Tell us about the benefits of pioneering conservation work on Creag Meagaidh?
From the 1700s heavy grazing by sheep and deer on what is now the reserve ground meant few trees could survive and much of the wildlife that depended on them was lost. However, in 1986 Creag Meagaidh became a National Nature Reserve and this signalled a new era. Grazing pressure was reduced and lost plant and animal communities were gradually restored. Now wildlife abounds here. From the golden eagles, dotterel and ptarmigan of the high tops, to the black grouse, small pearl-bordered fritillaries and dragonflies of the lower slopes there is much to see and enjoy. Look more closely and you might glimpse rare alpine speedwells, saxifrages and hawkweeds as well as a host of native trees.
What are the autumn highlights I could enjoy?
Although any time is good for a visit, autumn takes some beating.
This is a reserve where birch woodland gives way to open moorland, and in autumn the russet hues of heather and deer grass add colour to any walk. This zone, where woodland meets moor, is the favourite place for the beautiful black grouse. Numbers of black grouse here have been increasing as their habitat expands and you can see them roosting in birch trees.
In autumn the rowan trees will be laden with berries – look out for migrant thrushes such as fieldfares and redwing, as well as our locally breeding ring ouzels. These migrants will be filling up before heading for the mountains of North Africa to spend the winter.
Is that the roar of a stag I can hear?
Sure is ! During the autumn the stags challenge each other for the right to mate with the hinds, and their bellowing roars over open hillsides are one of the most exciting sounds of the Scottish autumn. Red deer are the most common deer on Creag Meagaidh and keeping the numbers in balance with woodland regeneration is the main management we need to carry out. In the summer the deer tend to graze the higher ground on the Reserve, while in the winter they come down to the woods and low ground for shelter.
Okay, my boots are going on. How easily can I get around the reserve ?
Waymarked trails make it easy to explore Creag Meagaidh.
The Alderwood Trail is suitable for all abilities. Situated next to the car park and about 1.1km or 0.7miles long this is a superb place to see alder trees and owls, redpolls and siskins are resident here. Allow 30 minutes.
The Allt Dubh Trail takes you to the edge of the hill land where you can glimpse great views of the reserve. There is a poem by Sorley MacLean carved into stones by the path. Surfaces are good but there are some steep steps and slopes and stout footwear is essential. 1.8 km or 1.1 miles long, please allow about one hour.
The An Sidehean Trail is1km or 0.6 miles long, and skirts the fields you can see from the car park. Watch for black grouse and woodcock along the way. You may see Highland cattle too as we plough and farm these fields, keeping the environment close to what it would have been like when people farmed this land.