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Tree lovers rejoice as it’s that time of year again when forests burst into colour and spectacular photogenic foliage can be captured in vibrant glory. The Highlands do not have the same amount of forest cover as Perthshire, but there are still plenty of amazing locations to get outside and enjoy the seasonal colours and lovely crisp, fresh, days before the onset of the really cold weather. These are just a few of our favourites.
The Hebrides are better known for their beaches than their trees, but anyone staying near Stornoway should investigate this little oasis of green not far from the town centre. There are 270 hectares of woodland, parkland and gardens here with hiking and biking trails and a stunning viewpoint that looks back over Stornoway. Designed and built by James Matheson in 1863, thousands of tonnes of soil were imported to benefit the wide variety of trees that were planted and which now blossom and provide a stunning contrast to the more familiar machair and moorland. The sunken garden is sheltered from the elements by beech, sycamore and ash, enabling a huge selection of native and imported special varieties to thrive. Now that it is community owned, it is accessible to all and there is also a museum and giant replica chessmen for visitors to investigate.
Peninsula Cottage sits just a short drive east of the town. A modern build in a peaceful waterside location it offers uninterrupted views over the water and a hot tub where you can relax and watch the sunset or the Northern Lights. If you love the idea of holidaying on the islands but want to be close to a town with great pubs, restaurants and culture then this is the place for you.
Being over 30 miles long it’s easy to find peace and quiet in the midst of the native pinewoods here. It’s one of the largest ancient Caledonian pine woods in the country and at this time of year is a riot of colour. The forest is a magical mixture of gnarled old Scots pine, shining silver birch, oaks covered in slow-growing grey lichen and pine saplings with needles which are almost luminous. Amongst the stunning autumnal displays, you can also spot an abundance of wildlife and spectacular natural wonders, such as Dog Falls. There is parking close by and well signposted walks suitable for all ages, bringing a bike will help you get deeper into the glen to immerse you in the wonders of this most atmospheric and otherworldly corner of the Highlands.
Glen View Lodge is a luxurious retreat for six, which commands breathtaking views a short drive from the eastern end of the glen. There is a sauna for relaxing after a long day out, or alternatively just enjoy the view from the first floor balcony with a drink before returning inside to warm yourself by the wood burning stove.
The Cairngorms National Park has no shortage of amazing forest tracks to explore at this time of year but one of the most magical and secluded is the Uath Lochans trail. Pronounced “Wah Lochans” it means ‘hawthorn small lochs’ and getting here along a narrow winding road is part of the adventure. This remarkable mixture of woodland and lochan turns golden hues of red and orange in autumn, and it forms a peaceful contrast to the busier honeypot locations to be found in the rest of the park. There are superb views across to Strathspey and you should keep your eyes peeled for frogs beside the paths, and for dragonflies darting over the wetlands. It’s ideal for families wanting to picnic in what feels like the wilderness and for brave souls wanting to wild swim in the colder months.
Clach Mhor is just a short drive from here. It’s perfectly positioned for those who love the great outdoors, whether that is taking the dog for a quick walk before dinner or heading into the hills for an epic hike. Sleeping up to 7, and only 5 miles from Aviemore, but still feels remote and rural due to the location away from the road and nestled in the trees. It has a unique ‘sitooterie’ which will suit those who would rather take it all in by sitting outside on an evening watching squirrels, but there is also SKY TV to keep the little ones amused.