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The Torrachilty Forest section, between Contin and Garve, may consist of endless vistas of trees but it is hardly boring. The scenery is splendid, and the visual appeal of the walk is very much enhanced by the presence of water. The Blackwater is arguably the most scenic river on the entire End-to-End walk, with the Rogie Falls, Loch Garve, Loch na Croic, and the cascades between Garve and Silver Bridge all being of particular note. The route takes a rather awkward course around Garve to visit these scenic highlights - they should not be missed.
Contin is at the terminus of the regular
service from Inverness via Dingwall and Strathpeffer, while Garve -
you wish to break the journey there - is served both by train and the
express coach services. The Ullapool bus is the only public transport
reaches Inchbae, so check times carefully before setting out.
Important note, June 2010:A correspondent who recently walked the route tells me that a significant obstacle has cropped up, affecting the route through Longart Forest between Silver Bridge and Inchbae. He writes:
"The footbridge across the Blackwater river exiting Longart Forest near Inchbae Lodge has been demolished by the Forestry Commission 'for health and safety reasons' and is not being replaced. No alternative exists - we waded the river, which with 50lb rusksacks was not very safe, but the alternative 10ml down and back up the road (we were staying at Inchbae) was also unthinkable at the time. "
The removal of the vehicle bridge at the exit from Longart Forest is a majot blow in the short term - the Forestry Commission have stated their intent to substitute a footbridge here at some future date, but for now it seems that there is no alternative to walking alongside the busy main road all the way from Silver Bridge to Inchbae.
Map: OS 1:25000 Explorer 437 (Ben Wyvis & Strathpeffer)
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New bridge at Contin; Old bridge
Today's route begins at the bridge over the Blackwater, between the village and the hotel to the west. Near the western end of the bridge is the point at which the previous day's route arrived in the village.
- Dingwall - Strathpeffer - Contin
Citylink bus times Inverness - Ullapool (.pdf document)
Looking back at yesterday's walk; The Blackwater; the start of the forest section
A driveway diverges from the road to the right, just before the bridge - this becomes a rough road which, in a short distance, runs past a couple of forest cottages and some workshops and other outbuildings. It's necessary to walk right past these, a distance of some 400 meters out from Contin, before the track enters the forest proper. At this point you should take a right fork - the track straight ahead only leads to a car park.
Forest tracks in Torrachilty
Torrachilty is primarily a working forest but the visitor is encouraged. The forest roads are well maintained and are excellent country both for walkers and cyclists. The forestry authorities have even erected signboards at major track junctions.
Track in Torrachilty forest; the Strathpeffer junction; a side trail by the Allt na Crann
Initially the track describes a wide S-bend to gain height, a long right-hand bend actually takes you back towards Contin before you hit a left bend, at the junction of a lesser track, to head northwestwards through the forest at a general altitude of some 300ft. The track is wide, allowing the ingress of plenty of sunlight, though there's little to see apart from the junction from which a track to Strathpeffer (via View Rock) heads off to the right. View Rock is a rewarding excursion for those with time to spare.
The track above Rogie Falls
About a mile and a half out of Contin a side track to the left goes down to Rogie Falls. This diversion is short and is very highly recommended.
The side trail; the gorge; the falls
It's a little unfortunate that, due to the way they face, Rogie Falls are best seen in the afternoon when they catch the sunlight. The falls, of which the main cascade measures twenty feet or so in height, are a well known beauty spot normally approached from the road to the west where there is a fairly extensive car park. A wooden suspension bridge below the falls provides some rather good views, both upstream to the cascade and downstream through the rather beautiful Blackwater gorge.
The environs of Rogie Falls
The river; the gorge; the footbridge
After viewing the falls retrace your steps along the side trail and rejoin the main Torrachilty Forest track, which now tacks northwestwards towards the locality of Rogie.
Forest tracks approaching Rogie
Rogie is too small to be a village; it's almost too small even to be a locality. A cottage or two, a couple of pastures, a few sheep, a junction of dirt roads. It's a lovely little place, though, an open area within the forest where the air sparkles and the views of water, sky, greenery and distant mountain summits add up to a little bit of heaven. The trail junction provides an alternative route, which runs about half a kilometre to the north on the other side of the Kyle railway line. The main track, though, runs fairly close to Loch na Croic and offers superior views.
Rogie and the Blackwater river
Forest trails and pastures at Rogie
Pastures and a trail junction at Rogie
Assuming that you stick to the main trail by going left at the trail junction, you round a pasture enclosed by a stone wall, across which the thousand foot summit of Creag a Chaoruinn looks very inviting. The track dives back into the forest and heads due west.
Creag a Chaoruinn, and the track to Loch na Croic
The Torrachilty Forest trail west of Rogie
The mile of track west of Rogie is delightful. The walking is easy, the scenery is first class, the air is sweet and all is right with the world.
