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Ten-year-old trail finds route to success on Loch Ness

By John Davidson

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Walkers on the South Loch Ness Trail path up to Carn an t-Suidhe from the viewpoint car park..
Walkers on the South Loch Ness Trail path up to Carn an t-Suidhe from the viewpoint car park..

It’s hard to believe it was 10 years ago when the South Loch Ness Trail was first launched. I remember testing the route out at the time on my decrepit mountain bike– an experience that was hard to forget!

The southern end of the trail at that time was at Loch Tarff, a beautiful spot but not a destination in itself. The route was only really completed after funding from SSE’s Stronelairg wind farm allowed the final stretch from there down the hill to Fort Augustus to be completed.

Now the route connects the village with Inverness, where the trail ends on the outskirts of the city at the Torbreck road, allowing a link via paths and roads to the Great Glen Way and creating the Loch Ness 360 – a full off-road route around the loch.

John on part of the South Loch Ness Trail route in 2011.
John on part of the South Loch Ness Trail route in 2011.

It’s not an easy trail, with plenty of ups and downs and a real mix of terrain. But what a fabulous setting. The South Loch Ness Trail has really opened the area up for walking, biking and horse riding, connecting villages and creating a real attraction to encourage more visitors to the ‘quiet’ side of the loch.

Next year I’m looking forward to taking part in the Loch Ness 360 Challenge, which offers various running and mountain biking options for completing a circuit of the full route.

Information panel at the Whitebridge Hotel..
Information panel at the Whitebridge Hotel..

But on a day-to-day basis, the decade-old trail offers some great opportunities to explore the area. Here are a couple of my favourite routes using the South Loch Ness Trail:

Torbreck road to Dores loop

This is a beautiful loop, and perfect for an autumn run or bike ride – or even a long walk. It starts at the Inverness end of the SLNT, where there is informal parking for a few vehicles.

Follow the trail markers – blue posts with a squirrel symbol – through Cullaird Woods and past the farm, taking a muddy track that bends sharply right onto a forestry track.

There are lovely views down the Great Glen as you head across Drumashie Moor. When you reach a small road, go straight across and continue along a nice path which bears left onto a wide vehicle track.

Take this track briefly uphill, then look out for a hidden path off to the right, where you leave the official trail. The way soon becomes clearer as it heads directly downhill through the trees to come out behind a cottage in Dores.

After a visit to the beach, follow the path into the woods and round to Aldourie pier. A detour takes you around the farm beyond here, where extensive work is being carried out, and leads to the minor road. Go left here and follow it down to a few houses and past them into the woods.

Path through woods at Aldourie.
Path through woods at Aldourie.

Keep left at a junction above Loch Dochfour, and emerge at another pier and house. Just after the house, follow a path left to keep close to the river, which is followed most of the way back – looking out for one part that often floods and can even be impassable in spate.

Meeting a track at some lodges, veer right up the hill and then keep left when you see the big security gates to exit at another gate.

You can turn right and follow the road for a few hundred metres to the end of the Torbreck road from here, or alternatively hop over the wall opposite and follow the path right, which will lead back to your start point.

Inverfarigaig to Foyers loop

Another good starting point for a number of walks in the Forestry and Land Scotland car park at Inverfarigaig. There’s a relatively short walk to a lochan marked on the information board here, but I love to explore this longer route to Foyers and back along the shore.

It starts by heading up the steep hill behind the car park and follows a good track past Boleskine and over Toman Tarsuinn, all on the South Loch Ness Trail. There are excellent views over the loch to Meall Fuar-mhonaidh from the top of the hill, before a path winds its way down to meet a forestry track.

Go right and follow the sharp bend left to descend into Foyers, where this is a café and shop. A visit to the Falls of Foyers is worth it as you make your way down to Lower Foyers, passing the old aluminium works building near Foyers Bay and then following green rights-of-way signs to ‘Inverfarigaig via loch shore’.

Following the route to Lower Foyers..
Following the route to Lower Foyers..

These lead uphill to the road, past a house then back down through glorious woodland, with a carpet of freshly fallen leaves at this time of year. After passing a large pylon, the route does follow the shore a little closer and you can get right down to the side of Loch Ness as you make your way along to the old pier at Inverfarigaig.

When you reach a couple of houses, bear right up the little road and carefully cross the B852 at the top to head back up to the car park.

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