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ACTIVE OUTDOORS: Inspired by noble aims on Abriachan forest trail

By Rachel Smart

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The view from the summit.
The view from the summit.

Nestled in the hills above Loch Ness lies an unsuspecting educational forest walk. Two of my colleagues, Iona and James, and myself decided to take a day out to Abriachan Forest.

Looking for a little bit of grounding in nature after a week at our laptops, we were eager to breathe in some fresh air and get lost – but hopefully not too lost – in the trees.

From Inverness, we headed out on the A82 towards Drumnadrochit until we saw the signpost to Abriachan on the right. The steep road took us to the hamlet of Abriachan and the car park at Abriachan Forest Trust. There are also eco toilets and a picnic area here.

We first set out on a walk around the forest’s accessible lower trail, which led us past wooden artworks and signs displaying the UN’s Global Goals.

It was set up a group called the Cluster Changemakers during Covid, which included individuals and groups of young people from Sutherland, Ullapool and Abriachan.

Pictures displaying the Global Goals.
Pictures displaying the Global Goals.

They saw the Global Goals as something we should all be thinking about and wanted to display all the practical ways we can relate to them.

The United Nations' Global Goals, also known as the Sustainable Development Goals or Agenda 2030, are a set of 17 interconnected goals designed to make the world a fairer, healthier, happier and more sustainable place for everyone by 2030.

It includes goals such as: no poverty; zero hunger; good health and wellbeing; and reduced inequalities.

All 17 of the Global Goals stations on the trail are are matched with a QR code, to find out more information. The young people have also created an online gallery which highlights animals and landscapes which are endangered.

They also made mosaics that brighten up the trail and highlight problems of gender equality around the world, and peace messenger birds for the peace trail.

James posing like they would have in prehistoric times.
James posing like they would have in prehistoric times.

The hope is that visitors will be inspired to start their own ideas for change.

It was certainly inspiring as each turn we took around the trail led us to a new piece of information. It’s not something we perhaps talk about in day-to-day life, but to see it on a walk in the middle of the Highlands was thought-provoking.

We wormed our way around until we came to a bird-watching shed sitting over Loch Laide. Here we saw some birds – please don’t ask me what kind – taking off across the still waters and we enjoyed a moment of silence.

We stumbled across a very large tree house, too, that honestly I could see myself living in! It’s large and suitable for adults! So on a rainy day I think it would be the perfect place to take a flask and a book and listen to the peaceful sound of the rain.

After this, we decided we had a bit more energy within us so decided to take a wander up to the summit of the hill above the forest.

We passed by a replica of the prehistoric Highland roundhouse which was reconstructed on the site after the original was destroyed in an accidental fire in 2020.

It was nice to see this against the backdrop of the Global Goals, intertwining the old with the new.

We then set off in the direction of the summit of Carn na Leitire. It passes through forest spaces, to steps before coming out to the clearing on a moor.

The impressive tree house.
The impressive tree house.

It was steep at points but enjoyable and was suitable for Iona and I who are both novice walkers. James stormed ahead as he is a Munro bagger and this feat was but a Tellytubbie hill for him!

We soon reached the top which was blustery and refreshing and we laid our wee pebbles on the cairn. Taking in the vista we had views over Loch Laide and Loch Ness on the horizon.

We decided that we would head back the way we came rather than going on the longer trail which leads to the Great Glen Way.

Sauntering our way down the hill we enjoyed the greenery and tranquility of the area.

After the hill and with it being a relatively warm day outside we decided that we would go for a dip in Loch Ness after the walk.

So we all bundled back in the car and made our way down the twisty track towards Lochend.

Iona decided to skip the swim and James and I paddled our way into the water. It was definitely not warm but refreshing and exhilarating as my skin turned from white to a healthy shade of red.

Little miss sass – Iona – commented that I looked like a McDonald’s sign as I wrapped my yellow towel around me!

With some grumbling bellies now and a slight chill in our bodies we went in search of something warm to eat…

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