Walk 108 - Struy to Altgowrie
10½ miles

Cannich to Struy Back to North of Scotland Way index Altgowrie to Contin

The Walk

This rather splendid walk makes use of two hill tracks that cross the wild country just west of the Beauly firth. Unless you're backpacking and camping wild, the key to its completion is the bus service from Beauly to Cannich which runs only on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays (unless you want to raise yourself early enough for the school run from Inverness at 7am). After a road walk of a mile and a half out of Struy (pronounced "Stroo-ee"), our first hill track strikes out northeastwards through Erchless forest to run up past Lochan Fada. It skirts the delightful mini-wilderness of Urchany and then climbs to a col in a low ridge just west of Cnoc Eille Mor. The track loops westward now, running along the south side of the empty (and somewhat unappealing) Glen Gowrie; its ultimate destination is the dam over the Corrin reservoir several miles to the west, but we leave it here for the remote cottage of Tighachrochadair just below.

From the cottage we climb the shallow slope to the north to gain a sketchy vehicle track leading down the glen to the northeast. The track improves and, three miles further on, comes down to Achederson farm on the edge of the pastoral country of the Beauly firth. The farm driveway emerges at the public road just south of Altgowrie. From here it's a three mile walk down the valley to Muir of Ord, for lodgings or for the train or bus back to Inverness.

Map: OS 1:25000 Explorer 431 (Glen Urquhart & Strathglass)

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Struy village

    Buses into Struy: Ross's Minibuses, Beauly - Cannich - Struy - Tomich : 
Tuesdays and Fridays only; depart Beauly 0925, arr Struy 0945.
Saturdays only; depart Inverness 1150, arr Struy 1245.
Tuesdays only, depart Beauly 1230, arr Struy 1250
(These minibuses tend to have tiny destination boards propped up in the base of the windscreen - keep your eyes open).

Highland Country Buses service 121: Inverness - Kimorack - Struy 
Schooldays only: depart Inverness 0705, arr Struy 0745

From the bus stance in Struy walk back along the road to Beauly, passing the road junction where you emerged at the end of the previous walk. Continue along the road and cross the bridge over the Farrar, beyond which the Strathfarrar road leads off to the left (west). Continue along the main Beauly road for another mile.

Approaching the Farrar bridge;  the River Farrar

The Strathfarrar junction;  the Beauly road


The road is fringed by trees on both sides. It passes a hotel (useful to know about if you need a bed for the night) and then Erchless Castle, a private dwelling and not really much to look at. Ignore the first forest road on the left; wait until you round a significant right-hand bend just past Erchless Castle. Our track appears, leading quite steeply uphill for a few yards before passing Erchless Forest Cottage and disappearing into a dense stand of pines.

The road from Struy to Erchless

Lochan Fada

The track through Erchless Forest

The track is well surfaced at first but soon deteriorates somewhat. After about a mile it comes out into a more open section, crossed by the power lines from the Strathfarrar hydroelectric station. The path continues to climb, though on a shallower gradient, for a further mile before reaching the northern edge of Erchless forest. Lochan Fada appears to your left, with the much smaller Loch nan Cuilc to your right. The Affric and Cannich hills appear in the view behind you.

Power lines from Strathfarrar;  nearing the edge of the forest;  looking back along Lochan Fada


The next two and a half miles are a gem. We're skirting the Urchany forest, the first stretch of the Highlands west of the Beauly firth, and despite its close proximity to civilization you could actually be a hundred miles from anywhere. There is a huge sense of space here. The track meanders left, right, up and down somewhat and it's not easy to keep track of where you actually are on the map. Forget it and enjoy the scenery. The highlight of the Urchany section is a delightful little gorge holding a stand of trees. If the midges aren't rampant and the heather and bracken haven't taken over, this is a really fine spot for a picnic. No doubt the occasional tent is pitched here too.

Three views of the track through Urchany forest

The Urchany gorge

The Allt an Lochain Bhallaich;  the path climbs to Cnoc Eille Mor

The track continues north northeast past the gorge and begins to climb to the low ridge beyond. The terrain is confusing - there is a tendency to think you are rather further north than you actually are. There is an initial climb to a false summit, after which the track continues through less interesting scenery for a while, eventually skirting the unphotogenic Loch Ballach. From here it doglegs alarmingly but climbs steadily to the true ridge line, just west of the 1200ft summit of Cnoc Eille Mor.

