The Two Lochs Trail – Loch Mallachie and Loch Garten

This is a lovely wee pushchair-friendly walk near Boat of Garten in the North Cairngorms. The Two Lochs Trail is just under two miles, but it is possible to extend your walk to the nearby RSPB Osprey Centre, which is well worth a visit. Read on below for more details.

Distance: The Two Lochs Trail is 1.7 miles / 2.75km. On returning to the carpark, you can choose to carry on walking a further 0.7 miles / 1km to the Osprey Centre hide.

Parking: From the A95, take the Boat of Garten turning, and follow the main road through the village, taking signs to Nethy Bridge. On leaving the village, turn left at the T-junction with the B970, and then take the next right, signed for RSPB Loch Garten Nature Centre. The car park is a mile down this road on the right, with a brown wooden sign for ‘Trails to Loch Garten and Loch Mallachie’.

Parking is also available at the Nature Centre about half a mile further down the road.

Amenities: there are composting toilets and a small shop at the RSPB Loch Garten Nature Centre.

Buggy/bike-friendly? The Two Lochs Trail is mostly very suitable for off-road pushchairs. We also took a balance bike with us. There is a short section along the side of Loch Mallachie which is very bumpy due to tree routes, so it might not be suitable for unwieldy prams or very small infants. See below for further details.

Two Lochs Trail: The route

Two Lochs Trail map

1. From the car park, walk down nearly to the shore of Loch Garten here. There is a wooden sign indicating to walk straight ahead to explore the shoreline. There is a small beach here which is a lovely spot for children to play. Meall a’ Bhuachaille (810m) rises on the other side of the loch. Return to the wooden sign, and continue along the main path for the Two Lochs Trail.

2. A short while later, the path divides. We chose to turn right, taking the walk in an anti-clockwise direction. Either direction would have been fine, there are things to see all round the route.

3. The route winds around through the forest to the shore of Loch Mallachie, which is very beautiful. This is the part of the route which is somewhat challenging with a pushchair, but only for a short while.

4. The path bends to the left, leaving the shore of Loch Mallachie, and heading back into the forest. After a short while, you will see Loch Garten through the trees on your right. There are a number of smaller paths down to the lochside. It is very doable to take a pushchair down there and enjoy the view, but I wouldn’t try to take a pushchair along the deer tracks by the loch; come back to the main path when you are ready to continue!

5. Follow the path back to the car park. If you would like to extend your walk, go back to the road from the car park, and you will see a footpath in the trees on the other side of the road. Follow this down to the right for about half a mile to reach the RSPB Nature Centre Car park. I found this path rather a struggle with the pushchair – it was quite bumpy, and there was a moderately steep downhill slope with loose gravel underfoot. We returned on the tarmac road itself, which is very quiet.

RSPB Loch Garten Nature Centre

We really really enjoyed the Osprey Centre at Loch Garten. I had briefed the children to be as quiet as they could walking through the reserve, and they tried hard, but I was still a little apprehensive about whether we would be suitable visitors! I was pleasantly surprised to find that the centre had several interactive activities for children, both inside and outside.

On the day that we visited, we enjoyed balance trails, looking at birds on the bird feeders, minibeast hunting, an osprey floor puzzle, dissecting owl pellets, and looking at the ‘nest cam’ footage of ospreys and goshawks. The RSPB team were knowledgeable and helpful.

Two Lochs Trail: what is the terrain like?

The paths were mostly of a high quality, wide and smooth underfoot, and very suitable for pushchairs. There were some tree roots. By far the most difficult section was along the shore of Loch Mallachie, where there are extensive tree roots in the path which cannot be avoided.

The photograph below shows the worst section of tree roots by Loch Mallachie, so that you can decide whether your buggy and child would be able to cope with this.

Two Lochs Trail: the most challenging part for pushchairs

The footpath from the car park along to the RSPB Nature Centre was hard to access with a pushchair, and was rather bumpy, with one slightly tricky downhill slope. We chose to walk back along the (quiet) road, which was fine. You could also move the car down to the Nature Centre car park; the walk from there to the Osprey Centre was absolutely fine with a pushchair.

Things to look for

Look out for blaeberries, mushrooms and toadstools, heather and wild flowers.

Play games with pine cones: who can find the biggest one? Who can throw a pine cone the furthest? There are some great trees to climb here!

If you are looking for buggy-friendly walks or family walks in the Cairngorms, you may also enjoy these other routes.

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