Doon Hill is a small wooded rise near Aberfoyle, nothing like the scale of Craigmore. It makes a great walk for most abilities and has plenty of opportunities for photos. Add in a fairy story and you’ve got a winner for the whole family. Details after the jump…
There are a number of ways of reaching Doon Hill. Our favourite is to park in the main car park at Aberfoyle (free parking at the last visit) and walk in along Manse Road and through Kirkton.
Before setting off on this walk, it’s worth knowing something of the fairy story I mentioned before, which centres around the Reverend Robert Kirk. I’ve read a few variations of the story and I’m not in a position to suggest which is the most accurate account (or even how much, if any, is true), but a shortened version goes something like this…
The Reverend Kirk wrote a book called “The Secret Commonwealth of Elves and Faeries” in 1691. Believing he had the power to see fairies, Kirk wrote his book as a scientific study providing many details of their lives; the fairies were angered by Kirk revealing their secrets. In 1692 Kirk reportedly disappeared while walking on Doon Hill, his spirit trapped by the fairies in the pine tree at the summit of the hill, which itself is a gateway to their realm. A body was found but this was supposed to be a doppelganger rather than Kirk. His grave exists in the cemetery (see below) but this is thought to be empty.
Now you can believe as much or as little of this as you like, but it doesn’t half make it an interesting background for a walk with young children. And whether it’s a result of supernatural forces or not, the hill certainly has a special atmosphere on the climb.
Along Manse Road on the left is Kirkton Cemetery. This may not be the first choice of photographic location for a lot of people, but provided you work with the necessary respect you should be able to find some suitable subjects. Interesting features include the gates, Robert Kirk’s gravestone, the ruined kirk (church) and the grave safes outside the door of the church, which were apparently used to prevent body snatching for medical research. There are also views of the surrounding area over the graveyard.
From the churchyard, continue south until the first junction then take the first left turn, following the marker posts. Quarter of a mile further on, there is a large sign pointing to small path up through the deciduous wood. The climb is relatively gentle at first, steepening towards the end with some steps and the path narrows in places. Less than quarter of a mile from the forest track you will find yourself emerging on at the top of the hill.
OK, summit is a bit of strong word for a hill whose highest point is 77m above sea level. But the top is where most of the fairy action happens. I’ve seen a really nice photo of this area but always found the “fairy gifts” messy and distracting. But it’s great fun for young children to bring their gift and leave it for the fairies – we always choose something that will be reasonable for the local wildlife to eat and at very worst is biodegradable!
In the surrounding woods, there are plenty of details to be found. The moss was found on a log on the ascent, the wood sorrel in a small recess in the trunk of a tree on the descent.
There are options for the rest of your journey from here. You can retrace your steps and head straight back to Aberfoyle. Or you can head south from the hill into the forest for an extended walk (such as a loop via Lemahamish) or create a loop by returning to Aberfoyle via the footbridge at NS530999. If you do choose to head south along the forest track, there are plenty more details to find, such as this dog rose.
This is one of the locations where I think those with young children can combine some great family time with an opportunity to fit in some photography (on a similar theme, you might also find some of the points in Family Outing relevant). This is a firm and repeat favourite with my family – it could be for yours too.