ACTIVE OUTDOORS: Invertromie wildlife trail offers a return to nature near Kingussie
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On a stretch of the Spey between Kingussie and Kincraig, the river’s floodplain is being managed to allow it to play its natural part in the landscape, creating a variety of wetland habitats for birds and other wildlife in the process.
The River Tromie, meanwhile, brings more water from the mountains above to join the Spey, crashing below the Tromie Bridge on its way.
This is a spot I have been familiar with for years, and one that gives access to any number of routes into the wild country to the south – through the Gaick and Minigaig passes, Glen Feshie and up onto the hills themselves.
But other than brief forays along the well-made path from the bridge towards Ruthven Barracks, I hadn’t explored much more here at Invertromie.
This time, I was happy to slow down and wander through the RSPB reserve, popping into the wildlife hides and seeing what we could see.
From the car park, we first headed past a gate and down the track to see the Lookout Hide. This was completely destroyed by fire in June 2022 but has been rebuilt – it’s possible to access the viewing platform on top now but the hide is still listed as closed due to fire damage and was inaccessible on our recent visit.
A couple of birdwatchers were keeping their eyes on something through their telescopic lenses, but it wasn’t easy to see what as we admired the view over the pools and bogs that make up the 10-kilometre-square reserve.
Turning back along a path, we returned to the start of the walk proper, signed to Invertromie Hide on the Invertromie Trail. We headed through a wooden barrier and immediately turned left onto a narrower trail.
There are views across the marshes to the Monadhliath mountains beyond, and the trail creeps along the edge of fields beside the trees. Clara and I decided to detour down to the Invertromie Hide while the others continued along the main path through the winter sunshine.
The hide is tucked away at the bottom of a narrow, steep path with stone steeps, and was slippery with ice on our visit. Opening the door, the hide was empty, giving us our own eye-level view over the marshes.
With only a pair of binoculars, we didn’t spot a lot of wildlife today, but there were two or three whooper swans in the distance. The marshes are, though, home to large populations of breeding waders, including curlews, lapwings, redshanks and snipes. Goldeneye and osprey can also be seen at Insh Marshes, as well as roe deer.
After climbing back up to the path, we continued along the route, through a stand of aspen trees which was beautifully lit by the sun’s low rays, then across the open moor.
At a corner ahead, we took an out-and-back route to the picnic area and viewpoint – although it was too chilly to pause for long, so we quickly turned and continued on our way. Matthew was running ahead as we came to a vehicle track that offers a shortcut back to the start.
We ignored that option and continued on the path ahead, which climbs and meanders through the woodland then – after pausing at a nice bench overlooking Invertromie where a friendly robin was patiently waiting for some crumbs – goes along a ridge above the river catchment.
Further on the path bends sharply left to go downhill towards a drystone dyke. A fork offers an option to visit the old graveyard, so I quickly dashed that way while the others waited.
Invertromie graveyard - Cille nan Ceatharnach - dates back at least to the 1800s and is the only burial ground on an RSPB reserve. The site is being restored and research done to unearth more about its history.
Catching up with the others, we soon passed a gate and entered the Tromie Meadow – a managed wildflower meadow sitting alongside a bend in the river. It was little more than a frost-covered grassy area today, but this site is home to five species of orchids including the rare small white orchid. It would look like a whole different world in the summer.
Following the grass path around the outside of the field, we headed up towards Tromie Bridge – you can head off the path to get a better look, but be careful for steep drops in this craggy area with the fast-flowing river below.
The path leads up to a gate beside the road – go through here then through another gate to follow a path back towards Invertromie and Ruthven. This accessible path makes a lovely route in itself, as it makes its way through open woodland with views to the hills ahead, passing through a small parking area at one point before the final stretch past the farm at Torcroy to reach the Insh Marshes car park.
Distance 3 miles / 5km
Terrain Paths and trails, some are narrow and steep in places
Start/finish RSPB Insh Marshes nature reserve car park, off B970 a short distance west of Ruthven Barracks, near Kingussie
Map OS Landranger 35; OS Explorer OL56
A gentle walk around the RSPB reserve at Insh Marshes, visiting bird hides and a wildflower meadow