Strathspey – the valley surrounding Aviemore and the river Spey in the Cairngorms National Park is home to the Wilderness Scotland office. Options for walkers here are abundant! The Cairngorms is home to some of the highest peaks in the UK. For low-level walking, we are blessed to have ancient Caledonian pine forests and a myriad of lochs and rivers to meander along.
One of our Wilderness Guiding team, Emy Macleod has put together a few of her favourite low-level and easy wanders that you can do in Strathspey near Aviemore.
A section of woodland in Glen Feshie is home to many wooden sculptures carved by artist Frank Bruce. The sculpture trail is easily accessed from nearby Aviemore and is a great option to also take in the natural beauty of the nearby River Feshie.
How to find it:
The sculptures were crafted with the knowledge that one day they would return to the ground with nature reclaiming them. Originally they were displayed near Banff in Aberdeenshire, however when the opportunity arose to have them here in the Cairngorms, a place that Frank and his wife had grown fond of, they were moved to their current location. The trail & sculptures are cared for and maintained by the Forestry Commission for Scotland. You will discover that some of the sculptures are carved in stone. This is to ensure that some of the artist’s work remains permanent as a record of his skills.
The design of some have them weakening before others, an intention by the artist. These sculptures are magnificent to look at. The sculptures take one on a journey through Scottish culture and can question our place in the world, both as individuals and as a society. You can spend a great deal of time looking at the sculptures, asking yourself questions and interpreting meaning through reflection of what your life is and what your life can be. The first sculpture on the trail is the Archetype. An archetype is a typical example of something. It can also be a mental image inherited from the earliest human ancestors that is supposed to be present in our unconscious mind and which affects our behaviour and emotions. Examples of archetypes that people can relate to are those of “The Mother”, “Hero”, “Outlaw” and “Trickster”. A person can look at these sculptures and see if they can identify with a particular archetype. It may not be one that is positive and it might ignite a need or drive for change. On the other hand one may identify with a positive archetype and that person may feel confidence and a sense of accomplishment in their life.
The largest stone sculpture, The Millennium, is Frank Bruce’s visual display of what creation is. The hand represents the force man has over destiny and what can be reached. It is a representation of he who created it all and gave man opportunity and skill to build and grow. Within the stone a pyramid and sphere are carved, also a face and hands. Man made the pyramids, man visited the moon, what is next for the human race?
A sculpture that focuses on Scottish Culture is “The Man’s the Gowd”. This work, inspired by the works of Robert Burns has two men standing facing each other, one a working man and the other a knight. Both have carved crowns of skulls upon their heads. The meaning that can be drawn from these is that no matter where one sits on the society ladder, rich or poor, we all die one day.
The Uath Lochans are one of the must see woodland locations in the Cairngorms National Park. They are sometimes known as the paw lochans as from the air the 4 lochans make the shape of an animal’s paw print.
How to find them:
The lochans are found in the Inshriach forest area in Glen Feshie. Surrounded by Caledonian Pines, heather and marsh/bog land it is home to an abundance of wildlife and plant life. It is a popular site for bird watchers with a number of hides in situ and in the month of July, the waterlilies (Nymphaea Alba – white rose) that flourish on the lochans are certainly a sight worth seeing.
Ruthven Barracks was built by King George II after a Jacobite rising in 1715. The barracks were completed by 1721 and the stable outbuilding was added later in 1734. To this day the ruins of the barracks are still impressive. The historic ruins are located near the village of Kingussie, built on a natural mound believed to be a result of a glacial retreat at the end of the last ice age.
Ruthven Barracks admission is free for visitors, open all year round and has free parking facilities. The barracks is a short walk (20 minutes) from the village of Kingussie. A must visit if you are in the area and have an interest in Scottish history and culture.
How to find them:
The Barracks consisted of two three-storey buildings that housed up to a total of 120 soldiers. Designed originally for an infantry garrison the position of the barracks then became advantageous for using mounted soldiers as a quick response against any impending attacks from the newly built military roads.
Ruthven Barracks saw battle with the Jacobites. In 1745 up to 300 Jacobites tried to take the barracks, however they were unsuccessful, beaten back by only twelve Redcoats who were stationed there. A year later in 1746 the barracks surrendered when 3000 Jacobites returned to the Garrison, this time armed with artillery.
The Jacobite risings are an important part of British History, sometimes referred to as the Jacobite rebellions or the War of the British Succession. The Jacobite movement between the 17th & 18th centuries came to an end on April 16th 1746 at Culloden (43 miles north of Ruthven Barracks). The Battle of Culloden saw the Jacobites defeated by the Redcoats, the remaining Jacobite troops regrouped at Ruthven Barracks. It was here on April 20th that the troops received word from their leader Bonnie Prince Charlie, “Let every man seek his own safety in the best way he can”. On receiving the message, the Jacobites set light to the barracks and set off to evade the Government troops.
Covering a 10kmsq section of the River Spey floodplain is Insh Marshes, a protected area of wetland that is home to species of breeding waders including Snipe, Lapwing, Curlew and Redshank.
How to find it:
The Curlew is identified by its long curved bill. In Springtime, it is easily identified by its call, a song starting with a deep whistle of notes then quickly turning into a long bubbling sound.
The Redshank has long orange/red legs and a white rump which can make them easy to pick out in the marshlands. The call is of a yip-yip-yip or yodelling sound, a noisy call adding to its easy-to-spot markings.
The Lapwing is a common wader with a wispy Mohican style haircut and pees-weep or pee-wit song, making it easy to spot. When breeding, they are particularly protective of their chicks, more so than other birds and will perform aerobatic flights and dives to ward off predators.
The Snipe is a more secretive wader most likely to be spotted in flight than on the marshland itself due to its camouflage colouring. Its call is of a chip-per chip-per sound and, like the Curlew, can be identified by its long bill.
The RSPB works with the local farmers to conserve the area of protected marshland. Historical draining of marshland areas and the reduction in grazing caused deterioration to the habitat. The area of grassland became too widespread so now with help of local farmers the land is maintained and monitored with grazing of sheep, cattle and ponies. The conservation extends to the regeneration of local woodlands, including Loch Insh wood, with Aspen grown to benefit the flora and fauna of the area as well as the removal of non-native conifers.
In the heart of the Strathspey region lies Loch Insh. The River Spey feeds into and runs from this loch on its meandering journey from Loch Spey to Spey Bay. Loch Insh is popular for water sports with an outdoor centre based on one of its shores. The Badenoch and Strathspey walking route takes you through the wooded area of Loch Insh where you are able to see varied wildlife and plant life. If you are lucky you may catch a glimpse of an otter where the Spey runs into the top of the Loch.
Find it here:
Loch Insh is popular for birdwatchers. There is a small protected island in the Loch that is home to a pair of Ospreys. The Osprey is a fish-eating bird, large in size with a wingspan up to 170cm. Each year the pair return to Loch Insh to their nest (called an eyrie) at the top of a very large tree to breed. These Ospreys migrate here from Africa from March onwards. Towards the middle/end of April, the female will lay her eggs and then incubate them for up to 40 days before they hatch. It is a common sight from the banks of Loch Insh to see the Ospreys swooping and diving to the loch surface to catch fish and circling their nest to ward off predators. The Osprey is a protected bird. There is no access to the island during the breeding season.
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