293. Nairn to Inverness Airport

June 2016

For this walk I was staying on the edge of Inverness (at the Inverness Fairways Travelodge) and because it was Sunday there were fewer buses than usual so this was another reason why I chose to do this walk today. I took a bus from near my hotel to the centre of Inverness. Looking at the bus timetables I suspected this first bus from the hotel would miss the bus to Nairn, as it was due to leave 2 minutes before my bus arrived. So I was very pleased to see as we arrived in the centre of Inverness, on the other side of the road was the bus to Nairn. I made it across the road and managed to catch it before it left. So I avoided a long wait in Inverness which I was pleased about. As a result I arrived in Nairn a little after 10am to a cloudless sky. I stopped at the Co-Op to buy lunch and then began my walk.

Nairn

I headed along the street beside the harbour and river Nairn.

River Nairn

Nairn Harbour

It is a pretty river and I soon arrived at the little harbour. It was probably once a busy little fishing harbour but now the boats are leisure vessels.

Just past the harbour and I could follow a path through the dunes to a lovely beach. The tide was out revealing a large sandy beach and the deep blue sea beyond. The walk started easily enough I just turned left and walked along the beach.

The coast west of Nairn

The coast west of Nairn

The coast west of Nairn

I was now heading towards Inverness which is at the mouth of the Beauly Firth. Across the other side of the Firth I could now see the Black Isle ahead where I would really be in the Highlands. I could see cliffs over there.

The coast west of Nairn

(I now know I was looking at the Cromarty Firth)

As I headed west along the beach soon low rocks started to appear between the sand, covered in sea weed, though there was always enough sand I could easily get past.

The coast west of Nairn

The coast west of Nairn

The coast west of Nairn

Soon I had reached the end of the town and the beach was now backed by a golf course (is there a town in Scotland that does not have a golf course I wonder?). I could soon sense I was close to the airport since I could see planes coming in to land.

The coast west of Nairn

The coast west of Nairn

The only issue I now had was how far to continue along the beach. I was soon to be heading out onto a narrow spit of land, Whiteness Head. Behind it was what looked (from Google earth) to be a derelict dock. If I walked right to the end I would have to walk back again. So not long after the golf course ended I decided to cut inland on a track I could see on the map to Hilton of Delnies.

Since this headed directly to the farm when the track turned to the left I continued ahead on a feint track. This soon became a difficult walk through gorse bushes. I soon came to regret my decision, as gorse is sharp! But I headed through and continued to the edge of a ridge. Here I could turn right and follow a “sort of” path, initially part way up the ridge, along the edge of the field.

The coast near Carse of Ardersier

The coast near Carse of Ardersier

In places it became a proper track. I continued along this track just outside the fields until it entered a field. Here I could follow a neatly ploughed field edge. Soon though this too seemed to end and so I ended up following the edge of the field. This worked until I reached an odd track near Kebbuck Stone (which had the look of an old railway line, though I’m not sure it was). The problem was I needed to cross it and it was far below me. I tried initially to get over the bushes ahead but it was no good. I had to turn a bit back until I was eventually past the edge of the gorse and could climb the fence down to another track to my right which led via a gate to the odd track. I crossed it and continued through the gate ahead.

This led soon to the minor road along the eastern edge of Carse Wood. There was hardly any traffic so I was enjoying this easy part of the walk, though I could not actually see the sea any longer. Part way along here I headed into the woodland to find a log to sit on for lunch.

Carse Wood

Refreshed I continued along the road. The road soon turned left now heading west through the pine woodland. Soon this turned a bit more left and I was now heading south west. Ahead was a rifle range though I suspected it would not be in use on a Sunday but if it was I would have to stick to the road. I passed near where Loch an Itich was but there was nothing to see from the road. Soon after this I turned right off the road and follow a track heading north west through a gap in the woodland This soon emerged from the woodland, though I still had the trees to my left.

The coast near Fort George

As the woodland ended on my left I had passed some sort of army assault course (marked as the “Confidence Course” with the warning “Only qualified personnel may conduct training on this obstacle course“).

Confidence course near Fort George

Just after this I could then turn right on a rough track and head back to the shore. There were no flags flying so I concluded it was safe to continue along the beach (and I didn’t blow up, so I guess I was right).

The coast near Fort George

Sadly by the time I left the woodlands the sunshine of earlier in the day had been replaced by clouds. Initially the going was easy along the beach.

The coast near Fort George

The coast near Fort George

There was plenty of sand. But after a while this began to narrow and I was left to walk sections of pebble beach, which was hard going.

The coast near Fort George

The coast near Fort George

The coast near Fort George

The coast near Fort George

However I made it across and soon reached the edge of Fort George.

The coast near Fort George

This is a large fort that has never been attacked and is I think used as a garrison now though part of it on the map is also marked as a hospital. Part of it is also open to the public. Here some “rock armour” defence had been built. Beyond it I could see a good beach again and it was only a short section, so I climbed over the rocks with care (it was a bit awkward and there are large gaps between the rocks) and then continued on the beach ahead.

