all the way to the 974m summit, with magnificent views over much of the Central and Southern Highlands (on a clear day the views can extend as far as Jura). An interesting descent is to head west then south following the quieter route known as Ptarmigan Ridge back to Rowardennan.
OS Landranger Map 56 Start/Finish GR NS360986 Ardkinglas Cairndow, Loch Fyne Ardkinglas Gardens lie above Loch Fyne, Scotland’s longest sea loch, and the variety of woodland species such as oak, redwoods, birch, cedars, and firs are plentiful. It makes autumn the perfect time of year to explore the gardens. Red squirrels are in abundance and the garden’s renowned mature conifer collection dates from 1875 – some of the trees have grown to such a height that vertigo may be induced when looking up. The way-marked trails, which begin at the small car park head past the tree shop and into the woodland, and some of the paths climb quite steeply. They all lead through unspoilt woodland above the beautiful waters of the River Kinglas which in autumn will usually be in spate, and therefore the many waterfalls are usually heard before they are seen.
OS Landranger Map 56 Start/Finish GR NS176106