Birks of Aberfeldy & the Falls of Moness: A Guide

Disclaimer: This article may contain affiliate links. That means if you click a link and make a purchase, we make a small commission at no extra cost to you. For more information, see our privacy policy.

The Birks of Aberfeldy, Scotland

Just outside the Scottish town of Aberfeldy is a series of cascades fringed by dense forests of birch trees. A circular trail takes walkers alongside the falls, allowing jaw-dropping views of the river as it flows through the stunning gorge. This area and walk is frequently referred to as the Birks of Aberfeldy.

The Birks of Aberfeldy are one of my absolute favourite sights to see in the Loch Tay area. For more impressive sights near Aberfeldy, check out this article here on 6 impressive outdoor activities in Loch Tay.

In this article I aim to tell you everything there is to know about my favourite walk in Scotland.

The Birks of Aberfeldy Map

Map created using Wanderlog, a trip planner app on iOS and Android

What are the Birks of Aberfeldy?

When people talk about the Birks of Aberfeldy they are probably referring to the circular walk around the Falls of Moness. I say ‘probably’ because the word ‘birks’ actually has another meaning which I’ll go into shortly.

Undoubtably one of the highlights of Perthshire, the Falls of Moness is an impressive waterfall in rural Scotland, located on the outskirts of Aberfeldy town.

The falls are approached by a scenic walk through dense birch forests. Throughout the walk are amazing vantage points to observe the waters crashing in the gorge below.

What does the Birks of Aberfeldy mean?

The ‘Birks’ of Aberfeldy are actually the birch trees which grow in abundance around the Falls of Moness. The name was bestowed by Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet, during a vacation he took with friends in the highlands of Scotland.

His focus on the Falls and the birks has made the walk a very attractive tourist spot in Perthshire.

Me standing on the bridge over the top of the Falls of Moness

Robert Burns and the Birks of Aberfeldy

The ‘birks’ first gained notoriety and popularity in the late 1700s when Burns composed lyrics to a folk tune in order to celebrate the beauty of the Falls of Moness and the birks.

The Birks of Aberfeldy is one of the Scottish spots most associated with Burns, and the entrance to the walk through the birks includes a pleasing statue of the poet.

Burns is depicted writing and seated on a bench, and many tourists take the opportunity to be photographed with him as he timelessly surveys the natural beauty of the area.

“The braes ascend like lofty wa’s,
The foaming stream deep-roarin’ fa’s
O’erhung wi’ fragrant spreading shaws
The birks of Aberfeldy”

– Extract from ‘The Birks of Aberfeldy’ by Robert Burns

The Falls of Moness 

For most visitors, myself included, the Falls of Moness are a more memorable attraction than the birks that surround them.

The tourism potential of the Falls has been enhanced by a safe and scenic walk which has protected the integrity of the nature in the area.

How were the Falls of Moness Made?

The Falls of Moness, like many waterfalls in the Highlands of Scotland, are the remnants of the last Ice Age as the glaciers departed.

Some ten thousand years ago the glaciers that had covered Scotland melted due to temperatures rising. The slow process of their departure created water courses and forced ravines and gorges into softer rock and in some places waterfalls developed too.

The Falls and the ravine into which it pours are classic examples of this. 

How High are the Falls of Moness?

The total height of the Falls of Moness is an impressive 150 metres. Some of the waterfall is sheer, and in other parts it is cascaded.

Obviously, the amount of rainfall in preceding days has an impact on the volume of the Falls.

Water rushing down from the highest point at the Falls of Moness

Planning Your Visit to the Birks of Aberfeldy 

Although as close to nature as possible, the Birks of Aberfeldy are not too remote and there are good transport links to the locality.

Planning a visit is relatively straight-forward once you have some basic facts about location, transport and accessibility.

Where Are the Birks of Aberfeldy Located?

The Birks of Aberfeldy can be found in the tiny rural hamlet of Moness, which is off A826 in Perthshire, Scotland. The postcode is PH15 2BJ.

How to Get to the Birks of Aberfeldy

The Birks of Aberfeldy are located within walking distance from the town of Aberfeldy.

If you are staying in Aberfeldy head south on Crieff Road which runs through the centre of the town. You will reach a bridge which crosses over the river which has descended down the Falls of Moness. On the right, just before the bridge you will see the turn-off for the Birks of Aberfeldy.

The good news is that the Birks of Aberfeldy has its own designated carpark which is just down here.

If you are travelling to the Birks from further afield then you’ll be pleased to know that Aberfeldy and the Birks are within relatively easy distance of some bigger cities.

Edinburgh is under two hours drive south, while Fort William is roughly two hours to the south-west. Glasgow is between an hour and a half and two hours, depending on traffic. Aberdeen is also broadly the same time away to the north-east of the Birks.