Fort George

I was aware though that the tide was close and getting ever closer. I had to be careful not to get cut off by the tide.

Fort George

Fort George

Once on the beach the going was easier and I continued around the fort but ahead it looked like I might not be able to make it around. In the end I could but there was only about 2 metres between the waves and the wall of the fort!

Fort George

Beyond it was a pebble beach and I could see the high water mark on the pebbles so at least if I did get caught by the tide I would be able to wait it out safely. Rounding the corner the beach soon got wider again.

Fort George

The coast near Fort George

However just as I thought I was in the clear I came across more rock armour. There was no beach to walk on and the wall of the fort was too my left. Just below the wall was an area of water (a sort of moat perhaps) where salt water had collected and become stagnant (and so it was hard to see how deep this water was). It looked grim.

The coast near Fort George

So my only route was to continue to climb over the rock armour. Hard going and not especially safe, but I really didn’t want to go back (and was also worried the tide may have come in further). I made slow progress but was relieved to make it over to the beach beyond which was now backed by a road. So relief that I knew now I would not have to go back! This is always a relief, particularly in Scotland.

The coast near Ardersier

However it was now starting to drizzle. The road behind was quite busy (it’s the B9006) and quite inland so I decided to continue trudging along the shingle. After a while I had had enough of this and headed up onto the grass behind the beach only to find a good surfaced track just a few metres away from the sea. Where had that come from?!

The coast near Ardersier

Still it was an easy walk although I did have to contend with a couple of noisy motorbikes riding past along it at high speed and close by. I soon reached a gate, with a prominent “no motorbikes” sign for the path I’d just been on – I guess these bikers are a known problem around here, but this gate hasn’t stopped them. A women walking the other way shouted at them that “this is a footpath” which only resulted in them riding around her at high speed making sarcastic “but this is a footpath” comments and laughing.  I was glad I had resisted the urge to make a similar comment.

The coast near Ardersier

At Ardesrsier this path ended (you can see Ardersier in the distance ahead in the photo above). So I headed back down onto the shingle beach again. It was now raining quite hard, but the road was busy and wet and I didn’t want to be there. So I heaaded back to the beach.

The coast near Ardersier

Ahead was another stream and so I head to head inland back to the road to get past it. This just confirmed that the road walk would be unpleasant, so I made my way back to the pebble beach to continue along there. It was hard going though so I tried at times to walk along an area of sea weed at the back of the beach (which softened the pebbles a bit) or the grass just behind.

The coast near Ardersier

But none of them made for easy going and the wet grass soon meant I got wet feet too. This shingle was hard doing and slowing me down quite a bit. But the B-road just behind was busy, traffic went fast and there was no pavement. So I decided the beach was the least worse option.

When I set out on this walk I hadn’t got a definitive end point in mind but a check at the map suggested that soon the road would turn away from the coast. It was too far to continue to Inverness so the next point I knew where the was a bus was Inverness Airport which is just a few hundred metres back from the coast. So I decided this would be my end point. I continued on the beach (with difficulty) until I identified that I was inline with a place called Wester Kerrowgair. Here I could climb the fence alongside the back of the beach and follow a good track I could see going up the hill. Sadly I could see this just headed straight for the farm yard. I didn’t want to walk though there (and the Scottish right to roam legislation says you shouldn’t, either). So once at the top of the hill and into the field I turned a bit to the right to head past the farm house on the south side a hundred metres or so away.

The coast near Inverness Airport

I headed for the woodland at the end but found the usual fence. I had to find a low point where bushes the other side meant I could climb it without too much difficulty, but it took me a while to find a suitable spot. Once over I made my way through the woodland which was rough under foot to reach the road beyond.

It was a relief to get here and I could turn left then right and follow the road past the Dalcross Industrial estate alongside the airport. Thankfully the road mostly had a pavement here (and a verge). I followed this to the airport roundaobut where I turned left through the car parks to the terminal. By now the rain was just drizzle but I realised another cunning part of my plan was that I could wait for the bus in the airport terminal in the warm and dry rather than the blowy bus stop.

It felt odd to be back in the airport having only arrived at it a day previously! I went to the toilet then headed out to check the bus times. I was pleased to see I only had 4 minutes to wait. I was also alarmed to see that the bus due in 4 minutes was the last one of the day! I hadn’t thought to bring the bus timetable and had assumed it being the airport bus it would run into the evening, given flights still arrived into the evening. Wrong. So I had been very lucky with my timing! I headed back out to await this bus, which arrived on time and took me into Inverness. It made me realise how lucky I had been to make that “-2” minute connection in Inverness this morning. Without it, I would have missed the last bus from the airport and would have to have taken an expensive taxi.

Now back in Inverness, I stopped for dinner at the Whetherspoon pub, then took another bus back to my hotel. It had been a good walk though the first half was better than the second, helped by the fine weather and easy to terrain. The second part had mostly been a hard walk on pebbles and shingle in the rain. Not so much fun!

