Glimpse wings and waterfalls at Loch Arkaig
Loch Arkaig is a hidden gem, fringed with woodland and open hills and tucked away off the beaten track between Fort William and Inverness. You can enjoy a picnic beside the waterfall at Chia-aig, at the east end of the loch, then look for butterflies at the more remote Allt Mhuic reserve.
Fancy a nibble?
You’ll find places to eat in Spean Bridge.
A short stroll to a picnic and viewing area by the Witches Cauldron, into which the impressive Chia-aig waterfall pours.
Firm, largely smooth gravel surface, with some slightly grassed over sections. Generally flat with short moderate ramps.
miles / 0.1 km Allow ¼ hour
Allt Mhuic Butterfly Reserve
Climb up onto the open hillside to see the rare chequered skipper butterfly against the amazing backdrop of Loch Arkaig.
Rough grassy surface with some rocky and very wet sections. Long steep slopes for up to 500m. Includes a narrow gate and sections of boardwalk.
1 miles / 1.7 km Allow ¾ hour
This is a beautiful place even if there are no butterflies about. Listen for wood warblers singing among the birch trees, and look for grey wagtails and dippers along the burn.
Mountain biking trails
The bonnie Prince and the butterfly
Bonnie Prince Charlie is said to have sheltered in a cave on the hillside above Chia-Aig after the battle of Culloden. Nowadays you might come across a wedding party: the waterfall is sometimes used as a beautiful place to get married.
The reserve at Allt Mhuic has important populations of two scarce butterflies, the Chequered Skipper and Pearl-bordered Fritillary. The best time to see them is from mid-May to the end of June, when both species are on the wing. There are dragonflies on the lower slopes too. But you can enjoy the tranquil atmosphere and marvellous scenery at any time, and watch for otters down by the loch.
This was Butterfly Conservation’s first reserve in Scotland. You might see Highland cattle grazing on the hillside: they keep the grassland in the right condition for butterflies. Find out more in our leaflet about the reserve.
How to get here
To get to the Allt Mhuic butterfly reserve, continue along the north shore of Loch Arkaig. The reserve is at grid reference NN 120 912.
For Chia-aig waterfall, head north on the A82 from Fort William past Spean Bridge, and turn left at the Commando memorial, grid reference NN 176 888. From here continue for 9 miles (13km) past Gairlochy canal bridge and follow the single track B8005 past Loch Lochy to Loch Arkaig. The car park is at grid reference NN 177 889.
PH34 4EJ is the nearest postcode, at Bunarkaig on the shore of Loch Lochy. Continue for another 2 ¾ miles (4.4 km) to reach the car park.
Download our guide to more fabulous forests along the Great Glen.
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