One of the many small falls you will view along the trail

Getting to the Birks of Aberfeldy by Car 

The Birks are only a short drive or walk away from Aberfeldy.

You may decide to start your walk from Aberfeldy and soak up some of the quaint and rustic town’s ambiance. Aberfeldy has been crowned Scotland’s first ever fair trade town and tourism is a vital business, so you can be sure of a warm welcome.

In this case you can park up in Aberfeldy. There is free on-street parking on Bank Street, the main street in the town.

From Bank Street turn left onto Crieff Road (A826) and head south to the bridge. You will be greeted with a sign for the Birks of Aberfeldy which takes you down a road into a foresty area on the right. This is where the start of the circular walk begins.

From Pitlochry: The larger town of Pitlochry is northeast of Aberfeldy and it takes just over twenty minutes to make the journey between them, the distance being less than fifteen miles.

Take the A9 southward for around 5 minutes until you come to the turn off for the A827. The correct junction is a roundabout, and you take the third exit. The A827 will take you all the way to the town of Aberfeldy.

To get to the Birks car park rather than the town, you make a short southerly journey of a mile or so along the A826. The Birks of Aberfeldy destination is clearly signposted.

Falls beside the path at the Birks of Aberfeldy

Is There Parking at the Birks of Aberfeldy? 

Yes, there is a carpark located at the very start of the Birks of Aberfeldy walk.

The carpark is clearly signposted and is located just off from the A826. Parking here is completely free. Whilst the carpark is not particularly large I have never found it to be full. However, if the carpark is full, there are plenty of free on-street parking options in Aberfeldy town.

Getting to the Birks of Aberfeldy by Bus 

Getting to Aberfeldy is relatively convenient with local buses from Perth and Dunkeld taking under an hour. You can also reach Perth or Pitlochry by buses from all major towns further afield.

Traveline Scotland is useful to help you map journeys to Aberfeldy from your starting point.

Around a dozen buses run from Pitlochry to Aberfeldy between 9am and 8pm. The number 24 usually leaves at 34 minutes past the hour, and the journey by local bus between the two small towns takes around an hour.

If bus times don’t work for you, another option is to talk to the local bus and taxi company, which also offers cabs, hire buses and other options.

Do You Need to Pay to Visit the Birks of Aberfeldy?

Not only is the parking at the Birks of Aberfeldy free but so is the walk itself. No tickets are required to enter, simply start hiking!

Should you Visit the Birks of Aberfeldy Independently or via Tour?

The walk is very well signposted and the route is clearly laid out. In my personal opinion a guide simply isn’t necessary to walk the Birks of Aberfeldy. However, some people choose to hire a private guide in order to get as much information as possible about the walk and nearby attractions.

Guides are not available to book on site so you would have to organise this yourself prior to your trip.

Walking up wooden steps to reach the top of the Falls of Moness

The Birks of Aberfeldy Circular Walk: Everything You Need to Know

Now that you have all the logistical information you need to get to the Birks, it’s time to describe the actual walk itself.

The Birks of Aberfeldy Walk Quick Facts

Walk Distance: 1.5 miles
Walk Time: 1.5 – 2 hours
Walk Difficulty: Moderate
Path Quality: Good
Walk Description: A circular walk which takes you round the Falls of Moness, yielding spectacular views of the falls
Terrain Description: A combination of wide dirt paths with a few roots protruding, wooden walk-ways (which can get slippery), wooden and stone steps.

How Long Does it Take to Walk the Birks of Aberfeldy?

The circular walk should take between 1.5 and 2 hours to complete. Some people have done it in less, but it does merit a leisurely stroll.

Walking times may vary depending on both your fitness level and if you like to frequently stop and admire at your surroundings (like me) or simply power on.

The walk covers a distance of 1.5 miles.

What is the Best Direction to Walk the Birks of Aberfeldy?

There are two options here: you can walk the Birks clockwise which involves ascending hundreds of stops and then descending down a slope, or you can walk anticlockwise and ascend the slope and thus descend the steps.

Personally, I always choose the clockwise route which involves ascending the steps. I find the views that you get on this walk far outweigh the views you get when you take the anticlockwise route. Plus I find descending a slope is easier than descending lots of steps, but that may just be me!

The start of the walk from the carpark. You need to cross over this bridge which takes you over the Moness Burn

Stage 1: Walk Over Moness Burn to Burns Cave

The walk starts in the car park and is clearly marked. If you are walking the clockwise route then turn left from the upper carpark. You will then cross a pretty wooden bridge over the Moness Burn.

Commence working for roughly a quarter of a mile across relatively flat ground. You will then come across the statue of Robert Burns contemplating the scenery and the poetry, allowing a quick stop and maybe a photo with the depiction of the great man. This is also referred to as ‘Burns Cave’. It is said that the poet actually composed his lyrics here.

