It’s getting to that time again when Scotland’s forests start to turn their hues and explode from green to golden yellows, deep oranges and fiery reds. For me you can keep New England and Nova Scotia as I reckon Scotland’s autumnal colours are up there with anywhere in the world. Settle in now leaf peepers as we’ve got 7 great places to see autumnal colours around Scotland and they are all handily near one of the excellent Scottish Hostels. Remember too that these natural oases look great all year round, so you don’t just need to visit in autumn.
- The Hermitage – Perthshire is renowned as ‘Big Tree Country’ and here it reaches its eye-popping autumnal zenith. Park up just off the A9 and you enter another world alive with the scent of pine. You stroll along the right banks of the River Braan under the shadow of thousands of trees, including some of the tallest in Scotland – their Douglas Firs. Many of the trees were seeded from around the world so there is real diversity. And then there is Ossian’s Hall, where you can peer over the thunderous Black Linn Falls. Your heart-stirring memories of the old playground of the Dukes of Atholl will keep you warm all winter.
Your Hostel – We’ve a great hostel in Newtonmore for you
- Galloway Forest Park – The UK’s largest forest park – and indeed its first forest park - is alive with all manner of tree life. It was also named the UK’s first Dark Skies Park as it’s such a great place to see the night sky. You’ve a decent chance of catching sight of the Northern Lights here too. There is great hiking and biking too, so you can ease around the forests appreciating the colours exploding all around you.
Your Hostel – This lovely bolthole sits to the east of the park with plenty of forestry around it so you get the double hit of autumnal colour.
- Glasgow – Stick with me here! I know we’re talking Scotland’s biggest city, but its famous botanic gardens really are at their best in autumn. You can make your way around the myriad pathways savouring the changing colours of tree species from all over the world. The gardens date way back to the start of the nineteenth century and the best way to really appreciate them is on one of the guided tours. What I love about the hostel here is that it also opens up access to the expanse of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, which looks its best in autumn too. I particularly rate the Trossachs themselves – a landscape of rolling hills and shimmering lochs bathed in forest. Wordsworth and Ruskin were fans too.
Your hostel – Your hideaway sits just to the north of the city, with great access to the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
- The Cairngorms National Park – The drama and scale of the UK’s largest national park is hard to condense into words. Autumn colours burst out all around. I recommend walking through the native Caledonian Forest that you find in the Rothiemurchus Estate, which for me is one of the best run country estates in Scotland. And very welcoming to visitors. It’s a deeply life-affirming experience easing along through Scots Pine, birch and rowan, looking out for red deer and red squirrels. Explore the cycleways and footpaths around Loch an Eilean, or canoe or sail on Loch Morlich. If you’re lucky in late autumn you may even get a touch of snow!
Your hostel – Handily your hostel sits right on the northern edge of the Rothiemurchus in the Cairngorms National Park.
- Ardkinglas Woodland Garden – Head deep into Argyll and you’ll come across a genuinely remarkable swathe of flora on the banks of Loch Fyne, Scotland’s longest sea loch. This real life Garden of Eden spreads its tentacles over 25 acres on the banks of the loch. The Garden houses a remarkable array of tree species, including what is reputed to be the tallest tree in the UK. It was planted around 1875. To put that in context it was planted around the same time as General Custer lost his life at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Scot Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone and Tchaikovsky completed his music for Swan Lake!
Your hostel – We’ve got a great hostel for you here at the top of Loch Fyne in Inverary, which peers just across the water to Ardkinglas.
- Tweed Valley – We’re deep into Sir Walter Scott country now and also the forests where William Wallace hid away before his famous victories and gory death. Scott was deeply in love with the scenery of the Scottish Borders. The vantage point of Scott’s View is one of the best places in Scotland to see the autumn colours explode in all their finery. The Tweed Valley Forest Park is a glorious oasis where myriad species of tree offer a spectacular display. There are plenty of walking routes through the Borders – The Borders Abbeys Way is a corker I hiked on earlier this year. I followed the Tweed from Melrose all the way to Kelso on a section of this route that opens up a swathe of scenery and autumn colour.
- Glen Affric – If you really want to get away from it all – and I mean really get away from it all on your autumnal escape – then this is place for you. You leave the modern world behind as you forge down the road into the middle of nowhere. You can hike or bike in this vast mountainous landscape – you’ll want to take plenty of photos too of the brooding hills, island-stuffed lakes and colourful forests.
Your hostel – Your base could not be handier as you can cut south to Loch Ness, or instead forge north to Glen Affric.