The Dunkeld countryside is stunningly beautiful, especially in October when the trees and vegetation are changing colours. The paths twist and wind through deciduous woods of beech and birch, along three rivers, across open moorland and back through a wonderful gorge. On the way there are picturesque views of the Victorian station at Birnam and Dunkeld, Dunkeld cathedral, the Folly at the Hermitage and a lovely humorous introduction to Shakespeare’s oak ‘When Birnam Wood shall come to Dunsinane’. With good paths, sign-posts, stiles and gates and exceedingly photoesque opportunities this is a walk to repeat – maybe in every season!
To do it yourself
If you have a car there is ample parking in Birnam in which case take the path down the right-hand side of Birnam Hotel towards the River Tay. Alternatively, the train journey is part of a lovely day out and, with any kind of rail ticket (Senior, Student, Family etc), quite reasonably priced.
At the station, cross over the bridge to Platform 1. From the back of the ticket office you have the option of the picturesque route which runs from the north end (right-hand side facing the ticket office) of the station, down steps, turn left under the line, up beside the road (on an off-road track) to a signpost pointing towards the ‘Birnam Hill Path’ with red dots. Turn left to walk behind some huge houses. When sign-posted, go steeply down to the left and in the middle of a glade leave this track as directed to go back under the railway line to the cycle track.
Meanwhile, if you want to conserve energy, leave the station in the opposite direction, (left-hand, south) and pick up the cycle track which starts alongside the road and then goes slightly inland before emerging at the underpass where you will join the others. You will get there first!
You then have to cross the A9: there is a ‘chevroned’ lane in the middle where you could pause but basically you need to look for a gap in the traffic and run! This is the only time you cross this road.
You now join the Birnam Riverside Path (blue dots) which continues on the opposite side of the A9, down through the wood to Birnam, straight across the country road, down a metalled road which curves to the right, peters out into a track and then emerges at a seat on the River Tay. The next part is idyllic as the path, first narrow and winding alongside the river, broadens out into an extended woodland glade. You pass the famous Oak, continue under Dunkeld Bridge and on to a break in the vegetation which allows you to take photos of the cathedral on the opposite side.
At the junction of paths, turn right and leave the River Tay, taking the path alongside the River Braan, under the A9 this time, and immediately cross the River Braan to make your way beside a caravan park to Inver on, not surprisingly, the Inver Path (purple dots). Inver itself is rather attractive but the path less so. It emerges on the A9 again, but well behind a barrier on an off-road track. A very short distance lands you in the NTS site of The Hermitage with car park and information boards. Follow the River Braan on the Braan Path (green dots) through deciduous woods to ‘The Hermitage’. Although it looks as though the door is closed, it is always open and you can enter the Folly and go on to a little viewing platform to look at the waterfall.
Continue on the River Braan Path (green dots) past the Folly, beside the river, going westish! At a large black arrow pointing right, stop and turn round to see Ossian’s cave. Until the reccé I had always missed this! Then the path cuts away from the river a little, before exiting the NTS area by a gate, turning left on the road and walking downhill to finally emerge at the very famous ‘Rumbling Bridge’.
Cross the bridge and climb up the other side. A small sign points to the left to the continuation of the River Braan Walk (green dots). (If you miss, this a larger sign further on points to the same walk and the car park. Still on the River Braan Path, climb through woods, then unexpectedly cross a country road and continue on the other side. Go straight on, as signposted, on the Inchewan Path (orange dots). This climbs gently over open moorland in stark contrast to everything you’ve seen so far. Just before Balhomish farm turn sharp left, as directed, through a gate and across a field to enter woods. Turn right at this point and eventually pick up the Inchewan Burn which increasingly narrows into a ravine. Follow this path down to the station, but go straight on towards Birnam under the A9 emerging in front of the Hotel. If you have any energy left, wander through the Beatrix Potter Garden where you’ll see Peter Rabbit!