The Aldie Burn winds lazily through this interesting forest on its way to the sea. Once, the burn powered several watermills and supplied water to the people of Tain; now it bubbles dreamily beside easy woodland trails. This is a forest for all ages, a place of tall conifers and tranquil pine, where capercaillie and pine marten hide in secret groves, and colourful dragonflies hover on gossamer wings.
There are two walks to choose from. Take a lovely walk up Glen Aldie, stopping to watch dragonflies along the burn before meandering back through gnarled Scots pines and colourful heather. Or try a gentle stroll to the salmon-shaped pond, where you can try pond dipping or enjoy a picnic by the burn.
Tain Hill may sound daunting but most of the climbing has already been done by the time you arrive at the car park. What's left is a pleasant, steady ascent through sheltered pinewoods to where Pulpit Rock provides a fine vantage point across Tarbat Ness and the Cromarty Firth. Willowy ferns, soft mosses and crisp heathers line the forest floor and small birds - crossbills and a variety of tits - call out through the trees.
Camore has the pleasant open atmosphere of a native pinewood, with purple heather covering the forest floor and glimpses of the surrounding countryside through well-spaced trees. It's a place where buzzards hunt for voles, roe deer flit through the trees and woodland birds feast on wild raspberries and blaeberries in summer. A forest trail allows you to explore the open pine stands of Camore Wood and discover some of the 25 Iron Age hut circles from a thriving early farming community. The woods also feature a permanent, intermediate level orienteering course.
Families love the variety in Skelbo, from dipping for mini beasts in the wildlife pond beside the car park to hunting out the chainsaw-carved woodland creatures along the trail. It's a fun forest full of interesting twists and turns, open views and fascinating features, including the remains of an iron age broch and some impressive drystone walls.
Walkhighlands lists various walks around Tain and Easter Ross - an area which has a much gentler landscape than the rugged west coast, with lower, more rolling hills sloping down to fertile farmland and the sea, and dotted with attractive seaside villages such as Portmahomack and Shandwick. There are forest walks in the hills, and some good viewpoints looking along both the Dornoch Firth and Cromarty Firth, but, with its fine long sandy beaches, it is the coastline which wins most attention. The website also features several walks around Dornoch, Lairg and East Sutherland.
The Walkhighlands website provides a detailed map for every route, along with a 3D visualisation, gradient profiles, route downloads for GPS devices and much, much more. All the features on Walkhighlands are free of charge for personal use.
There's plenty to see and do at Ferrycroft, from fun activities in the four star visitor centre to splendid views of Loch Shin from the top of ancient Ord Hill. This is a rich and fascinating place with high-quality archaeology, interesting wildlife and pretty forest trails. Spend an hour here or the day.
The forest at Raven's Rock is a beautiful mixed woodland enclosing a magical steep-sided gorge. Follow the suspended boardwalks and bridges across waterfalls and dark mysterious pools to unexpected viewpoints and atmospheric picnic places.
Lush green mosses and ferns hang from the gorge walls and plump blaeberries cover the forest floor in summer. This gorgeous hidden gem is full of secret surprises and loved by all who come here.
Rosehall is a welcoming forest with a network of interesting trails and an impressive log cabin created by the community. It's on the site of a walled deer park, where Rosehall estate once kept herds of fallow and sika deer. Descendants of the sika still browse in the woods, and the old carriage routes have found a new use as trails; ideal for walking and cycling.
Strathrory to Scotsburn Drove Road
Follow the route of this drove road for a challenging but rewarding wander by the Strathrory river through oak and pinewoods and across open moorland. You’ll need to organise transport from the end – or be prepared to walk back to the start.
Used by drovers herding their cattle to market from the 17th century, the strath has been settled for at least 6,000 years. Look out for signs of Bronze Age settlements, an unfinished Iron Age hill fort and the remains of more recently-abandoned croft buildings.