Follow in the footsteps of our national bard, Robert Burns
Over the centuries, thousands of visitors have been inspired by the natural beauty of the gorge. The Birks of Aberfeldy is a popular circular walk through wonderful mixed woodland on the outskirts of Aberfeldy. The Falls of Moness tumble through the gorge and provide a dramatic centrepiece, especially impressive after heavy rainfall. Robert Burns visited in 1787 and was so inspired that he wrote the poem 'The Birks of Aberfeldie'.
A quote from one of the verses sums up the splendid scene:
"The braes ascend like lofty wa's,
The foaming stream deep-roarin' fa's
O'erhung wi' fragrant spreading shaws
The birks of Aberfeldy"
A narrow, well defined path is overhung by mature trees and rises to a height of 150 metres at a bridge directly above the Falls of Moness. From here there are splendid views of the roaring white water beneath and, in winter, fine views over the top of the woodland to the valley of Strathtay. This 4km circular walk is accessible from the centre of Aberfeldy or from the Birks Car Park off the A826. There are seats and viewpoints along the way. For those not so mobile, there is a picnic area at the car park which gives a good flavour of the walk. There is also a short tree trail identifying a large number of species. The gorge is a place of immense natural power and beauty in any season but perhaps most photogenic in the cooler days of late autumn.
The Birks (Scots for birch trees) still cloak the steep slopes of the Moness gorge, along with oak, ash, elm and willow. Remnants of the ancient Caledonian Forest can be found in steep, inaccessible parts and it is likely that, in places, there has been continuous woodland cover for around 5000 years. More recent tree planting took place in the area in the late 1780's.
Many woodland plants flower in the spring and early summer before the leaves of the trees fully unfold. A stroll through the Birks in May or June will reveal wildflowers such as red campion, yellow pimpernel, bugle and sweet woodruff. The aromatic smell of wild wood garlic or ramsons is another lovely spring feature - look out for clusters of starry, white flowers on the woodland floor.
Much of the gorge is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its rich plant and animal life. The cool, damp climate is perfect for mosses and it is possible to see at least ten different kinds, in a small area, on the bank near Burns' Seat. In Japan, mosses are highly valued and moss gardens are popular for their tranquillity.
Birds seen and heard most frequently are those of the woodland and waterside. The variety of habitats provides shelter, nest sites and a variety of ready meals. Warblers, Flycatchers and Woodpeckers are among many species that make their home in the trees. Pied and Grey Wagtails flit busily across the water, wagging their tails up and down. Dippers are recognisable by their strange dipping motion and striking white bib. They also have an amazing ability to walk along stream beds, underwater and against the current, as they search for grubs and insects amongst the stones.