Scotland in Autumn – where to see the best colours

Scotland in autumn (or ‘The Fall’ if you’re from some places), is a great time to visit. But when will the colours be at their peak? It can be good well into November but varies a little from year to year, depending on frost and windspeeds. Here are some tips on the parts of Scotland that put on a good show of autumn tints.

Scotland in autumn is a good time to visit. All of the tourism literature you are likely to read suggests this. 

In fact, autumn appears to have been invented for the benefit of aspiring tourism copywriters to use as an exercise in over-description.

In short, it’s when ” the stunning scenery is further complemented by a wild array of resplendent ochres, reds, golds and russets…” Yes, yes – we know. You don’t have to tell us every shade. Or maybe you do if you are Scotland’s main tourism agency.

So, as for the autumn colours, let’s just take it as red (ho-ho) that if you time it right, you’ll see plenty of glorious shades, not just in the woodlands, but also the moors and fields.

Some Pictures of Scotland in Autumn

Browse this gallery of some some typical autumn days here in Scotland. It will give you some good ideas of where to go to see autumn colours.

Autumn in Scotland- When Do the leaves colour up?

You know, people write to me about this. And the answer is: it all depends – on wind and weather, obviously, and whether or not there’s been a sharp frost to colour things up, or an October gale to strip the trees.

So, I’m not going to stick my neck out very far on this one. But see the photo of the Trossachs here…

Loch Drunkie distant, Trossachs
This Scotland in autumn pic is dated 1st November. In the hill slopes further off, you can see the larches are still coloured up. The birches (there’s one on the right), still have some leaves, though are probably past their peak. The rowan (I think) in the foreground seems to have shed most of its leaves. Compare this picture to the one below, taken just slightly later in the month – but in a different year.
Autumn near Comrie
Scotland in autumn – west of Comrie, Perthshire. Picture dated November 2 that year. Hmm, probably around peak time – but only for that year, so I’m not going to generalise.

Scotland in Autumn Tour

You could start in Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens, though even city-centre Princes Street Gardens colours up nicely.

Further down is a picture taken up in the moorland of the Pentland Hills, just a few miles from the city – by way of a reminder that Fall color in Scotland isn’t just about trees.

You may even prefer the subtlety of the tweedy shades. (Nah…)

Also, as you will see if you browse the wee gallery on this page, Scotland in autumn is as much about quality of light as it is about displays of leaf colour.

No, wait, who am I trying to kid? Everyone loves the leaves!

Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, autumn colour
It’s a lovely calm autumn day in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. Even in November you can chance upon weather that’s ideal for exploring the city.
Autumn shades in the Pentland Hills
Autumn shades in the Pentland Hills

Perthshire – Great For Autumn Colours

From the Edinburgh area head up to Perthshire. The picture below shows the valley of the River Earn between Crieff and Comrie in Perthshire.

The pleasant little town of Comrie is a good centre if you care to tour west Perthshire, away from the ‘A9 corridor’, the main road northwards.

Having said that, you will find plenty of autumn trees colouring up at places like Dunkeld, on the River Tay, or Blairgowrie further east.

Autumn colours in Strathearn
Looking west up Strathearn, near Comrie, Perthshire. Classic Scotland in autumn!
The Enchanted Forest show near Pitlochry.

Autumn Colour Overkill

– The Enchanted Forest At Pitlochry

If daylight tints of foliage and field are not quite enough, then you could always try the Enchanted Forest, held every year at Pitlochry, Perthshire, for most of the month of October.

It’s basically a very fancy sound and light show.

Very fancy indeed and much enjoyed by enthusiasts of that sort of thing. Tough luck if you’re a wee bird trying to get a bit of shut-eye at the night time roost.

And the owls have to wear sun-glasses. But, hey, it’s an award-winning spectacle and especially suited to families with young-ish children. (Ticket prices look exorbitant, by the way.)

Scotland in Autumn – Royal Deeside well worth a visit

In fact, as an alternative to the A9, you could have a little Highland adventure by taking the A93 north of Blairgowrie by way of Glenshee and The Cairnwell. At the watershed, (a mere) 2198ft / 670m, it’s the highest ‘A-class’ or main road in Scotland.

But the point of going this way is for the downhill run towards Braemar and the beauties of Royal Deeside in autumn. The valley of the River Dee has lots of birchwoods and, time it right, and you’ll find these will have colored up nicely.

You could spend a night or two somewhere along the River Dee and return south over the Cairn o’ Mount.

This is another hill-pass, not as high as the Cairnwell Pass but this one has a fine view south-eastwards towards the sea.

Beware of stags in autumn - apparently
Stags do not attack humans as a rule. Personally, I wouldn’t give this notice a moment’s thought.

Certainly, there are fine woodlands on the way but I’d like you to get out of your vehicle at the top – there is a car-park – and listen. Time it right and you should hear the roaring of red deer stags.

Basically, in Scotland in autumn, these big male deer challenge each other, their antlers interlocked and rattling, to see who gets the most females. 

 It’s a really evocative sound of Highland Scotland.

Listen out for the bellowing coming from the hills and moors around. Oh, and it’s quite safe.

You’ll be absolutely fine walking on the moors in autumn, though personally I would avoid wearing antlers.

Having said that, naturally, if on higher ground, check if there is any deer-stalking being carried out.

The very occasional (and ridiculous) notice about worrying about stags is just to make you think it’s dangerous and prevent you from exercising your legal right to roam.

Where Should You Go To See The Best Autumn Colours?

In summary: start with, say, somewhere near Killiecrankie, off the main A9 road. (Actually, just about anywhere in Perthshire is good.) The upper stretches of Deeside, especially between Ballater and Braemar, can also colour up nicely.

The same applies to river woodland along the River Spey, say, towards Craigellachie. And , as you can see from pictures here, upper Strathearn, the Crieff and Comrie area, are pretty spectacular.

Then there is The Trossachs…in fact, there are lots more places. These are just a few suggestions to start you off…

The autumn mini-tour described above basically goes Edinburgh, Perthshire, Deeside and back – and is just one way of seeing Scotland in the Fall.

Autumn and the old Craigellachie Bridge, Moray.
Scotland in Autumn. The River Spey at the old Craigellachie Bridge, Moray.

You could extend it by following the valley of the River Spey into Scotland’s ‘whisky country’ – plenty of birchwoods there. Or take in the Trossachs and possibly Loch Lomond in the west, or the Atlantic oakwoods of Argyll. These all make good autumn tours.

Or if the days are getting short, then take a look at the suggested winter tour of Scotland. Gosh, so many options…. and it was nice of you to read all the way to the foot of the page.