Scotland has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, with each season bringing different vistas, light and weather. But autumn, when our tree-lined glens burst into a blaze of colour, is arguably when it is at its most striking.
From Galloway Forest Park in the south, to Weisdale on Shetland’s Mainland, woodlands cover around 17% of our land. Now’s the time to explore them during the Scottish Tree Festival, taking place between 28 September and 1 December.
Organised by Discover Scottish Gardens, the festival has inspired participation from the National Trust for Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and many others.
There are over 50 virtual and in-person events taking place this year. So get outdoors and enjoy some ‘leaf peeping’ – it’s great for body, mind and spirit – and share your experiences using #ScottishTreeFestival. Yew‘ll have a great time!
Scottish Tree Festival at Armadale Castle, Isle of Skye
28 September – 31 October
The trees at Armadale Castle have a wealth of stories to tell. Some were planted by Lord Macdonald in the 19th century; with more recent additions nurtured from exotic seeds or planted in memory of loved ones, to become the magnificent specimens they are today.
During the Scottish Tree Festival, stroll through 40 acres of garden woodland on self-guided tree trails, marvel at the colourful acers and red oak and see silver fir and giant redwood sentinels. Kids can have fun along the family-friendly tree trail. There will also be an online tree tour and a ‘talk trees’ drop-in day, when visitors can meet the head gardener. Check the Armadale Castle website for further details.
Autumn at 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, 23 of which are of remarkable or champion status, thrive.
Not to be missed (and you won’t!), are two giant sequoias and the stunning autumn colour of the Japanese maples. Cluny is a fascinating garden with an exciting selection of trees and plants producing vibrant seasonal colours and bountiful berries in autumn. Look out for all sorts of wildlife too, especially the well-established community of red squirrels.
Scottish Tree Festival at the botanic gardens
28 September – 1 December
The four gardens of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh are participating once again in the Scottish Tree Festival, with a host of events planned.
At the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, wander through their remarkable international tree collection and Champion Trees – they’re especially colourful during the autumn months.
Visit Logan Botanic Garden near Stranraer and meet Rexy, Logan’s impressive dinosaur made from willow. This garden is also renowned for its Antipodean plantings including Eucalyptus and unusual conifers.
Finally, head for Benmore Botanic Garden, near Dunoon, to see an amazing collection of trees in all their autumn splendour, set against a backdrop of stunning mountain scenery.
Scottish Tree Festival at Cambo Gardens, Fife
Various events from 28 September – 1 December
There’s a whole host of events taking place at Cambo Gardens & Estate near Kingsbarns on the Fife coast as part of the Scottish Tree Festival. Families can explore the magical and colourful woodland of Cambo Den as you try to spot the mysterious Glingbobs and Tootflits. Why not follow the Pumpkin Trail for some seasonal fun or explore the intriguing Lost Elf Village with your wee ones?
There are craft maker pop ups planned each weekend from October to December. Wood-fired evening feasts under the trees and stars (booking essential) are sure to be extremely popular. And don’t miss the autumn plant and produce market, where Cambo’s garden team will be on hand to provide some horticultural help.
Champion Trees at Castle Kennedy Gardens, near Stranraer
30 September and 7 October
Nestling magnificently around the ruins of Castle Kennedy, and situated on an isthmus surrounded by the White and Black lochs in south-west Scotland, these historic gardens have been lovingly tended by the same family for generations.
With nearly 300 years of tree planting and a favourable climate that benefits from the Gulf Stream, these gardens provide a home for an amazing 95 Champion Trees, the tallest or broadest of their species in the British Isles! Fine and rare examples such as the Swamp Cypress, Taxodium Distichum, the Umbrella Pine, Sciadopitys Verticillate, Dawn Red Wood, Metasequoia, Californian Red Wood and Sequoia Sempervirens can be found within 75 acres of garden space.
To celebrate the Scottish Tree Festival, enjoy their special Champion Tree Trail and discover these hidden treasures for yourself. With the aid of a specially printed map, the trail takes you from one end of the garden to the other, and is a perfect way to explore and learn more about their magnificent trees in all their autumnal glory. Find out more on their website.
Attadale Gardens Tree Tours, Strathcarron
Selected dates from 1 October – 26 November
Located opposite the pretty Highland village of Lochcarron, Attadale is a long-established privately-owned garden that stretches over 20 acres, set amidst stunning Wester Ross scenery on the banks of Loch Carron.
Visit this stunning part of Scotland during the festival and take a leisurely walk round the gardens and quiz their well-informed gardeners (observing physical distancing of course) to learn more about the outstanding trees here. Further information and dates can be found on the Attadale website.
Hopetoun’s Historic Trees, South Queensferry
Selected dates from 11 October – 29 November
Dating back to the 17th century, Hopetoun House near Edinburgh, is arguably one of Scotland’s finest stately homes. Running weekly, at a time when the gardens are normally closed, these exclusive and tree-mendous ranger-led walks will guide you through the nature and history of Hopetoun’s wonderfully designed landscape.
Learn about the natural history and folklore of the specimen trees and plants within the grounds, which stretch to 144 acres. Numbers are strictly limited to 12, so please book in advance.
Little Sparta Trees, Dunsyre
15 October, 10 – 10.30am
Join this free virtual event which takes a tour of the six tree-column bases at Little Sparta – the seven acre internationally-acclaimed garden of poet Ian Hamilton Finlay, set splendidly in South Lanarkshire countryside.
Each tree-column base is inscribed with the name of a cultural hero that was important to Finlay, creating a pantheon deep in the woodland. The pre-recorded video tour can be viewed any time on or after the event too. Please note that Little Sparta is open June to September each year, so won’t be open during the Scottish Tree Festival 2020, but they look forward to welcoming visitors in 2021.
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.