An Affric safari
By James Carron
Walk through Glen Affric, one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland, on this circular stroll around tree-lined Loch Affric. Track and path skirt round the deep blue stretch of water, while dramatic mountain scenery rises up on all sides. There are tranquil lochans and waterfalls to see and local wildlife includes Red Deer, grouse, ptarmigan and Golden Eagles.
Glen Affric in the north west Highlands is one of the most scenic parts of Scotland and contains some of the finest deer forests in the country. Lurking amid the craggy mountains is Loch Affric, a long blue stretch of water, is surrounded by Scots Pine and birch woodland.
The south side of the loch is planted by the Forestry Commission while the northern shores are occupied by the Affric Estate, 9900 acres of Caledonian Pine Forest and open hillside. The area is extremely popular with walkers and tourists and when you discover the scenic beauty of Glen Affric for yourself, it is not hard to see why.
The walk skirts round the loch and en route there is spectacular mountain scenery to be enjoyed and excellent views down the long glen. The public road in from Cannich ends at a Forestry Commission car park. Two tracks continue on although both are closed to unauthorised vehicles. Take the left hand one and drop down to a bridge over the River Affric. Then pass through a high gate and strike out along the forest track.
A few hundred yards on, the track reaches a three way junction. Take the right hand option here and descend to follow the River Affric west. The track runs through heather, low shrubs and Scots Pine trees, passing a small lochan on the left half a mile on. It then rises and falls as it runs by Affric Lodge across the water and, after crossing the Allt Garbh, climbs round a small knoll before running along above the loch.
At the far end of Loch Affric, the track runs above a small strip of sandy beach with a wooden jetty before dropping down to a junction. Turn right here and follow another track by the river to a cluster of buildings at Athnamulloch. The way passes between a white cottage and a pair of stone sheds and there are boards here with information on the estate.
Cross the river by the bridge and the track rises up past Strawberry Cottage, a former shepherd's bothy. It skirts round a low hill before striking a straight course west down Glen Affric.
About 500 yards beyond Athnamulloch, a path branches off to the right at Cnoc Fada. Follow this north past Loch Coulavie, a picturesque and, in parts, reedy lochan which, like Loch Affric, is well stocked with trout. At this point there are excellent views down the loch. The way continues through the heather, crossing the Allt Coire Leachavie before flattening off to run along above Loch Affric, the shore below lined with Scots Pines.
As you approach the east end of the loch, Affric Lodge looms into view. It was built in 1864 by the first Lord Tweedmouth, a keen Victorian sportsman, on an island linked to the north shore by a causeway and the south shore by a bridge. The lodge enjoys uninterrupted views for some 20 miles down the glen. The path drops down to a shed then skirts along a high post and wire fence to meet up with a track at the entrance to the lodge. Follow this back to the start.
Distance 10 miles/16km.