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All things hiking Suggested things to do

Have you already walked the West Highland Way?

If you’ve already done the West Highland Way, you might be on the lookout for a new challenge.

Scotland is criss-crossed with public rights of way and is blessed with world-beating access legislation. It can make the choice of what to do next more complicated. We’ve picked out some alternatives for you here. Some of the options we’ve listed below may require you to have a wee bit more familiarity with navigational skills, than you might have needed on the West Highland Way.

  1. The Lairig Ghru

is a high mountain pass through the center of the Cairngorms National Park. It is a minimum of 19 miles and you can walk it over 1 or 2 days. The main difficulty with the Lairig Ghru is not the length of the walk but the logistics. You can start the walk from either end, close to Braemar or close to Aviemore. However, there are no roads which run through the middle of the Cairngorms National Park. To return to your starting point, you will need to travel for hours by public transport via Aberdeen or Perth.

Alternatively, you could book our Lairig Ghru Logistics package and we will take care of everything except the walking for you. All you need to do is to book your transport to and from Aviemore. We will pick you up from Aviemore (if you’re travelling up by train), transfer you to Fraoch Lodge, feed you, give you a comfy bed and take you round to the start of the walk, then we’ll stay in touch with you so we can be at the end of the walk to meet you. We’ll take you back to Fraoch Lodge, feed you again.

If you would like to take a guide for the Lairig Ghru trip we can also organise this for you.

Self Guided Lairig Ghru Logistics

Self-guided Lairig Ghru logistics

2. Great Glen Way

The Great Glen Way is almost an extension of the West Highland Way. It runs from Fort William to Inverness. It is 79 miles long and for those of you who don’t know, the Great Glen is home to both the Caledonian Canal and Loch Ness.

There’s a high route alternative which gives a bird’s eye view down on to Loch Ness, but is probably too far away to spot Nessie without very powerful binoculars.

Top Tip: Stop in at the Loch Ness Clayworks tea room. Watch out for midgies if you sit outside on a still day. It’s a lovely peaceful spot above Drumnadochit and if you have a wee space in your pack, the pottery Rebecca produces is lovely. (We have several examples here at Fraoch Lodge.)

It is relatively easy to arrange to walk the Great Glen Way on your own. However, if you prefer the security of knowing that everything is arranged, you can always contact a company like MacsAdventures. MacsAdventures specialise in arranging self-guided long-distance walks for their customers

If you would like to cycle the Great Glen way, we would recommend speaking to “Ticket To Ride” who are based in Inverness. Ticket to Ride can either provide a specialised bike taxi service if you have your own bike, or they can arrange bike hire/a self-guided biking adventure for the whole route.

Loch Ness

Visit Loch Ness

Moray Coast route.

3. Moray Coast route (approx 23 hours walking time)

The Moray coastal route is only about 50 miles long and is equally accessible to cyclists.

This route has marvellous landscapes from rugged cliffs, caves and sheltered coves to fishertown harbours and sweeping stretches of sandy beaches. Moray has a coastline alive with wildlife that would be the envy of many other regions in Britain. Many visitors are drawn by the resident bottlenose dolphin population or by the abundant bird life found along the rugged cliffs.

The Moray Coast has great variety in scenery, and you will always be rewarded with great views out over the Moray Firth. The coastline has great wilderness quality with imposing cliffs and rare plants, but is never far from civilisation. The path links a number of attractive coastal villages and towns, with quaint harbours and extensive services and accommodation.

The route abounds with history. You can see the fishing heritage of the coastal settlements at a number of local museums and the ice houses of Tugnet and Findhorn. Burghead has the remains of a Pictish fort and harbour warehouses designed by Thomas Telford.

TIP: Some of the route is on hard surfaces, particularly in and around the villages, which can be hard on the feet. Personally I would recommend this route as a bike ride. Scot Mountain Holidays can help with the logistics if you have a minimum of 2 people interested in walking or cycling this route.

