Nestling in the hills above Loch Ness, Abriachan is a scattered rural community. In 1998, villagers bought 500 hectares of land from Forest Enterprise and embarked upon an ambitious project to enhance the local environment, create new jobs and attract more visitors to the area through the creation of a path network, mountain bike routes and other facilities. One of the more unusual trails to emerge from this was the Peat Path to Fitness, a moorland walk incorporating a range of active challenges.
The route begins above Loch Laide, at the Abriachan Forest Trust car park. Before setting off, it is worth exploring the pinewood here. Hidden amongst the trees are an adventure playground, tree houses, various nature ponds and hides and a short trail leading down to the loch.
From the car park, head south through the forest to a replica Bronze Age hut circle with thatched roundhouse. From here, a fairly strenuous path ascends on to the west shoulder of Carn na Leitire to reach a junction where there is an exquisitely carved wooden bench commanding great views. Go right and a path descends to meet a track.
Bear left at the junction and head east along the track to join the start of the Peat Path. From here on each challenge is marked by a board with a mannequin figure. One of the first is a large Gaelic word square puzzle set out on a cart (don’t worry if your Gaelic is a little rusty, the words you need to find are listed on the information board at the car park).
The route soon leaves the shelter of the trees and snakes out across open moor, home to black and red grouse, passing a giant peat cutting knife and various opportunities to stretch, run, bunny hop, lift and carry before you reach a set of climbing poles which both adults and kids will love.
With some wonderful views over Loch Ness – home of the famous monster – the path descends to a reconstructed shieling, a primitive stone shelter of a type once common in the glens of Scotland where they were used by farmers and crofters as summer dwellings while they tended their flocks on the hills. With a bushy roof of turf and heather, this one is a fine place to escape the elements or enjoy a picnic. There are a couple more simple tasks to undertake before the peat path reaches its end at Balchraggan.
A minor road leads on to a junction. Turn left and follow the road up through Abriachan, passing the quaint little corrugated iron village hall. At the next junction, go left and in half a mile the road skirts round the north shore of Loch Laide.
There are plenty of great places to sit by the water and spot some of the local birdlife, including whooper swans, grebes, tufted ducks, golden eye and visiting ospreys.
Follow the road on to meet, on the left, the access track to the car park and the end of the walk.
Distance: 5 miles/8km
Start/parking: Abriachan Forest Trust car park (GR: NH 540354)
Map: Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger sheet 26
Info: Inverness Tourist Information Centre, Castle Wynd, Inverness, IV2 3BJ. Tel: 01463 234353. Web: www.visithighlands.com
For more info on the Abriachan Forest Trust visit www.abriachan.org.uk