A lovely 5 mile gander around Loch an Eilein and Loch Gamhna made up of forest paths for the most part, with the remainder being marshland and unmaintained trail. If sticking to the path around Loch an Eilein it could get a little boring, so the detour around Gamhna was well worth it, but it’s ankle tweak central so watch where you step. The views of the surrounding hills and forests keep it interesting with plenty of places that might make great places to rest if you’re planning a longer run. Parking is steep at £1.50/person (not per car) so bring change.
I dragged myself out of bed at 7am (I can say dragged because this was a holiday), gorged myself on some hazelnut Krave cereal (again, a holiday) and coffee and hit the road for a long day of trail running in the Cairngorms National Park, with an aim to get three under my belt that day and two the next (but not before stopping at Tesco in Aviemore to get some bananas because, funnily enough, I was starving after only eating Krave that morning. Fool). Upon finding a space in the car park, I dumped the car and set off on run number one.
The run began easily enough, heading south until the loch was visible and taking a left onto the main track. In fact, most of this run follows this path and so maps aren’t necessary, barring a few small parts here and there where you could end up taking a wrong turn (see 2.5 miles on the map). The quarter of a mile looks like it’s used by vehicles, at least recently, so is pretty torn up in places until you pass the empty house on your left. Further from this, head through the gate and continue tracing the shore of the loch. You’ll soon come to another gate and unless you want to run along Lairig Ghru (nope), go through it. Here you’ll be graced with excellent paths and some really great scenery peeking through the trees, notably Creag Dhubh to the south. Follow this path around the loch for another mile and half, there are no turns to take away from it, but looking into the loch can make for a relaxing time and you’ll see on the map below where I took a short detour just to see more of the woods. You’ll eventually come to a small foot bridge and a stream. Jump over the stream (or take the foot bridge I guess?) and continue along the path until you see a sign on your left proclaiming “Path not maintained”.
As you head south along Loch Gamhna, you’ll notice the path becomes much harder to discern; make sure you stick to any route that takes you right. You’ll see on the map, this time not a detour, but a wrong turn (which does eventually give you the chance to loop back but would be an extra few miles). Continue across a bridge and follow the route around until it begins to curve right and begin heading north by northwest (heh). Other than the numerous frogs, there was little else exploring the path with me this morning, so nobody to see me cursing when I sank into a knee deep bog at mile three.
Don’t be like me, bring spare socks.
Watch for frogs as you progress along the remainder of the path alongside Loch Gamhna and really, aside from the marsh, there isn’t much more to watch for on this section as your northerly route circles around the rest of the loch and rejoins the main path back at the south face of Loch an Eilein.
When you reach the main path again, hang a left and you’re pretty much on the home stretch! It’s around a mile and a half back to the car from here, so take your time and enjoy the sights. Keeping your eye on the right, you’ll see the ruins of a small castle adorning an island just off the short. This is Loch an Eilein castle, said to be the home of the Wolf of Badenoch in the late 13th century. The path to it has since been lost after the water level of the loch was raised slightly. Check this link for more information. Keep on this way until you run to a gate, continue through and pass a white building (visitor centre) on the left. This will see you return to the area where you started the run from and so back to the car park. Now to eat a banana and attempt to dry my socks before the next run (which took 15 minutes to drive to, so was a pretty pointless exercise).
Did you try it? See any other wildlife or have the frogs completely taken over? Let me know in the comments below!