Aberfeldy is a proud and picturesque Highland town nestled on the banks of the romantic River Tay at the eastern end of the Appin of Dull, the name given to the rich flatlands of the Tay situated between Loch Tay and Aberfeldy. The town itself provides a perfect base for anyone wanting to spend some time in the beautiful Perth & Kinross with access to Loch Tay, the Ben Lawers National nature reserve and its Munro peaks and Glen Lyon, considered one of Scotland's most beautiful glens.
Aberfeldy is a bustling town with many eateries and shops (it boasts one of Scotland's best independent book shops: The Watermill) as well as the fabulous Art Deco "Birks Cinema". and of course the Aberfeldy Distillery, home of Dewar's Whiskey. Take a walk along the banks of the Tay and you come across Wade's Bridge built in 1733 and the imposing memorial to the Black Watch. There is much to see and do.
But above all the town is graced by a short, invigorating walk up through the birch wooded gorge of the Moness burn which cascades down into the town and into the Tay river. Formerly known as the Den of Moness it was made famous and renamed The Birks (a birk is Scots for a beach tree) after Robert Burns' visited and composed his song "The Birks of Aberfeldy."
And in my view there is no better time to visit the Birks than in Spring when the burns are full and cascading from all sides of the gorge and where the vibrant greens of the new leaves and mosses provide an enchanting setting.
Many guide books provide the starting point as the car park however the full walk starts below the carpark from Bank street (Aberfeldy's main arterial road) where there is an entrance opposite Breadalbane Arms Hotel and just before the bridge where the burn passes under the road (it is well sign posted so you shouldn't miss it).
Setting out from this point in springtime you are immediately met by the fragrant smell of wild Garlic growing abundantly on both banks of the burn which is considerably wider at this lower level.
The walk is a circular one and ideally is best done clockwise. So starting on the left side of the gorge the walk begins gently with the path soon opening into a clearing where Robert Burns is sat musing upon the scene much as he would have done back in 1787 when he wrote the song supposedly on the spot, inspired by love and the nature around him.
Here you can listen to Ronnie Browne's rendition of the song:
Chorus: Bonie lassie, will ye go, Will ye go, will ye go, Bonie lassie, will ye go To the birks of Aberfeldie!
Now simmer blinks on flowery braes, And o'er the crystal streamlet plays; Come, let us spend the lightsome days, In the birks of Aberfeldie!
While o'er their heads the hazels hing; The little birdies blithely sing, Or lightly flit on wanton wing In the birks of Aberfeldie!
the braes ascend like lofty wa's, The foaming stream, deep-roaring, fa's, O'er-hung wi' fragrant spreading shaws, The birks of Aberfeldie.
The hoary cliffs are crown'd wi' flowers, White o'er the linns the burnie pours, And, rising, weets wi' misty showers The birks of Aberfeldie.
Let Fortune's gifts at random flee, They ne'er shall draw a wish frae me; Supremely blest wi' love and thee In the birks of Aberfeldie.
And having sat a while on the bench with the great Bard and matched his inspiration it is time to move on up the gorge and the more challenging part of the walk. As the gorge deepens gaps in the tree line provide you with stunning views of the "foaming stream." And finally at the top you reach the upper Moness Falls with its wooden bridge where you can admire the drop below.
From the top of the falls you make your way back along the other bank of the gorge on an easy path that winds its way through the ancient birch trees and with vistas across to where you had climbed up earlier and even across the valley to Ben Vrackie in the distance. And of course you get to catch a glimpse of an enamored "Rabbie", still there, on his bench.
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