There’s no question about it – Scotland has some of the most beautiful and cherished landscapes in the world. Each season brings a different perspective, different light and different weather. But it’s autumn, when our tree-lined hillsides and glens bedecked in a blaze of golds, ochres and reds, are arguably at their most resplendent.
Trees cover around 17% of Scotland’s land area and can be found from Galloway Forest Park (the UK’s largest) in the south west to Weisdale on Shetland’s Mainland in the north. So there are plenty of opportunities for ‘leaf peeping’ across Scotland this autumn.
And with the Scottish Tree Festival taking place again in forests, woodlands, gardens and parks from 28 September – 2 December, now’s the time to branch out and appreciate our remarkable trees – remember to share your magical experiences using the hashtag #ScottishTreeFestival
Organised by Discover Scottish Gardens, the festival has inspired participation from the National Trust for Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, the Glorious Gardens of Argyll & Bute and a host of garden owners, nurseries and tree-related event organisers.
Below are just a few of over 70 events and experiences taking place as part of the festival. Visit our events section for the full line-up – yew‘ll have a great time!
Armadale Castle TreeFest, Isle of Skye
28 September – 30 November
The trees at Armadale Castle have a wealth of stories to tell. Some were planted by Lord Macdonald in the 1870s; others were nurtured from exotic seeds in the 1980s to become the magnificent specimens they are today. During Armadale Castle’s TreeFest, you can follow a tree trail around the garden, join a tree tour and have fun with tree-themed family activities during half term. Experience the autumn colour of acers and red oak, get close to unusual specimens such as the ‘candy floss tree’ and ‘fossil tree’ and marvel at giants such as Sitka spruce and giant redwood.
Cluny Colours of Autumn, Cluny House Gardens, by Aberfeldy
28 September – 1 December
One of the best places in Scotland to see autumn colours is Highland Perthshire and Cluny is a wonderful woodland garden positioned above the River Tay where trees thrive. There are 34 recordable specimens, 23 of which are remarkable or of champion status. Not to be missed (and you won’t!), are two giant sequoias with enormous girths and the autumn tints and hues of the Japanese maples are particularly special. Cluny is a fascinating garden with an exciting selection of trees and plants producing vibrant colours and bountiful berries in autumn. Fungi, birds and insects flourish here and you can watch the healthy community of red squirrels for hours or just blether with the owners!
Glenwhan Gardens & Arboretum, by Stranraer
28 September – 1 December
Glenwhan Gardens & Arboretum recently featured as one of the top 10 Best Arboretums in the UK in The Times Weekend edition of Britain’s Most Beautiful Gardens. Owner and creator Tessa Knott has devoted four decades to creating these gardens out of a barren moorland with a south facing aspect. Many tender trees thrive owing to the close proximity of the Gulf Stream, and there’s a huge number of trees and shrubs from around the world together with many native trees belonging to the UK to enjoy. It’s interesting to see how well the trees here have grown in such a short time span, and there is a designated Tree Trail with a map, which may be obtained from the Tearoom to guide you. Guided Tours can be booked with advance notice.
Scottish Tree Festival, Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute
28 September – 1 December
Mount Stuart’s 300-acre and 300-year old designed landscape contains a huge variety of trees, both native and globally sourced, which together present a heady mix of exotic, traditional and unusual specimens. Amongst the woodland and managed gardens are Mount Stuart’s proud champion trees – which have won county, national and UK awards. Each one is an arboreal masterpiece, magnificent in form and maturity. From September – December, come and enjoy autumn’s unfolding hues and celebrate the season’s richness and diversity.
Scottish Tree Festival at The Botanics Edinburgh and Benmore, Dawyck & Logan
29 September – 2 December
The four Gardens of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh are participating in the Festival with a host of events including guided autumn walks and fungal forays. The world-leading tree collection at Edinburgh, Benmore, Dawyck and Logan features many historic and champion trees dating back hundreds of years. Visitors can enjoy spectacular seasonal colour, the structure of trees and blankets of fallen leaves.
Scottish Tree Festival Events, Cambo Gardens, Fife
Various dates during the festival starting from 2 October
There’s a whole host of events taking place at Cambo Gardens & Estate near Kingsbarns in Fife as part of the Scottish Tree Festival. Families can join Babes in the Woods – toddler and baby tree hunt – tree climbing for little legs (2 October), follow the Tree Treasure Hunt (12 October), take part in the annual Cambo Apple Gala (16 October) and the Samhain Fire Party (3 November). Some tree-themed walks and talks are also planned.
The Enchanted Forest, Faskally Wood, Pitlochry
3 October – 3 November
The Scottish Tree Festival is also delighted to welcome the long established, award-winning and highly popular Enchanted Forest – a dazzling light and sound celebration of trees and autumn colours, taking place in Highland Perthshire – into this year’s programme. This year’s theme is ‘Cosmos – Look Up, Be Inspired’ and promises to be yet another nocturnal feast for the senses. If you’re planning on going, book your tickets soon as this event is usually a sell-out.
Tree Tours, Attadale Gardens, Lochcarron
24 October, 7 and 21 November
Enjoy a leisurely exploration of Attadale Gardens’ varied tree collection on the 24 October and the 7 and 21 November alongside a guided tour of the entire garden. Over 1,000 new trees were planted here in the early 1990s following major storms in the late 1980s, so come and admire their progress. From Japanese acers, maples and the old Wellingtonia to two Wollemi pines and two monkey puzzle trees, this is your chance to enjoy these lovely gardens after their traditional close, at end of October. Meet at the Gatehouse at 2pm.
Castle Fraser Welly Walk, Aberdeenshire
Pull on your wellies and join Castle Fraser’s rangers for an autumn walk in the woods. There will be nuts and berries to collect and plant to grow your own trees and you’ll forage for craft materials before heading back to the log cabin to make some autumn crafts. Suitable for 5–11 year olds. Booking is essential and entry for adults is free with a suggested donation of £2 per person. Castle car parking charge applies for non-members. The castle grounds also contain many ancient trees, some that are thought to be as old as the castle itself.
Looking for further inspiration to get outdoors this autumn? Or for things to do with the kids during the October holidays? Then don’t forget to visit our autumn holidays page.