An enjoyable walk steeped in local folklore, the Doon Hill fairy trail is an easy loop with stunning woodland, river and field views that pass by the enchanting Fairy Knowe. A mixture of road, paths and tracks, it is easily accessible from the Aberfoyle car park, and with the exception of a reasonably steep climb to the top of the hill, the flat circuit makes it a perfect walk for families.

Starting at the far end of the Aberfoyle car park (behind Guyana), follow the road round to the left over an aged stone bridge where you can take in the beauty of the River Forth. Continuing along here, you will soon pass a graveyard including the restored Kirkton Church, and eventually reach a fork where you take a left. Follow a trail of green and red marker posts past the nearby houses and countryside, the road soon changing into a more stony track leading up to, and past, a metal green gate which leads to a choice of paths, one signed ‘Doon Hill Fairy Trail’.

This is a half mile deviation from the main track taking you to the top of Doon Hill before returning the same way. At the top of this hill stands a pine tree with a large role in local legends. It is said, that a previous minister (1685-1692) by the name Reverend Robert Kirk took a great interest in superstition and folklore. So much so, that he wrote a book on the secrets of fairies known as ‘The Secret Commonwealth of Elves and Fairies’. However, local legend says that the fairies were angry at this, and took revenge by replacing the Reverend with a changeling of their own, found dead upon the hill. This changeling was buried in the graveyard passed earlier, whilst the real Reverend was kidnapped and his soul encased within the old pine tree at the top.

Historically, villagers would tie ‘clouties’ on the pine and surrounding trees. An old Celtic tradition, these were rags or strips of cloth tied to branches as part of a healing ritual. The most common method was to wash the ailing or affected body part with the rag before attaching it; the idea being that as the rag disintegrated, the ailment would also lessen and eventually fade away. Nowadays, it’s more common for a wish or message to be left for the fairies accompanied by an offering- so be sure to bring a ribbon or paper to write on and leave for the fairies along with a thank you gift!

Leaving the summit, follow the path back the same way, keeping your eyes open for some fairy houses, wood spirits or curious fairies amongst the surrounding oak and beech trees. When you reach the bottom of the hill and rejoin the track, turn left to continue the circuit.

Following the track you will cross a small bridge before reaching a junction. Take the leftmost option. This crosses over an open area of country with picturesque views and is especially nice on the unlikely occurrence of a sunny day.

When the next junction is reached, it is another left signposted to Aberfoyle continuing over a wooden bridge and through a section surrounded by field.

Once you reach a T junction take a left over the small bridge to follow the old railway line before finishing with yet another bridge to enter the car park on the side next to the Wool Centre.

Distance– 4.5km

Approximate time– 1.5-2hrs

Dog friendly

Path – only one more serious climb, all path and tracked is marked, however it is not suitable for anyone with mobility issues.

Clothing– The climb up the hill has the potential to be muddy and slippy, so walking boots or trainers are recommended. As it’s Scotland a jacket is nearly always recommended, in particular for the less wooded, more exposed sections of the walk.

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We had the luck, and unusual pleasure, of enjoying this walk in bright summer sunshine. That said, we doubt that even the driving rain would take away any delight  from the pleasant meandering amongst the ancient trees. It’s a little eerie, and yet enchanting, to see the tree covered in streams of coloured ribbon and glittering treasures. In fact, we left our own message along with a coin as thanks to the many small watching eyes.

Definitely recommended for an enjoyable walk, in particular for families with children, which can only be improved by a lunch or cake treat from one of the local cafes afterwards.

 

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by Scarlett McQuillan
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