The Hermitage Woodland Walk is a magical, family-friendly walk through the woods. One of the reasons this Tay Forest Park walk is so fun is that it was once a pleasure ground for the Dukes of Atholl in the 18th century. The Dukes designed the area and planted many of the trees for their personal enjoyment.
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You know a hike is going to be fun when it begins by walking through a deep archway under a train bridge; kids love running through tunnels like this. The archway stones are covered in moss – a small taste of the greenery to come.
The first leg of the hike leads you through a stretch of giant Douglas Fir trees which are some of the tallest trees in the UK. These trees are massive – have your kids stand in front of their trunks to see just how large they are. The surrounding forest is very lush and green, with a canopy of green leaves overhead, moss growing up the sides of trees and ferns everywhere you look.
After 0.6 miles / 1km, you will come to an old stone bridge across the River Braan. On the other side of the river, just downstream of the bridge, is the UK’s tallest tree. It’s kinda gangly looking, but hey – it’s a pretty old tree!
Looking upstream from the bridge is the Black Linn Falls, a powerful, roaring waterfall. The views from the bridge are good, but if you continue along the path for a moment, you’ll come to a building called Ossian’s Hall. The door looks like a permanent barricade but give it a push and it will likely open.
Ossian’s Hall was built in 1757 as a focal point in the Duke’s designed forest. The round balcony at the far end of this historic building is an incredible spot to enjoy the beauty and power of the Black Linn Falls up close.
Just beyond Ossian’s Hall, you will encounter several of the wishing trees found along the trail. Walkers for generations have made a wish as they pushed coins into the bark of these fallen or cut trees. It’s quite an amazing sight; be sure to have some coins for your kids to try!
The forest thins out a bit as you continue along the trail. At the 1.4 mile / 2.2km mark you will arrive at Ossian’s Cave (the hermit’s cave). This damp, little stone hut was built by the 3rd Duke of Atholl in the 1700’s to honor the blind bard Ossian.
Some local kids we talked to called it the Gruffalo cave! This little stone hut is a fun piece of history and is even more fun for kids to explore.
The trail starts to loop back at this point taking a slightly different route on the way back to the carpark. Keep your eyes open for a totem pole and more wishing trees along the way.
In addition to all the fun stuff described so far, kids will also love the Tay Forest Park wildlife. There’s black slugs, frogs and cool looking mushrooms along the trail. The elusive red squirrel and pine martens also call this forest home, but we didn’t see any on our hike. You’ll likely see evidence of the pine martens by the purple poops on the trail. There are also tons of kid-sized rocks and fallen trees for kids to climb on.
There are many trails in this forest; to follow the same route as us, follow the Crown symbol on the signposts. Our trail is also known as “Ossian’s Cave”.
The Hermitage Woodland Walk Stats
Distance: The round-trip distance of this hike is 2.4 miles / 3.9km.
Elevation Gain: This hike is very flat with hardly any noticeable elevation changes. The total elevation change over the course of this hike is a mere 310 feet / 95m.
Difficulty: We’d rate the Hermitage walk as ‘easy’. It’s short, flat and fun. Our 3 & 6 year old’s basically ran the entire way, running from rock-to-rock or tree-to-tree. We saw lots of other families on this popular hike.
Duration: This hike took us 1 hour and 25 minutes to complete, which is much faster than normal for us. Granted it was a pretty easy hike, but the main reason is how much fun the kids were having; they just kept running ahead to see what the next fun thing would be.
The Hermitage Woodland Walk Location
How to Get There: The Hermitage carpark is in the Tay Forest Park, about 30 minutes north of Perth on Highway A9. This is normally a Pay & Display lot, but the meter was broken the day we visited.
It’s also a nice day-trip from Edinburgh as it’s only a 90 minute drive away. It’s also along the way from Edinburgh to the Cairngorms National Park, making it a nice place to stop and take a break.
The Hermitage Woodland Walk Highlights
There are three main highlights of the Hermitage hike, but this walk is much more than the highlights – it’s just an all-around great family walk through a beautiful forest, next to a beautiful river with many fun and interesting things to see along the way.
- For us, the enormity of the Douglas Fir trees was the highlight of this walk. Many of these magnificent trees are nearing their 300th birthday.
- The up-close view of the Black Linn waterfall from the balcony in Ossian’s Hall is amazing. Had the kids not been so excited to keep on hiking, we’d have wanted to linger there a lot longer.
- The Hermitage itself is such a cool element to the hike. It’s historic, very interesting and very simply – a ton of fun.
Hiking The Hermitage with Kids
- There are several portable toilets in the parking lot.
- There are no water stations though, so be sure to fill your hydration packs before leaving home. If you do forget supplies, there is a small snack shack in the parking lot.
- The trail surface on this hike is well groomed, hard packed dirt. It’s a wide track which is great for family walks as it easily allows walking and talking together. Normal shoes are ok for this hike, but if it has rained recently, waterproof hiking shoes would be recommended.
- As always, be prepared for all kinds of weather in Scotland. It was raining when we began this hike, but the sun was out by the time we finished. Be prepared for anything; wear clothing in layers, bring lots of water, sunscreen, rain gear, and something to repel the midges (we were not bothered by midges during our walk).
- You could bring your child in an off-road stroller if you have one, however the most popular way parents bring their small children on hikes in Scotland is to use a carrier. We love this backpack carrier for hiking with babies or toddlers.
- Dogs are allowed on the Hermitage hike.
- There are a lot of kid-sized climbing rocks and fallen trees along this trail. If your kids like to climb rocks (as ours do), they will love this hike.
- Kids will love exploring in and around the tiny Hermitage building but it’s several hundred years old, so please make sure they respect it.
Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
There are many benches along the path where you can stop for a picnic lunch. Or, if you prefer, there are several picnic tables by the snack shack in the parking lot.