Birch trees are beautiful, whatever the time of year. From spring greenery to autumn gold and winter bark tones, there’s always colour and form to appreciate.
Where to go
Scotland’s largest and most widespread birchwoods are in the Highlands and in the north-east. But you can look for these hardy pioneers in places as varied as old industrial spoil heaps near cities and the most remote of northern glens.
Strathspey: Craigellachie overlooking Aviemore. Accessible from the underpass beneath the A9. Broad views across to the Cairngorms. Great spotted woodpecker, chance of peregrine falcon overhead, rock rose on cliffs.
Deeside: Muir of Dinnet between Ballater and Aboyne. Visitor centre at Burn o’ Vat, beside the A97 to Huntly. Mix of birchwood, heathland, lochs (good for wildfowl) and burn. Birches of many shapes and ages, including the aromatic variety ‘odorata’, whose leaves can perfume the air.
North Highland: Ledmore and Migdale between Spinningdale and Bonar Bridge. Brilliant birch expansion on hillsides, part of a landscape-cloaking mix of native trees, including Scots pine, alder, willows and oak close to Migdale Rock.
There are several different species of birch tree in Scotland. Most widespread are the silver birch and downy birch. As is still the case across much of the northern world where birches thrive, many parts of the tree were once used in Scotland to make a range of practical objects, such as drinking vessels and bobbins for use in spinning cotton. There is now fresh interest in using Scottish birch for both furniture and planking.