Craigmonie walk: Loch Ness views and a Viking prince

From the top of Craigmonie, you can see all of Urquhart Bay and out across Loch Ness. The walk is worth it for the views alone, but this is also a site of historic interest, with an ancient hill fort on top of the crag. Follow in the footsteps of the Viking prince Monie, who made his last stand here after a failed invasion.

Distance: The walk is officially listed as 1.25 miles / 2km, but taking into account the walk from the village car park, it is roughly 2.25 miles / 3.6km.

Parking: There is no parking at the ‘official’ start of the walk. Park in the village car park in Drumnadrochit. Heading south on the A82, cross the river in Drumnadrochit, and you will see the carpark signposted shortly afterwards on your right.

Amenities: There are public toilets at Drumnadrochit car park, and cafes and shops around the village.

Buggy/bike-friendly? This walk is not suitable for pushchairs or children on bikes due to steep slopes.

Craigmonie: the route

Craigmonie and Balmacaan Wood map

1. From the village car park, turn right along the main road, walk along it for some way and the right again into Pitkerrald Road. Follow the road gently uphill, forking left at the junction onto a track signed clearly for ‘Craigmonie and Balmacaan Woods’. You will pass several more houses and then fields open out beside the track.

2. The track enters woodland, and you will shortly see a very impressive Giant Redwood on your right. This is where the Craigmonie path ‘proper’ begins. We chose to walk in an anti-clockwise direction, so we turned right at the path divide and continued uphill, taking care over the tree roots, and following the red signposts.

3. After a short while the path divides, with the green route heading downhill, whilst the red/green route combined continues around a bend to the right, where a beautiful view of Glen Urquhart and the River Enrick opens up.

4. When the path levels out there is a turning up to the left, marked with a red way-post. Take this turn and climb the final stretch through the woods to the top of Craigmonie, continuing to follow the red posts.

5. Enjoy the glorious views from the top, before continuing along the path. Turn left when you reach the fence at the edge of the woodland (fields beyond).

6. The track descends through the woodland, including a rather fun ‘tunnel’ section. Take care on the steeper sections as the damp tree roots can be slippery underfoot. When the path rejoins the vehicle track, turn left to arrive back at the Great Redwood, and continue back into Drumnadrochit village.

What is the terrain like?

Large sections of this walk are on level track, but there are also some bumpy sections with tree routes, and some steep sections. In particular, the top section around the summit of Craigmonie is steep and damp underfoot, and it is easy to slip on exposed roots. I would recommend grippy shoes for everyone. I had a child in a carrier and wished I had taken walking poles as a precaution.

Craigmonie: the history

Craigmonie is a naturally strategic vantage point, with views across the area. It is thought that there was a hill fort here, and it was the place chosen by the Viking prince Monie for his last stand. William Mackay takes up the tale in his Urquhart and Glenmoriston: Olden Times in a Highland Parish:

Tradition relates that Monaidh MacRigh Lochlainn – Monie, son of the King of Scandinavia, landed in Argyle with a large force, accompanied by his sister. His retreat to his ships having been cut off by the natives, he was pursued northward through the Caledonian valley, until he reached Urquhart, where he made a stand on the high rock of Craigmonie, which is still crowned with the remains of ancient fortifications. There he and his companions bravely held their own for a time, his sister taking shelter in a crevice still known as Leabaidh-Nighean-an-Righ, the Bed of the King’s Daughter. Driven at last to the plain below, the Norsemen were forced to give battle, and were defeated with great slaughter. Monie escaped with his sister, but at Corrimony he was overtaken and slain. The people of the Glen took kindly to the hapless princess, and she lived among them for many a day.

Things to look out for

Look out for mushrooms and toadstools, dens, pop-out nature signposts, giant boulders (how did they get here?), sheep and blueberries.

You might be interested in these other short walks around Loch Ness.

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