Blairfindy Moorland Circuit
Route: A steady ascent up to the Speyside Way with fine views and moorland wildlife. Crosses moorland and can be boggy in places.
Distance: 8km (5 miles) circular
Duration: Allow 3-4 hours
Start: Altnaglander car park (Strathavon): NJ 170 286
The Altnaglander car park is a section of the old, redundant road, which you follow across a bridge to a field gate. Go through the gate and shortly pass through a second gate in the high fence, which encircles the 45 hectares of new native woodland that was planted in 2009. Please ensure these gates are secured to keep the deer from entering and eating the rowan, birch, Scot’s pine and willow trees that were planted. Head uphill along the track that continues south along the eastern edge of the forest plantation, before leaving the native woodland through another gate (1). The path climbs steadily up the edge of the moor, following the forest edge, and can be boggy in places. The moors are acidic peaty soils which hold water and provide conditions that plants such as heathers, blaeberry, mosses and bog cotton like to grow in. As you reach the highest point, climb a stile on your right into the woods to find a forest hide, a good place to rest and enjoy the views across the moorland. Herds of red deer may be seen roaming the moors, look out also for birds of prey; golden eagles, hen harrier and merlin. Return to the moorland and continue to the corner of the wood ahead where the path turns left, still following the tree line (2). At this corner there are now lovely views of the Cairngorms Mountains.
Dragonflies may be seen here, darting quickly along as they hunt for prey. A small pond within the trees provides the habitat that they need for the aquatic stage of their life cycle. As you reach the end of the plantation continue ahead along the fence line reaching a track and gate (3). Turn left and follow the track (also the Speyside Way) across the shoulder of Carn Liath. There are fine views to enjoy along this section, down across the moorland to the left and ahead as you round the corner the prominent peaks of Ben Rinnes come into view. As you reach the corner of a small wood (4), leave the Speyside Way and fork left following along the outside edge of the wood, joining a track leading to a gate (5).
Here turn left and head across the moor following around the contour of the hill, before the path turns downhill. Over to the left, look out for piles of stones and mounds in the heather, remains of field systems and enclosures. Turn right towards a ruined building (Tomcruin, a house and enclosure) which you pass before going through a gate back into the fenced native woodland area where you join a track which you follow down onto the B9136 road (6). Turn left onto the road and follow this the short distance back to the car park at Altnaglander.
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Set in the stunning eastern Highlands of Scotland, there’s so much waiting to be discovered.