Tourism chiefs want visitors to fall for our Autumn wonder

WARM red, faded yellow, vivid orange and yet still amid the vibrant shades that spell “autumn”, lush, fresh bursts of emerald green.Is there any season that can really compete with the rich palette of shades that this one brings?

By Sandra Dick
Wednesday, 19th October 2011, 1:03 pm

Now as the thermometer dips and winter nudges closer, a stunning tapestry of colour is gradually emerging across Lothian. Day by day once lush greenery is being replaced by pretty russet tones which, briefly, will blaze with colour before the inevitable November icy blasts rip the last crisp brown leaves from barren branches.

It’s a season for wrapping up warm and marching along woodland paths kicking up fallen foliage. Or sending the kids into the garden to collect leaves on the pretext they can use them to make pretty pictures while, really, you just want the garden tidied.

And it’s a time to savour the remnants of what little sunshine may be left before hunkering down to the long, dark, probably dreich winter.

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Indeed it’s a unique period in the year which Scottish tourist chiefs and guardians of the countryside would like us to embrace more, by leaving the comfort of our centrally heated homes to explore the great outdoors just as they are at their most striking.

Inspired by the multi-million-dollar “leaf peeping” tourist industry in America which sees tourists flock to witness autumn woodland spectacles, VisitScotland has launched a major push aimed at luring tourists to some of our most impressive forest scenes.

And it’s no wonder, for on our doorstep are vibrant swathes of woodland waiting to be explored . . .

To help us all navigate the best autumn colours, the Woodland Trust Scotland has an easy-to-use website which pinpoints the nation’s most luscious autumn colours. In Lothian, they include Beeslack Wood near Penicuik, planted in the mid to late 1800s and dominated by oak, beech, ash and sycamore – all now resplendant in their autumn coats and contrasting with the evergreen pines and spruce. And there’s Pressmennan Wood near Stenton in East Lothian, with its lakeside ancient oak trees, and Butterdean Wood, a lush, mixed woodland ablaze with colour near Gladsmuir.

Normally we have to be quick to catch the best of the season, but this year the good news is that there may be longer to enjoy the spectacle, thanks to what experts have dubbed the leaf equivalent of “fool’s gold”.

“Autumn gold is triggered by fading sunlight and cold temperatures,” says Andrew Fairbairn of Woodland Trust Scotland. “The leaves lose the chlorophyll that makes them green, producing spectacular yellow and red displays of autumn colour. Fool’s autumn gold is different. It’s the trees still struggling to recover from a dry spring. They wilt and drop their leaves early to save water. So this year we might have two separate events that look like autumn – the real one and the fake.”

Professor Tim Sparks, the trust’s nature advisor says by recording what we see we can help chart the climate’s impact. “Autumn is the best season to get out and make the most of our trees and woods, the beautiful reds, browns and golds are an awe-inspiring sight. We’re calling for the public to help us record the changing seasons, which helps inform scientists about the effects of climate change on our native flora and fauna.”

Encouraging families, walkers, cyclists and tourists to make the most of it all is only natural, says John O’Keefe of Scottish Natural Heritage, which runs an outdoor diary website listing autumn countryside events in association with the Forestry Commission ( “Money is tight but families can enjoy the autumn colours without having to drive long distances or spend money when they get there. Autumn is free,” he says.

He recommends simply strolling through the leaves and enjoying the rich colours of hawthorn, hazel, birch, rowan, oak and blackthorn at Hermitage of Braid and the Water of Leith. And for cyclists, John suggests following the National Cycle Network Route 1 from Roseburn to Cramond and beyond to the leafy country estates at Dalmeny and Hopetoun.

It’s not just autumn leaves that make the season special, however. It’s also a time for fungi, conkers, “helicopter” seed pods, migrating birds and busy squirrels. “The maple trees, oaks, sycamore and rowan trees are beautiful. Horse chestnut, beeches and birch have lovely autumn colours,” John adds. “All these lovely things are right on our doorstep with so much going on.”

Scottish Natural Heritage’s Simple Pleasures Easily Found leaflets can be found at Find a wood with help from The Woodland Trust Scotland site,