Cnoc Eille Mor

The Cnoc is a lovely little viewpoint. A straightforward ridge walk could be had from here, northeast past Loch nan Eun to the broadcast tower above Auchmore wood. The view to the west, though, is far more arresting. Out there are the Strathfarrar Munros - Sgurr nan Ruaidhe, Carn nan Ghobhar, Sgurr a Choire Ghlais and Sgurr Fhuar-Thuill, together with their outliers and intervening tops.

The path approaching Cnoc Eille Mor

The top of the pass;  the Strathfarrar Munros in the view ahead

There's also a view northwards, of course. Beyond Glen Gowrie, down to your right, are a couple of groups of low hills. Beyond these the bulk of ben Wyvis is unmistakable. The track heads west now. running along the lip of Glen Gowrie below. About a mile beyond the col the track makes a wild dogleg to the southwest to skirt a little ravine formed by the Allt a' Chrochadair. The cottage of Tighachrochadair lies below and is your next objective.

The track heading west;  the remote cottage of Tighachrochadair in Glen Gowrie

Take the track past the ravine. The map shows a path heading down the west side of this gully towards the cottage below - unfortunately it's just a cartographic whimsy and you have to make your own way down through trackless heather.


There are two buildings at Tighachrochadair; a cottage and an outhouse. The cottage is intact and in good order. Sometimes these remote cottages are maintained as overnight refuges for shooting parties, shepherds or estate workers, while others are made available as mountain refuges ("bothies") for walkers and climbers. I didn't know which of these functions Tighachrochadair performed until reader Stuart Young contacted me with the following information:
"Tighachrochadair's last resident was Donnie Ross, born in the house, educated by a resident teacher because the law required the many children to be educated , worked all his life for the local estate, never had piped water, electricity , drains, or any means of cooking apart from his open fire. When I met Donnie in the early 1990s he was at least in his late seventies, very sharp witted, and active.  He was a charming man with a very sharp sense of humour. He died around the mid 1990's"
A swathe of verdant lawn surrounding the cottage would make a splendid campsite, though it must be remembered that this land is owned by the local estate and it would be courteous to obtain permission first.

The enclosure wall;  the bottom of the gully

I did have lunch here when I walked this section in September 1997, on the grass beside the Allt Goibhre itself. This stony little stream is crossed by a rope "Indiana Jones" bridge, but the bridge is largely unnecessary as the stream can easily be forded unless in spate. A meagre track climbs the slope beyond to join the vehicle track along the north side of the glen. Turn right and follow it downstream.

The Allt Goibhre;  the track leading away from Tighachrochadair;  Tighachrochadair from the north

Glen Gowrie

The Glen Gowrie track

There's about 2½ miles of vehicle track to follow. It's sketchy and somewhat juicy at first but gradually improves, and as it nears the lip of the glen above Altgowrie a view opens up over the Beauly firth. The Muir of Ord distillery is very prominent, a white blocky building some 3½ miles distant.

Glen Gowrie track;  Looking back to the Strathfarrar hillsthe Beauly Firth begins to appear

The track descends to the Beauly firth

Eventually the path comes alongside Bridgepark Wood and reaches the farm of Achederson. You bypass the farm buildings to the right and continue down the farm driveway to the road below.

Achederson;the farm driveway;  looking back


There's just a simple 800-yard walk to the road now. As you descend you catch a view of much of tomorrow's walk as well as the bulk of the Beauly firth. Ben Wyvis lies several miles to the left, and that's Strathpeffer nestling below it. Dingwall is hidden behind an intervening hill but you should make out Conon Bridge and Muir of Ord. Beauly lies out of sight behind the ridge to the right.

Descending to Altgowrie


There isn't much to Altgowrie, and the prospect of finding bed-and-breakfast here is slim. Any hope of camping is slimmer still. Your best bet is to keep walking. The road to the right from the Achederson junction heads for Muir of Ord, three miles away - there's ample accommodation there and also transport links to Beauly, Dingwall and Inverness.

    Trains from Muir of Ord: Scotrail (North Scotland Line) timetable(.pdf document)

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This page last updated 22nd June 2004