Fun at Abriachan: Forest walks and Carn Na Leitire

Abriachan is one of our favourite places to go walking as a family. The main forest walkways are quirky and fun, with lots to see and do. It was one of the earliest community buyouts, and it is very impressive what the community has managed to achieve here.

Above Abriachan is Carn Na Leitire (434m) which is an absolutely cracking hill for children. We’ve had a nearly-three year old summit and back from Carn Na Leitire, and it should be within the grasp of most 3.5-4 year olds. What a sense of achievement for them to reach the top of their first mountain! (Well, hill really, but it’s a mountain when you have little legs!)

Summit Cairn at Carn Na Leitire

Distance: It’s about 1 mile / 1.5 km to explore the walkways at the main Abriachan Forest Trust site. The walk to Carn Na Leitire and back is 2.5 miles / 4km with 150m of ascent.

Parking: From Inverness, take the A82 south along the side of Loch Ness. I suggest that you do not take the first exit signed for Abriachan, but instead take the second exit about five miles further on, with a steep uphill gradient. The first exit takes you over the top via Blackfold and is very beautiful but quite a bit slower. Climb up to Abriachan hamlet, and take a left turn at a fork just after the village, following the road beside a small loch. About 500m after the loch you will see Abriachan Forest Trust signed on the left; follow the track down to the car park.

The woodland is maintained by the Abriachan Forest Trust; a donation can be made via the bird boxes in the car park, or via the charity’s JustGiving page.

Amenities: There are composting toilets available at the car park.

Buggy/bike-friendly? The paths and board walks at the main Abriachan site are suitable for pushchairs. There are several mountain biking trails at Abriachan. Carn Na Leitire is not suitable for pushchairs, with steep gradients, narrow paths and steps.

Abriachan forest walk: the route

The main Abriachan site is a bit of a maze, and there’s lots to explore. One way to see most things is to start at the playground and turn left, and keep turning left at every junction.

Consider bringing pond-dipping nets and binoculars!

Map of Abriachan

1. At the car park, head to the playground (near the composting loos). Take the path to the left of the playground. You will shortly come to a gate on the left, there is an excellent pond-dipping pond on the other side. Even without nets we spotted lots of bugs, including pond skaters.

2. Go back to the main path, and follow it along with a stream on your left ( good for splashing!) to an impressive board walk junction. To your left is a tree house and forest nursery area (please be respectful of the nursery if they are here on a weekday). The main boardwalk continues round to the right.

3. Continue along the board walk through the forest. Take the next left turn, and follow it to the end to a bird hide looking out over Loch Laide. This is a lovely spot, and there are lots of suggestions in the hide for things to look for.

4. Return back the way you came, and turn left whenever you have a choice, to visit the Dragonfly Bog, and then a very impressive treehouse. At the post labelled number 8, you can turn left to visit the Abriachan Roundhouse (which is nearly as far as you can go with a pushchair) or right to return to the Abriachan buildings and car park.

Carn Na Leitire: the route

Carn Na Leitire may not be the biggest hill, but it still deserves respect. Whilst it seems docile on a warm summer’s day, at other times it can be very windy up near the summit, and the path can be treacherous in icy weather. Consider consulting the MWIS forecast before setting out, and remember that if wind is forecast on the hills, it will feel significantly colder as you climb. Make sure you have packed warm clothes, especially for children. There are some moderately steep slopes with some loose gravel on them, so make sure that everyone has grippy soles on their shoes.

Abriachan: map of route to Carn na Leitire

1. From the car park, head towards the Abriachan buildings, and follow the path from the back of these, past a growing area, to reach a junction with a post numbered 8. Turn right here and climb up to a replica Bronze Age roundhouse.

2. Just after the roundhouse turn left, and then turn left again at a fork in the path (the route to the right takes you to the mountain biking trails). The path now crosses in and out of woodland and heather hillside and climbs quite steeply with some steps, take care especially in icy conditions.

3. Above the woodland, you will arrive at a junction with beautful views and a carved wooden bench. A signpost directs you left to the summit of Carn Na Leitire.

4. Shortly after this there is a sheep track and a false summit away to the left. The views are good, but continue onwards, winding up and down a little, to reach the main summit and cairn. In good weather the views are spectacular. You can see the Cairngorms, the Strathfarrars, Ben Wyvis and Loch Ness from up here. The striking conical shaped hill to the southwest is Meall Fuar-mhonaidh. Celebrate reaching the summit, and then return the way you came.

Abriachan: What is the terrain like?

The paths around the main site are very suitable for pushchairs, being smooth level grit paths and good quality boardwalks.

The walk up to Carn na Leitire is not suitable for pushchairs. I would recommend walking poles for those taking children in carriers as there are some moderately steep slopes at points.

Things to look for

Look out for rowan berries, pond creatures, streams, raspberries, blackberries, and a replica Bronze Age hut!

You might also enjoy these other short walks in and around Inverness.

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