Walk to Dores on the South Loch Ness Trail
The north side of Loch Ness has the well-established Great Glen Way, which runs from Inverness to Fort William, via Fort Augustus at the south end of the water.
Less well known is the South Loch Ness Trail, opened in 2011, which follows a route on the quieter side of the loch starting from Torbreck on the outskirts of Inverness and going all the way to Fort Augustus.
At 58 kilometres, it offers an alternative route through varied scenery and is less frequented than its better-publicised neighbour – at least for now, though that might change with the imminent launch of the Loch Ness 360 route which will connect the two long-distance paths.
Torbreck and Cullaird Woods have provided popular walking territory for generations of Invernessians. They are within walking distance of my home in the Lochardil area of the city, and while I've used the network of paths seaming through them on many occasions, I'd never explored much further than the boundary.
It was time to remedy that by walking the first section of the South Loch Ness Trail as far as Dores, catching the bus back to Inverness.
There are road-side parking spaces next to Torbreck Woods on the minor road that links the B8082 with the Dores road out of Inverness.
A sign gives details of the trail, but before setting off, stop a few minutes to watch small birds voraciously attacking food put out for them in feeders, filled regularly by some well-meaning nature-lover. You'll see blue tits, coal tits, great tits, chaffinches, siskins and more descending from the surrounding birches to eat their fill. I've been lucky enough to see a crested tit here too.
The trail through the woods and beyond is marked by wooden posts with a squirrel sign on them. Don't be tempted to deviate from the marked route onto the myriad secondary paths branching off it, which can be quite disorientating until you get to know them.
Habitation on the land here stretches back centuries, confirmed not least by the finding of a Bronze Age burial cist six years ago, not far from the path in Cullaird Woods, dated to nearly 2000BC. It contained the remains of a woman aged around 40 and a few artefacts.
The path passes a small pond and crosses a track to head towards the Dores Road. It reaches a track close to the main road, where a squirrel sign has a left-pointing arrow. Follow the track as it passes Cullaird Farm and ascends to a sharp right-hand bend.
With extra height gained now, there are superb views across the fields to the opposite side of the Great Glen. The track is easy to follow and well signed. Soon a junction with another track branching left is reached, and a sign for the circular Trail of the Seven Lochs pointing along it.
This challenging 80-kilometre route, primarily devised for horse riders, provides more walking opportunities on the south side of Loch Ness and takes advantage of the watery landscape above our trail.
Our route continues across heather moorland, passing through gates with notices about stock grazing on the hill, though Rosemary and I saw none during our walk. After about four kilometres the track reaches a minor road with a squirrel sign pointing right, downhill. Follow the road down, passing the Clan Macbain memorial ground, established as a reminder of the clan's once extensive landowning link with the area.
A track on the left is passed, leading to Clune Farm, which would have made a more logical route for the trail – but perhaps there were problems negotiating access. Continue downhill to a small bridge where the road bends left. Further along a blue Sustrans sign indicates the cycle path leading to Dores, which the trail shares.
It skirts round picturesque Aldourie Primary School, where children were entertaining themselves in the playground as we passed, to enter Dores village further on.
On this lovely sunny day we were able to take advantage of some time, before the bus arrived, to eat lunch and walk to the beach alongside the Dores Inn, with a wonderful view down Loch Ness to snow-covered Meall Fuar-mhonaidh.
Buses take in the newly-developed Ness Castle estate, where we disembarked to walk home. If a car has been left at Torbreck Woods, walk across the fields to reach the start point.
South Loch Ness Trail: Torbreck to Dores
Distance 7 miles / 11km
Terrain Tracks, paths, minor road and cycle path
Start/finish Torbreck Woods, Inverness
Maps OS Landranger 26; OS Explorer 416, Inverness, Loch Ness and Culloden
Exploring varied trails from the edge of Inverness that lead to Loch Ness