Moray coastal path

Playing on the beach at Findhorn

4. South Loch Ness Way (50km)

This route is on my hit list to do on our mountain bikes. If you choose to do this route, you’ll find it much quieter than the other side of Loch Ness. For this route you’ll need a slightly higher level of fitness as the path is more undulating.

Main advantage: you’ll well away from the main A82 and the crowds who visit Drumnadrochit.

If the weather is in your favour, you’ll have amazing views not only of Loch Ness, but also of the mountains behind. Take a look at the Walkhighlands page for the route. The pictures there are inspiring. Can’t wait to follow this route in the Spring. Only issue – as with all long distance path is co-ordinating the pick up and drop off at the ends of the route, but the public city buses run from Inverness to Dores (one of our favourite spots on the south side of the loch.

south loch ness path

Loch Ness from the shore at Dores

5. Speyside Way (116km)

This is the long distance path for whisky lovers. I forget how many distilleries you’ll pass but really you can hardly walk any of the sections without passing a distillery. Unfortunately some of them are not open to visitors, like Knockando, but if you’re prepared to make some small detours you can visit distilleries like Cardhu.

The Way is not exclusively about distilleries though. You’ll also pass through some classic Caledonian Pine Forests on the sections between Aviemore and Grantown on Spey with plenty of opportunities to forage for wild berries (raspberries and bilberries) and mushrooms (particularly chanterelles in the summer).

NB Carrbridge is currently undergoing consultation to install a path which will connect the village to the Speyside Way. Watch this space for more details.

There area already several options to extend the Speyside Way or even to turn it into a loop. You can connect with the Moray Coastal Path, the Dava Way, the Tomintoul Spur, and the Badenoch Way. Quite a diverse option which plenty of opportunities to customise your walk. You can even add in little diversions like a visit to Knockando Wool Mill (a favourite spot of ours) or the Cooperage (where they make the whisky barrels) or Ballindalloch Castle.

whisky tour

A cooper hard at work repairing casks at the Speyside Cooperage

Recommended places to eat:

The Copper Dog (at the Craigellachie Hotel), the Mashed Tun (in Aberlour), Knockando Wool Mill (for a light lunch or cake stop), the High Street Merchant (in Grantown on Spey), Nethy House – cafe with rooms (Nethybridge), the 1896 Gallery in Boat of Garten and the Old Bridge Inn in Aviemore.

Or for a more adventurous alternative: Get off the Beaten Track

A completely customisable, tailor-made adventure which starts with one day of guided exploration or navigation training in the Cairngorms. From here you can take your adventure where you please – more guided days, tours or supported exploring under your own guidance. Call us to discuss or for a quote. Check out some of the other experiences which guests have opted for from their bucket lists.

For guided adventures check out our full programme

self-guided walking in the Highlands: Boat of Garten to Carrbridge loop

Boat of Garten – Carrbridge and back

Description:
Self-guided walking in the Highlands is how a great number of our visitors choose to explore the area. On this route the paths are good all the way and are seldom muddy (boots advised, though). Dogs welcome (on the lead for a few metres at Docharn Farm). Ceps and chanterelles may be seen in season…
Refreshments and toilets at each end of the walk;and the Landmark Centre at Carrbridge and the Steam Railway operating at Boat of Garten provide interest for all ages. It’s also a great family day out…

Stage 1:

The walk starts from Fraoch Lodge. At the end of our drive turn left and head up the road out of the village. On the edge of the village you will find the school path which runs parallel to the road up to the junction with the A95.

Stage 2:

At the junction you will follow the cycle route no 7 signs across the A95 heading up the narrow road through the hamlet of Chapelton. Follow the road round a corner to a cattle grid which you will cross; at which point the tarmac ends and the road turns into a farm track leading to Docharn Farm.

Stage 3:

The track leads you through the farm buildings of Docharn Farm where you will have spectacular views across the high peaks of the northern Cairngorms. The corries of Braeriach and Cairngorm will be clearly visible on a sunny day. Docharn Farm is not now lived in but used to be run as a smallholding and B&B by friends of ours who produced eggs, raspberries, strawberries, courgettes and tomatoes aplenty.

