Showing posts from July, 2020

Boath Doocot

Highland | Auldearn | Doocot | ★

Boath Doocot (dovecot) is one of the National Trust for Scotland's smallest properties - they call it one of their "little gems" - atop an ancient motte bordering Auldearn village. The attractive, 17th century building is unstaffed (with no interior access) but certainly not uninhabited; large numbers of pigeons clearly still call it home, except without the worry of having their eggs, droppings and fellow housemates plundered for food and fertiliser.

Location & info

📌 Boath Doocot
Doocot Road, Auldearn village centre, G.R.: NH 917556 ///settle.sprouted.cotton
Always open (exterior only) | Free

Anything else? The car park is a little way down an unsurfaced track opposite the B9111 / B9101 junction. From here, the doocot is reached by a brief narrow path and flight of steps.

Clava Cairns

Highland | Culloden | Chambered cairns | ★★★

Only a mile away from the famous and poignant Culloden Battlefield is another monument, this time from an era over 3,500 years further back in history. There are three burial cairns at Clava, placed roughly parallel to each other; other cairns and standing stones nearby suggest that they were part of a larger cemetery. Two of the main trio have intact (though roofless) passages into the central chamber which you can still explore, and one of the stones inside the western cairn sports several ancient cup markings. Both passages are cleverly aligned with the midwinter sunset, which is mirrored by the heights of stone circles around each cairn: the tallest stones are on the southwestern side of the circle.

Location & info

📌 Clava Cairns★★★
By minor road 1 mi southeast of Culloden Battlefield, G.R.: NH 758445 ///decently.perfect.cleanest
Always open | Free

Walk: Achness Falls are quite the catch

Highland | Rosehall | Short walk | ★★★★

The slender Kyle of Sutherland estuary is fed by several great salmon rivers. The River Shin and Shin Falls are the most famous place to watch the fish jumping, but we enjoyed even more sightings (on the same day) at the Achness Falls - also known as the Cassley Falls - on the River Cassley further west. And there's more to see here than a single fall: a series of cascades and rapids make for a fine walk in one direction, with a minor road used for the other. The Achness Hotel is a short distance into the circuit and serves food - predictably, salmon appears to feature on the menu.

📌 Walk: Achness Falls are quite the catch ★★★★
Start / finish at small car park on minor road, half a mile north of Rosehall, G.R.: NC 470028 ///equipment.march.powerful

▶ 2 km / 1 mi | ▲ 30 m | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Easy
Features: Achness Falls (Cassley Falls)
Terrain: Clear riverside path (some narrow and rocky sections) and minor road.

Route & map

Car park - A837 bridge …

Raven's Rock

Highland | Altass | Gorge | ★★

Raven's Rock serves as a stark reminder of the power and pace of weather, water and nature. The short but scenic gorge here carved out by the Allt Mòr used to be the site for one of the region's most dramatic short walks, with a series of bridges, staircases and boardwalks ingeniously threading their way along the rocky walls. This was all wiped out by a series of landslides in the early 2010s, truncating the official circular route into two very short, out-and-back trails with a total distance of well under a mile. These allow the briefest glimpse into the destroyed area and also feature a few wooden sculptures, but little else. It's still a nice site for a picnic if you're passing - the gorge lies conveniently close to a main east-west road across Sutherland - and you may catch a sighting of a red squirrel.

Location & info

📌 Raven's Rock Gorge★★
Car park is by minor road just north of Altass, G.R.: NC 498009 ///divides.eliminate.…

Falls of Shin

Highland | Invershin | Nature site & waterfall | ★★★

When travelling through the Highlands we're quite often left with the impression that tourist infrastructure hasn't quite kept up with the recent boom in visitor numbers. This is certainly not the case at the Falls of Shin, where a shiny new car park, cafe, playground and interpretation area opened in 2017 to complement a powerful waterfall. After browsing the information panels (shaped like an enormous salmon when viewed from above), you'll of course want to follow the short path down to the viewing platform for the falls. These are large in volume but small in vertical - more a set of rapids, with flow controlled by a dam at Lairg, a few miles upstream. The main draw instead relates to fish: between May and October, the Falls of Shin are one of the most accessible locations from which to watch salmon leaping as they return to their breeding grounds to spawn. Sightings are most likely in late summer, and particularl…

Walk: Carbisdale circular - the rise & fall of Castle Spite

Highland | Invershin | Half day walk | ★★★

Once upon a time, Carbisdale Castle was built for the Duchess of Sutherland, overlooking the Kyle of Sutherland opposite Invershin. Unpopular with the rest of the Sutherland family, her share of her spouse's (the 3rd Duke's) will was contested by the duke's son following his death. After the family finally agreed to the duchess being awarded a financial settlement along with a new castle built anywhere outwith Sutherland, surely this ugly chapter had drawn to a close? Not so - the duchess had her new residence constructed at Carbisdale, Ross-shire in 1907... directly overlooking the Sutherland border, which is just a few hundred metres away. Castle Spite - as it colloquially became known - was carefully designed to enrage her estranged in-laws: the castle's main tower only has three clock faces on its four walls, with the side facing Sutherland left blank so as not to give even the time of day to Sutherland. After World War II…

Walk: Views to amaze on Knockfarrel Ridge

Highland | Strathpeffer | Half day walk | ★★★

Knock Farril is Strathpeffer's local hill, cutting the town off from the adjacent Black Isle region. This circuit explores most of the ridge, with an almost imperceptible ascent via the delightful Touchstone Maze: a complicated stone labyrinth aligned with solstices, festivals and Scotland's geology all in mind. The east end of the ridge is crowned with a vitrified hill fort and superlative views of the Cromarty Firth, but the west end is the true summit. Views are obscured by trees from the latter, but find the correct descent path and vegetation thins briefly to allow a vista up Strathconon towards the Northwest Highlands. The return route is in abrupt contrast to the straightforward preceding terrain, with a steep and narrow path threading through dense forestry back to the start.

📌 Walk: Views to amaze on Knockfarrel Ridge ★★★
Start / finish at Blackmuir Wood car park, off A834 half a mile southwest of Strathpeffer village cent…