A-maze-ing stones, mountain views and the airy Cat’s Back

Blackmuir Wood

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.

Find out more detail about the rocks that make up the Touchstone Maze with our handy simplified (PDF 284KB) or detailed (PDF 265KB) guides.

Our map guide to the Forests of Ross and Cromarty (PDF 5.8MB) will help you discover Blackmuir Wood and the surrounding woodlands.

Parking Walking Ancient monument

Life's essentials

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.

Walking trails

Cycling trails

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.

Our map guide to the Forests of Ross and Cromarty will help you explore more forest trails in Ross-shire. For nearby trails in Sutherland see the forests of the Far North leaflet.

Contact: North Highland Forest District

Address: The Links, Golspie Business Park, Golspie

Postcode: KW10 6UB

Telephone: 0300 067 6850


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.

Using SatNav?

IV14 9BT is the nearest postcode.

Public transport

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.

Nearby places

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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