Places to visit while enjoying the Affric Kintail Way
While we are sure that visitors to the AKW will thoroughly enjoy the scenery and surroundings while travelling the route we would like to make some suggestions as to some other places you might like to visit if you're not in too much of a hurry and perhaps taking the route at a slower pace.
Most of the places of interest we suggest are situated very closely to the AKW and can easily be incorporated into your daily schedule. One or two landmarks a re a bit further away but well worth the extra miles.
Craigmonie & Balmacaan Wood
Immediately at the Drumnadrochit end of the Affric Kintail Way visitors might like a detour to explore the woodlands of Craigmonie and Balmacaan. Waymarked walks of various lengths link both woodlands and the summit of Craigmonie, scene of the final battle of the 11th century Scandinavian Prince Mony who reputedly died from his wounds at Corrimony, offers fine views of Loch Ness and the Great Glen.
Craigmonie Wood is managed by a local community group, The Craigmonie Woodland Association in partnership with the Forestry Commission. Balmacaan Wood formerly part of a large sporting estate and boasting some of the largest specimens of Wellingtonia, Lawson's Cypress and Douglas Fir is now owned and managed by the Woodland Trust Scotland.
Situated at Strone Point enjoying commanding views of Loch Ness, hence a favourite spot for seeing the Loch Ness Monster, Urquhart Castle had a chequered history from it's origins in the 12th century till it's demise in the late 17th. Over the years it had been in the hands of Edward I of England, Robert the Bruce, Clan Grant and the MacDonalds 'Lords of the Isles' always as a result of bitter fighting. In 1692 following the defence of the castle by troops loyal to King William against a Jacobite siege, the castle was blown up to prevent it being used as a fortress in any future rebellions.
Following centuries of neglect the castle is now in the care of Historic Scotland and received a major facelift in 2002 with the creation of a visitor centre and exhibition - well worth a visit.
Corrimony Chambered Cairn
Just at the junction of the AKW and the narrow public road into Corrimony you might like to detour to the left to visit the Corrimony Chambered Cairn. Now in the care of Historic Scotland it was excavated in 1952 abd was built possibly 4000 years ago. It is an example of a passage grave of the Clava type and is remarkably well preserved, the best example in the region.
There are 11 standing stones surrounding Corrimony Cairn with a space where possibly a 12th once stood, although it is believed some of these may have been added after the building of the original cairn. It is still possible to access the central chamber via a passage some 20 feet in length, although the burial chamber is now open to the elements.
(NH 32509 31008) The prehistoric and previously unrecorded Iron Age dun was re-discovered by Forest District staff in Comar Wood during a pre-felling check on the woodland in 2010. The site was interpreted as a galleried dun with an unusually well-defined defensive outwork. Later buildings of probable Post Medieval date have been built into the rubble of the dun and outwork.
The dun and the area around it were felled in 2013 using soft felling techniques which avoided structural damage to the site. The trees had been planted in 1954 and at the time the dun would simply have appeared as a pile of stones to the planters. The dun had been the intended subject of an earlier survey in 1943, apparently prompted by information from local sources, but failed to locate it.
Plodda is situated just off the narrow Tomich-Cougie road. There is a car park with picnic tables and waymarked walks. The Falls can be spectacular even in dry weather though they are quite superb after heavy rain while in winter they can freeze over and present a challenge to ice climbers. There is a viewing platform over the drop and also one down a narrow track.
The area around the Falls is a rich and diverse woodland. Around 1900, Lord Tweedmouth planted a large number of Douglas Fir, Larch, Giant Redwood and specimen conifers. Together with the native tree population they have combined to provide an ideal habitat for the likes of the red squirrel and a wide variety of bird and insect life. Some of the Douglas Firs are now an impressive 200ft tall!
Dog Falls & Coire Loch
When you arrive at the Dog Falls car park consider spending some time taking the waymarked walks to view the rapids along the Falls and extend your walk to the internationaly important site for dragon flies (fourteen species recorded here) at Coire Loch. Good car park with toilets (seasonal) and picnic facilities.
This part of Glen Affric may be ideal for those travelling at a more leisurely pace and perhaps splitting Stage 2 combining Cannich-Dog Falls together with the waymarked walks.
Falls of Glomach
A visit to Kintail would not be complete without journeying to the Falls of Glomach, at 113 metres (370ft) the single-drop waterfall is the highest in Scotland. The Falls are in the care of the National Trust for Scotland and there are ranger led walks available in summer.
The Falls can be accessed from the Kintail Countryside Centre and given the distance (approx. 11 miles round trip) and terrain, suitable gear and a good level of fitness are required. (Map OS Sheet33)
Eilean Donan Castle
The castle was established in the thirteenth century, and became a stronghold of the Clan Mackenzie and their allies the Clan Macrae. In the early eighteenth century the Mackenzies' involvement in the Jacobite rebellions led in 1719 to the castle's destruction by government ships. Lieutenant-Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap's twentieth-century reconstruction of the ruins produced the present buildings.
One of the most photographed castles in Scotland and a 'star' in anumber of movies, almost all of the castle is now accessible and facilities include a Visitor Centre & Coffee Shop.