Falls of Moness (Birks of Aberfeldy)

Aberfeldy, Highland Perthshire, Scotland

Rating: 2     Difficulty: 3
The Upper Falls of Moness in the Birks of Aberfeldy; made famous in a poem by Robert Burns

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INTRODUCTION

The Falls of Moness were a series of waterfalls on the Moness Burn in the Birks of Aberfeldy (Birches of Aberfeldy), which was also made famous in a poem by Scottish poet Robert Burns. We did a loop hike that took in the main waterfalls on the Moness Burn though I felt that the hike was really more of a nature walk to try to sense the kind of scenery that might have inspired Burns in his writings than it was about waterfalling. And indeed, we felt that our morning stroll through the crisp air of the Birks of Aberfeldy was very tranquil even though we were hit on and off with a bit of rain during our visit.

Of course with all this reverence for Robert Burns (or Rabbie Burns), I was naturally curious to see why he was so respected and adopted as Scotland's cultural icon as well as being referred to with monikers like Scotland's favourite son, the Bard, or the Ploughman Poet. So it turned out that Burns (whose time was during the French Revolution in the late 18th century) was credited with pioneering the Romantic movement while also being a source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism. His writings covered a lot of political themes like Scottish patriotism and identity, anticlericalism, hypocrisies of class structures, etc. as well as the popularizing of Scottish whisky, and even the romanticism of Nature in Scotland such as the Birks of Aberfeldy. It was said the emotional highs and lows of his style plus his mastery of both the English and Scots languages made his writings more relatable and digestible to a broader public. Indeed, this guy was influential even well after his death in 1796.

Julie and Tahia on the way to completing the loop hike in the Birks of Aberfeldy with views to boot Anyhow, we began our loop hike through the Birks of Aberfeldy from the upper Aberfeldy car park (see directions below). From there, we followed an obvious trail along the Moness Burn before veering left across a bridge then following along the eastern banks of the burn (meaning we would be doing the hike in a clockwise manner). At about 15 minutes into the hike (before it really started to climb), we saw a statue of Robert Burns sitting on a bench deep in thought with a pad and pen in hand. The trail then generally went uphill though it did undulate quite a bit so it was a fairly non-trivial hike, especially since we made our daughter walk (as opposed to me carrying her the whole way).

As we continued climbing on this side of the trail, about 20 minutes after the Burns statue, we then saw the so-called Burn's Cave, which was where Robert Burns was said to have been inspired to write the Birks of Aberfeldy. The cave looked like a very nice and tranquil alcove to just sit and listen to the neighboring cascade falling next to the trail, and it was pretty easy to see why Burns would be so inspired here. Speaking of the cascade, it was a fairly tall but thin waterfall on a side brook that provided that ambient sound of falling water to complement the birdsongs and rustling of leaves while further drowning out the other worries or thoughts that tend to pre-occupy you until Nature reminds you what's relevant.

The trail continued climbing steeply up more steps and slopes as we rose higher above the gorge cut forth by the Moness Burn. And it wasn't until about another 20 minutes later when we would finally see the Upper Falls of Moness. At this point, we had climbed about 150m from the car park, attesting to the amount of uphill walking we had done to this point. The view of the falls itself was mostly obstructed thanks to overgrowth from below. While we were still able to see most of the falls, the overgrowth conspired to make the falls appear smaller than they really were in our photos (see photo at the top of this page). There was also a verse from Burn's poem on display here.

Beyond the waterfall, the trail climbed a little bit more before descending towards the bridge right above the waterfall. And from that point on, the trail then looped back towards the car park in a general downhill trajectory on the west bank of the Moness Burn. Along the way, we managed to get a glimpse of the neighboring hills and pastures around Aberfeldy through the trees, and we'd ultimately return to the familiar trailhead and car park after nearly 2 hours away from the car. Underscoring the tranquility of the experience, we only encountered one individual hiker who did the same hike we did in reverse as well as a family who started their hike not much earlier than when we were about to end our excursion. Indeed, it was tranquil and relaxing; just the way I'd imagine Burns would have experienced it.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

View from the trail of the surrounding hills and pastures in the vicinity of AberfeldyView from the trail of the surrounding hills and pastures in the vicinity of Aberfeldy
Aberfeldy was about a 90-minute drive northwest of Edinburgh, which itself was a tremendous mix of charm, Medieval history, atmosphere, and energy; as shown here at the Royal MileAberfeldy was about a 90-minute drive northwest of Edinburgh, which itself was a tremendous mix of charm, Medieval history, atmosphere, and energy; as shown here at the Royal Mile
Roughly 71 miles southwest of Aberfeldy was Glasgow, which had its own energetic vibe and sense of charm as shown here at the grand St George SquareRoughly 71 miles southwest of Aberfeldy was Glasgow, which had its own energetic vibe and sense of charm as shown here at the grand St George Square
Roughly 46 miles south of Aberfeldy was Stirling, which was famous for the Stirling Castle; shown here is a view from the castle towards the William 'Braveheart' Wallace MemorialRoughly 46 miles south of Aberfeldy was Stirling, which was famous for the Stirling Castle; shown here is a view from the castle towards the William 'Braveheart' Wallace Memorial
The Upper Aberfeldy Car ParkThe Upper Aberfeldy Car Park

