Rosehall Forest Trails in Sutherland make a fun way to spend the day
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Not many buildings can claim to be constructed of materials gathered from within 100 metres of where they stand. The impressive log cabin at Rosehall Forest was built in 2003 using 60 Norway spruce trees felled from within that range.
It is an eye-catching structure, beautiful to admire, offering great shelter from the rain - as we discovered - and created using specialist building skills by a team of local trainees and volunteers.
The cabin is used as an education centre for outdoor learning, and on our walk we discovered some great work that local children had been doing to help bring the woods alive for visitors.
The Wildwoods makes up a section of the trails through the forest and includes information, pictures and poems about some of the wildlife that lives here.
It is part of the yellow Deer Park Trail, so as I was with my three children, we decided to try out that route. With the youngest, Matthew, only being four years old, I wasn’t sure if we would make it all the way around the loop, which is marked as 2.5 miles – though we clocked up three – without me having to do some heavy lifting!
Before we started, we had a good picnic in the cabin so we were all fuelled up and ready for adventure.
All the walks start by following a track that goes to the left of the cabin, as you enter the car park. Matthew pointed out the big footprint marker that leads the way through a gate then along a forest track, which soon starts to gradually climb.
Ignoring a nice path leading down to the left – marked green – we continued on the track as it crossed a burn before rising to another bridge. It was hard work encouraging the kids up here, but a few puddles to splash in and a game of tag helped get them moving.
Just after the bridge over the Alltan a’ Chaorainn, a little hopscotch-style game has been created beside the path. It involves throwing a pine cone (there are plenty of these to be found on the ground) onto a snail spiral slab, which has different animal prints marked in segments. The idea is to hop to the one your pine cone lands on, then guess what animal the print is from.
The children all enjoyed playing this, and the answers are written in small writing in the corner – small enough for an adult to easily stand over the answer while they try to guess!
Once I finally dragged them away from the game, we continued on the track – ignoring a red path leading down to the left immediately after the bridge – towards the Wildwoods.
It’s not far along here until the yellow route splits from the green. We stopped at this point to admire the view from one of the many nicely placed benches along the route. This one looked over Rosehall village and Strath Oykel to the hills above Strathcarron.
Back on the yellow route, a colourful sign welcomed us to the Wildwoods, where there were plenty of pictures and poems which Clara and Jennifer enjoyed reading out. The track even got more interesting, and there were unusual shaped trees, all of which helped keep them occupied and entertained.
There were also a series of little information panels about the trees and wildlife of the forest.
At one point, the yellow route turns sharply right, and a lovely path laid with soft pine needles continues for much of the rest of the route. It twists and turns as it meanders through the Deer Park, rising and falling quite steeply in places.
Matthew was getting tired by now but he was interested in all the little picture panels and the poems the girls were reading to him.
The route crosses the Alltan a’ Chaorainn again higher up in the woods via a little wooden footbridge, where our yellow route joins the red Pine Marten Trail. It’s possible to detour left up alongside the burn from here to a viewpoint at the top of the forest, but I didn’t fancy pushing my luck with adding on any extra distance today!
We continued on the yellow Deer Park Trail, which climbs just a little more before starting the long descent through the woods to the car park. As it turns a corner and starts to drop, it joins an old vehicle track that follows the edge of the trees before forking right where it meets to Sika Trail, a cycle route that leads through the woods to the east from here.
Matthew had got himself involved in a game now, and by the time we forked right again for the final few hundred yards to the finish, he was running ahead of the rest of us, lost in his imaginary world. I was pleased I hadn’t had to carry him at all on what is a long walk for him, and the girls had enjoyed exploring the forest, especially once we got to the Wildwoods section.
The trails at Rosehall Forest are a great asset, which are looked after by the Rosehall and District Action Group (RADAG). There is plenty more to discover in the area, including the Achness Waterfall on the nearby River Cassley – a walk you can link into the trail but one which has steep drops, so isn’t recommended for children.
There are also brochs, cairns and other ruins marked on the map close by that look like they would be worth exploring. All food for thought for more adventures.
Rosehall Forest Trails
Distance 3 miles / 5km
Terrain Good forest tracks and paths, waymarked
Start/finish Rosehall Forest car park, off A837 east of Rosehall village, near Lairg
Map OS Landranger 16; OS Explorer 440; Trails map on noticeboard at start of walks
Picnics and family fun on a walk through this woodland oasis in the heart of Sutherland