Birch path

Birch path

This path, often called the ‘blue route’ after its colour on our maps and way-markers, is dedicated to the Scotland’s inaugural First Minister, Donald Dewar. The views from the memorial viewpoint now a little more hemmed in by forest, are still very pretty on a fine day.

The Birch Path offers a gentle stroll beginning at the metal gate which leads to the forestry track, just beyond the visitor centre.

Head through the gap on the right-hand side of the gate and on to the main forestry track - keeping an eye out for adders along the grassy verges here. These beautiful snakes love to bask on warm spring and summer days and are usually active between March and September. You have a very good chance of seeing an adder at Cashel if the conditions are right, but be careful, adders are very easily frightened. Even casting your shadow over an adder might disturb it and repeated disturbance is very harmful to them.

You may wish to keep dogs on a lead at Cashel from early spring to late summer. Curious dogs have been bitten by frightened adders at Cashel in the past. If you think your dog may have been bitten, seek emergency veterinary assistance.

Continue along the forestry track as our route curves gently towards the south.

On your left, pass by some beautifully gnarled old birches, their boughs full of clusters of twigs called witches’ brooms. These twiggy masses don’t seem to bother the birches too much. Despite their supernatural name, they aren’t evidence of a Cashel Coven. They are most likely caused by the fungus Taphrina betulina. We think this adds to their character.

On the right you will see a short stretch of wooden fencing before the path turns away from the forestry track and crosses two small, wooden bridges. Above us are a grand old oaks, reaching across the burn.

Beyond the bridges, on the left, notice a gloriously soggy, squidgy area of mossy, wet birch and alder woodland - a priority habitat for UK biodiversity. Wet woodlands are some of the rarest habitats in the UK.

As you continue along the path heading south, keep an eye out for some superbly characterful old crab apple and hawthorn trees. Hawthorn berries are not tasty raw and crab apples are tiny and extremely sour. With the right treatment however, these ingredients can be made in to the most wonderful, sweet, crab apple and hawthorn jelly, a perfect accompaniment for cheese. Rowan berries, which are also plentiful along this way during the autumn, work well in place of hawthorn too.

As the path continues can you spot some of Cashel’s tall, graceful, aspen trees? If the aspen are in leaf they may seem to shimmer as their leaves quiver and quake at the very slightest breeze. You may even hear their delicate rustling before you see them.

To the right of the path, can you see where our volunteers have been busy thinning the trees to let the light in? Some of the cut trees are stacked to create habitat piles to provide shelter and food for our woodland wildlife. Others are used for a whole host of projects including Halloween broomstick making and den building. For information about volunteering at Cashel, see the volunteering section of this website or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A little further along this path, you may wish to take a quick detour to your left along a spiral path flanked by rowan trees. This leads up to the memorial cairn dedicated to Donald Dewar which nestles among the gorse bushes. These bushes, often called ‘whin’ in Scots, produce bright sunshine-yellow flowers. When the warm sun shines on these flowers they start to smell like coconut - the bees love it! During the winter the prickly gorse bushes provide protective shelter for many of our woodland creatures as well as for newly emerging oaks. Take a deeper look into this tangled thicket to see the many secret, spikey tunnels that provide protection for many of Cashel’s wild creatures.

Returning to the main path, we continue until we see a finger post which points us back to the car park. (If you wish to explore the Aspen or Pine routes you should turn left here) The Birch path turns right. There are young Scots pine on the rise to your left. The red squirrels love to eat the seeds from their cones leaving the pineapple-shaped ‘cores’ behind. Go ahead and have a look, can you find any?

We turn to wander westwards now, down a slope, passing by more of our wet alder, birch and willow woodland with its fluffy, lichen-covered trees. Just beyond the fluffiest and most lichen covered tree we turn a corner to find Cashel’s wildlife pond.

There is a small wooden platform here which you may use to have a closer look. Please be careful, it can get very slippery! What can you see? There is a whole world under the surface waiting to be discovered. Look out for pond dipping sessions happening during the spring and summer season at Cashel, or perhaps have a go by yourself.  https://www.nhbs.com/blog/nhbs-guide-pond-dipping

Please don’t let your dog jump into the pond. It feels a bit mean to say this when the poor pooches are just having fun and trying to cool off, but the mud from the bottom of the pond, and all of the little beasties who live there, get stirred about and mixed up in the water, blocking out the light and causing big problems for all of our pond life. Frogs don’t like getting bounced on, even by the cutest of puppies.

Continuing along the path we trip-trap across another wooden bridge before zig-zagging down the slope between large oak trees. Can you spot any acorns on the ground? These are precious treasure!

The path now runs along the edge of our meadow. Can you see our Scottish heritage apple orchard from the top? If you have time, perhaps you can investigate.

There’s a large picnic barn on your left here too - A very handy place for a snack or a packed lunch when the Scottish weather has turned dreich and dreary.

From here, the path runs through an opening in the fence, down towards the visitor centre. Before you know it, you’re right back to where you started. But are you the same now as you were then?

The Birch Path is more accessible than many routes in the Loch Lomond area, with a firm, even, whinstone-dust surface. There are no steps, styles or tree roots to contend with and the gradients are not steep. The route has regular benches and resting places.


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