The start of our Scottish walking holiday...
As I got out of the car at the airport I couldn’t help but grumble to my mum and my travel companion, Emma, who had somehow convinced me to leave my big hoody back at home. It may have only been 7am but it was already a dreary looking day, with the kind of wind that sends a chill down your spine and it had just begun to rain. Just a few hours later, however, I was more than happy that the only hoody I had planned to take with me was still lying on my bed at home. Emma and I had just arrived into what was actually a sunny Scotland (no, I didn’t know that existed either). And so, knowing that we had left behind an incredibly bleak looking England (and that, in that moment at least, my hoody was deemed unnecessary) my spirits were already higher. Settling into the back of the taxi, I pulled my sunglasses down so that I could stop squinting at the landscape that was passing us by and prepared to enjoy what I had already decided would be an incredible holiday in the sunny Highlands.
We weren’t in the taxi long before our chirpy driver announced that we had arrived at our destination. It wasn’t anywhere scenic or exciting but it was the Arnold Clark hire centre. And what our arrival there did mean was that we were about to pick up our hire car, a car that would allow us to complete the road trip through the Highlands that we had planned. Trying to find a hire company that didn’t want to charge me (an under 25-year-old) a thousand pounds plus to drive a car around Scotland for five days had been a complete nightmare. So, as we sat waiting to have the details finalised I was nervous, to say the least. I was convinced that at the last minute they were going to tell us that I couldn’t actually drive the car, despite having been driving for years without any incidents so, when I was handed the keys just a few minutes later, I was filled with relief. Until I saw the size of the car anyway. I’m used to driving a small Volkswagen Golf and the sight of the Vauxhall Mokka filled me with dread but we were told with glee “you’ve paid the waiver so drive it like you stole it”.
And with that our Scottish walking holiday began!
After getting over my initial fears of driving the giant car we had been provided with, it turned out to be an absolute godsend and it made my 13-year-old car seem like a clunky heap of metal when I returned home. But I digress, as the car made it easy to visit a number of places, we took full advantage of it and enjoyed a number of walks near the Highlands capital, Inverness, during our 5 day trip to Scotland.
So, to help you plan your own Highland hiking holiday, I’ve put together a bit of a walking itinerary, complete with information about all of the walks we enjoyed near Inverness during our visit to Scotland:
Walk the Knock Farrel Ridge Circular Walk
Just a few minutes outside of Strathpeffer you will find the Blackmuir Woods Forestry Carpark. Upon parking up in the free car park, grab yourself a map from the Forestry Commision board as there are a few shorter walks you may enjoy within the woods themselves afterwards. But then, simply leave the carpark behind and follow the signs along the paths to the spine of the ridge. The circular walk will bring you back via the Touchstone Maze, located in the depths of Blackmuir Woods, before directing you into the carpark once more.
This is a relatively easy walk to complete and is one of the few low-level walks in the Highlands that still provides you with some spectacular views. That said, however, a lot of the walk is done on muddy footpaths and so it can be slippy in wet weather. Wearing appropriate hiking gear, or at least a good pair of walking boots, would be advised!
On a good day, walkers can catch a glimpse of Ben Wyvis, the Monadhliaths and the Cromarty and Moray Firths and you’ll more than likely pass a number of dog walkers on your way along the ridge. On a bad day, like the one that we visited on, you’ll see little else other than the ground in front of you but it’s a nice walk none-the-less.
Walk the trails at Rogie Falls
Just down the road from Blackmuir Woods, you’ll find Rogie Falls. There are two different walks you can head off on and we decided to do both in order to enjoy panoramic views of the waterfalls.
Get up close to the Rogie waterfall on the newly installed suspension bridge that will take you over the Black Water River. Or, opt for the longer walk which will take you through the woods and along the river to various viewpoints of the falls and Raven’s Crag.
It’s a scenic route and will probably take you twice as long as the Forestry Commission leaflets tell you it will purely because you’ll want to stop every few seconds to take another photo of the waterfalls.
Take a picnic blanket and set yourself down somewhere along the edge of the river to enjoy a gorgeous view while you have your lunch.
