Three Lochans Tour.

Start. Loch an Eilein car park.

Route. Loch an Eilein car park - Loch an Eilein Gate - Loch an Eilein - Loch an Eilein Cottage - Loch Gamhna - Inshriach - Forest Cottage - Cairn Valley - Croft - Blackpark - The Lochans - Lachan Mor - Milton Cottage - Loch an Eilein car park.

Notes. We've slipped our lair in the English Lake District, hunting for snow we found ourselves in Aviemore gateway to some of the best winter mountain walking in the British Isles. I hold my hands up, the Cairngorm plateau under winter conditions is probably out of of my depth, but what we do have and well within the capabilities of any fit walker is the Rothiemurchus Forest. This remnant of the ancient Caledonien Forest that once carpeted most of Scotland is alive with history, full of ancient pine trees, a castle, ruined lime kilns and a myriad of way-marked paths to guide us through it's many delights. We opted for a slight variation of the walk we did way back in the summer of 2010, a beautiful walk around Loch an Eilein in the heart of the forest, join us then take a look at our 2010 excursion.

Loch an Eilein Visitors Centre car park marked our starting point, the route was quite simple, circumnavigate the loch. Leaving the car park we passed a lime kiln pre dating the 1800s, not so obvious but more so than the ones we passed later. The track guided us passed a small castle on an island, Loch an Eilein Castle, a 14th century refuge, built to protect the family of Alexander Stewart against marauding clans and, the many unsavoury characters using the Thieves Road along the south shore of the loch. After the Battle of Cromdale in 1690 Jacobite troops attacked the castle but were driven back by the remaining residents, women and children, the castle remained a safe refuge as it had for hundreds of years.

After passing through a metal gate we left the track, well graded paths then guided us to Loch Gamhna, a lovely lochan surrounded by pine trees overlooked by Kennapole Hill, a stunning back drop. From this delightful body of water we stepped onto the Thieves Road, used by Rob Roy Macgregor one of Scotland's many folk heroes and other cattle rustlers plying their trade along the south side of the loch. For centuries hoping to spare their herds local people would tie a few cows to trees on the shore of Loch Gamhna, a gift for the rustlers.

We continued our journey, passed another kiln before reaching Forest Cottage, from here it was a short hop back to the Visitors Centre, but then this wouldn't be a Three Lochan Tour. Down the tarmac access road we walked to be met by a blue arrow, this was our route, a rutted narrow track heading north through the Cairn Valley. Guided by high deer fences and dry stone dykes we wandered, passed a couple of crofts and ruinous black houses, after what felt like an age we emerged onto tarmac next to Blackpark Cottage.

A few yards down the lane a finger-post invited us to Rothiemurchus, we obliged wandering into mixed woodland a good path under foot, a short diversion saw us on the shore of a lovely frozen lochan. There's a cluster of three tiny lochans in this section of the forest, I presume, probably wrongly they are called The Lochans. Now you know something else about me, I can't count, as this should be No3 but that's further along the path.

After a short walk along the main path we emerged onto the shore of stunning Lochan Mor, a big No3. Nicknamed Lily Loch after the profusion of summer water lilies, created by flooding old fields, a number of ruined crofts lie on the shore. One of the best lochs to view waterfowl, I know this because the leaflet in front of me tells me so. After soaking up the atmosphere a while we continued this stunning walk, unfortunately it was nearly over, we found ourselves suddenly ejected onto the tarmac access lane next to Milton Cottage. Up the road we wandered the never ending song of the Milton Burn our companion, half a mile of water music, by the time we reached the car I was bursting, time to find a cafe with a loo and good food, in that order.

view route map.


Loch an Eilein Visitor Centre and Gallery.

The ruins of 14th century Loch an Eilein Castle, once connected to the mainland by a causeway, submerged when estate workers constructed a dam, raising the water level in the 18th century, the island would have also been much bigger.

Across Loch an Eilein the Cairngorm Mountains.

Kennapole Hill as seen across Loch an Eilein.

Sue strides out en route to Loch Gamhna.

Sylvan Ord Ban viewed from near Loch Gamhna.

The icy waters of Loch Gamhna.

Across Loch Gamhna carrying a little snow, Creagan Ruighe Dhughaill with Kennapole Hill rising out of shot to the right.

An icy corner of the Thieves Road.

A lovely silent place, at Inshriach drinking in views over Loch an Eilein.

Loch an Eilein reflections.

Along this snowy path lies Forest Cottage and the Visitors Centre, but first....

....we follow this track through the Cairn Valley.

From Croft views to the white peaks of the Monadhliath Mountains.

Ruined black houses at Croft.

The changing face of the Rothiemurchus Forest, this wonderful trod is ushering us through a very different kind of woodland, the sun makes a difference but the route was stunning.

The opaque surface of one of The Lochans, off route but worth a visit.

Lochan Mor dressed in it's winters best....

....if you wish to see lilies step back to 2010 and walk Loch an Eilein from Inverdruie.

Milton Cottage overlooks the Milton Burn and marks the point we stepped onto tarmac for the short walk back.

Striding along to the music of the Milton Burn.

Almost back at the car but a break in the trees gifts us with this snowy vista, from left to right, Craiggowrie, Creagan Gorm and Meall a' Bhuachaille.

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