Offlist Walk: Farigaig Forest (Inverness-shire)

12 09 2010
12th September 2010
with Mrs NLW
5.5 miles
Explorer 416 (Inverness, Loch Ness & Culloden)
Cloudy/some sun
Mrs NLW and I are currently enjoying a week north of the border. We had been contemplating climbing Muall Fuar-mhonaidh on the western bank of Loch Ness but the weather has been extremely changeable, and we didn’t want to get stuck on top of the hills without any discernable footpath should the cloud roll back in. Instead we elected to walk in the forest above Inverfarigaig on the eastern side of the loch.
The drive to Inverfarigaig (from our base in Fort Augustus) is worth the trip alone, past the hidden Loch Tarff, over an impressive pass with a viewing area, and then onto General Wade’s miltary road as it winds its way through to Foyers, past Boleskine (former residence of Aleister Crowley) and on to our destination. We parked in the Forestry Commission carpark which has – so Mrs NLW tells me – one of the nicest public conveniences ever seen!
The walk starts steeply, we quickly peel off the opening path and head west towards the first viewing point where we find a welcome bench left there in memory of Alice Burrows. It’s decent view of the loch, but hopefully there’s more to come. The narrow path crosses a ridge and then drops down to a wide track which climbs slowly into the forest. As soon as we are used to the gentle climb the walk tells us to turn off the track on a narrow path up to another track. The trick is then repeated…a few minutes on the wide track and then turn off again onto another narrow root strewn path which cuts steeply up a damp verdant gully until we are at one of the highest points in the forest – an extremely narrow track (basically brushing through heather) leads to a rocky outcrop overlooking the loch, and in the distance: Castle Urquhart. We take lunch sitting on this rock – taking comfort from the knowledge that we have done the hard part of the walk already.
We descend the eastern side of the hill away from Loch Ness, it’s a tricky descent, and at times I wish I’d brought a stick like the smug Mrs NLW. We reach another wide track that descends gently but straight as an arrow in a southerly direction. We pass the beautifully calm Lochan Torr an Tuill, who’s waters are an almost perfect mirror. At the end of the track we turn a tight left and head up a minor road back towards Inverfarigaig.
As this road cuts below the crag that we had previously walked above – we turn off on the right and take a hairpinned track up into the forest – stepping over felled trees every 20 yards or so. As the forest thins slightly the path becomes entirely moss covered – it’s like walking on a bed. The book that we’ve taken the walk from (Pathfinder Guide: ‘Inverness, Loch Ness and the East Highlands’) tells us to “turn left through an obvious gap in the trees”, we do so and only a few yards later emerge into a large clearing through which runs a very wide and well-maintained logging road, a couple of giant JCBs sit resting in the clearing, it seems strange that we had no idea these were here just 5 yards away in the wood – so thick are the trees.

Falls of Foyers

We stick to this track for the next 1.5 miles, it’s easily the dullest part of the walk, and so it’s with some relief that the track ends and we have to venture back into the forest. This is the only point at which the book is not clear (possibly because the logging work in the area has changed the reference points somewhat), eventually however we locate the “tumbledown gate” we are looking for and proceed downhill until we emerge on the lane between Inverfarigaig and Errogie, we follow the lane further downhill –¬† cross a bridge – and then through the pass of Inverfarigaig with it’s rough cliffs rising to our right. Next to the road is a monument to James Bryce, a geologist who fell to his death from these cliffs in the 19th century.

Once back at the car we stop off in Higher Foyers on the way back, it is well worth the short (but steep) descent to the first viewing platform to see the impressive Falls of Foyers. I’m normally disappointed by most waterfalls – but this one is an exception.

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