Julie and Tahia about to cross a bridge traversing the Moness Burn so we'd be hiking the loop clockwiseJulie and Tahia about to cross a bridge traversing the Moness Burn so we'd be hiking the loop clockwise

A tiny cascade on the Moness BurnA tiny cascade on the Moness Burn

Julie and Tahia following the well-developed trail alongside the Moness BurnJulie and Tahia following the well-developed trail alongside the Moness Burn

Julie and Tahia approaching the Robert Burns statue sitting on a benchJulie and Tahia approaching the Robert Burns statue sitting on a bench

Tahia and Julie still climbing on the trail through the Birks of AberfeldyTahia and Julie still climbing on the trail through the Birks of Aberfeldy

We started to see more rock walls as the scenery became more dramatic the further up the birks we went.  Note that it also started raining, which was why everyone had rain gear onWe started to see more rock walls as the scenery became more dramatic the further up the birks we went. Note that it also started raining, which was why everyone had rain gear on

There were the odd small cascades both feeding the burn as well as on the Moness Burn itselfThere were the odd small cascades both feeding the burn as well as on the Moness Burn itself

Looking towards another side cascade alongside the trailLooking towards another side cascade alongside the trail

The trail continued to climb uphillThe trail continued to climb uphill

This was the so-called Burns Cave, which was where Robert Burns himself was said to have been inspired to write the Birks of AberfeldyThis was the so-called Burns Cave, which was where Robert Burns himself was said to have been inspired to write the Birks of Aberfeldy

This was another side cascade alongside the trail near the Burns CaveThis was another side cascade alongside the trail near the Burns Cave

This was another side cascade seen as we continued our climb up through the Birks of AberfeldyThis was another side cascade seen as we continued our climb up through the Birks of Aberfeldy

This was yet another side cascade seen along the trailThis was yet another side cascade seen along the trail

The narrow boardwalk helped to keep the footing tame, but note the steps coming up.  Yep, we had to do even more climbing!The narrow boardwalk helped to keep the footing tame, but note the steps coming up. Yep, we had to do even more climbing!

After a little over an hour on the trail, we finally got to see the Upper Falls of Moness, which was the main waterfall on this excursionAfter a little over an hour on the trail, we finally got to see the Upper Falls of Moness, which was the main waterfall on this excursion

A closer examination of the Upper Falls of MonessA closer examination of the Upper Falls of Moness

Tahia and Julie continuing on the loop hike past the Upper Falls of Moness viewTahia and Julie continuing on the loop hike past the Upper Falls of Moness view

Julie and Tahia on the bridge above the Upper Falls of MonessJulie and Tahia on the bridge above the Upper Falls of Moness

Looking down over the Upper Falls of Moness from the footbridge above itLooking down over the Upper Falls of Moness from the footbridge above it

Now, it was pretty much downhill hiking the rest of the wayNow, it was pretty much downhill hiking the rest of the way

Continuing the downhill hike as we got lower in the birksContinuing the downhill hike as we got lower in the birks

We finally made it back to the Upper Aberfeldy car parkWe finally made it back to the Upper Aberfeldy car park


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Examining a small cascade and the cave that was said to be where Robert Burns was inspired to write the Birks of Aberfeldy


Focused on the main Falls of Moness


Top down sweep from the bridge above Falls of Moness


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

From Edinburgh, we drove the A90 out of the city center to the M90 across the Firth of Forth (about 13 miles or so). Then, we continued on the M90 until it ended at the outskirts of Perth (nearly 30 miles from the start of the motorway). We then continued driving north on the A9 for about 14 miles to the town of Birnam, where we then turned left onto the A822 road. We'd follow the A822 road for about 7.5 miles, then veer right onto the A826 road for just under 9 miles as we entered the outskirts of the town of Aberfeldy.

Turning left onto a short single-lane road, we then followed this road to its end at the Upper Aberfeldy Car Park. Overall, this 75-mile drive took us about 90 minutes.

Coming from the other direction in Pitlochry, we'd take the A9 road south for just under 6 miles before turning right onto the A827 road. We'd then follow the A827 road about 9.5 miles into the town of Aberfeldy before turning left onto Crieff Road. After about 0.2 miles on Crieff Road, the turnoff for the Upper Aberfeldy car park would be on the right. This route would probably take about a half-hour.

For further context, Aberfeldy was 47 miles (under 90 minutes drive) north of Stirling and 100 miles (over 2 hours drive) south of Inverness.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES





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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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