Stage 4:

After the farm you will reach a gate, the path can be muddy here. You will go through this gate and the next two gates continuing straight ahead as the path descends into the woods.

Stage 5:

As you follow the path down through the woods it will take you down to a junction near the B9153 which leads into Carrbridge.

Stage 6:

Turn right at the junction, away from the road, and continue to the edge of the wood. Soon you will cross a little wooden bridge and re-enter the trees. Stay on this path for half a mile to reach a gate at the other end of the wood.

Stage 7:

Go through the gate until you come to the tarmac road (Carr Road). Turn left onto the road and continue until you reach the main village. You’ll see the Landmark Forest Adventure centre up to your left, Carrbridge Kitchen and Carrbridge Bakery Tearoom are to your right close to the old bridge of Carr which spans the Dulnain river, an impressive sight at any time, but particularly when the river is in spate. The bridge is celebrating its 300th birthday in 2017. If you don’t have a picnic with you, you might want to consider stopping in Carrbridge for your lunch. Both Carrbridge Kitchen and The Bakery Tearoom do great food.

Carrbridge

The 18th century packhorse bridge of Carrbridge

Stage 8:

There is an altenative route into Carr woods to avoid too much road walking but if you’d like to go down to the bridge to take a look it probably makes sense to continue to follow the road next to the river, up to the station, under the railway and the A9 and on to the Sluggan Bridge footpath. The path is clearly indicated. This is also one of the prettiest sections of the route so do take this option if you can.

Stage 9:

After your diversion to Sluggan Bridge, you will come back up to the main road, a little further along than you left it. Across the road you will see another path through a gate. Take this track which you will follow almost all the way back to Boat of Garten.

Slogan bridge

The Sluggan bridge

Stage 10:

You will pass a path junction and a crossroads of paths but each time continue straight ahead until you reach a stream which you need to ford on stepping stones. Take care here. You may need to use a stick for stability.

self-guided walking in the Highlands

Stepping stones here to help keep your feet dry, but walking poles will probably be useful too

Stage 11:

After the stream the track continues a little to the left and then climbs steadily uphill. Again continue straight ahead and eventually you will pass over a cattle grid.

self-guided walking in the Highlands

General Wade believed in getting from A to B along the straightest route possible.

Stage 12:

About 1km after the cattle grid there is a path to the left, after a crossroads. Take the path to the left, which is slightly more grassy and overgrown. This will lead to Kinveachy Estate cottages. Follow the GPS track and the map indicated carefully until you reach the tarmac track down to the A9.

Stage 13:

At the tarmac track, turn left and descend to the A9. Be very careful here as this is a very busy main road. Cross the A9 and descend on the small road past a keeper’s cottage. Be careful to walk on the right hand side of the road so that you are facing any oncoming traffic.

At the bottom of the road you will cross another road and head towards the cycle track which is slightly to the right of where you reach the Carrbridge road.

Stage 14:

Follow the cycle route towards Boat of Garten. This track will take you all the way back into the village past Big Husky Lodge and Deshar Primary School until you see Fraoch Lodge on your right.

self-guided walking in the Highlands

If you’re lucky you’ll pass the wee herd of Heelan Coo next to the road for a photo shoot.

Links:

Self-guided walking week in the Cairngorms National park

The Old Ways: General Wade’s Military road

Slochd Military Road

Outlander: Jacobite walks in the Highlands – Ruthven Barracks and Glen Tromie

Even today, many walks in the Highlands of Scotland have a historical focus. Ruthven barracks stands abandoned on a hill surrounded by the nature reserve of Insh Marshes. It serves as a monument to the last major civil uprising and pitched battle on British soil. It witnessed both Jacobite success and Jacobite failure. This is where the last remnants of the Jacobite forces regrouped after the battle of Culloden, preparing the make a last stand – only to hear that they had been deserted by their commander in chief – Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Outlander walk in the Highlands

Ruthven Barracks – a redcoat stronghold in the heart of Jacobite country, destroyed by Jacobites in 1746

The barracks were built after the 1715 rising to control the Highlanders but were attacked and taken by the Jacobite rebels led by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745. The site itself has a much longer history than this but there is not much evidence now of it’s previous history.

