Distance – 2.5 miles
Terrain – Forestry paths and tracks, tarmac cycle path and pavements
Maps – OS Explorer 416, Forests of Inverness leaflet from 01463 791575 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Start/finish – Culloden Woods car park, Tower Road, Culloden, Inverness
A superb family walk to start the new year
Seventeen Jacobites are believed to have been shot dead at the Prisoners Stone in the bloody aftermath of the 1746 Battle of Culloden.
Today the eerie boulder is surrounded by little more than dead trees after clear felling has left this part of the woods barren and seemingly lifeless.
It’s a far cry from the rest of this rather less macabre walk through a forest thriving with wildlife and people.
This is, in fact, a perfect place to take the family, with plenty to keep the interest along the way, especially if you take my short detour towards the end to visit the Gruffalo.
There’s a signed Forestry Commission car park just off Tower Road and it’s not unusual to find this teeming with families and dog walkers.
Unfortunately, the information board had been stolen when we got there but we followed the yellow route parallel to the houses down to the left. At a small clearing you get a glimpse across the firth to the Black Isle over the rooftops then, as you follow a hairpin bend up to the right, take a left turn at a couple of marker posts and head up the muddy path on the right.
You soon come to the bridge over the railway which has an interesting, twisted old tree on the far side. Follow the track straight ahead and go straight on at a crossroads further on, signed to St Mary’s Well.
This is a cloutie well, where the tradition persists that if you dip a rag or cloth into the water, then hang it from the branch of a nearby tree, all your ailments and troubles will be transferred to the tree until the rag rots away.
It’s a curious place so worth a look but make sure you hold your nose!
Go back to the cloutie well sign and continue along the main path as if you were turning left when approaching the well. The path rises and dips now as you skirt along the edge of the woods, with the battlefield only a short distance away.
A few trees had fallen along the path since we were last here but all were easy enough to step over without difficulty.
As we emerged from the trees into the barren clearing, we saw a buzzard perched on top of a dead tree trunk. It flew off, battling against the strong blustery wind and heading for the trees.
The path bends left to the Prisoners Stone, and it always strikes me as odd that there’s a bench here. Perhaps it’s to sit and ponder at the deaths of those 17 men.
We continued to meet a vehicle track ahead, where we turned left then right at the sign for Smithton and Culloden, heading back into the shelter of the trees.
The track bends right ahead and goes downhill, reaching an underpass where you cross the railway line again, following the clear track down to the left on the other side.
At the bottom, instead of following the track directly back to the car park, it’s worth adding an extra detour to make this walk a little more entertaining. Go through the green gate on your right and follow the tarmac path alongside the burn to a road, which you cross and follow the cycle path on the opposite side.
This brings you out at a pedestrian crossing, where you go over the road and down the rough path ahead to the gates of the grand Culloden House. Turn left here along Culloden Avenue.
A metal gate welcomes you to this wonderful green corridor, which is an excellent part of the National Cycle Network in Inverness, and has fantastic carvings of wizards, dinosaurs and even the Gruffalo in the woods alongside.
Continue through the underpass until you reach the gate at the far end, then turn left for a short distance to reach the forest entrance. If you follow the little path immediately to the right of the green Culloden Woods sign, you’ll find a great little shortcut straight back into the car park.