Let your feet wander in Balmacara
Balmacara Woods is an ideal place to stop for a picnic and a woodland stroll if you're on the road to Skye. This is a great family-friendly place to stretch your legs and let the kids have a run around, have a picnic or walk the dog. You’ll find easy walks among the varied trees, gorgeous views from the hillside above the woods and discover fascinating stories of the area.
Take the Tree-Spotter trail to explore the varied woodland or venture further for great views. Or alternatively, try the Skye View trail that winds up through the trees above Balmacara Square to reach the site of a World War II gun battery and enjoy spectacular views of Loch Alsh, Kintail and the Isle of Skye.
Find out more in our Forests of Lochalsh (PDF 3.6MB) leaflet.
There is a cosy café in the 18th century estate village of Balmacara Square beside the woods. Otherwise, head to nearby Kyle of Lochalsh for public toilets, parking, shopping and a range of places to eat and drink.
Skye View Trail
Oak and ash trees give way to heather-covered hillsides with sweeping views across Loch Alsh to the mountains of Skye.
Long steep slopes and sections of rough, narrow rock and grass paths. Includes narrow kissing gates and a section along the road. Very muddy and wet in places.
2 ¾ miles / 4.6 km Allow 2 hours
Before you drop back down to Balmacara, branch off the track to see where anti-aircraft guns defended the skies during World War II.
Mountain biking trails
Take to the trails
A number of longer informal trails also start from Balmacara – these are not waymarked but look out for fingerposts as you explore. Follow routes to the little lochside village of Kirton or head over the peninsula towards Plockton, looking out for tranquil Loch Achaidh na h-Inich and the remains of the iron age Sean Creag fort on the hill above. Look carefully at what looks like a pile of stones in the loch below – this small island is actually what’s left of a 3rd century crannog, a fortified dwelling built on stilts.
These trails make great full day walks or bike trips. Always make sure you’re well prepared and take an OS map with you.
Defending the skies
During World War II, tiny Balmacara played an important role in defending Scotland’s skies. A gun battery on the hill above the village protected the military camp and port at Loch Alsh from air attack by German planes. Follow the trail to visit the site of the gun battery on a spectacular viewpoint overlooking the loch. It was hard to predict the flight path of enemy planes and the guns were most successful in firing to put the planes off their course, known as ‘jinking’.
Balmacara Square and woodland trails
The restored buildings of Balmacara Square are at the heart of a traditional 18th century Highland crofting estate now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. Find out more at the Trust’s visitor centre in the Square (open Easter to September), and explore the woodland they care for beside the loch on an easy trail across the road from Balmacara Woods.
How to get here
Balmacara Woods lies beside the A87 between Auchtertyre and Kyle of Lochalsh. Turn off the A87 following signs for ‘Balmacara Square’. The Balmacara Woods car park is on the right hand side after about 100 yards (100m), at grid reference NG 804 280.
IV40 8DP is the nearest postcode.
There are regular buses between Inverness and Skye that stop along the A87. You’ll find details at Traveline Scotland.
Head south for panoramic coastal and mountain views at nearby Ard Hill. Here you can drink in the invigorating sea air, enjoy a picnic or take to the trail to admire the sweeping views over Loch Alsh and spot wildlife.
The colourful mixed woodland at South Strome is also well worth a visit. Explore the trail through the woods that line the steep craggy slopes above Loch Carron – there are spectacular loch and mountain views towards Applecross.
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