Autumn, or the Fall, depending on where you live, always draws me toward one particular place in Scotland; Dunkeld. It's wide variety of different tree species guarantees at this time of year to present an artists palette of colours.
For almost the whole year I have been trying to get away on a Highland camping trip with my two closest friends, Pauline and Andrew. But this year has been predominantly about hospital trips. Originally we had planned an escape at the end of April, but the recovery from a foot operation proved to be longer than expected. Then I went to the States, and, well, you know that story.
So I am still in recovery mode at the moment, but it is the school holidays once again, and as Andrew is a teacher there was another small window of opportunity to have an adventure.
Dunkeld here we come.
We decided, mostly for me, that we would set up camp at a local campground, leave the majority of our kit, then wander the local trails over the Sunday and Monday.
The first day was grey overhead, and the colours of the turning leaves were muted in the flat light. Occasionally the sun threatened to burst through, but it never did.
As we left the village we meandered through the grounds of the cathedral, half of which dates back to the 1400s. Historic Scotland claim it to be Scotlands most romantic cathedral. Though one half is in ruins, the other half is in good order and a working church.
A saunter along the banks of the River Tay took us under the mighty canopies of oak and sycamore, the ground carpeted in their crispy orange and red leaves. Our little route took us round the back of Dunkeld along a path heading for the Loch of Lowes, before dropping down into Dunkeld town from the north.
Loch of Lowes is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, and is a protected wildlife sanctuary. Though it was the wrong time of year for us, in the summer months Osprey fish in the loch. More excitingly a beaver has taken up residence recently.
Instead of cooking our supper in camp we opted for a meal at a local pub called the Taybank. Over a hearty meal and a few glasses of wine we put the world to rights.
The following day there was not a cloud in the sky as we trudged off on a longer walk, albeit just four miles round trip, up the nearby 1,000foot Birnam Hill. Through woods of oak, sycamore, beech and birch we gently climbed the path to the summit, the sun creating shafts of glistening light through the surrounding forest. For me it was unusually tiring, and my legs have most definitely lost their strength over the past few weeks as they trembled on the descent.
However, this was not that much of a problem, as Pauline and Andrew, particularly Andrew, were usually far behind having found yet another subject to photograph from every possible angle. The path down was steeper, through open stands of larch trees, their needles cascading down like a fall of golden snow.
From the bottom of the walk we made a small detour through the village of Birnam and over to the bank of the Tay, to see the Birnam Oak. Thought to be 300 years old and a remnant of the old Birnam Wood, celebrated in Shakespeare's play Macbeth. It is said he gained inspiration during a tour to this area in 1599.
This had been my first foray since going in for surgery, and though I was distracted by the poor level of fitness and occasional dizzy moment, it was good to be back in the foothills of the Highlands.