Great Glen Way 👣 Slighe a'Ghlinne Mhòir

Woodland and forest
Fearann-coillteach is coille

The Great Glen Ways run through some incredibly scenic woodland and forest, providing an excellent opportunity for our visitors to learn more about and appreciate the variety, history and beauty of trees in the Glen and in general.

We are also lucky enough to have places nearby such as Glen Affric, which make perfect day trips for those wanting to get out among the trees.

How can I learn more about trees and forests?

There are several excellent websites out there on trees and forests. Being able to recognise the most common trees before your visit will help you greatly as you wander through the woodland. Learning about ancient myths and past uses for trees, wood and bark helps bring the woodland to life and shows how deep the connection between humans and trees goes. Tree names are in fact some of the oldest words in the English language!

General tree information

The Woodland Trust
Forestry Commission Scotland
Tree Information by name

Online tree identification

Interactive tree identification by feature
Free ID cards

Tree history and myths

Mythology & Folklore of Trees in the Caledonian Forest
The Celtic Tree Alphabet

What can I do during my visit?

Feel free to print out our guide to Native Trees and Shrubs (pdf, 2.26mb) and bring it along. It is easy to fit in your pocket and features most of the native trees and shrubs you will see in the Glen. Why not see how many you can spot and tick them off your list?

What about children and trees?

Why not try playing Tree ID games? Collect leaves/nuts/fruits etc from the forest floor during the day, and then try and identify them during the evening. Then add a blindfold? Or how about creating a natural art masterpiece with what you have found? What about trying to find trees to match moods – like a sad tree, or an angry tree, or a happy tree? What about who can take the best tree photo? Among others, the Nature Detectives website has loads more for kids to see and do outdoors as well as free downloads.

Trees on the Great Glen Way route

Fort William to Gairlochy

The main tree found along the banks of the Caledonian Canal on this section is Beech. Beech is not native to Scotland and, according to legend, the trees were initially planted up here as burial markers for those who (for whatever reason) could not have official graves. An example of this is rebels who fought in the Jacobite Rebellion. Keep an eye out for the fresh green leaves in Spring, which can make delicious flavouring for gin, and the rich red brown of the leaves in autumn.

Gairlochy to South Laggan

The route runs through Achnacarry Estate on its way to Clunes. In the past, finding exotic tree seedlings and cultivating a forest of varied and unusual non-native trees was quite the thing for private landowners to show prestige and wealth. Keep an eye out for Wellingtonia Redwoods and Atlas Cedars.

Between Clunes and South Laggan there is a good example of Forestry Commission plantation. Here trees are planted, cultivated and harvested in blocks to provide materials for fencing, paper and pulp. Keep an eye out for Spruce and the occasional Douglas Fir.

South Laggan to Fort Augustus

The path through to the Swing Bridge goes through Laggan Corridor, a dense area of trees running alongside the Canal. The trees were originally planted to provide a nearby source of timber during the Canal’s construction and to maintain the integrity of the canal banks. Keep an eye out for Western Red Cedars.

Running alongside Loch Oich through to Aberchalder is the prettiest section of mixed native woodland on the whole route. It is also the area where the Rangers do most of their community-based conservation work, planting trees to reinforce the lochshore which is gradually being eroded by wave motion. Keep an eye out for Hazel Coppice and Oak.

Fort Augustus to Invermoriston

The woodland between Fort Augustus and Invermoriston was amongst the earliest, if not the first, piece of land acquired by The Forestry Commission in Scotland after it was set up in 1919. It is still known as "Acquisition No 1". Tree seeds were brought here from North America and cultivated in a 'tree nursery', meaning that a pure strain of the seeds could be harvested here and used throughout Scotland. Keep an eye out for big Douglas Fir and Sitka Spruce.

Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit

Between Invermoriston and Drumnadrochit is mainly Forestry plantation land. Recent work on this site has however adhered to the PAWS (Planting on Ancient Woodland Sites) designation. This is where, when trees are felled for commercial use, any stands of native trees are left in place. This has led to a great native woodland regeneration. Keep an eye out for Wych Elm, Sycamore, Birch and Granny Pines (very old Scots pine!)

Drumnadrochit to Blackfold

Just outside Drumnadrochit you can find some pretty Pine trees and also young Ash woodland at Tychat. Further up the hill towards Abriachan, there is a programme of restocking native woodland managed by the Abriachan Forest Trust using LISS (Less Intensive Silvicultural System), designed to improve the variety of ground flora and wildlife. Keep an eye out for Willows, Scots Pine and Alder in the restock blocks.

Blackfold to Inverness

Keep an eye out for Juniper around Blackfold. This native shrub is flourishing in the area and is easily recognisable by its spiky leaves set in threes, its dark berries and the smell of gin when crushed! Juniper was a favourite wood of illegal whisky still users as it burns with almost no smoke, helping them avoid detection.

Heading down towards the urban area of Inverness there are several big Larch trees around Craig Dunain. Feel how soft the needles are in the spring when they have just emerged, and watch out for the glorious golden colours in autumn.

Trees are not only to be found in rural landscapes, but also in the urban ones. In Inverness keep an eye out for the large Lime trees which line the path along the river. Lime trees are really popular with bees and help make excellent honey.

Trees for Life