Located just a few miles inland from the rugged north coast of Scotland, Borgie Forest occupies a vast tract of wild country well off the beaten track. Houses are few and far between in this far-flung part of the world and it is possible to go all day without seeing another soul. This means there is more chance of those who do venture out spotting some of Scotland's more elusive wildlife. Badgers, for instance, are known to live in the area. Deer, pine marten and wild cat may also be seen, and the small pools within the forest are home to countless frogs. This is a great walk in all but the worst weather and even when the sun is not shining, the route offers a good, sheltered circuit with a bracing march over the moor.
Set off along the forest track, heading south from the car park. The track passes a white cottage in a clearing before disappearing back into the trees, predominantly conifers, but with the odd broadleaf adding some variety.
After two miles, the track emerges into the open, though it continues to be accompanied by trees on the right. It meets the River Borgie at a gate and cattle grid, and runs alongside the gentle flow of water to a wooden suspension bridge leading to a ruined cottage and stone wall enclosure.
Cross the bridge, walk along the front of the crumbling building and a track bears right, climbing to a gate in a post and wire fence. Go through this and head over the open moorland to the edge of the forest plantation, skirting right to avoid a marshy area where peat is cut by locals and dried to provide winter fuel. This whole area of moor is a source, and you may spot piles by the trackside waiting to be uplifted. It is burnt on an open fire or stove, in the same way as coal.
Follow the edge of the forest south, climbing gently alongside a high post and wire fence. Underfoot, conditions are boggy in places and the web of heather and grass, which can be heavy with water after rain, make gaiters a good idea. There is a path, but it is indistinct.
Stay with the fence, passing two large wooden gates and continue until you reach a wooden pedestrian gate near the top of the forest. Go through and follow a grassy track down through a gap in the trees. When it meets a wider ride a few hundred yards down, turn right and follow this to cross a burn. Continue along the break, rising up initially before descending to a more substantial forest track.
The track drops to cross a burn, just beyond a gate, then rises up, curving over the open moorland to the left and levelling off. Pass a sizeable quarry-like area on the right and the next forest break on the right leads to quiet Loch nan Ealachan, well worth the short detour off the main route. Back on the track, continue north.
Eventually, the track reaches a wide junction. Carry straight on to a gate and cattle grid on the edge of the forest. Half a mile from this, just beyond a line of overhead cables, the way meets the A836. Turn left and follow the single track road to Borgie Bridge, the original structure now bypassed by a new crossing. Carry on up the main road and, on the left, just beyond a white cottage, is the start of the forest track leading back to the car park.
Distance 12 miles/19km. ;
Map OS Landranger sheet 10. ;
Start/parking Forestry Commission Borgie Forest car park (grid ref NC664583). ;
Grading Forest tracks and open moorland. Moorland grass can be wet, so take gaiters.