For years I’ve perceived the town of Nairn to be a bottleneck on the A96 on the way to and from Inverness. Going through it was as pleasant as a visit to dentist’s. Although a couple of years or so ago I found in the local Sainsbury’s two kinds of flour that mixed together produce excellent bread. So, every now and again I buy there 5 kilo of each; and that made Nairn a slightly more likeable place to go – mainly because Sainsbury’s is in the town’s eastern outskirts. My stock of flour had recently ran low and it was time to replenish it. But an 85-mile round trip only to buy 10 kilo of flour would be an overkill; a long walk there would make more sense. After a while I found an interesting walk along the east beach and then into Cullen Forest towards Loch Loy.

The original route, found on Walk Highlands, looked a bit too short; after studying the map I decided to go further east, effectively going round Loch Loy and Cran Loch. The weather on arrival was brilliant; cold but fresh, crispy and calm; excellent visibility was another bonus. The views across the Moray Firth from the tip of the harbour pier were quite breathtaking; ships and oil rigs near the entrance to the Cromarty Firth with the dramatic backdrop of rocky cliffs, or snowy Ben Wyvis in the distance. The colours were as crisp as the air.

The walk was rather uneventful, yet very pleasant until the moment when, far away from Nairn, deep in Culbin Forest the track clearly marked on the map failed to materialise. It simply wasn’t there, or anything even resembling any kind of path. It was time for plan B; I didn’t fancy retracing my own steps unless it was totally unavoidable. Although the map had proven to be less reliable than expected, it remained my main means of finding any alternative routes through the forest. My choice was a parallel forest track a bit further north from the one I’d already covered. Then, on the final leg I did some more meandering to have a bit more fun, and finally returned to my car almost 5 hours after I’d left it in the car park.

Perhaps Nairn will remain for me the bottleneck and the flour supplier; but today’s sample showed me that there are gems to be discovered.