The Lael Forest Garden, on the road south from Ullapool, boasts a unique collection of trees from all over the world. There are scores of different species, ranging from well known specimens to some real rarities. Combined with forest tracks through the surrounding commercial plantation, it forms part of a short low level walk offering occasional views over Loch Broom.
Set off through a gate at the top right end of the car park, bear right and follow a good path south. It crosses a wooden footbridge before meandering through the trees, rising, but only gently. This section of the woodland is mainly tall pine, so the atmosphere is airy and the forest floor green. The path is solid, making the going easy.
Follow green waymarkers on this section of the route to emerge into a car park about 600 metres from the start. Go straight ahead here, across the gravel, to join a forest track at the far side. At a junction a short way on, curve left with the main track as it rises gently through fairly dense vegetation. Heading north now, the route cuts a peaceful and sheltered course between tall bushy conifers. Continue straight on, crossing a bridge over a deep gorge, and in due course you will reach a junction, a path bearing left down the slope. This leads back to the start and, if you've walked far enough, following it down. However, to complete this circuit, go straight on, following red waymarkers now. The forest opens out a little but, on the whole, the trees are too tightly packed to offer much of a view. In due course, the way curves left, leading down to another Forestry Commission car park, where there are picnic benches, handy if you wish to stop for a breather and a snack.
At the bottom of the car park, a path on the left crosses a burn and enters the Lael Forest Garden, a sort of open air tree museum. The Forestry Commission acquired the land in 1929, inheriting the work of successive owners who planted many examples of trees gathered from all over the world. There are species here from Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, North and South America and New Zealand. They include Oregon Maple, Macedonian Pine, Chilean Yew, Serbian Spruce, Corsican Pine and Himalayan Tree Cotoneaster, as well as more common trees such as Juniper, English Oak, Douglas Fir and Norway Spruce. A full list of the species within the garden can be found on information boards in the car parks and a free leaflet is available from the tourist information centre in Ullapool.
There is a network of paths within the garden which allows you to make your way round the various trees. To reach the car park from where you started, you will ultimately have to emerge through a wooden gate at the south end.
For more info, log on the Lael Forest Garden website.
Distance 2 miles/3km.
Map OS Landranger sheet 20.
Start/parking Forestry Commission Lael Forest car park on A835 nine miles south of Ullapool (GR NH 197805). Car park has a post box in it and is opposite the track leading from A835 to Auchindrean.
Grading An easy woodland walk suitable for all ages and abilities.