THE Achray Forest is a great place. From only a short distance away it can appear like a carpet of spruce on the hillsides, a dark place where the sights and sounds of nature are blanked out.
Up close it is a different prospect and this walk, combining two waymarked trails, takes you through a mix of woodland, on to open hillsides and up a steep-sided summit. There is birdsong along the way, even the chance of spotting an osprey. Finally, the views from the top are great with a panorama of mountains to enjoy – perfect for a picnic.
THE ROUTE With your back to the visitor centre take a path on the left – you are following marker posts with a blue flash on them for the first half of the walk. The path drops down past picnic benches then swings round to the left to head in the opposite direction. Ignore side paths and follow marker posts down to a large waterfall, nestled in a tree-filled gorge.
Retrace your steps about 20 yards from the waterfall to just before a boardwalk and go up a path on the right. Immediately after a very small stone bridge go right, up a path through birch trees. A little way up there is a good viewpoint over the top of the waterfall seen before – do take care of the drops.
You eventually reach the Duke’s Pass road, which you cross and continue on a path on the other side. The path climbs through bracken and fern and bears right – ignore a path going up to the left and continue through heather. The path winds up to a viewpoint over the forest with the Campsie Fells in the distance before dropping back to the road. Cross back over and follow a track on the other side. The track bears right then left, into the forest.
On dropping to a crossroads go right to cut the walk short and return to the waterfall. To keep going, head straight over the crossroads – you are now following marker posts with red flashes on them.
The track goes up to a viewpoint with an information board explaining you are standing on the Highland Boundary Fault, where the lowland rocks were forced down by the highlands around 390 million years ago. Continue up the track to reach a path. It is well worth going left for a final exertion up to the top of Lime Craig; higher up the path swings right and then left to reach a fork. Go right and follow the path up and round to the top with its concrete slab, which used to house a telecoms mast.
The view is extensive; from the Campsies to the south, the nearby peaks of Bens Lomond and Venue, and the mountains to the north-west and north, including Bens More and Ledi.
Drop all the way back down the path, passing the track you ascended, and continue to another track. Cross over and follow a path which continues to plunge down through the forest. At the bottom go right at a track then, after a few hundred yards, go left at a marker post to follow a path down to, and over, a footbridge.
On reaching a wider path, go right and at the next junction go right again to return to the waterfall at the start.
DISTANCE 7 miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED 1,200ft.
TIME 3 to 4 hours.
MAP OS Landranger 57.
PARK The Lodge Forest Visitor Centre is above Aberfoyle, up the A821, at the start of the Duke’s Pass road.
REFRESH The cafe at the visitor centre is good and modern, or there is a pretty good choice in Aberfoyle.
WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA With its rope bridges, Tarzan swings and zip slide, Go Ape next to the visitor centre, is hard for youngsters to ignore. n