A snowy circuit on the South Loch Ness Trail near Inverness
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One thing lockdown has done is make me look for more inventive local walks, scouring maps to find new routes.
Having done the South Loch Ness Trail as far as Dores, I scrutinised the Inverness map and devised a variation, taking us to and from home in a circuit.
The snow may have disappeared now, but the settled spell of high pressure last month gave Rosemary and me the ideal opportunity to try this walk.
Dry, brilliantly sunny and cold, with no wind and glistening white snow everywhere, the conditions were perfect.
Our walk began with a stroll through Lochardil Woods to the Essich roundabout, where we crossed onto the orbital footpath around the houses opposite, diverting down a narrow path into Holm Dell woods. A woodpecker was hammering away at a tree as we descended, though try as I might I couldn't spot it.
Once in the Dell, a left turn took us to the Torbreck road, where the water under the bridge over the Holm Burn had frozen into giant, meringue-like mounds.
We crossed the bridge and turned right along the track leading to the ever expanding Ness Castle housing estate, cutting off after a short way along into a field once used for grazing, but now probably under threat of yet more housing development.
I've wondered for some time where all the people to occupy these new houses come from and where do they work? As we crossed the field a roe deer bounded across in front of us and entered the trees on the other side. Wildlife is inevitably being displaced by the plethora of buildings.
At the edge of the field we walked round the metal barriers fencing off the ongoing housing development work. This route is well used by local people and I sincerely hope access will be maintained in the future.
Crossing fields brought us to the Torbreck road again and the start of the South Loch Ness Trail. Birds thronged the feeders put here by a well-meaning lover of wildlife, who regularly comes on a motorbike to fill them up.
I saw crested tits here last winter but haven't seen them this time round. Still there were blue and great tits, chaffinches, robins, coal tits and long-tailed tits, blackbirds and woodpigeons all engaged in the feeding frenzy. It's delightful to pause and watch them for a while, darting to and from the feeders.
The South Loch Ness Trail is marked by blue posts with a squirrel symbol on them. The path through Cullaird Wood ends at a track, with a left turn taking you past Cullaird Farm where cows, under cover for the winter, were grazing greedily on silage.
Passing fields of sheep and ponies, the route doglegs right, heading towards Dores, and after a couple of hundred metres it comes to a junction with another track on the left.
We turned along this, climbing steadily to round a bend, taking us south again. The track continues upward for around a kilometre, with wonderful views down the Great Glen and back towards the farm and the Kessock Bridge.
Another track junction on the left is reached, where a small triangular marker denotes the route of the Seven Lochs Way. We took this track, climbing ever higher. A tractor had left deep tread marks in the snow, making walking somewhat easier.
Eventually we arrived at another junction and glistening open fields of pristine snow – a truly beautiful sight in full sunshine with not a cloud in the sky. I'd donned sunglasses some time before to soften the glare. What a day!
A track straight on leads to the minor road that heads back to Inverness, but our way lay to the right, once more in the Dores direction. There were superb views now towards a snow covered Meall Fuar-mhonaidh on the opposite side of the Great Glen.
The track passes Drumashie Farm, up to the left, and carries on for just over two kilometres to a junction, where it rejoins the South Loch Ness Trail at a marker post. To complete our circuit we turned right here, back in the direction we had come, past Cullaird Farm again and returning home to Lochardil.
South Loch Ness Trail circuit
Distance 9 miles / 14km
Terrain Woodland paths and tracks
Start/finish We walked from Lochardil, but the starting point could be the beginning of the South Loch Ness Way on the Torbreck road
Maps OS Landranger 26; OS Explorer 416
A picturesque lockdown walk close to home on the outskirts of Inverness
- Please follow all guidance related to Covid-19.