The Moorings Hotel on the banks of The Caledonian Canal by Neptune's Staircase
An easy walk along a good track into the hills and wilderness behind the Scottish Wildlife Trust Rahoy Hills Reserve along the banks of the Black Water River.
There are excellent views on route of the surrounding hills of Braigh Uladail to the east and Meall Achadh a’ Chuirn and Monadh Meadhoin to the west, and Meall Lochan nan Lorg, Mam na Cѐire, Meall a Chaise, Tom Aonghais, Beinn Bhan and Beinn nam Beathrach to the north.
The route passes through Atlantic oakwood, open heath and grassland. These Atlantic oak woodlands, designated as a Special Area of Conservation, support diverse assemblages of lichens, mosses and liverworts, as well as a species rich ground flora, dominated by the compactly tufted purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea), interspersed with hard fern (Blechnum spicant), male and butler ferns (Dryopteris spp ). Calluna-Erica-Vaccinium assemblages dominate the open areas of the hillside, with bog myrtle (Myrica gale), bog asphodel (Narthecium ossifragum), cotton grass (Eriophorum angustifolium) and heath spotted orchids (Dactylorhiza maculata) in the wetter areas. Look out for patches of insectivorous sundews (Drosera spp) and butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris), as well as the mixed bryophyte communities in the boggy areas. There are also intricate patchworks of lichens on boulders and outcrops.
Look out for golden eagle, buzzard, golden plover, greenshank, stonechat, skylark and red deer in the hills and heath. Listen out for tree pipit, flycatchers, redstart, redpoll, wood warbler, siskin and greater spotted woodpecker in the woodlands. Look for dippers and otters in fast flowing sections of the river. Along the route seek out the tracks and signs of pine marten, wildcat, short-eared owl and fox. Overall, a good place for seeking out wildlife associated with hills, mountains, heath, woodland and rivers.
The route is a mixture of gentle ascents with flat sections along a well-defined track.
1. Park at the Reserve car park, near Acharn, off the A884 between Strontian and Lochaline. Take the track beside the two interpretation boards, which introduce the reader to wildlife of the Rahoy Hills Nature Reserve. The track initially heads through oak woodland following the steep-sided wooded valley of the River Black Water, then becomes variously flanked by woodland and heath, and through woodland as you gradually follow the Black Water River between the hills of Meall Achadh a’ Chuirn and Braigh Uladail.
2. The track passes through a wooden gate and then by a few small waterfalls, glimpsed through the trees, as the track nears the riverbank. The track continues to follow the river, lined with its narrow strip of alders, birch, ash, elm, rowan and oak, traversing open heath and grassland as the track skirts between Monadh Meadhorn to the west, and Braigh Uladail and Beinn Chlaonleud to the east. At this stage, there are some lovely open views of a wild, mountainous, glaciated landscape, with its interlocking spurs and U-shaped valley.
3. The track soon crosses a wooden bridge and then continues along on the opposite side of the boulder strewn, meandering river with its distinctive schist outcrops.
4. Continue along the path until you reach a derelict house. The walk stops here, although the track continues on towards another more modern house and byre at Crossben where the track ends at an old rickety wooden foot bridge.
5. Return by the same route, continuing to admire the stunning views and looking for wildlife on your return journey.
starting grid ref:
- there and back