There are some spots in Scotland that, to me at least, seem seasonal.
The iced Fife hills, sprinkled with sheep, are my end of winter. The secret gardens of East Lothian, blooming in rainbows, are where I spent my spring weekends. The rockpooled coasts of the west, with their white sands and clear tides, are our Julys. And then there’s Perthshire, a region I would usually skim over to save for autumn, its rainfall of leaves the start of a festive song.
I’d never considered visiting the county outside of October until a few weeks ago when I needed a cottage to sleep six somewhere between east and west. During our time in the hills above Aberfeldy celebrating my mum’s birthday, we laughed, ate and retraced the steps we’d taken seasons before but through the soft, fresh leaves of a late spring in Perthshire. Here are a few of my favourite moments.
At this time of year, it could be a small rainforest.
Tucked above Aberfeldy town, the short yet steep tree-lined circuit around the Birks — which inspired Robert Burns’ poem of the same name — is rightly popular, especially in autumn.
Yet at this time of year, with the twisted trunks of birch and silken leaves of fern and garlic stunning the cliffs, you could easily imagine yourself in a northern rainforest. The whisky-coloured water, browned from its distillation through the peat on the hills, is what gives it away as pure Scottish spirit. For an easier ascent with less stairs, take the right-hand path through the forest at first (you’ll return via the stairs).
This gem of a place serves up both books and baking.
How we missed this place when we spent a weekend in Aberfeldy two years ago, I’ve no idea! Two slabs of cake in 24 hours made up for that though… A stalwart of the town’s café scene for over a decade, and voted one of Britain’s best bookshops, the Watermill is a great post-walk wind-down spot, whether rain or shine.
As a taster, between six of us we had vegan vanilla cake, chocolate and nut brownie, gluten free chocolate orange sponge, pistachio and cardamom cake, and raspberry, yoghurt and vanilla sponge. A stroll afterward, with a sugared stomach, through the selection of nature and travel books in the shop is my idea of an afternoon well spent.
Here, the views are beautiful for such a short stroll.
After lunch in the bright dining room of our rental cottage, the six of us went walking on the hillsides above Kenmore. There are long, steady ascents here which curve under the forest canopy, levelling off before the leaves break away at Black Rock viewpoint.
Despite, or because of, having started the walk halfway up the hill, the views are rather beautiful for such a short stroll — the pines frame the scene across to Kenmore, the arched bridge joining the peninsulas of the old high street and new holiday homes and the town’s iconic white tower in the centre. Loch Tay rolls out to the right, yachts just dots below, and a lone paddle boarder stitches threads on the silky water.
It was a gentle reminder to appreciate all the details.
The delicate pink wildflower, a sage sphere of lichen, raindrops staining the leaves above… This weekend away was a reminder that there’s something truly beautiful to notice in every scene in Scotland, no matter the season.