Bunkhouse accommodation in woodland setting
A stunning walk with fabulous hill views to lochan a Choire in Coire Ardair, following the watercourse, Allt Coire Ardair, in the Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve.
The route has some steep sections but for much of the way rises fairly gently to the lochan along a very good gravel path. The walk is accessed from the Allt Dubh Trail (signposted with a red otter logo).
There are some magnificent views on route passing through some lovely sections of heath, as well as some lovely sheltered sections afforded by birch regeneration.
The sheltered wooded areas are of mainly birch and rowan, with bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), heath pea (Lathyrus linifolius), wood cranesbill (Geranium sylvaticum), bugle (Ajuga reptans), wild thyme (Thymus polytrichus), bluebell (Endymion non-scriptus), wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa), Chickweed Wintergreen (Trientalis europaea), heath spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata), Fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea), meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), violets (Viola spp), shield ferns (Dryopteris spp), and the insectivorous butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris).
The heath sections support heather (Calluna vulgaris), bell heather (Erica spp), bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea), bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), and deer grass (Trichophorum germanicum), with heath speedwell (Veronica officinalis), heath bedstraw (Galium saxatile), tormentil (Potentilla erecta), heath milkwort (Polygala serpyllifolia) and devil’s bit scabious (Succisa pratensis) adding splashes of colour from spring to late summer.
As the path ascends and becomes more exposed, the heath takes on a wetter and more alpine character with alpine lady’s mantle (Alchemilla alpine), crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), starry saxifrage (Saxifraga stellaris), mountain everlasting (Antennaria dioica) and downy willow (Salix lapponum), to mention but a few, and with lousewort (Pedicularis sylvatica) and cotton grass (Eriophorum spp) in the wetter areas.
There are several small streams affording ideal microclimates for abundance of bryophytes opposite –leaved golden saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium), water avens (Geum rivale) and cuckoo flower (Cardamine pratensis).
Lochan a Choire is a freshwater, stony bottom loch surrounded by the imposing whale back ridge of Creag Meagaidh. The lochan supports freshwater shrimp, stickleback and brown trout, whilst the watercourse, Allt Coire Ardair, contains brown trout and lamprey. The cliffs of Coire Ardair rise to almost 400m from the corrie floor to the plateau.
Natural woodland regeneration is being actively encouraged on the reserve by removal of sheep and by reducing deer numbers (roe, Sitka and red deer). The intention is to restore the wildwood of Glen Spean by reducing, but not eliminating, the number of deer to restore the natural dynamics of woodland regeneration.
Look out for montane fauna, including golden eagle, ring ouzel and mountain hare. There are also breeding populations of dotterel high on the plateau. Look out for red deer and the tracks and signs of pine marten. Fritillaries, mountain ringlet and montane and day flying moths can be seen fluttering amongst the heath and upland grassland according to the season.
This is a lovely hill walk with much geological and botanical interest; it also affords the opportunity to experience the wild side of the Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve. The walk is highly recommended, although can be a little strenuous in parts. This is a lovely walk for a fine day; you should be aware that this is a hill walk and you should be prepared and take appropriate precautions; please see hill walking code.
Park at in car park Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve, clearly signposted off the A88, at Aberarder. To access the walk follow the Allt Dubh Trail (with a red otter logo) from the information boards for the reserve, from which it is signposted off.
The path initially skirts a meadow on the left and is lined with trees on the right (mainly oak and bird cherry), before heading through a lovely wooded section.
Continue on at the junction as directed. Then cross the farm track and continue on the other side following the signpost and ascending towards the information point at Aberarder farmhouse with reserve leaflets and sightings board, picnic bench and loo.
Once passed the farmhouse, the path begins to ascend more steeply passing through heath with natural woodland regeneration. Continue up some stone steps by a boundary wall to a lovely viewpoint with an information board. The viewpoint provides some great views of the whale-backed ridge of Creag Meagaidh massif behind as well as the hills overshadowing Loch Laggan to the front.
At the viewpoint, take the path to the right, signposted Coire Ardair.
The path ascends fairly steeply, passing by heath and then through some more sheltered woody sections (birch and rowan), before levelling out and traversing into exposed wet heath.
At this point there are some fine views of the ice-plucked cliffs of Coire Ardair. The path follows the meandering watercourse Allt Coire Ardair, with hummocky deposits beyond, the remains of glacial deposition events.
As you approach the lochan, the path descends to the watercourse before ascending again.
The path then follows the watercourse until it reaches the lochan; the latter does not come into view until you are upon it.
Take time for a picnic and to admire the crags and lochan before returning by the same route until you reach the viewpoint. On your return take time to admire the lovely views of Loch Laggan to the hills beyond.
Return to the viewpoint and pick up red route by turning right following the path as it starts to descend and loop round affording lovely hill views over Loch Laggan. The path passes through grassy heath with natural regeneration by birch and rowan. The path passes by a large sheep fank.
Keep left at the junction and head back towards the car park. The walk passes over a board walk section across more boggy ground, with cotton grass (including Eriophorum angustifolium and Eriophorum vaginatum) purple moor grass and willow. Shortly after which the path heads through a lovely section of ancient birch and alder woodland.
Veer left at the junction as directed, and then turn right at the T-junction to the car park.
starting grid ref:
- there and back