The walk: Ruthven Barracks as one of many walks in the Highlands

Stage 1:

Park in the parking area for Ruthven Barracks. At the top of the car park there is a farm gate which you need to go through to access the track. Follow the track up and bear right behind a stone wall, following the grassy track upwards.

walk Highlands

Looking back from the track leading to Glen Tromie from Ruthven Barracks

Stage 2:

Continue ahead as the track heads upwards and passes between 2 small hills. When you see the track heading towards the right to a ruined house, continue straight ahead passing a tree on the right. At this point you’ll need to go through a wooden farm gate before heading onto the open moorland ahead. Follow a wee path, much less distinct than the previous track. The path will continue across grassy and heathery ground to a more distinct tract rising diagonally across the wee hill opposite. The ground here can sometimes be wet.

Stage 3:

Cross a small stream here on the stepping stones and join a wider path heading up the hill and slightly to the right. The path climbs gently but doesn’t quite reach the summit of Beinn Bhuidhe (yellow mountain). You’ll get a good view of Kingussie behind you from this point.

For a relatively short distance here the path is very boggy and waterlogged. If you manage to bypass it without getting wet feet, you’ll be doing very well. The boggy ground seems to cover the whole area. You’ll also probably need to keep to the heather at the side of the path in places in order to keep your fft dry. After a while the path will more indistinct but is marked by a series of stone cairns. At this point you’ll pretty much be at the high point and will have views down the other side of the hill you’ve been climbing.

Stage 4:

Just before you go into the Woods of Glentromie, you’ll have to climb a high stile over a deer fence.

walk in the HIghlands

Crossing the stile over the deer fence

Cross this stile and follow the path into the woodland, which makes a nice change from the moor and heather you’ve been walking through up until this point. The path weaves downhill and can be wet at times. You’ll also need to bypass a couple of fallen trees at points.

walk in the Highlands

One method of crossing the fallen trees – they are much easier to cross but if you’re 8 you have to climb!

Eventually the path reaches a smaller stile and then goes left and crosses a larger stile to emerge onto a road. Turn left and follow the road past a house and over the River Tromie.

Following the Badenoch Way

Stage 5:

After the bridge turn left and follow the road down Glen Tromie eventually reaching the B970 at Tromie Bridge.

Turn left at the road and cross the bridge. Immediately turn right through a wooden gate into the RSPB reserve Tromie Bridge Meadow. This makes up part of the long distance route, the Badenoch Way. This section of the route follows markers with white circles. The route follows a grassy track through woods and then around the edge of the meadow next to the River Tromie.

walk in the Highlands

Entry gate to join the Badenoch Way and the nature walk close to Tromie Mills.

Tromie Mills, a very well-kept distillery is visible on the other side of the river, but you never really get a good enough view from the path for a particularly good photo.  Climb up a gentle bank and pass through a kissing gate marked nature trail. Follow the path next to a wall and then turn left uphill following the white markers.

Stage 6:

You’ll cross some sparse birch woods with heather underfoot on a clear path along a small ridge. It’s a delightful section of the route. Keep following the white circular markers and pass through another kissing gate.

Turn right at a small marker post and then cross a vehicular track and go through a small gate. Continue on the path and pass through another gate and you soon reach a sign where you can make a diversion to a good viewpoint and picnic area.

To continue on the trail turn left at this sign and follow the path as it contours along the edge of the higher ground above the Insh Marshes. It passes through a gate and over a footbridge just after the diversion down to Invertromie Hide. Just before the carpark there is an information centre about the birdlife on the reserve. Continue down to the parking area and turn left and left again to emerge onto the B970.

walk in the Highlands

Ruthven Barracks up close and personal

Scot Mountain Holidays option:

If you are following this route as part of our self-guided itinerary (it is not currently one of the selected routes but is an optional extra), we will arrange to pick you up at this car park at the designated finish time and return you to Fraoch Lodge for tea and cake before relaxing and enjoying a lovely evening meal with us.

at Fraoch Lodge

Everyone loves an open fire, almost as much entertainment as the TV

If you are walking this route independently you will still have a hike of 1km along the road back to the Ruthven Barracks car park.

