The Scots pine is the world’s most widespread cone-bearing tree. So it might seem like a bit of Caledonian cheek to link its name to this small part of its huge range. But see an ancient pinewood on an evening when sun touches the trunks to make a glenside glow orange-red and both tree and country seem made for each other.
Where to go
Largest of all the surviving Caledonian pinewoods are in Strathspey, Deeside and in glens to the west of Loch Ness. There’s a southern outlier in Perthshire.
Strathspey: Rothiemurchus and Glenmore near Aviemore, accessible from the ‘ski road’ to the Cairngorm mountain railway. Visitor centres near the road. Good networks of trails. Many wood ant nests, plus widespread Scottish crossbills, crested tits and chance of an osprey overhead. Landmark at Carrbridge has red squirrels, crossbills, a tree-top trail and forest viewing tower.
Mar Lodge: major portal for walkers to the south-east Cairngorms. Tracks up the glens (e.g. Glen Quoich and Glen Lui) go through Scots pines in a spectacular mountain setting. Herds of red deer, range of pinewood birds, wood ants.
Inverness-shire: Glen Affric near Cannich. Road along part of the glen. Trail networks from Dog Falls car park and Loch Affric car park. Attractive mix of loch, woodland and mountain, good for autumn colours of birch trees. Also good for pinewood birds such as crested tit and for woodland lichens.
Perthshire: Black Wood of Rannoch near Kinloch Rannoch. Big on both birch and pine and famous for the Rannoch sprawler moth. Red squirrels, red deer, crossbills and chance of black grouse.
Scotland’s pine-and-birch-rich woods are part of the largest forest supersystem on the planet. Called the boreal forest, this stretches across Scandinavia, Siberia and the northern part of North America. Typical boreal forest species include conifers, tree squirrels (including the red), crossbills and martens.