Approaching Loch na Croic
Loch na Croic and the forest track to Loch Garve
Loch na Croic is really no more than a sizeable pond (so why not Lochan na Croic?). Nevertheless it's a really pretty body of water. Strangely there is no path to the lakeshore from this side; a track runs to the south side from the main road beyond, to give access for fishing. Despite the lack of a path on this side the loch can at least be approached, for the tree cover is not thick. I had lunch here when I walked this section in September 2000.
The Loch Garve track; the bridge under the Kyle line
Forest track just east of Loch Garve
About 500 meters west of Loch na Croic the track runs under the Inverness - Kyle of Lochalsh railway line and merges with the alternative route that led off from Rogie. The railway line now loops around the south side of Loch Garve while the Torrachilty Forest trail sticks to the north side. It describes a very wide right-hand curve through a partially felled area and veers through northwest to north; about half way around the curve there is a sudden glimpse of Loch Garve just down to the left.
Loch Garve is far bigger than its neighbour a mile behind to the east, a kidney-shaped lake covering about two square kilometres and dominated by Creag a Chaoruinn on its southern shore. It's the kind of lake that ought to have yachts gliding over its surface; somehow it looks incomplete without them.
Approaching Coll an Acaidh Mhor
Beyond this first sighting of Loch Garve the path swings through the remainder of the right-hand curve, away from the lochside - it then begins to curve back again, climbing and narrowing as it runs behind the knoll of Coll an Acaidh Mhor.
The track north of Coll an Acaidh Mhor
None of my guidebooks reveal what the Gaelic word "coll" means; it is an oddity because a wooded knoll such as this might normally be a "cnoc" or a "creag". I can't find a definition for "acaidh" either, and the mystery is compounded by the fact that there's no Coll an Acaidh Bheag. Whatever this feature translates as, the Torrachilty forest trail passes to the north of it and become surprisingly narrow and relatively rough. The path gradually curves right back around through about 150 degrees and gradually begins to fall, then veers northwestwards again to come down to Loch Garve's shoreline once more.
The woodland trail around Coll an Acaidh Mhor
The path beyond Coll an Acaidh Mhor
Loch Garve shoreline
Loch Garve is reached again only a kilometre or so beyond the place where it was first sighted; thanks to the lazy meanders of the trail, however, you've walked considerably further. The temptation to stop for a picnic is very strong. There are fewer swards of grassy turf than you might think, however; most of the shoreline is covered with forest litter. But it does look exceedingly pretty.
The forest track from Loch Garve to Strathgarve Lodge
Beyond the northern tip of Loch Garve the tracks veers north-northwest to head for Strathgarve Lodge.
Highland estate houses always manage to look intimidating and Strathgarve Lodge is no exception - a massive Victorian pile set back off the track and surrounded by manicured gardens. The main body of Torrachilty Forest has now been left behind and the route loses its picture postcard prettiness to come out into a long, straight stretch of tarmac road. There is forest to the left and pastures to the right; every couple of hundred yards an estate cottage stands back from the road.
The "long straight" of Strathgarve
There are three route alternatives available here. Those wishing to break the journey at Garve should turn left, onto a signposted drive about four hundred meters beyond the lodge. After about the same distance again the drive emerges from the trees into the village of Garve, directly behind the railway station. The bus halt is just up the road to the northwest, the body of the village just a little further.
(North Scotland Line) timetable(.pdf document)
Citylink bus times Inverness - Ullapool (.pdf document)
For those wishing to take the "back of Garve" alternative, this route turns off right opposite the keeper's cottage. The track is not signposted at this junction but it is obvious enough.
The recommended route carries on straight ahead, to Little Garve at the far end of the "long straight".
The "Long Straight" to Little Garve
Forest tracks by Torr Beithe
the "back of Garve" route
The "back of Garve" route is an alternative bypassing the Blackwater gorge between Little Garve and Silver Bridge, for those in a hurry or just hungry for more forest scenery. Although this was my original route, I don't recommend it because I discovered the Blackwater Gorge route later that same day and consider that it should not be missed on any account. If you do wish to take this alternative, however, directions are simple; just stay on the main track, which backs around to the northwest and descends gradually, emerging after about a mile onto the main Inverness - Ullapool road immediately north of Silver Bridge. You should now cross the road and head back south, stopping to admire the waterfalls of course (see below).
The forest track emerges onto the main Ullapool road at Silver Bridge
At the end of the long straight, the road kinks to the left to cross a delightful little humpback bridge over the Blackwater. The river is very lively here, jumping over rocks and cascades in a series of falls. A couple of cottages stand nearby, among trees; this is Little Garve.
The environs of Little Garve Bridge
Turn right immediately after the bridge onto a short driveway, which almost immediately becomes a simple forest path. There is a group of rustic picnic tables nearby. This is, indeed, a very lovely spot for a picnic, but there is much more to come. Make sure you have plenty of film with you.
Little Garve Bridge and the picnic area
The Blackwater gorge
I'm going to come right out and say it; the next kilometre is one of the loveliest along the entire End-to-End route. The Blackwater is a disgracefully behaved river hereabouts and is given to jumping off rocks, throwing itself over cascades and forming sun dappled rockpools in between the white foamy bits.
