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Two lochs trail

Today my wanders took me to Abernethy Forest, a remnant of the great Caledonian pinewood forest that once covered most of Northern Europe. These Scots pines are directly descended from the first pines to arrive in Scotland about 9,000 years ago via a land bridge that connected Britain to continental Europe.

As the climate became wetter and windier the extent of the forest reduced significantly and this was further impacted by man's actions, in particular the grazing of sheep and deer. Today the forest exists as 35 remnants of this once great temperate rainforest and here in Abermethy we have one of the most significant of these remnants. To walk through these woods is to walk through the descendants of the first pines to arrive in Scotland following the Ice Age - an unbroken, 9,000 year chain of natural evolution.

With my 88 year-old mum in tow there are two requirements - no more than two miles in length and relatively flat. The Two Lochs Trail fits the bill perfectly! The trail is set in one of Scotland's 43 National Nature Reserves - special places set aside to showcase the very best of Scotland's nature, they manage the careful balancing act between conservation and public enjoyment.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) owns and manages the majority of the reserve and this is a bird watcher's dream - not too shoddy for photographers either! Some of the birds that inhabit the reserve, such as the crossbill and the capercaillie are unique to the Cairngorm area.

The trail starts at a car park close to the RSPB visitor centre at Loch Garten, famous for its ospreys. The ospreys returned here in the 1950's after a period of extinction in the UK and nesting pairs have returned here every spring to breed.

Following the path through the trees the trail continues past Loch Garten to the second and smaller of the lochs - Loch Mallachie. Surrounded on three sides by forest, the view across the loch opens up to the Cairngorm mountain range beyond. On a still day like today the surface of the water is like glass and the reflections are mesmerising. In winter, ice fringes the loch or waves batter against the banks, eroding the sandy soil and exposing the roots of the ancient pines.

No matter what the weather I hope the gallery below gives you an impression of the peace, serenity and natural beauty of this special place.

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