THE BIRKS OF ABERFELDY - A LITTLE WALK
'Birks', according to my Chambers 'Pocket Scots Dictionary', is
Scots for 'a small wood consisting mainly of birches'. (Don't
say I don't teach you stuff here.) In my other book (for I have
more than one book at home... I have two!) - an early 20th
century 'Blue Guide' to Scotland - it says: the 'Birks of
Aberfeldy' sung by Burns seem never to have existed, and in the
opinion of some the poet intended to describe Abergeldie, where
birches are plentiful.
Hmm... Burns did spell 'Aberfeldy' as 'Aberfeldie'. And to
make matters slightly more confusing, both 'f' and 'g' are right
beside each other on the keyboard of a typewriter or computer.
ever actually visit the Birks of Aberfeldy, or is there a certain amount of jiggery-pokery going
on here to try to attract tourists?
Well, apparently, he did.
visited Aberfeldy in 1787
during his grand tour of Scotland. The Birks of Aberfeldy was at
that time known as the Den of Moness, a name that brings to mind
ogres with large wooden clubs. He found the woodland gorge with
its thundering waterfalls so captivating that he sat himself on
a stone ledge and penned a verse. In fact, he penned a song, and
the words that he wrote were to be sung to the tune of an old
song titled 'The Birks O' Abergeldie'. Or, at least, just the
chorus. Confused? Me too.
But the truth of the matter does appear to be that
did write the Birks of Aberfeldy, and he did sit on a rock to do
so. Today, you can in fact sit on that very stone ledge - marked
by a plaque - and see the things Burns saw all those years ago.
It's not hard to see why he felt so inspired. The Birks of
Aberfeldy is almost too beautiful for words. The woodland itself
is magical. The Moness Burn that flows through the deep gorge
leaps off steep edges in any number of places to create
And amidst all of nature's splendour you will find a statue of
sat on a bench, pen in hand, no doubt thinking to
himself, 'Now then, is that a 'y' or an 'ie'?'