Golspie is rightly well known for its stunning links golf course on the shores of the Moray Firth, but the area has plenty to offer those who aren’t naturals on the fairways. Our area manager, Lesley Cranna, provides an insight on some of the other outdoor opportunities in Golspie and the surrounding area.
Seal, otter and osprey watching can be a highlight of any trip to Golspie. Simply take your binoculars and drive south about three miles, to the south side of Loch Fleet. After crossing The Mound, take the coast road to Dornoch and stop in one of the laybys beside the sea. Common seals haul out on to the sandbanks near the road and have their pups with them in the summer. The best time to see them is mid tide – by high tide, the sand banks are submerged. You can occasionally see otters along this stretch of coast although you have to be patient – dawn and dusk are the best times for this notoriously shy creature.
Loch Fleet is a great place to see ospreys in the summer. Ospreys do breed in the area although by late summer they will be preparing to make the long journey back to their wintering grounds in western Africa, south of the Sahara. You might just be lucky enough to catch sight of them fishing over Loch Fleet. Try the car park at the Mound, and if you don’t see ospreys, there is plenty of other birdlife to keep you occupied.
If you feel a little more energetic then why not visit Golspie’s spectacular woodland gorge “The Big Burn”. A network of paths of varying lengths take you through woodland, overlooking a waterfall, across bridges, around a lochan and past sheer rock faces dripping with mosses and lichens. The full circular walk can take you a few hours or you can do shorter sections.
Theses walks are well supplied with tables and chairs for picnics or just enjoy the peace and quiet. Some of the routes have steep sections but generally it is easy to moderate walking – take stout shoes. You’ll find the blue signpost to the car park off the A9 at the north end of the village, just before the 30mph speed limit sign.
Mountain Biking is well catered for around Golspie. The Highland Wildcat bike trail starts from the car park in the Main Street next to the Coffee Bothy café. A variety of different trails cater for different abilities and provide spectacular views from the top of Ben Bhraggie. http://www.highlandwildcat.com/. The trails are free, with a donation machine in the car park.
If you are more comfortable out of the saddle and donning your walking boots then Ben Bhraggie is perhaps the spot for you. Follow the signposts at the top of Fountain Road. This takes you past Rhives Farm where you will find the start of the footpath that takes you through woodland to the top of Ben Bhraggie. Make sure you stay on the footpath – walking on the mountain bike trails is not advisable. Enjoy the spectacular views from the summit and sing a verse or two of that well known tune — Grannie’s Hielan Hame.
Birdwatchers flock to the Golspie area. The Balblair Bird Hide is a 20 minute walk on the flat through woodland to Loch Fleet National Nature Reserve. The reserve is located on the road to Littleferry, past the golf course. There is a car park on the left at the entrance to Balblair Wood. Wear stout walking shoes (or wellies if it’s wet) and take your binoculars. The best time to see wading birds is on the rising tide, but there is usually plenty to see at any time of day. The hide is down a short track through the trees to the left of the main track – look out for the hide sign post.
It might conjure up images of Miami, but Palm Beach walk is indeed a Golspie highlight. Drive to Littleferry and park in the nature reserve car park which has information boards and leaflets that tell you about the local wildlife. Follow the informal paths across the open grassland till you reach the sandy beach. This takes about 20 minutes and is usually dry underfoot. The trees at the coast give rise to the name “Palm Beach” – previously there were more trees here but sea level rise and climate change has taken its toll. In some years, the low-lying grassland is flooded in winter when the sea breaks through the dunes. This is a great place for botanists and bird watchers.
Children are well-catered for around Golspie. If you need a walk that is suitable for little ones, park at the end of Duke Street and follow the path down the burn to the sea – just a few minutes. There are usually ducks where the burn meets the sea and they are partial to being fed! Keep your eyes peeled in this area as otters frequent the coastline here. You can either return to your car, or for a longer walk, you can follow the path round the coast towards the village. Walk along the beach or seafront walk, and return along the main road. Golspie’s cafes – Poppies and the Coffee Bothy in the car park beside the Co-op are handy watering holes if you need a rest and refreshments. Don’t miss Lindsay’s shop on the way back – a treasure trove of toys and many other things – guaranteed to entertain your children.
Scottish Natural Heritage’s Loch Fleet National Nature Reserve leaflet gives you more information and provides a handy map of the area. The leaflet can be downloaded and is also available at the entrance to Balblair Wood and at the Littleferry car park.
Image credits: Common Seal by Danny Green/2020Vision, Otter by Andy Rouse/2020Vision, Osprey by Peter Cairns/2020Vision, Loch Fleet signage by George Logan/SNH, Dunlin by Lorne Gill, Aerial view by P&A MacDonald/SNH