While we all ponder the damage we are doing to the environment and think of ways to make things better, there is a place in Scotland that has been trying to press the reset switch since the 1960s. It has long been known as one of the most beautiful places in Scotland, but great strides have been made to restore this stunning glen to its original form, with a corridor of ancient Caledonian forest stretching from coast to coast, packed with biodiversity. To walk through it is truly to walk somewhere special. Welcome to the Glen Affric Trail.
In a Nutshell:
Where: The Glen Affric Trail crosses Scotland from Inverness in the east to Glenelg in the West. The trail takes you through a remote part of Scotland, long known in the country as the most beautiful glen, which is a pretty bold statement! At one point you will spend the night in a youth hostel, eight miles from the nearest road, so if you are looking to get off-the-beaten-track, this is definitely the trip for you.
Distance: The route is 84 miles long, winding from Inverness and its suburbs, out along part of the Great Glen way before heading into Glen Affric proper. After a long first day of 20 miles, you are walking around 13 miles every day.
Grade: We have graded this trip Moderate to Strenuous. It has that tough first day of 20 miles, even though its terrain is pretty easy going, however, that all switches from then on. The terrain becomes more remote seeing you walking on hill and mountain tracks, riverside trails, minor roads and highland paths, some of which can be indistinct and boggy. Some of the ascents and descents are steep and can be exposed so require a good head for heights and sure-footedness in places.
Why Walk Here?
Who wouldn’t want to walk in the most beautiful glen in Scotland? The main thrust of this trip is to get you to leave all your trappings of modern life behind and lose yourself in this stunning wilderness. While those of you on certain networks might get a signal occasionally, a lot of the time you will be ‘off-grid’ and blissfully so. While it is still a good idea to have your smartphone on you to help you navigate with our Macs App, and take some amazing photos you will be fairly cut off from the rest of the world.
The movement I mentioned in the opening paragraph, to rewild Glen Affric is only one of the aspects of its beauty. While the aim is to restore the forest and the biodiversity within, even the bare land, cut through by the River Affric is something to marvel at. You will find fences throughout the glen and rather than the traditional fence use, of keeping animals in, these exist to keep grazing animals out. Crossing one of these fences is to instantly realise that this rewilding project is the way to go. The difference is almost shocking, going from stark beauty to rich abundant life in two steps. Thick mossy ground, shaded by strong healthy trees, surrounded by the noise of birds. It is a simple, but powerful ecological lesson.
The wildlife is well worth a mention too. While the fences are there to keep them to the high ground (a job previously done by wolves before we killed them off) you will see herds of Red Deer in the glen on a regular basis. More elusive, but still a regular guest in the glen is the Golden Eagle, Scotlands unofficial national bird. There are also martens, red squirrels, ospreys, rare crested tits and crossbills, just to name a few of the ‘higher profile’ animals that call Glen Affric their home.
You will also stay in some amazing places. Inverness, the capital of the highlands is a lovely wee city, complete with castle and close to Culloden, the sight of one of the bloodiest battles in Scottish history. Drumnadrochit is the epicentre of the Loch Ness Monster tourist industry and the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition is well worth a visit. Cannich, Glen Elg and Shiel Bridge are lovely wee remote villages, all adding to the feeling of being away from it all.
Planning and Preparation
Starting the Glen Affric Trail couldn’t be easier. Inverness is accessible from all over the UK by plane, train or bus. Getting back from Glen Elg requires a little more effort, but a taxi and a couple of hours on the bus will see you back in Inverness, or you can skip across to the Isle of Skye easily, if you want to continue your Highland adventure.
If you have any questions about the route, don’t hesitate to contact one of our Destination Specialists, who will be more than happy to help.