Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve
Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve

The Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve covers almost 48 square kilometres (over 11,000 acres) between the western shore of Loch Maree and the peaks of Beinn Eighe itself. The reserve is bounded on the south by Glen Torridon and the Torridon River. The reserve is named for the Beinn Eighe ridge, a rough group of ridges, peaks and scree slopes.

The reserve also takes in a scattering of small islands on Loch Maree. There are more than 60 of these islands, which provide one of the last remnants of untouched natural woodland in Britain.

This is the oldest national nature reserve in the UK, established in 1951 to preserve the largest stand of ancient Caledonian pine forest in the western Highlands region. The remaining woodland rises from the banks of Loch Maree and up into the foothills of Beinn Eighe. The woodland is known in Gaelic as Coille na Glas Leitor, or the Wood of the Grey Slope. The oldest of these Scots pines are over 350 years old.

Loch Maree from the Mountain Trail
Loch Maree from the Mountain Trail

Much of the original forest was cleared in the 17th century to feed iron ore smelters on the north shore of the loch. More trees were lost during WWII when pines were used to create ammunition boxes for the military.

Now NatureScot (formerly Scottish Natural Heritage) is encouraging natural regrowth of the pinewoods, as well as planting other native species.

Beinn Eighe is home to a wealth of native wildlife, including pine martens, red deer, sea eagles, golden eagles, and crossbills.

The visitor centre is located immediately north of Kinlochewe village at the southern end of Loch Maree, on the A832. The visitor centre is open from March-October and has panoramic displays, maps, information panels, and information on the natural history of the area.

You can see a 3-D printed map of the reserve and watch a webcam trained on a sea eagle nest. There is also a hide overlooking a pond and wooded area that is a perfect place to spot some of the reserve's bird and animal life. Open 10am to 5pm, with free entry.

On the Woodland Trail
On the Woodland Trail

Walking Trails

The best way to enjoy the reserve is to take one of the signposted trails. There are four main trails, two starting at the visitor centre, and two from the Coille na Glas Leitor, roughly 2 miles further north.

Visitor Centre Trails

There are two short trails, plus a trail linking the visitor centre to Kinlochewe village.

Pinecone Trail
An easy path through woodland, with a flat, level surface and little gradient. A good starter.

Buzzard Trail
Longer than the Pinecone Trail, this trail emerges into open ground and offers good views of the Beinn Eighe ridge to the west.

Small lochs on the Mountain Trail
Small lochs on the Mountain Trail

Coille na Glas Leitir Trails

If you really want to explore the reserve, this is the place to start. The Coille na Glas-Leitir car park is on the loch side of the A832, and is well signposted. An underpass leads beneath the roadway to join the walking trails on the westward side of the road.

Woodland Walk
As the name suggests, this circular walk passes through ancient Caledonian pinewoods. Here you will have a good chance to spot some of the forest birds that make Beinn Eighe their home, including tree pipits, siskins, and crossbills. The Woodland Walk is roughly 1.5km (almost 1 mile).

Mountain Trail
This is the longest trail in the nature reserve and covers 6.5km (about 4 miles). It links to the Woodland Trail but then climbs up onto the high ground, with wonderful views over Loch Maree and the surrounding landscape. It's a taxing climb to the high ground and will take roughly 3-4 hours, plus time spent enjoying the views!

Loch Maree from the Slattadale parking area
Loch Maree from the Slattadale parking area

I can heartily recommend taking the time to tackle the Mountain Trail; the views are extraordinary and the mostly level upper section of the trail passes through a remarkable landscape of scree, mountain lochs, and rocky peaks. If you are lucky, you'll spot golden eagles, ravens, and buzzards at the high elevations.

Be aware that the path is exposed at upper elevations, and is rough going in places. Please wear good hiking boots and bring waterproof clothing.

Aside from the paths above, there are longer, rougher hiking trails from Kinlochewe village. For these, you need a good OS map.

Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve is a delight, set in one of the most stunningly beautiful areas of the Highlands.

More Photos

About Beinn Eighe NNR
Address: A832, Kinlochewe, Wester Ross, Scotland, IV22 2PA
Attraction Type: Countryside
Location: Parking at the visitor centre north of Kinlochewe village on the A832 and at Coille na Glas Leitir car par, 2 miles further north.
Location map
OS: NH019629
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


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