The forest path beside the Blackwater
The Blackwater gorge
The path makes a good attempt at outdoing the river. You do need to watch your footing, however. The riverside walk is a simple forest path with a surface of fine pine needles, interspersed with pontoon walkways to carry you across the side streams and the wetter bits. The direction and level of the path both veer wildly as it threads between the semi-open stands of pines and firs; there are big enough gaps between the trees to let in plenty of sunlight and the colours are exceptionally strong. Every few yards of path opens up another irresistible vista of foaming water jumping over reddish-brown sills of rock. The sheer scenic beauty, the noise of cascading water, the heady smell of pine and wet vegetation, are almost too exhilarating to bear. Take time to linger. You can always go back to Garve and save the second half of the walk for another day - life's for living and you might as well live it. It doesn't get much better than this.
Cascades in the Blackwater gorge
Approaching Silver Bridge
Eventually you will see the concrete and steel bridge carrying the main road over the gorge just up ahead. You're approaching Silver Bridge and the very best bit of the gorge is yet to come.
The old bridge; the falls
The scenery at Silver Bridge is awesome. Just like at Contin there are two parallel bridges over the Blackwater; the new concrete and steel job and the older stone arch bridge. It's the stone arch bridge that stands in just the right position to catch some breathtaking views of the Blackwater's finest feature; the Silver Bridge falls.
This scenic gem has not exactly been lost on the forest authorities; a pull-in off the road has been constructed here complete with picnic tables and public conveniences. It does mean, of course, that you're unlikely to have this place to yourself, but it's so damn beautiful that you're unlikely to care even if two coachloads of trippers pull in behind you. It was from a tour coach, in fact, that I first saw this place.
A Silver Bridge portfolio
The cascades at Silver Bridge are extensive, fascinating, a visual feast of richness and variety and colour. They are also very noisy! One particularly pleasing aspect is that the rock sills, continuously undercut and eroded, display a rich red-brown colour that almost seems to shine through the foam. It's a place that opens up landscape gardening fantasies; I can just imagine it floodlit at night and I would relish the challenge of taking on such a contract. It would never happen, of course. Such natural beauty should be left alone.
Citylink bus times Inverness - Ullapool (.pdf document)(Silver Bridge is between Garve and Aultguish).
The forest track initially heads northwest and uphill, but veers north and then east of north. The map shows a number of forks but in fact there is only one. Keep to your right..
Longart Forest track, and a view of Ben Wyvis
The track runs through the forest for some four miles. The old Pathfinder map is out of date; the forest track runs deeper into the forest, higher up the slope and further from the road than that shown on the map. There are several felled areas, from many of which there are glorious views down to the Blackwater glen, up to the heights of Ben Wyvis and back towards Garve.
Longart Forest, Blackwater glen and Ben Wyvis
Longart Forest and retrospective view of Garve
The track follows the course of the glen around a long, lazy left-hand curve. Near the apex of this curve look out for the tiny community of Garbat on the opposite bank of the Blackwater down in the valley. Behind Garbat a break in the trees marks a watercourse; this is the Allt a Gharbh Bhaid. Almost directly in line above it is the 3432ft summit of Ben Wyvis, one of Scotland's most extensive mountains in terms of area. A little to the right, the great upland valley of Bealach More separates Ben Wyvis from Tom na Callich, also known as Little Wyvis. A zigzag track can be seen ascending this hill.
Longart Forest and Garbat with Ben Wyvis above
The path completes its left-hand curve and is now facing northwest. New vistas open up along the line of the river Blackwater and the A835. Prominent in the view id Beinn Dearg ("Red Mountain"), which stands north of Loch Glascarnoch and is one of the more isolated Munros in the northwest Highlands. The path descends quite steeply towards the valley.
Towards the end of the Longart Forest track, with Beinn Dearg coming into view
Some four miles after leaving the main road near Silver Bridge the forest trail turns right and hits a t-junction; turn right here and after a short distance the track turns left to cross a bridge over the Blackwater and reach the main road. The Inchbae Lodge hotel is about half a mile to the left.
Longart forest; reaching the road; the Blackwater looking east
The road to Inchbae; looking back to Ben Wyvis; beautiful cottage garden
Deer watching horses grazing in a field; approaching the hotel; Inchbae Lodge
Inchbae is an old hunting lodge that is now a hotel. There is little else here, in fact little else for miles in any direction. A break in the trees gives pathless access for the adventurous hiker across to the head of Glen Glass; a bit further on, beyond the lodge, are the lonely valleys of Strath Rannoch and Strath Vaich which lead into the empty lands of southwestern Sutherland (and which form tomorrow's route). And further along the road there is nothing except the Altguish Inn for many miles until the Corrieshalloch Gorge junction; then more nothing until Ullapool on the west coast at Loch Broom.
of postage / packing.
|Altgowrie to Contin||Back to North of Scotland Way index||Inchbae to Glencalvie Lodge|
This page last updated 27th June 2010