A walk through oak woodland and heathland along the shores of Loch Arienas to the deserted village of Arienas in the Scottish Wildlife Trust Rahoy Hills Reserve. The Rahoy Hill Reserve is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Look out for golden eagle, buzzard, golden plover, greenshank and red deer in the hills. Listen out for tree pipit, redstart, redpoll, wood warbler and greater spotted woodpecker in the woodlands and heron, sandpiper and oyster catcher along the shoreline, as well as diving and dabbling ducks, red-throated and black-throated divers and cormorants on the open water. Seek out for the tracks and signs of pine marten, wildcat, fox and otter on route.
The site supports a range of habitat sites, including wet grassland, heath and woodland. Look out for wet grassland/bog specialists, including heath spotted orchids ((Dactylorhiza maculata), whose pink and purple streaked flowers are resplendent in Summer. Calluna-Erica assemblages dominate the open areas of the hillside, with bog myrtle (Myrica gale), bog asphodel (Narthecium ossifragum) in the wetter areas of the heath. Oak interspersed with birch, rowan, hazel and ash are found on the lower slopes, with willow species in the wetter areas. These Atlantic oak woodlands support diverse assemblages of lichens, mosses and liverworts, as well as a species rich ground flora, most notable of which are the primroses, violets, bluebells, vetches, pimpernels and scabious species, all resplendent in Spring and Summer. The woodlands also support a range of ferns, most numerous of which is hard fern (Blechnum spicant). There are also extensive patches of bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) by the shores of the Loch. Marvel at the intricate patchworks of lichens on boulders and Precambrian schist outcrops. The Atlantic oakwoods along the north shore of Loch Arienas are designated as a Special Area of Conservation.
The deserted settlement of Arienas consists of the remains of former houses and barns. The village was abandoned in the 19th century. The remains of charcoal burners’ huts, charcoal platforms and a stone dyke have also been found in the woods around Loch Arienas. The deserted village of Acharn also had corn mills and its structures associated remain visible in the surrounding area including the lade. There is also a series of bronze age platform cairns, 300m north-west of Acharn, with cairn 3 also identified as an Iron Age cremation burial (see links for further details).
The path is a mixed of grass, gravel and stones, which can be very boggy in places.
1. Park at the Reserve car park, near Acharn, off the A884 between Strontian and Lochaline. There is an interpreation board in the car park giving an overview and route of the walk. Head downhill toward the farmhouse, keeping right and crossing the river on the wooden bridge. At the far side of the bridge and before you reach the farmhouse, go through the kissing gate and follow the tree-lined, boulder strewn river, Black Water, for a short section on a grassy path as signposted.
2. Go through another kissing gate and then veer left around the edge of the hill Meall Achadh a’ Chuirn, following the way marker posts. The path crosses rough grassland and provides good views of the surrounding hills, flanked with a combination of deciduous oak woodland and coniferous plantation.
3. Cross the style and skirt by the fenceline, heading towards Loch Arienas, with its golden sand bars visible on the southern shore. Go through the deer gate and into the woodland. The path now ascends through Atlantic oak woodland. The path can be very boggy at the start as evident by the wet grassland specialist flora.
At the top of the path there is a viewpoint with a welcome bench providing lovely views over Loch Arienas.
The path continues through the woodland, interspersed by heath and grassland. There are stunning views on route of Loch Arienas and the steep sided, flat topped basaltic hills to the south, as the path skirts the edge of the Loch.
4. Pass through another deer gate and continue skirting the edge of the Loch through open grassland, dotted with the odd venerable oak, clad in bryophytes and lichens.
5. Cross the remains of a dry stone wall and then a small wooden bridge across the tree-lined Arienas Burn.
Once across the bridge, you can explore the deserted settlement of Arienas on the hillside at Arienas Point, with its ruined dry stone buildings. There is also a cairn on the shoreline next to some fine mature ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior), dedicated to the naturalist Brian Brookes, author of the British Naturalist Association Guide to Mountain and Moorland.
6. Return by the same route.