The lower falls which run alongside the walking trail at the Birks of Aberfeldy

Stage 2: The Climb Upwards Through the Birks

The next part of the walk will take you past the lower falls on a slightly slope through swathes of beech wood. Here you will see the famous ‘birks’ in all their glory!

You will get chance to marvel at small waterfalls which are gushing past, the peaceful sound of rushing water in your ears.

The path soon changes. You will be frequented by wooden bridges which can get pretty slipper due to the close proximity to some small falls.

This is arguably the most challenging stretch of the walk where you will contend with hundreds of steps as you ascend the steep gorge to get to the top of the falls.

If you’re anything like me, the quantity of steps may seem daunting, but trust me, the views from the top are worth it!

One of the many wooden bridges you walk on in between flights of stairs

Stage 3: The Falls of Moness

Just before the highest point in the walk is a viewing platform where you can admire the Falls of Moness. It really is a spectacular sight that takes my breath away every time I lay eyes on it. A plaque of Burns’ full verse is also placed there in front of the view.

The path will then take you to the top of the falls. A wooden bridge takes you over them where you can marvel at the grand cascade gushing beneath you into the gorge below.

The Birks of Aberfeldy, Scotland
The stunning Falls of Moness! This is the view from the viewpoint

Stage 4: The Walk Down Through The Forest

The loop then takes you back down a woodland path all the way to your starting point. The trail here is steep and downhill. There are large roots protruding into the trail so you just have to watch your footing when descending here.

The trail is surrounded by dense forest. You can still hear the falls in the distance but mostly the trail is peaceful.

There are frequent gaps in the foliage where you can get spectacular views over what appears to be endless forests. And all along your journey down you, of course, have the wonderful Birks of Aberfeldy all around you!

The view of the birch trees and surrounding forest from the highest elevation point on the walk

What is the Birks of Aberfeldy Walk Like?

There is obviously some uphill walking, but you can do it at a pace that suits you. The first section is not too challenging, but from just before the Burns statue the climb is more uphill, but it is a pretty gentle slope and easily tackled.

Beyond the Burns Cave is a steeper climb again, up hundreds of steps, but it’s all very secure and there are boardwalks on the route which provide both security and excellent vantage points over the gorge. 

To get to the Falls you will have climbed around 150 metres from the car park, and although some of it is steep it’s not especially challenging for anyone with a moderate degree of fitness.

Getting back down is even easier as the path loops and heads back to the car park – and obviously without any uphill climbing whatsoever!

Are There Many Steps?

There are indeed quite a few steps involved in the Birks of Aberfeldy walk. Countless steps (there must easily be a hundred) can be found on one side of the circular walk whilst the other side consists of a slope.

Here I am ascending the steps

What Key Sights Are There on the Walk?

The main points of interest are all clear to see when following the trail.

First is the statues of Robert Burns, also known as Burns Cave. Then throughout the walk you can view the lower Falls of Moness whilst walking amongst the famous ‘birks’ (bitch trees).

Finally, you have the Burns poem displayed at the point where you can clearly observe the Falls of Moness.

Perhaps the most spectacular sight is the Falls of Moness itself – it is certainly my favourite. A viewing area is located across the gorge from the main falls, providing stunning views of the falls.

Can You Walk the Birks of Aberfeldy with a Pushchair or Wheelchair?

Due to the numerous steps, I would not recommend the circular walk for pushchair or wheelchair users.

Whilst one side of the walk consists of a slope, the ground is very steep and uneven.

On saying that, some cascades in the lower falls area are accessible from the carpark via pushchair or wheelchair on relatively flat ground. Simply cross over a wooden bridge and enjoy views of the lower falls for about a quarter of a mile.

The lower Falls of Moness which you can view at the start of the walk

Can You Swim in the Birks of Aberfeldy?

There are plenty of places in the Highlands where swimming is viable, but this is not really one of them.

The walk through the Birks takes you uphill from the river. Even if you cut through to the river and depart the established footpaths, then swimming is not recommended because of the danger of surges and undercurrents.

In 2017 a strong swimmer was drowned in the hazardous waters of the Falls of Bruar, which are situated in a similar terrain close to Pitlochry.

Final Thoughts

The Birks of Aberfeldy is one of my favourite walks in Scotland.

Whilst the walk can be tough if you have lower levels of fitness (like myself!), the sound of the rushing water throughout the walk is so peaceful and the views at the top over the Falls of Moness are mesmerising.

Therefore I would highly recommend walking the Birks of Aberfeldy if you are in the area.

Have you completed the circular walk at the Birks of Aberfeldy? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments!

One thought on “Birks of Aberfeldy & the Falls of Moness: A Guide”

  1. Great article! The first time I walked the Berks of Aberfeldy I realised just how unfit I was! Although as you say there are countless steps, the amazing scenery really does keep you going and make it all worthwhile!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.