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

Note that at present the direct bus only runs between Nairn and Inverness Airport on weekdays (due to reduced services for Covid 19). To make the journey at weekends it is suggested to use the train between Nairn and Inverness and then switch to the bus between Inverness and Inverness Airport, which does run 7 days a week. A new station near Inverness Airport (Dalcross) is likely to open in the next few years, proving the possibility to travel between Nairn and Inverness Airport by train too.

Stagecoach bus route 11, 11A and 11B : Inverness – Inverness Shopping park – Balloch – Inverness AirportArdersier (11A and 11B)Nairn (11). Route 11 runs 7 times per day Monday – Friday only. Route 11A and 11B run broadly hourly Monday – Saturday and once every 2 hours on Sunday. It takes 20 minutes to travel between Inverness Airport and Nairn and around 35 minutes between Inverness and Inverness Airport. Note this is a reduced service from normal due to Covid 19.

Scotrail Aberdeen – Inverness line : Aberdeen – Dyce – Inverurie – Insch – Huntly – Keith – Elgin – Forres – Nairn – Inverness. 11 trains per day Monday – Saturday and 5 on Sundays. It takes around 10 minutes to travel between Nairn and Forres. It takes around 15-20 minutes to travel between Inverness and Nairn. Note that a new station is due to open alongside Inverness Airport in the next few years, having been approved in April 2020 which will be served by trains on this route.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link

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11 Responses to 293. Nairn to Inverness Airport

  1. owdjockey says:

    Hi Jon, quite amazing really, more or less the same journey but two different routes. I was of course travelling east and yourself west. You did well to get through the firing-range. When I left St George there was a lot of machine gun fire, which meant diverting inland. I almost got taken out by some lunatic close to the airport.
    Hopefully back to Scotland next week for three days of walking, I need to get as much done before we have another lockdown!. Cheers Alan

    • jcombe says:

      Yes funnily enough I re-read your account of this walk last night after I’d written this and I see the main problem you had was that the range was in use and so had to use the dangerous road. I do hope you make it back to Scotland next week. I’m planning a trip in August which I am hoping will go ahead.

      • owdjockey says:

        Booked three nights in a B&B in Aberdeen next week. I want to get at least 3 days walking in before I am interred by Nicola Spud-gun. Just double-checking my routes from other reports, including your recent posts. Cheers Aaln

        • snowgood says:

          Like the nickname! I have to say she looks better with a face mask.

        • jcombe says:

          I guess, like me, you are not a fan of Nicola!

          • owdjockey says:

            Jon, just sorting my routes out for next week. I read in your reports about Aberdeenshire Council core footpaths. To be quite honest I have not used these for some years now, in fact, when I first started walking through Dumfries and Galloway, but a good additional piece of info, cheers for that!

            • jcombe says:

              They used to have an excellent set of PDF files you could download of all the coast with walking and cycling routes along the coast shown (some were roads, some proper paths) which was good for planning, marked with large coloured circles. Sadly they all seem to have disappeared which is a real shame. All I could find was a PDF driving map now. But I think there is still some core path information.

  2. Well, this walk sums up all the highs and lows of coast walking, from easy strolls along sunny beaches, to difficult scrambling over seas defences, and the worry of being cut off by the tide. Not to mention the problems with rural transport and horrible roads with no pavements! Great write-up Jon.

    • jcombe says:

      Thank you for your kind comment Ruth I’m glad you enjoyed it and you are quite right that this sums up coastal walking well, especially in Scotland.

      I’m enjoying your updates too, you are about to get back to bits of coast that I know again! (Which also means I can use your blog as reference for my next walks).

  3. 5000milewalk says:

    Great write-up Jon. those pebbly beaches are hard aren’t they, when the pebbles are just the wrong size – too small to step from one to the other, and too big to just walk over. I did a few miles of them between Ulverston and Barrow last weekend!
    Are you allowed back to Scotland now? I haven’t been following all the rule changes around the country.

    • jcombe says:

      Thanks I am glad you enjoyed it and yes shingle beaches are one of the worse things to walk in. Rocky beaches can also be hard if there is lots of sea-weed on the rocks as it makes them really slippery.

      I do remember the Ulverston to Barrow walk too so I’ll read your account too. The beaches were hard there too though I do remember a bit of a path in places I also walked out to Foulney Island and Roa Island. I was hoping to take the ferry over to Piel Island but the ferry wasn’t there and neither of the telephone numbers on the sign were answered, so I had to give up on that. I wasn’t so keen on all the industry around Barrow in Furness though, I even remember some flame stacks. I hope you didn’t get in trouble taking photos of the BAE submarine place at Barrow (I think Ruth did!).

      Are you going to go out to Walney Island? I see from the map the England Coast Path does (which didn’t exist when I did this stretch!).

      As to Scotland yes I believe today (15th July) is the day that hotels and accommodation opened in Scotland so we are allowed to go there again. I’m planning a trip in August so I only hope Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t go ahead with her threatened quarantine of the English she refuses to rule out.

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