Erchless Forest Hill Track

On the very edge of the highlands, just west of the flat country of the Beauly firth, a hill track leaves the village of Struy and heads northeast through Erchless forest to emerge in Glen Gowrie. It heads ultimately for the Orrin reservoir dam but I was going to head east along Glen Gowrie to Altgowrie, and ultimately Muir of Ord. This is the first part of the track through the Erchless forest.
The track passes Erchless forest cottage and heads uphill through the trees, relatively steeply at first but then levelling off somewhat. Lochan Fada lies a few hundred meters to the left but can't be seen until you're well past it and into open country.
The first clearing in the forest, where we meet the power lines coming out from Glen Strathfarrar.
The path nears the northern edge of the forest plantation.
Beyond here we're in open country. Looking back, we can see along the length of the previously hidden Lochan Fada. The hills surrounding Loch Beinn a Mheadhoin and Loch Affric can be seen in the far distance.
The path heads across open moorland, an area known as Urchany forest.
About two miles ahead is a col just west of Cnoc Eille Mor. It looks much closer but distances are deceiving out here.
The track twists and turns somewhat but is quite suitable for mountain bikers as well as hikers.
Unseen from further back is a little gorge formed by a nameless watercourse, home to a copse of trees.
The Urchany Gorge, as I've christened it, is a picturesque little spot...
...that invites you to linger and take a refreshment stop. Beware midges though, especially if the weather is still and damp. Midges are fortunately less of a risk in bright, sunny weather like this.
The foot of the Urchany Gorge
Beyond the gorge the path climbs quite steeply again.
Distances are still deceptive, Every time you think you're nearing the top of the ridge, another ridge top appears a few hundred metres further on. The view back the way we've come.
The path ploughs on. The scenery isn't so good here and this would be a sombre, dreary place were the sun not shining.
One final bend in the path, however, ...
...and the top of the ridge is reached at last. To the west you are rewarded with a glorious view of the Glen Strathfarrar Munros.
The track continues westwards now, just below the lip of the ridge, and the mountains in the distance look very inviting.
A little further on we begin to see Glen Gowrie immediately below us.
The track draws level with the (apparently) abandoned cottage of Tighachrochadair. The map shows a path down to the cottage but it doesn't exist. Be prepared to make your way down to it as best you can through heather and rough grass. Those on mountain bikes can press on westwards to the reservoir, but pictures of that track will have to wait for another time.
A stone wall adjacent to Tighachrochadair.
The enclosure in which the cottage and its adjacent outhouse stands is quite lush.
This stream is the Allt Gowrie, and it's crossed immediately downstream of this point by a low-slung Indiana Jones-style wire bridge. Unless the stream is in spate it's actually far easier to wade or boulder-hop across than it is to use the bridge.
A meagre track leads up the far slope away from the bridge... meet a poorly-used but reasonably distinct vehicle track on the north side of the glen. This is the view back down to Tighachrochadair. You can just see the wire bridge in this shot.
Our route to Altgowrie and the Beauly firth now lies eastwards along the vehicle track. The scenery is fairly drab at first.
....but after passing this little lochan...
...things liven up a bit.
The lowlands of the Beauly firth are beginning to appear now, and we also see the edge of a forest plantation ahead.
Looking back from the same spot, and the mountains around Glen Strathfarrar look rather reproachful. 
The track nears the farm of Achederson and the white blocky building that is the Muir of Ord distillery comes into view some five miles ahead.
The track reaches the foot of the glen and the track loses height as it approaches the rather more pastoral country of the Beauly firth.
The track improves as we approach the farm.
Just before we reach the farm, we pass this lochan and forest plantation on the left.
Achederson farm, which we pass to the right... gain this driveway leading down to the Altgowrie road.
Looking back at the farm.
From here we can see acoss to the grea bulk of Ben Wyvis..
...and the lower hills and ridges near Strathpeffer, Contin and Dingwall.
An Alpine finish to our walk as the driveway descends through sunlit trees...
...out to the road at Altgowrie.
The public road. Muir of Ord is three miles away to the right.
...while Altgowrie lays a quarter of a mile along this road to the left.

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This page last updated 12th December 2001