In the heart of the highlands, Inverness is an area ideally suited as a base for exploring the many trails, paths, mountains and glens of the surrounding countryside. You don’t need to go far to enjoy some fine walks with excellent views, remarkable nature and ancient sites to marvel at. With the help of our local guides, we’ve put together some of the best walks for you to enjoy next time you want to escape the city.
Located within the west of Inverness itself, the hill of Craig Phadrig is visible from much of the city, and the views across the Beauly Firth are outstanding. There’s a car park on the side of the hill and, once there, your choice of route is varied, with several different paths weaving in and out of the trees. At the top you are met with a large grassy area that was once an Iron Age hill fort, built 2,500 years ago. The earthworks are all that remain visible now, but serve as a reminder that people have enjoyed this view for millennia.
The banks of the river Ness provide excellent walks, but head upriver a short way to combine them with a visit to the Ness Islands and you will quickly forget you are in the capital of the Highlands. These wooded islands are connected by suspension footbridges that were constructed in the mid-19th century, and are havens of wildlife and nature. It is possible to see deer, otters, salmon, seals and bats, or take a ride on the Ness Islands miniature railway. There are plenty of park benches and places to pause, whether to share a picnic or simply absorb the natural beauty. The islands are also a part of the Great Glen Way, so if you’d like to extend your walk — by five or six days — just follow the signs.
The Caledonian Canal and the River Ness
Also a part of the Great Glen Way, the path following the River Ness and the Caledonian Canal can easily be broken into shorter sections. As it follows the waterways, it is low level and flat, with little in the way of obstacles. Following the canal towpath makes it very difficult to get lost, and the path is worth exploring in both directions: towards Loch Ness, or towards the sea and Merkinch Nature Reserve. Expect to see many water birds and other wildlife, and friendly waves from those who are on the water, travelling slowly between Inverness and Fort William, all the way at the other end of Loch Ness and the canal.
The Fairy Glen at Rosemarkie
Cross the Kessock Bridge to the Black Isle and head east to the delightful village of Rosemarkie. This walk follows the Rosemarkie Burn as it tumbles through beautiful woodland, now a nature reserve. There is a millpond that dates back at least a century and two photogenic waterfalls along the route. In spring the ground is covered in wildflowers, including primroses and bluebells, and dippers can be seen collecting insects from under the water. You can also combine this walk with a visit to the nearby Clootie Well at Munlochy or a spot of beachcombing along one of the lovely beaches in the area.
Another beautiful woodland walk, Rogie Falls is also one of the best places in Scotland to see leaping salmon. The Black Water river thunders downstream from the high places around the imposing peak of Ben Wyvis, and is especially impressive after heavy rain or when the winter snows are melting. The best time to see the salmon is between June and September as they swim upstream to spawn, with the end of summer seeing the most action. A recently constructed suspension bridge offers an excellent viewing platform.
Nairn to Cawdor
Head a few miles east of Inverness and you will quickly reach the ancient seaside village of Nairn, with its sandy beaches and excellent local places to eat. The River Nairn flows to the Moray Firth from the Monadhliath Mountains and is definitely worth exploring. It’s also a popular salmon fishing river. Simply follow the path on the left-hand side of the river as you head inland, and keep walking. If you continue for five miles you will reach the pretty village of Cawdor, with its famous castle.
The South Loch Ness Trail
The full trail runs for nearly 58km (36mi) from just outside Inverness through to Fort Augustus and offers some of the most scenic and serene views of Scotland’s most famous loch. Handily, the full trail is broken up into three manageable bites that are perfect for a lengthy weekend hike. These individual trails are made up of Dores to Torbreck (11km/7mi), Foyers to Dores (22km/14mi) and Fort Augustus to Foyers (24.5km/15mi). The trail has a wide variety of different terrains, including woodland and farmland, and even features a waterfall or two along the way.
Also east of Inverness, this walk is easily accessible by bus or car and affords spectacular views over the city and to the mountains beyond. The woods are an excellent place to spot playful red squirrels, shy deer and other wildlife. There are several paths to explore, but do ensure you head to the western fringe of the woods for the outstanding views. To the east, the view is also worth a look, with the River Nairn twisting away to the moors of Culloden, and the pretty little church of Daviot itself.
The Abriachan trail offers a great, versatile walk that is perfect for a family day out. Starting around 3km (10mi) outside Inverness city centre, the trail takes you towards Loch Ness and over the Great Glen. There are plenty of nooks and crannies along the way for little ones to explore and some excellent opportunities to spot some of the abundance of local wildlife in the area. The trail itself should take about three hours to complete on average (depending on fitness and skill levels); be sure to take plenty of water and snacks, as there’s not much in the way of refreshments along the way.
The most prominent hill in the vicinity of Loch Ness and just a short trip away from Inverness, Meall Fuar-mhonaidh gives its guests unmatched views of both Loch Ness and the Great Glen. There will be plenty of photo opportunities along the way and the summit is signified by a tower of large rocks. The walk itself is one of the more challenging on the list, as there are some quite steep elements on top of the steady incline. It should take around four hours to complete, depending on the fitness of the walkers.
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