Distance 4km/2.5 miles Ascent 50m/165ft Time 1-2 hours Grading Easy
October nearly at an end, in search of some autumnal colour, I found myself draw to Den of Fowlis, a beautiful, slender wooded ravine blessed with the liveliest of wee streams.
Tucked away in the Angus countryside, just a few miles west of Dundee, it is a real hidden gem, one of those out of the way spots that despite its obvious charms does not attract too many visitors.
It is not, however, without its fans. Dundee’s favourite wordsmith, William McGonagall, was one of the first to wax lyrical about the leafy glade, describing it as a ‘very magnificent spot’ in his poem, The Den o’Fowlis.
He added: ‘Tis most lovely to see the trees arched overhead, and the little rivulet rolling o’er its pebbly bed’.
Thanks to recent spells of heavy rain, when I descended into the den, the ‘little rivulet’ was rolling quite energetically over its ‘pebbly bed’, adding to the challenge of traversing the flow at three points along its course where the crossings are, if anything, rather quirky.
Setting off from the car park in the centre of Fowlis, passing a green with an information board outlining a little of the village’s history, I wandered east along Kirk Road, passing the community’s 15th century church, one of the best surviving examples of a small medieval kirk in Scotland.
Where the road leaves Fowlis, a grassy path branches right, descending the edge of a field into the den where ash, oak, elm and birch line the burn as it tumbles down through the narrow valley. Banks cloaked in mosses and ferns, in May bluebells bloom here and during the summer months the pungent aroma of wild garlic fills the air.
Despite the arrival of autumn, the scene was still reassuringly green as I tramped downstream, sheltered by the arching trees.
Rounding a corner, it was not long before the path decided it wanted to skip from one side of the burn to the other. To facilitate this move there are stepping stones of sorts – a line of chubby quad bike tyres strung out across the water.
Filled with rubble they are stable enough, although with the water level higher than normal I did not escape completely unscathed and, with one slightly damp foot, trotted on through a delightfully leafy tunnel.
The trail flits back across the Fowlis Burn at another set of partially submerged tyres and there is a third crossing to negotiate – this time a more traditional line of stone – before the way emerges from the trees.
Reluctant to leave the den and unable to proceed any further down it, I crossed the stream a final time, a sturdy stone bridge ensuring I made it over without incident, and followed Gray Den road east to Liff.
Heading up through the village, I joined Fowlis Road for the return, a handy field-edge path taking me off the tarmac for the short hike home.
1, Exit car park on to Benvie Road, bear right to junction, turn left and proceed east along Kirk Road to the edge of the village.
2. At speed derestriction sign, turn right and descend field-edge path into Den of Fowlis. Bearing left, follow path south through den to meet Gray Den road.
3. Emerging on to road, turn left, crossing Fowlis Burn, and follow road east to Liff.
4. Go left up Church Road.
5. Go left along Fowlis Road to edge of village.
6. Branch left off road on to field-edge path (signed Fowlis) and follow this back to Fowlis.
Terrain Low-level route through woodland and over farmland, following paths and rural roads. Stout footwear recommended as the path through the den can be muddy underfoot.
Start/finish Fowlis Easter public car park at the junction of Kirk Road and Benvie Road, Fowlis (Grid ref: NO 321335)
Map Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger 53; Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer 380