Walks in the Highlands
With a landscape rich in lochs, rivers, glens and forests, and edged with miles of pristine coastline, the Highlands is a region that begs to be explored – and what better way to soak up the scenery than on foot? But walking in the Highlands doesn’t need to be strenuous – if you’re looking for something gentler than hill walking and Munro bagging, there are plenty of coastal, woodland, river and loch walks near Gael Holiday Homes self catering accommodation that are perfect for a leisurely stroll.
Whether you’re looking for a low level forest walk for all the family or a peaceful place in which to unwind, here are some wonderful walks in the Highlands where you can discover magnificent waterfalls and historic sites, explore ancient pine forest and sandy beaches, enjoy tranquil loch circuits and, of course, try to spot the local wildlife.
If you’re staying in a self catering apartment in Inverness, a lovely walk on your doorstep is a circuit along the River Ness to Ness Islands, where you can cross the river and return to the city centre. With several bridges along the river, you can make the walk as long as you like (you can even extend it out to the Caledonian Canal).
To the west of the city you’ll find Craig Phadrig – a gentle hill walk to the site of an Iron Age fort, with wonderful views over the Beauly Firth. There are a number of different forest walks that lead up to the summit and the circuit takes around an hour.
Further out of Inverness, on the south side of Loch Ness, there is a beautiful walk to the Falls of Foyers – a waterfall that plummets 140 feet before spilling into the loch. You can extend the short walk to the falls by continuing down to Loch Ness and then looping back up hill.
The Black Isle
North of Inverness lies the Black Isle (not an island in fact, but a penisula) with a host of beautiful walks.
Just across the Kessock Bridge there is a scenic woodland circuit at Ord Hill, with a viewpoint looking back across the bridge towards Inverness. You can choose either the low level walk around the hill or the gentle ascent up to the summit.
Chanonry Point, between Fortrose and Rosemarkie, is a well-known dolphin watching spot. A scenic coastal walk, and a great way to try to spot the world’s largest bottlenose dolphins, is to park at Rosemarkie Beach and walk along the beach to Chanonry Point. (You could also park at the point itself).
Also near Rosemarkie you’ll find the Fairy Glen, where you can walk through a wooded glen to two sets of twin waterfalls.
For a longer, more challenging walk, you could head north for the Cromarty Coastal Circuit, which takes 2 and a half to 3 and a half hours and includes two steep sections (but is perfect for basking in soothing coastal scenery).
Gorgeous Glen Affric is a National Nature Reserve with a number of forest walks to discover and spectacular scenery in which to immerse yourself. Follow the trail at River Affric, flanked by mountains; walk the Plodda Falls loop; follow a short trail to Dog Falls or extend the walk by following the longer Dog Falls Trail (or you could walk from the Dog Falls car park to the viewpoint and back, which takes around 50 minutes).
A holiday cottage in Aviemore is a great base for exploring the heart of the UK’s largest National Park.
The flat circuit around Loch Morlich offers views of the Cairngorm Mountains and is edged by a sandy beach and a tranquil pine forest (which you can also explore on foot). The picturesque loop takes around 2 hours and is marked by dark red marker posts. Enjoy the views of the surrounding area from all angles as you walk around this stunning loch.
Loch an Eilein in the Rothiemurchas Estate is another idyllic, and flat, loch circuit, which also takes around 2 hours. The loch is situated in the Rothiemurchas Forest, one of the largest remaining sections of ancient Caledonian Forest, and is a peaceful place in which to enjoy mountain and loch scenery. It is also home to 13th century castle ruins, situated on an island in the loch.
For another walk in the Caledonian Forest, you could take the lovely 2 hour trail in the Rothiemurchas Forest to the Iron Bridge.
South of Tain you’ll find the Black Rock Gorge walk at Evanton, which leads through woodland to a gorge that was featured in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The walk starts from the centre of Evanton and follows a track up to the river and on to the narrow gorge, which you can view from a wooden footbridge.
Strathpeffer and Dingwall
For those holidaying in the Strathpeffer area, make sure you take a trip out to beautiful Rogie Falls. You can follow either the Salmon Trail, the shorter route to the waterfall, or the Riverside Trail, an extension of the Salmon walk that continues alongside the inky river pools before returning back through the pinewood.
Near Garve you’ll find the picturesque Silverbridge Riverside walk which leads through woodland on the banks of the Black Water river. The walk takes you over two old stone bridges, the first was part of an ancient drove route for taking cattle south and the second was built as part of a military road in 1752.
Dornoch and Sutherland
Whilst on holiday in Dornoch explore the long stretch of Dornoch Beach, a great place for spotting sea birds and seals.
In the summer months you can often see salmon leaping up the Falls of Shin. There are two viewing points and a waymarked riverside trail, which returns past the Visitor Centre and through woodland for views across the glen.
The Raven’s Rock Gorge walk is another pleasant forest walk that leads to a gorge. The walk takes around 45 minutes, and takes you across a wooden board walk next to the river, before continuing to a seat and viewing area. Keep an eye out for the bear sculpture.
North West Highlands
There are many breathtaking coastal walks to be found in the North West Highlands which offer sweeping views of the islands and the rugged west coast landscape. In the Gairloch area you could take the family on the short Gruinard Bay and the Eas Dubh Falls walk, which features a stunning sandy beach and a pretty waterfall.
For a longer walk, the Mellon Udrigle beach circuit takes 1 to 2 hours along the coastline north of the beach, with spectacular views to Assynt and the Summer Isles.
Further north there are a number of wonderful walks to discover, such as Clachtoll Beach and the Broch, a short walk with spellbinding coastal views. After visiting this idyllic beach, the walk leads over a stile to the right, past a former salmon-fishing bothy and on to the ruins of an Iron Age Broch.
For something quite special you could take the ferry from Tarbet in North Sutherland to Handa Island (in the summer months), a nature reserve run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust. It is a wonderful place to walk with beautiful beaches in the south of the island and cliffs and Great Stack in the north.
Moray and Speyside
If you love nothing more than a refreshing coastal walk you’ll be spoilt for choice in the Moray area. The Moray Coastal Trail stretches 50 miles from Findhorn to Cullen, and takes in a string lovely beaches, picturesque harbours and cliff top views. Stroll along the long sandy beaches at Findhorn and Roseisle, with views out to the Moray Firth, and explore the beaches at both Hopeman and Lossiemouth.
There are a number of tracks to discover in the Culbin Forest, a pine forest that stretches down to reach the sandy shores of the Moray Firth. Take the Hill 99 Trail for an easy 2 hour walk through this magical forest and take in views of the area from its tower.