Crepuscular rays through autumn birch

On Saturday we started the Aberfeldy to Acharn walk I was leading for the Drovers’ Tryst walking festival in thick fog at the Birks of Aberfeldy car park. The mist thinned as we climbed the path beside the Moness Burn and by the time we reached the bridge over the Falls of Moness the sun was beginning to stream through the trees.

On the border between fog bank and blue sky we found a magical combination of weather and light. The sun’s rays were broken into bands of light and dark as they streamed through the autumn foliage of the elegant birch trees (birks in Scots). These ‘crepuscular rays’ are only seen when there is the atmosphere is hazy, in this case with small water droplets from the mist.

Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, visited the Falls of Moness in 1787 during his tour of the Highlands. He was so inspired by the natural beauty of the gorge and waterfalls that he sat on a rock ledge and wrote a song, ‘The Birks of Aberfeldy’, which was based on the tune of an earlier song, ‘The Birks of Abergeldie’. Ever since then this beauty spot has been known as the Birks of Aberfeldy.

There is a circular trail around the gorge, which at the top crosses a bridge above the main waterfall. The best views are from the east bank, where the path runs close to smaller waterfalls on several side streams. After climbing up that side, we headed west on a loner, high level route to another waterfall, the Falls of Acharn above Loch Tay.

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