Walking & Wildlife

​Walking

The area surrounding the village is ideal for walking and climbing. Ben Hope (927m), Scotland’s most northerly Munro, is less than 10 miles from the hotel. Ben Loyal (764m), the ‘Queen of the Scottish Mountains’, one of the most northerly Corbetts, overlooks the hotel. Both of these mountains are favourites with our guests all year round.













Those who prefer flatter ground will be spoilt for choice. With our network of single track roads, forest tracks and miles of unspoilt beaches, guests can spend their days wandering by foot, bicycle or car. 

Highland Council Countryside Rangers run regular events in the area including guided walks, archaeology trails, story-telling, wildlife walks and family events. Click here ​to find more information about organised activities in the area.

For detailed information on walking in Caithness and Sutherland see www.walkhighlands.co.uk/sutherland.

Some of our favourite walks include...

Castle Varrich

The surrounding area of Tongue has many places of historical interest including Castle Varrich (or Caisteal Bharraich in gaelic); the oldest stone building in the north of Scotland, built on the oldest rock in the United Kingdom – Lewisian Gneiss.  The ruins of the castle stand on the inlet overlooking the Kyle of Tongue. The origins of the castle are unclear however it is believed to be a Mackay stronghold dating back to the 14th century built on the foundations of an 11th century Norse fort.  The invigorating 1 mile walk to the ruins starts just a few meters from the hotel. Upon reaching the castle you will be rewarded with stunning views over the truly beautiful Kyle of Tongue. You can take an alternative route back, ascending the hill to the south and swing down from the heathery summit to reach a bridge on the old road to Kinloch. Walk north along the road for 1km back to the village.

Borgie Forest Walk

Stretching inland from the road between Strathnaver and Tongue, the Borgie Forest Walk takes you through the only mature woodland on the North Coast of Sutherland. Fire almost destroyed the forest in 1942 but the surviving Scots pine and spruce are now the tallest trees in the north at over 30m high. The forest habitat is further enhanced by the presence of Borgie River and its network of tributaries. The river rises in Loch Loyal and flows through a series of three lesser lochs to reach a large waterfall about 1km west of the edge of the walk, from there, its course winds 8km through the woodland to reach the sea at Torrisdale Bay. Sheltered tracks through the forest provide scenic trails for walkers and cyclists. 

 

 

The Unknown 

Borgie Glen takes you to the edge of a vast northern interior of hills, heather moor and thousands of tiny lochans. It's an expansive place, where red deer roam and buzzards circle in the enormous sky. Climb towards The Unknown, an enigmatic sculpture by artist Kenny Hunter, and feel the mystery and grandeur of these so-called 'empty lands'.

Sandwood Bay

Without doubt Sandwood Bay is one of the most magnificent beaches in the UK. You can walk for over two kilometres along the pink sand against a backdrop of enormous sand dunes, a picturesque loch and an impressive rock looming out of the sea. A trip to Sandwood Bay is not for the faint hearted however as what keeps the bay special is the effort required to get there namely a 4 mile walk from Blairmore, near Kinlochbervie.

Invernaver & Torrisdale Bay

​The flat-topped, peat-covered ridge of Druim Chuibhe, lying between the mouths of the River Naver, is a National Nature Reserve of unusual interest. The whole Reserve covers a rectangular area, 3kms long and 2kms wide, rising steeply from the River Naver on the east side and falling more gently down to the River Borgie on the west. The 130 meter high ridge drops abruptly at the north end to meet the magnificent dunes and sands of Torrisdale Bay. The bay is sheltered by rocky headlands to east and west, a natural inlet in which a sandy beach is uncovered at low tide. The full force of the northerly gales which blast in from the Pentland Firth is responsible for the formation of the maze of shifting dunes along the foot of the northern end of Druim Chuibhe ridge, which itself is covered with blown shell and alluvial sand of varying thickness. This quirk of nature has created, within a relatively small area, 'a wide variety of habitats for the finest assemblage of boreal plant communities in the north', seen at their best in the early months of the year. The area is equally rich in wildlife and geological features. The northern part of the Reserve, including Torrisdale sands, gives a splendid circular 6-7km walk which can be started from either side.

Wildlife

The countryside around the hotel supports abundant wildlife. You do not have to travel very far to see red deer, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, ospreys, pheasant, grouse and ptarmigan. In the Kyle of Tongue you can see seals playing then retiring to the sandbanks. Those with patience will be rewarded with sighting of sea otters playing on the shoreline or fishing for their dinner in the waters of the Kyle. If you are really lucky you might also spot whales and porpoise in Talmine Bay.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Forsinard Nature Reserve, located about 40 miles to the east of Tongue, is a wonderful place for birdwatcher. The landscape is mainly peatland and is home to a wide variety of birds including merlins, hen harriers, red and black-throated divers and golden plovers.

Sutherland & Caithness are one of the world’s most diverse wildlife destinations. The area is ideal for beginners and for the more accomplished bird watcher wishing to see some of Scotland’s specialties for the first time. 

© Ben Loyal Hotel, 2020

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