Browse the delights of Blackmuir Wood
There's plenty in Blackmuir Wood to bring you back again and again, from the old curling pond by the car park to Touchstone Maze, a fabulous collection of ancient Scottish rocks. You can run along the Cat's Back to the Iron Age hill fort of Knock Farril, or take it more gently on two well-surfaced trails. Either way, you'll enjoy great mountain views, and spectacular sunsets in summer.
Our map guide to the Forests of Ross and Cromarty will help you discover Blackmuir Wood and the surrounding woodlands.
Please note, there's ongoing forestry works taking place. Be aware of machinery in operation and timber lorries on roads, and please observe safety signs.
You'll find public toilets, shops and eating places in the centre of Strathpeffer, less than a mile (1.6 km) from the forest. You can also hire bikes there.
Red Kite Trail
A short open loop with good views of Ben Wyvis and an opportunity to see kites and buzzards soaring above the edge of the forest.
Firm, largely wide gravel surface. Some uneven, loose and slightly grassy sections. Long moderate slopes for up to 700m with short slightly steeper ramps.
1 ¼ miles / 2.0 km Allow ¾ hour
A short and easy circular route beside a pretty lochan and through an open area of regenerating woodland with summer wildflowers. Catch some spectacular views west to Strathconon, the Fannichs and Ben Wyvis and check the skies for a sharp-eyed red kite looking for prey below.
Touchstone Maze Trail
Climb up to a remarkable stone labyrinth and find some far-ranging views across the mountains of the north.
Firm gravel surface throughout, with uneven and loose parts. Long moderate slopes for 700m and some slightly steeper sections.
2 ¼ miles / 3.6 km Allow 1½ hours
The Touchstone Maze is a fascinating representation of the variety of rock found across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. This route to it is a popular running route, and you can make it more demanding by adding the Cat's Back and the Iron Age fort at Knockfarrel.
Mountain biking trails
Stroke the cat’s back
The forest is at one end of the Cat's Back (also known as Druimchat) a remarkable and airy ridge stretching nearly 2 miles (3.2 km) towards Dingwall from the south side of Strathpeffer. There are superb open views from here, with glimpses of the Cromarty Firth one way and dreamy mountain panoramas the other.
This is red kite territory and you might see one of these magnificent birds of prey at any time of year. It has a reddish-brown body, a deeply forked tail and large white markings on its wings. Listen for its high whistling call echoing over the ridge, and look up - with its wingspan of nearly 2 metres, the red kite is difficult to miss.
Don't miss the Touchstone Maze either. Ancient rituals and geology come together in a wonderful labyrinth of 81 boulders based on Celtic and Pictish designs. Step inside the labyrinth and modern time fades away, for some of these stones are amongst the oldest rock-types in the world. They're cleverly aligned with sunrise on a range of ancient festival days like Halloween, Midsummer and Beltane.
There's more prehistoric mystery on the craggy hilltop at the far end of the Cat's Back, where the massive defensive embankments of Knock Farril iron age fort are still visible after 2,500 years. Its name means 'hill of the high cliff', and it’s one of many forts where the rocks have been vitrified: fused together in a fierce fire. Archaeologists are still debating the cause and we may never know for sure.
You can walk from Blackmuir Wood car park to Knock Farril on a range of paths (about 2 miles / 3.2 km one way) or just keep going after the Touchstone Maze. There are some helpful directions at Walk Highlands.
Alternatively, drive from Maryburgh to the small car park in a saddle below the fort – see the How To Get Here section below. The fort is a short steep climb from the car park.
How to get here
From Inverness follow the A9 north to the Tore roundabout. Take the second exit onto the A835 (for Ullapool and Dingwall). Stay on this road for 10 miles (16 km) turning right onto a minor road for Kinnahaird and then right onto the A834 for Strathpeffer. Just as you enter the village there's a large white building on the right and a tourist information sign on the left. Turn right after the building and follow signs to the car park at grid reference NH 478 573.
IV14 9BT is the nearest postcode.
There are buses from Inverness to Strathpeffer and the car park is less than a mile (1.6 km) from the village centre. You'll find timetables at Traveline Scotland.
There's lots to see in and do in this small area of Ross-shire. Visit the sensational Rogie Falls, explore the family forest trails in Contin and and walk between bridges on a gorgeous riverside loop from Little Garve to Silverbridge. For lazy summer weekends by the water, there are two secluded picnic sites at Loch Achilty and Grudie.
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