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 northern isles. So there are plenty of options and opportunities for ‘leaf peeping’ across Scotland this autumn.
And with the inaugural Scottish Tree Festival taking place in forests, woodlands, gardens and parks from 29 September – 2 December, it’s time to branch out and appreciate our remarkable trees.
Organised by Discover Scottish Gardens, the festival will include National Tree Week (24 November – 2 December) and has inspired participation from Forestry Commission Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and a host of garden owners, nurseries and tree-related event organisers.
Below are just a few of over 50 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!
Ancient Trees at Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire
29 September – 7 October
See the incredible ancient trees at Castle Fraser, including Scotland’s ‘Tree of the Year 2017’ nominee, the old holly tree, which is thought to be as advanced in years as the centuries-old castle itself. Other highlights include many old sycamores of great character that form part of the Thomas White-designed landscape, as well as the very mature beech trees that always turn heads in their magnificent autumn finery.
Armadale Castle TreeFest, Isle of Skye
30 September – 31 October
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
30 September – 31 October
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. 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 red squirrels for hours or just blether with the owners!
Scottish Tree Festival at The Botanics, Edinburgh
29 September – 2 December
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is one of the world’s leading botanic gardens, where visitors can explore 70 acres of beautiful landscape in the heart of the capital city and enjoy a superb tree collection, which is spectacular during the autumn months. Look out in particular for the Woodland Garden, the stunning redwoods in the John Muir Grove and a collection of champion trees, which can be identified by blue labels.
Scottish Tree Festival, Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute
30 September – 2 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 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 Events, Cambo Gardens, Fife
Various dates during the festival
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 – tree climbing for little legs (3 October), follow the Tree Treasure Trail (8 October), take part in the annual Cambo Apple Gala (10 October) and the Big Draw in the Woods (15 October), and some tree-themed walks and talks are also planned.
Weekly Tree Tour, Attadale Gardens, Lochcarron
Each Thursday during the festival
Enjoy a leisurely exploration of Attadale Gardens’ varied tree collection throughout October and 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 2.30 pm each Thursday afternoon.
Study of trees at Glenwhan Gardens & Arboretum, by Stranraer
2 – 13 October
Come and be wowed by Glenwhan’s autumnal colours! Tessa Knott, the owner and creator of the gardens, will give you a personal guided tour around the many beautiful trees. There are over 200 types here including some very special cultivars such as Metasequoia glypteroides, Embothriums, acers, conifers in variety, as well many unusual oaks, sorbus and betulas. Glenwhan was selected by Homes and Antiques for their list of top 10 best arboretums in the UK. The tour will include coffee on arrival and a delicious homemade lunch using produce hand-picked straight from the garden.
The Enchanted Forest, Faskally Wood, Pitlochry
4 October – 4 November
Although not officially part of the Scottish Tree Festival, it would be remiss not to mention the long established, award-winning and highly popular Enchanted Forest – a dazzling woodland light and sound celebration of trees and autumn colours, which takes place in Highland Perthshire. This year’s theme is ‘Of the Wild Nature by Night’ and promises to be yet another nocturnal feast for the senses. If you’re planning on going, book your tickets as soon as possible.
Brodie Tree Festival, Brodie Castle & Estate, Forres
Brodie Castle and Estate near Forres is managed by the National Trust for Scotland and has a wealth of wonderful trees and acres of beautiful woodland to explore. Join them in their Scottish Tree Festival celebrations on a guided tour through their magnificent woodlands. There’s a whole host of other activities on offer including tree planting, green wood carving, tree service demonstrations, seed collecting, paper pot making and planting. You can also make your own bird feeder and forest-themed artworks with tree bark rubbings and leaf printing.
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.