into the Cairngorms

on Sunday we drove up to Blair Atholl in Perthshire, in the foothills of the Grampian mountains, part of the Cairngorms National Park (since 2008). to get to it you drive past famous spots like Killiecrankie and over the Tummel river … and it’s only one and a quarter hour’s drive from St Andrews.

Fife and Perthshire are full of magnificent beech trees. obviously they are not native, but they certainly thrive. we parked in the village car park, as the walk-dedicated one was full,

and I am very glad we did or we’d have missed this part of the walk, alongside the river Tilt between mature beeches,

whose branches hung down to the river, and the river itself racing through a rock chute

then widening to pebble strewn beaches

we came at the best time to see autumn colours

maple trees are everywhere, obviously not native, but perfectly hardy for Scottish winters.

the walk was basically along the river, on a higher path, which took quite an effort for my lazy Norfolk legs to get up to, and then across and back along the other side. not to the furthest point as that would have been ten miles plus the extra from the village, so we walked seven altogether, crossing at Gilberts bridge.

small waterfalls and bridges on the path

once you are up the views are immense, and the landscape begging to be painted, not in the traditional way, but for me there were textures and shapes which made me think of Australian painter, Idris Murphy’s work.

the way the horizon and sky are often less present when you are enfolded into the hills

and the rock comes through the vegetation

and the trees are sparse and characterful, with their coatings of lichen

much to think about for the future

the phone camera doesn’t capture the brilliance of the colours – I’d call the overall impression orange-tawny, with notes of bright mustard and rust,

offset by the dark green of conifers

we stopped for coffee and snacks in a little grassy, sedgy spot just above the river where it raced through another chute

and trees cling onto the sides of the ravine

rowan, ash, larch

this dying trunk colonised by funghi

then not much further to Gilberts bridge where the river is much calmer and the tree colours perfect – more beeches too.

Bimba perfectly matches all these autumn tones

this photo looks like an English park

but soon we were out under these steep sheep pastures

walking downhill

through woods

of birch

and larch

these repetitive trunks surely are the food for paintings

I’m taking pictures on the march

always behind, never catching up

except when Lucy stops to photograph, and these larch turning golden-russet are a stopping point.

we slowed towards the end to pick sloes, and in the hedge were these rowans. I am sure I’ve never seen rowans turn this colour in Norfolk.

brighter than the Japanese maples which are quite a feature in suburban St Andrews just now.

how special it is to be so close to all this magnificence.



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