By Erin Hickey
27 August 2019
All senses come alive during autumn in Scotland. From the satisfying sounds of leaves crunching beneath our feet, the smell of crisp air and seeing captivating landscapes all around, autumn is the perfect time to take a holiday break to spectacular Scotland.
VisitScotland has rounded up one-of-a-kind autumn break suggestions from light shows in an Enchanted Forest to seeing the changing colours of Old Aberdeen, both chosen by Lonely Planet’s Ultimate United Kingdom Travelist
Colour life with a visit to Scotland…
Scotland is beautiful every time of year, however the striking woodland landscapes of red, orange and yellow are something everyone must experience at least once in their lifetime.
With seven out of the ten largest forests in the UK in Scotland, visitors will be spoilt for choice when it comes to immersing themselves in fiery scenery during their woodland walks. One of these forests is Tay Forest Park, a perfect oasis for forest bathing and mindfulness. Be sure to wander to the famous Queen’s View overlooking the scenic Loch Tummel. In 1886, Queen Victoria visited the breathtaking site and believed it was named after her when in fact it was named after Robert the Bruce’s first wife, Isabella, 500 years earlier.
Lonely Planet recently released their Ultimate United Kingdom Travelist, ranking the top 500 experiences in the UK which includes seeing the changing colours of Old Aberdeen as one of their picks. Stroll through Seaton Park, one of the city’s largest open green spaces and treat yourself to an autumn picnic by the Brig o’ Balgownie, which may be Scotland’s oldest bridge. Lucky visitors may catch the Aberdeen Football club training in the park! Explore the outstanding architecture amongst the colourful trees at University of Aberdeen and don’t miss the historic 15th century King’s College Chapel before you leaf, leave.
A fun fact is that northern Scotland lies at the same latitude as Stavanger in Norway and Nunivak Island in Alaska. This means those visiting Scotland in autumn or winter have a good chance of seeing the ‘Mirrie Dancers’ and can cross watching the northern lights off their travel bucket list! Some of the best places to spot them include Shetland, Orkney, Caithness, Moray Coast, The Cairngorms and Lewis, Harris.
Scotland makes stargazing easy with its multiple Dark Sky attractions. Galloway Forest Park is Britain’s largest forest park and was named the first Dark Sky Park in the UK. Visitors can marvel at the illuminated sky of over 7,000 stars and planets visible to the naked eye and can enjoy a new show every night because as the earth rotates, we get a different view of the sky! An hour outside the park, starry-eyed wanderers can visit Moffat, a historic spa town and Europe’s first Dark Sky Town.
For those looking for a truly off-the-grid destination, head to Isle of Coll a small Hebridean island ten kilometres west of Mull. Famous for its sandy beaches and turquoise waters, another star of this island is the sky. With a population of under 165, this small island has no street lights and because of its geographic isolation it became the first official Dark Sky island in Scotland.
Halloween can trace its beginnings to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhuinn which celebrates the end of harvest season and beginning of winter. Traditionally during this time, the Celtic people would light large bonfires to ward off malevolent entities. The Samhuinn Fire Festival held in Edinburgh on 31 October is an exciting event where Calton Hill will be lit up with fire-dancing, wild drumming, acrobatics and more.
Another exciting event taking place from 3rd October to 3rd November is the multi award-winning event Enchanted Forestwhich has been named UK’s Best Cultural Event, Best Outdoor Festival, Scotland’s Best Large Event and joining the likes of walking old Aberdeen, secured a spot in Lonely Planet’s Ultimate UK Travelist. Walk through this magical forest in Pitlochry and immerse in an incredible outdoor sound and light show. Before arriving in Pitlochry, hunt for aliens in the UFO capital of Scotland, Bonnybridge. With over 300 UFO sightings every year, this town gets more sightings than anywhere else on earth!
Amongst the vast forests and sea is a plethora of wildlife to spot.
Autumn is an especially good time to witness salmon leaping. As wild salmon make their journey back to the ocean, head to the Philiphaugh Salmon Viewing Centre near Selkirk in the Scottish Borders. Here, visitors can witness the salmon experience and go to the visitor centre dedicated to the fish. For the best sightings, go in the early morning or evening in October and November as the fish tend to be more active. Between late September and late November, grey seal pups stay ashore until they’ve finished weaning and moulting. Tour the Moray Firth for a good chance to see them as well as bottlenose dolphins. For larger marine life, follow the Hebridean Whale Trail, a first of its kind in the UK. This trail has developed 25 whale-watching and whale heritage sites across the west coast of Scotland.
In the isles of Arran, Jura and Rum it will be hard to miss the UK’s largest land mammal, red deer. Every autumn, the male stags battle each other to win the right to mate with the females. Be careful and only view the sight from a distance. Scotland boasts the most redheads in the world, including the adorable red squirrel which is the UK’s only native squirrel species. With less than 150,000 left they are under threat due to their grey American cousins and can be found in the conifer forest of Cairngorms National Park and Galloway Forest Park. In the western highlands see if you can spot the world’s fastest animal – the Peregrine falcon who can fly up to 2000 miles an hour!
Eating local and seasonal has been proven to be healthier and better for the environment. There are dozens of edible wild mushrooms in Scotland and autumn is the best time to pick them. For those who may not be as familiar with picking their own food, join a foraging stay at Gartmore House in Stirlingshire or join a mushroom foraging course in Perthshire with Monica Wilde Foraging. There are also about 10 different edible berries found in Scottish woodlands growing largely in Perthshire, Fife, Aberdeenshire, the Highlands, Arran, Ayrshire and the Scottish Borders. Be sure to do your research before foraging and do not pick any food if you are not certain what it is.
New Caledonian Sleeper trains launched 28 April, 2019: New carriages made their debut on the Lowlander route between London and Glasgow/Edinburgh. Highlander route is to follow shortly between London and Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William. Book here: www.sleeper.scot
New direct Loganair flights launched May 2019 – London Southend to Stornoway and also Aberdeen. Book here: https://www.loganair.co.uk/
For more unique autumn activities, go to https://www.visitscotland.com/holidays-breaks/autumn/