LAST month we learned the Scots pine is to be designated the country’s national tree, and a fine species it is, gracing glens across the land and defining some of the great swathes of open countryside we can enjoy.
However, and I don’t wish to seem curmudgeonly, for me the birch has to take top honour for any tree growing in Scotland. It is not particularly large but it epitomises the hardy nature of the great outdoors. Birch can pop up, isolated, on crags or form woodland on lower slopes.
But it is the longevity that really makes me admire this tree. Their leaves remain stubbornly fixed to branches until only a handful remain in December and just when the last ones have fallen the signs of new growth emerge.
Just now, they appear stark with their spindly branches but look closely, especially when there are many of them grouped together in a wood, and a purple hue can be seen on the furthest tips. On a crisp, sunny winter’s day birch woodland can deliver a spray of purple across a hillside, long before the first tips of snowdrops emerge from the ground.
So, admire the Scots pine but take time to enjoy the birch – many of which are seen on this short walk.
DISTANCE 1∫ miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED 160ft.
TIME 1 hour.
MAP OS Landranger 57.
PARK The Little Drum Car Park is by the side of the A821 four and a half miles west of Kilmahog and a mile before the centre of Brig o’ Turk village.
IN SUMMARY Leave the car park by a path starting next to an information board. Instead of carrying on to cross a road after about 20 yards, bear right to follow a path through woods.
The path drops to a ford over a burn then rises quite steeply. Ignore a path on the right, then one on the left, to drop down to a junction where you go straight ahead. Go through a metal gate and follow a track down and out of the woodland to a meadow. Walk to the far side of the meadow to reach the shore of Loch Venachar.
Return, by the metal gate, to the junction and go right to walk past a wooden play house and through birch.
At a junction of paths go right to take another diversion (especially if you have young children with you) to reach Troll Rock. A sign informs the walker that it is “Clack”, a troll who sleeps by day but wanders about at night.
Return to the junction and keep right to drop down before rising up again. The path goes left, passes a bench and a small wooden play fort before reaching another junction, passed earlier. Go right here to drop down to the ford over the burn and retrace your steps to the car park.
REFRESH The Byre Inn, on the other side of the Brig o’ Turk is well worth a visit. The Brig o’ Turk Tearoom opens in spring.
WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA If you have ever fancied trying fly fishing but thought it beyond you, try Venachar Lochside, just over a mile along the A821 towards Kilmahog (www.venachar-lochside.com), where beginners can get some tuition. It is also a good place to eat. n