Try the Silverbridge to Little Garve Circular Walk
The circular walk at Little Garve was perhaps my favourite walk near Inverness. The trails take you through woodlands, to the banks of the Black Water River and across two picturesque stone bridges, so come rain or shine this is a walk that will provide you with plenty to see. On the day we visited the weather was very much on our side, and it was quite simply stunning.
If you’re lucky you might also spot otters beside the river or brown trout in some of the calmer areas of the river. Whether you spot any additional wildlife or not, however, you’ll be in for a treat on this walk as the river is made up of several small but spectacular waterfalls all the way along.
This walk is also perfectly located for those also wanting to explore Rogie Falls and Blackmuir Wood, which is what we did!
Walk to the Fairy Glen in Rosemarkie
If you’re searching for a bit of magic in Scotland than one of the best walks you can do close to Inverness is to the Fairy Glen in Rosemarkie.
Once said to be the scene of a ceremony where children of the village decorated the pool with flowers as a way of ensuring the fairies kept the water supply clean, the Rosemarkie Fairy Glen is as enchanting as it sounds.
While the walk itself is fairly easy, the paths are just mud tracks and there are some steps you have to climb which could become a bit treacherous in wet weather. If you are able to reach the end of the path, you’ll find yourself gawking at two small but stunning waterfalls.
The woodlands are full of surprises of their own, from small trinkets hanging from the trees to tree stumps that are covered in pennies that have been cut into them. Keep your eyes open while you’re walking, otherwise, you’ll miss these little elements that bring the magic of the area together.
Discover the magic for yourself by printing off these walk instructions.
Visit Glen Affric
I would argue that Glen Affric was the most beautiful place we visited whilst road tripping around the Scottish Highlands. The area is perfect for anyone wanting to leave behind the modern world as you’ll get absolutely no phone signal while in the National Park.
Glen Affric is home to a number of beautiful sights, including Plodda Falls, River Affric, and the Am Meallan Viewpoint so it’s best to set aside an entire day if you’d like to see all of the main sights in the area.
Stop for a moment at Plodda Falls
Located within the Glen Affric National Park is Plodda Falls. Thrillseekers (or unexpecting visitors such as Emma and I) can step out onto the viewing platform located on one of the walks through the woodlands. If you’re brave enough then you’ll find yourself stood above the Douglas Firs, staring down at the vertical cascade into the Abhainn Deabhag. And if you’re unsuspecting like we were, then you’ll find your legs go to jelly at that moment.
Once safely back on solid land, follow the main trail along to arrive at the base of the 46 metres waterfall. There are plenty of tracks that will take you among the gorgeous wooded area, and with picnic benches dotted around you’ll be able to enjoy a quick lunch by the river too.
This was yet another place that we visited that is looked after by the Forestry Commision, so if you're after more information on the walks you can find it on their website here.
Walk along the River Affric
If you’re visiting Glen Affric then you absolutely must head on to the final viewpoint. At the end of the public road, you’ll find the trees fall back and the road opens up to present you with a mountainous backdrop like no other. Standing, staring out across the Glen Affric, you’ll be forgiven for feeling as though you’ve just arrived into the wilderness of America. Especially as Glen Affric is also home to golden eagles, mountain hares, and red deer – all of which can be seen if you’re lucky enough to arrive at the right time!
There are two different walking trails to enjoy once you’ve parked up. The River Affric Trail will take you down to the banks of the River Affric and you also have the option to follow the rocky path right to the edge of the river – which I would recommend if you’re surefooted enough as it provides some gorgeous views.
Meanwhile, the Am Meallan Viewpoint Trail will take you up through the birch trees to a viewpoint that looks out across the Loch Affric to the mountainous landscape on the horizon. There’s a little wall that you can sit on, and you’ll want to in order to truly soak up the sights you’re seeing before descending back to the carpark.
Glen Affric was one of the places that we stumbled upon by accident (by getting lost) but it was worth it! If you'd like to try out some of the walks that we did in the National Park, the Forestry Commission has plenty of information on their website here.
When we booked our trip to Scotland, we knew that we were going to be in for a treat but what we were faced with was like nothing we had ever dreamed of. Mountains, lochs, and sightings of Highland cows and Red Deer made our five-day walking holiday extra special. It’s safe to say that we will be heading back to explore more of the Scottish Highlands, as our walks in and around Inverness ignited a love for Scotland that we had not expected to leave with.
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