 

Further reading

The history of Ruthven Barracks

http://www.castlesfortsbattles.co.uk/highland/ruthven_barracks.html

http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/kingussie/ruthvenbarracks/

https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/ruthven-barracks/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/scottishhistory/union/trails_union_ruthven.shtml

 

It’s all about the gear for hiking Scotland

Whether you are caught in a white-out, needing to navigate trails or provide emergency first aid, it is imperative hikers are properly equipped on their Highland adventures. Otherwise we would rely too heavily on Mountain Rescue for preventative emergencies!

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Keeping gear dry is a must. Photo courtesy of Complete Cairngorms participant, Alison Hedley

Here in Scotland’s Highlands the terrain and weather can be deceptive as our tallest peak Ben Nevis is 1,345 metres. However, the tree line in Scotland begins around 6-800 metres. Higher winds and colder and changeable weather thus occur lower down in Scotland at the same severity. This means, effectively, the environment you get at 600 metres is the same at 3,000 metres in the Alps.

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Some Full moon Snow-hole Expedition gear: snow shovel, ice axe, trekking pole, rope, rucksack

Finding the right fit for hiking Scotland

To protect ourselves from Scotland weather we prepare with the proper gear. Cioch Outdoor Clothing is a Scottish based manufacturer on the Isle of Skye, and along with being comfortable and durable they also provide excellent customer service.

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Wild Knoydart: walkers know the value of a good pack!

Nikwax Analogy material made to measure by Cioch and Páramo clothing, an ethical manufacturer, are favourites of Andy. He values these for their waterproof and windproof properties, essential to weathering Scotland’s worst. Many are surprised by the severity of “wind chill”.  (Wind chill is the effect of the wind in cold weather, which makes the actual temperature feel so much colder than the thermometer records.) Wind chill creates a high risk of hypothermia. Extra layers are a must.

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Andy in a Nikwax Analogy smock jacket by Páramo

Key features: never go without a map and compass, and pay special attention to foot care. Proper walking boots are essential. In general the heavier the boot, the more equipped you will be, and stiffer boots are best for dealing with snow.

Scotland - ATTA - Adventure Travel World Summit

Scotland – ATTA – Adventure Travel World Summit; Spirit of the Cairngorms. Compass for navigation.

Navigating the market

How does Gore-Tex compare to its competitors? Do you need to splurge on expensive gear for a single trip? Our resident guide Andy Bateman is an expert in questions like these.

Scotland - ATTA - Adventure Travel World Summit

Scotland – ATTA – Adventure Travel World Summit; Spirit of the Cairngorms. A bike you can depend on

We provide advice on the kit you will need, because the best gear makes you forget the job it is doing, and leaves you to soak in your adventures instead.

The Cairngorms with kids – on foot

The advantage of the Cairngorms with kids in tow is that the walking opportunities are almost endless at all levels depending on your child’s level of interest and energy. Almost every village in the Park has had a network of paths put in with the support of the National Park to give both locals and vistors extensive opportunties to explore through the woods, across the moorland, around the lochs etc. And if you want to do a wee bit more of an adventure you could try one of the Treasure Trails or try the permanent orienteering course at Glenmore.

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There’s as wide a range of walks to do with the kids as you have time for here in the Cairngorms and the majority of the walks are circular so you don’t have to retrace your footprints. Walks vary in length but the majority are aimed at being no more than a half day’s activity so you could also do something else with the rest of the day – visit a castle, see Dolphins, go to Landmark Forest Adventure Park, go for a wild swim or a swim/slide in the swimming pool, try another activity, visit the polar bears and tigers at the Wildlife Park ….. The plethora of opportunities mean that we have trouble understanding why anyone would only want to spend one night with us; but perhaps not everyone is into the scenery and the outdoors.

