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Glen Affric: Enjoying a winter wonderland on Dog Falls Trail

By John Davidson

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Matthew creeps up with a giant snowball...
Matthew creeps up with a giant snowball...

Glen Affric provides a beautiful place to visit whatever the season, but there is something particularly special about winter here.

Transforming into a white wonderland beneath recent snowfall, the tracks and trails leading away from the single-track road that snakes up the glen from Cannich entice the visitor to explore away from the comfort of the car.

I’m often heading for the end of the road when I come to Affric but, on this occasion, I had come with the whole family to explore one of the easier walks that start at the Dog Falls car park.

One or two cars had parked just off the side of the road, presumably not wanting to risk the snowy slope leading down to the main parking area. I paused at the top, but decided it was an easy enough climb back out, so joined a handful of other vehicles down the track.

With boots on and wrapped up against the cold, we started from the large map board that outlines the various walks here.

Clara checks the map panel at the Dog Falls car park.
Clara checks the map panel at the Dog Falls car park.

There are three colour-coded options – a white Viewpoint Trail that leads high up the forest track to a vantage point overlooking the glen to the west, the yellow Coire Loch Trail that visits a secluded lochan in the trees, and the red Dog Falls Trail that crosses the river below a dramatic gorge then climbs through the trees on a fun little trail.

The yellow and red trails can be combined to make a longer walk, but we decided to keep things simple and stick to the shorter red loop today, which is around two miles long. It’s described by Forestry and Land Scotland as “strenuous”, but this really just means that there are uneven paths and some climbs.

It starts by following the red and yellow markers from the car park alongside the River Affric. The path weaves up and down rocky steps and soon crosses the road before continuing to a fingerpost sign leading to the Dog Falls themselves.

There’s a quick out-and-back detour, back over the road, to a fenced viewpoint above the top of the gorge, from where you can see and hear the water tumble down into the abyss. Back at the sign, the path continues a little further to a point where it crosses the road again, dropping down some steps on the far side.

Approaching the snow-covered bridge over the River Affric.
Approaching the snow-covered bridge over the River Affric.

The path here leads down to a fantastic wooden footbridge that was covered in so much snow that Jennifer said she felt like the whole bridge was made out of snow! It was a bit like a scene out of Frozen with this bridge curving across the still water below.

From this high point, we could see back up into the gorge from this wider part of the river, where the water calms after its tumultuous experience just a short distance hence.

On the far side of the bridge our attention was caught by a small bird which flitted in front of Meg, landing on a nearby tree. We watched this little treecreeper as it darted up and down the trunk searching out hidden insects in the bark.

A fork in the path ahead marks the split between the yellow and red routes. We kept right to follow the red markers and climb up an excellent little path that zigzags its way up through the trees and rocks.

The children had warmed up a bit now and were soon lost in a game of “bear prints” – creating bigger and bigger paw prints in the snow using whatever means they could.

Jennifer and Clara playing at bears!
Jennifer and Clara playing at bears!

Matthew also decided throwing as many snowballs at his dad as possible would be a fun way to spend the day, so I became a bit of a target!

We were just pleased they had found a way to occupy themselves that meant they didn’t really notice how much climbing they were doing up through the forest. It was steep in places, but their focus was definitely on the snow rather than the gradient.

A few Smarties at the top helped encourage them even more as we reached the forest track – and the other end of the yellow loop. Our route took us right here, signed towards the car park, although there’s still a bit of distance left along the forest tracks yet.

The snow started falling again as we round the corner, adding to the magic of this spectacular nature reserve.

John and Matthew go head to head!
John and Matthew go head to head!

Further on, the track reaches another junction, where the Affric Kintail Way is signed. To complete the circuit, follow it to the right, going downhill. This is also part of the white Viewpoint Trail, and you can extend the route by going left to the viewpoint before returning to this junction – although this adds on another kilometre or so to the distance.

However, the snow was blowing in from the west now and there was little scope for seeing much from up there today, so we headed downhill on the track, which eventually reaches a vehicle bridge over the river right back at the car park.

Matthew having fun on the paths.
Matthew having fun on the paths.

Route details

Dog Falls circuit

Distance 2 miles / 3km

Terrain Uneven paths with rocky steps; narrow footbridge; forest tracks

Start/finish Dog Falls car park, Glen Affric (no charge in winter, toilets closed)

Map OS Landranger 25; OS Explorer 415

A short walk in a magnificent setting that crosses a dramatic gorge in the heart of Glen Affric

The view from the bridge back up to Dog Falls.
The view from the bridge back up to Dog Falls.

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