Scenic Cairngorms walk links Badenoch towns of Kingussie and Newtonmore
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Their shinty teams are fierce rivals, whose encounters over the years are legendary, and they have spawned some of the game's most talented players.
But if walking sticks rather than shinty sticks are your thing, a ramble between the two Badenoch towns of Kingussie and Newtonmore passes through some fine Cairngorms National Park scenery.
And as winter sets in, it's a useful alternative to a day on the high tops.
The starting point is the free car park off Gynack Road in Kingussie, behind the Duke of Gordon Hotel. Turn left out of the car park entrance and head up the hill to a footpath on the right – part of the Kingussie footpaths network – which crosses the Gynack Burn via a bridge.
Keep following the path left to reach the minor road for Pitmain Estate and walk left along the road to reach a footpath sign pointing down to a bridge across the burn. Once over the bridge turn right, then left through the caravan site to a gate giving access to woodland.
Turn right on a lovely footpath through the woods where red squirrels can often be seen and continue to a gate. Turn right again and follow the path gently uphill to reach a small clearing overlooking Loch Gynack, where a signpost indicates the route to Newtonmore along the lochside. The engine house of a fairly new hydro scheme can be seen on the far side of the loch.
This is a very attractive part of the route with the loch on one side and Creag Mhor rising above it, while Creag Bheag rears up on the left.
Juniper bushes flourish at the side of the path. Crush a leaf and release the fragrant, very distinctive aroma.
Views of Creag Dubh and the Monadhliath hills open up ahead as the path passes the end of the loch and joins a wider path. The scenery is expansive now and remains so for the next section of the walk.
The path meets a track at a marker post for Newtonmore. The track rises and turns round to the left, then levels off again, where we bear right towards a gate in a drystone wall. The gate has a “Welcome to the moor” estate sign on it, giving details of the wildlife to be seen, including merlin and golden eagle – though you'll be very lucky to spot either.
Follow the track round to another gate at the edge of a fenced-off forestry plantation and cross a rather lopsided bridge over a ditch. Continue beside the fence to reach the end of the plantation, where there's another gate and a rather swanky semi-circular stone windbreak with stone seating inside. It's a great spot for a break, looking south and east to the Cairngorms and the mountains of the Gaick Forest.
Go through the gate and turn left, in the direction shown by a marker post, to head downhill beside the Allt Mor and the eastern edge of Newtonmore.
Pass a waterworks on the left and carry on across a bridge over the burn. After the bridge, keep going along a grassy track towards a white house.
Just after some sheep pens there's a green sign for the Wildcat Trail circuit. Bear left and follow the trail markers. There's no distinct path at first so keep a close eye out for the wooden markers. On the way there's a plaque set into a boulder with some information about the Newtonmore Community Woodland Trust and Strone Crofting Township. The direction of distant hills is also marked.
Head left towards a gate and pass through it. At another trail sign keep straight on towards another gate, ignoring a sign pointing left. The path now drops down, following the line of the burn on the left to reach a new bridge. Cross this and carry on to cross a stile.
Keep going to emerge on the A86, opposite the Highland Folk Museum. Cross the road and turn left along the cycle path back to Kingussie.
Kingussie to Newtonmore circuit
Distance 7 miles / 11km
Terrain Paths, tracks and cycle path
Start/finish Car park off Gynack Road in Kingussie
Map OS Landranger 35; OS OL56, Badenoch
A pleasant circular walk between two principal Badenoch towns with varied scenery, returning along a cycle path