Footpaths and Woodlands

Footpaths of the Black Isle  -  Julian Paren

TBI's Convenor, Julian Paren, is a keen walker and photographer, and 'collects' Black Isle walks and woods, and records them, with pictures, on the website of a project called   'Geograph® Britain and Ireland', which 'aims to collect geographically representative photographs and information for every square kilometre of Great Britain and Ireland'

Julian has contributed information for a large number of Kilometre squares on the Black Isle, and has recently comblned some of these into two articles on footpaths and woodland of the Black Isle.  In addition to the online versions of these, which he likes because he can add to or update them at any time Julian has prepared static document versions, without images, which he hopes to have published in the Culbokie 'Chatterbox' and perhaps 'Muir Matters'.

Julian has kindly made copies available for us to publish on the website.

'Footpaths of the Black Isle'
Geograph version
Document version (PDF)

'Woodland of the Black Isle'
Geograph version
Document version (PDF)


August 2021

TBI leads the way to improve the John o’ Groats Trail by Munlochy Bay


The first stage of the 10-stage John o’ Groats Trail from Inverness to John o’ Groats  passes from Ord Hill behind North Kessock, beside Loch Lundie and then down to the shore of Munlochy Bay before heading on to Culbokie for the end of Day1.   The route beside Munlochy Bay was conceived in 2015 to use a section of a Core Path of the Highland Core Path Network () but beside the bay the Core Path is waterlogged by both flooding by rainwater and from high tides.  So by 2017 a higher route was constructed to bypass the lower wet section below Bayhead.  After a year or so of operation, a footpath group that attracted members from across the Black Isle walked the route with pruners, loppers, secateurs and ensured it was safe and hazard-free to use.


Now forward to 2021 after a period of lockdown the route was barely walked and vegetation reasserted itself, especially in the cut section above Munlochy Bay.  Julian and Mary Paren had tried to walk the section in July and gave up after fighting through gorse and brambles and long grass which hid the unevenness of the trail.


Julian sent out a call to the “footpath group” - an e-mail list of 35 people who had expressed an interest in maintaining footpaths, and ten days later, at short notice, 9 signed up for a fresh look at the section together with Jay Wilson, the originator of the entire John o’ Groats Trail.  Unexpectedly (or maybe just what you would expect) all in this group were members of Transition Black Isle.


The problem section was possibly 400 metres long.  The path was cleared from both sides and from low lying branches above, and on the ground by a final strim after the roots of gorse bushes had been cut right back to the ground.  The section also had a problematic stile which was singularly difficult to use as there was still barbed and chicken wire across it.  Fortunately an alternative route was seen to be possible, and was literally cut from scratch to follow the line of the fence which it crossed at a far easier point lower down.  The new route is drier than the previous route over the stile and provides a shorter section off the Core Path than hitherto.


The weather was fair and all found a role with the implements they brought.  Greatest thanks must go to Peter Moffatt for strimming the entire route after it had been opened up by those ahead of him.


At the end of activities, a photo was taken, home-made food shared, and Jay talked about the future of the Trail, highlighting that recent funding had allowed the employment of a Trail Manager, taking over some of the responsibility that Jay had taken on over the years.

Julian Paren


The cleared path

The team


February 2018

TBI members stride out with a purpose

Julian Paren writes

Last year a number of people contacted Transition Black Isle about the poor state of local paths and cycle tracks.  Further enquiries revealed a group happy to undertake some footpath maintenance while enjoying a walk together.  Two months later on Sunday 18 February the first meeting of the group, a twenty-strong party, armed with pruning saws, loppers, secateurs and strong gloves arrived by bus at North Kessock Pier for the 11 km walk back to Munlochy.

The plan was to walk a section of the newly created John o’ Groats Trail.  The trail starts from Inverness, passes over the Kessock Bridge, and continues in 14 stages to John o’ Groats.  The first stage ends at Culbokie and the group planned to walk half of it. The John o’ Groats Trail website describes each stage of the route with detailed mapping.

Jay Wilson, the mastermind and co-ordinator of the John o’ Groats Trail, joined the group for the walk.  The Black Isle section has been fully way-marked.  Parts of the trail are new and link established footpaths, and Jay had negotiated rights of access to produce a logical route. An important aspect of the walk was to ensure these new links were clear of encroaching vegetation.



Sunday was a beautiful day and it seemed no one was in a hurry until gorse, broom, overhanging branches and minor obstacles were cleared.  Lunch was spent overlooking Loch Lundie while some cleared a blocked path nearby, forgoing the break.  The final tasks of the day were to add additional signs to a “high-tide” diversion by Munlochy Bay and clear gorse from a new section that replaces a tidal footpath below Bayhead.


For those who want a good quiet 11 km walk with no hazards, this walk is highly recommended, and the return can be made by bus.

Before and during the walk, many suggestions were made of where the group should focus its next activities.  Paths in Spittal Wood, Fairy Glen, Bogallan Wood, Agnes Hill and Swallow Den, the A9 underpass at North Kessock, and Avoch-Fortrose railway line were all put on a list.

The group plans to meet monthly and would welcome new active members and champions who could “Adopt-a Path” especially those where access is becoming difficult through neglect.  The walk was great fun, and a real difference was made.

For future activities and to be kept informed by e-mail please contact Julian Paren at Transition Black Isle.

Some of the group enjoying the sunshine during a pause along the way


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Saturday 4 February
13:00 Black Isle Repair Cafe North Kessock
17:30 Transition Town Forres - Imbolc fundraising event
18:30 Knocknagael Growing Group Ceilidh
Monday 6 February
19:30 RCA Fergus McCreadie Trio at Resolis
Wednesday 8 February
14:00 Black Isle Men's Shed AGM
Thursday 9 February
10:00 Allangrange gardening workshop - Fruit tree pruning
Saturday 11 February
NA      Cromarty Community Market
Saturday 18 February
10:00 Culbokie Community Market

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We are part of the rapidly expanding worldwide Transition Towns movement. The Black Isle is a peninsula of about 100 sq miles ENE of Inverness in Scotland, UK.