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International Day of Forests 2021: Our Top 10 Forest walks in the Highlands

By Federica Stefani

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The residents of the Highlands are blessed with an astonishingly beautiful natural environment, which attracts flocks of tourists from all over the world looking to lose themselves in the region’s wild landscapes.

Among this untouched beauty are the stunning forests scattered around the area, many of which are of ancient descent whereas other patches are the effort of the amazing rewilding effort striving to preserve the rich biodiversity of the habitat.

So, what better way to celebrate International Day of Forests, which falls on Sunday, March 21 than taking a stroll across one of the many forest walks the Highlands have to offer?

Here are some of our favourites to help you get inspired – however, always make sure that you are following the latest Government guidelines on travel restrictions.

1. Abernethy National Nature Reserve (Boat of Garden, Strathspey and Badenoch)

Reaching from the River Nethy to the top of Ben Macdui, Abernethy Forest is the largest remaining area of the ancient Caledonian Forest. Owned by RSPB, the reserve is a fantastic place for wildlife lovers, offering a stunning display of wildflowers over spring. With a wide choice of paths for all abilities, it is linked to the neighbouring Glenmore and Rothiemurchus through the Ryvoan Pass. You can wander through the forest and sit and contemplatete the waters of Loch Garten.

2. Alladale Nature Reserve (Ardgay. Sutherland)

The private estate, owned by Paul Lister, has been in the press in the past years concerning the possibility of reintroducing species such as wolves and the addition of fences to the area. However the Alladale Wilderness Reserve has become a cluster for rewilding and strives to bring back the habitat of the Caledonian pinewoods as well as other native species.

With the River Alladale running through it, it is the starting point for the summits of Carn a' Choin Deirg, Carn Chuinneag and Beinn Tharsuinn and is a great option if you enjoy some steeper hillwalking.

3. Glen Affric (Cannich, Highland)

Arguably one of the most stunning locations for nature lovers in Scotland, the forests around Glen Affric have been in recent years the canvas for some significant rewilding projects to foster a return of the natural woodland. The area offers short walks to longer circuits, among which the mid-range Loch Affric circuit, in one of the most suggestive places to be absorbed by nature.

4. Contin Woods (Ross-shire)

Walks across Contin Woods are easily accessible and a lovely way to get immersed in nature while staying close to Inverness and Dingwall. You can reach the popular Rogie Falls from here, with options of an easier and a strenuous path.

5. Strathmashie Forest (Laggan, Badenoch)

The perfect location for a nice stroll to the Pattack Falls or a more demanding hike like the one taking to Dun da-Lamh fort, Strathmashie Forest is located near the village of Laggan, at the western edge of the Cairngorms National Park.

6. Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve (Torridon, Ross-shire)

Britain's first ever designated Nature Reserve, Beinn Eighe sits at the south-east of Loch Maree and is home to some ancient and magnificent Caledonian pinewoods. Here you'll be spoiled for choice among the various paths, among which, a stunning woodland trail. Golden eagles, ravens and some of Scotland's most secretive wildlife have their home here.

7. Abriachan Forest (Loch Ness, Highland)

Offering beautiful walks in the woods and dramatic peeks over Loch Ness, the Abriachan Wood is set in a breathtaking location in the Great Glen, between Drumnadrochit and Inverness. The forest offers historical trails as well as a great variety of wildlife to be spotted.

8. Aldie Burn (Tain, Ross-shire )

An easy but beautiful and refreshing forest walk near Tain, it has recently been made accessible to prams and wheelchairs. Great for an easy picnic day or an easy stroll.

9. Benmore Forest (Assynt, Sutherland)

A fantastic walking and cycling destination, the forest offers majestic views and boasts impressive specimens of Californian redwoods, Douglas fir and Western hemlock. A peatland restoration project is also running in the area.

10 Glen Feshie Forest (Kincraig, Strathspey)

West of Feshiebridge is a beautiful Forestry and Land Commission Park which not only offers beautiful trails in the forest but also a Sculpture trail with wooden artwork by Frank Bruce, providing easily accessible walks as well as steeper trails.

Other resources

To learn more about the International Day of Forests you can visit UN’s official website, and you can find useful resources from the Woodland Trust, Forestry and Land Scotland and Trees For Life.

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