Turn walking into an adventure

Treasure Trails have produced a series of mystery/adventure stories where you solve the clues/puzzles along your walking route. The trails are available all over the UK, even in the Cairngorms National Park. We have a stock of the local trails here at Fraoch Lodge so if you want to spice up a local walk instead of just admiring the scenery and seeing what nature you can spot (giant anthills, ripe bilberries, raspberries, mushrooms, red squirrels etc) you can try one of these trails or purchase your own from http://www.treasuretrails.co.uk/scotland-northeast/things-to-do.html There are trails available in Aviemore, Kingussie, Newtonmore, Forres & Grantown on Spey among others – all of which are easily accessible from our base in Boat of Garten.

The best nature trails and scenic walks for kids

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Loch an Eilean – voted Britain’s most popular picnic spot. The Loch is a very attractive spot with a ruined castle on it. The path around the loch is a forest path. There are rocks and tree roots along the way but then that’s nature. The root is not really suitable for push chairs but can be managed by relatively young children. Full details are available on the link provided.

Craigellachie Nature Reserve – a lovely wee walk for all the family which passes a wee lochan and can be extended up the hill if the enthusiasm is there.

Loch Garten and Loch Mallachie – Just a wee stretch of the legs, but in season the break can be extended to include either a loop through the forest or visit to the RSPB visitor centre (open Apr – Aug) to see the Ospreys.

The Green Lochan

Farleitter Crag and Uath Lochans – This route must be access by car as there is no public transport down Glen Feshie.

Pattack Falls

The best waymarked routes near or in Boat of Garten

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There are several way marked routes in the woods behind Fraoch Lodge and they are all marked out. You can even see the Capercaillie statue made from wood with the help of the pupils at the school. We also have a woodland ranger who leads walks and produces a blog for the village (on the website). The walks have a minimal charge associated with them but are extremely informative. Examples of the routes are: The Salmon trail – or the Red Squirrel trail.

Further details:

Walks around Boat of Garten woods – no transport required as these can all be accessed from our front door

Information about the Boat of Garten area

The Speyside Way (sections)

1. Boat of Garten to Aviemore – This is a lovely section of the Speyside Way which if done from Boat to Aviemore means you’re facing the Cairngorm Mountains the whole way and if you’re lucky the steam train will puff past you as you walk. The route comes into Aviemore past the Spey Valley Golf Course and Cairngorm Brewery before getting close to the centre of Aviemore.

2. Boat of Garten to Nethybridge (or extend to Grantown on Spey) – the main problem with extending the walk through to Grantown on Spey is the number of gates you have to go through along the way – but you never know that could turn it into more of an adventure for the kids. There are also several fixed information points through Balliefurth Farm explaining a little more about the countryside and the bonus is that you’ll come down to Grantown past Spey Valley Smokehouse where you can view the workers producing packs of smoked salmon to be distributed across the country.

Anagach Woods in Grantown on Spey – http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/cairngorms/anagach-woods.shtml

Glenmore to Aviemore – can be accessed by bus. Ask for details while staying at Fraoch Lodge.

For confident navigators to get off the beaten track

Ord Ban – http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/sub2000/ord-ban

Carn Eilrig – see Andy for route description and full details. May be for older kids or for a bike/hike combination.

High Mountain routes the kids can do

Meall a’Bhucaille – http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/cairngorms/meallabhuachaille.shtml

Cairngorm – from the ski car park to the summit. Children from age 5 or 6 can probably manage this walk on a fine day. The bonus is that they or all of you can summit your/their first munro without actually climbing up 3000ft.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. A great many other options are available. Andy will be very happy to discuss with you as many options as  you wish when you come to stay. He’ll then be able to tailor all his suggestions to your experience, ambitions and weather.

For some other options which you may like to read about before you visit, you could always try the Walk Highlands website. We have worked closely with Helen and Paul Webster who run the site. They too are experts on the walking opportunties in this area as they live in Grantown on Spey.

 

 

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