Creag Bheag (little rocky hill) is Kingussie’s “own wee hill”.
This route is a 3 mile circular (including return by the Golf Club circular path).
Duration: approx 2.5/3 hours with 250m ascent to 487m.
Terrain: road, forest track, path and rocky ground.
Creag Bheag can be climbed from several sides, the path from the south is described below but in icy conditions the path on the north side of Creag Bheag can be safer as an ascent reached from the Golf Course Circular walk.
The start point is at the Ardvonie car park. The car park is free, has public toilets (50p or card entry), several car charging points and a public access defibrillator on the outside of the medical centre.
Cross the grass area above the playpark to ascend wooden steps to Ardvonie Road / Taits Brae, turn right and follow the road up to where it becomes the gravel drive leading to St Vincents Place. A short section of path laid by KCDC volunteers in 2020 bypasses an often muddy section of the forest track leading into the Sanatorium Woodland (named after the St Vincent’s hospital further north which was originally a tuberculosis sanatorium).
You re-join the track after an open air classroom used by local forest schools and a small wooden bench. Turn left and follow the track up through mixed conifer woodland planted by the Pitmain Estate in 1962. Several tracks and paths either side of the main track lead to West Terrace, the climbing crags on Creag Bheag and to the golf course caravan site. Red Squirrels and woodland birds such as woodpecker are often seen or heard.
The Creag Bheag track finishes after 0.5km at a finger post by a small watercourse. You follow rough paths either side up the watercourse for 100m to exit out of the woodland by a derelict gate (tree roots and a needle floor can be slippery here – KCDC have plans to improve this section).
Above the planted woodland a finger post marks the West Terrace circular rough path heading left, unmarked paths to the right follow the woodland fence around Creag Bheag to re-join the woodland paths. The uphill path to Creag Bheag has ongoing work for 150m by KCDC volunteers improving drainage and creating a raised walking surface through the young birch woodland. Above this in juniper/ birch scrub a local resident has built a drystone shelter and table with your first views back over Kingussie to the Cairngorms. Look out for the wooden dedication to Nan Shepard’s iconic book.
The path levels off slightly for the first of several sections worked on by trainees from the Cairngorm Outdoor Access Trust (COAT) in 3 phases from 2011 to 2014 with one phase (in 2013) by a contractor set up by graduates of the COAT course: Cairngorm Wilderness Contract Ltd. This section largely uses stone and surfacing readily available and excavated on site, while in contrast, the path on the north side of Creag Bheag was built with stone flown in by helicopter from nearby Creag Mhor and surfacing from a local quarry.
The COAT work ends on a steep section below the summit where a rough path (can be difficult in winter) leads to the short summit plateau. Unmarked rough paths lead off Creag Bheag left towards the southwest. Descending this way to 330m you can find the heather and grass covered clearance settlement of Auchtuchie. Here you can either carry on to Newtonmore or follow the path northeast alongside Loch Gynack to re-join the Creag Bheag path and the Golf Course Circular path.
Heading north-northwest along the Creag Bheag summit you pass several small cairns around the same height as the largest shelter cairn which is furthest north with great views towards the Cairngorm Plateau. To the north the path descends more steeply on the heather covered hill side of Creag Bheag with views over Loch Gynack to Creag Mhor and the Monadhliath Mountains beyond.
Creag Dhubh at 787m behind Craig Mhor is also the battle cry of the Clan Macpherson and on its southwest side is Cluny’s Cave a hideout for the Clan Chief Ewen Macpherson and Bonnie Prince Charlie following the Culloden defeat in 1745. At the northwest end of the loch you can see signs of a local hydro scheme and in the woodland Pitmain Lodge.
As the path descends through healthily regenerating birch woodland you reach a finger post above the loch. This marks a choice of the path along the lochside to Newtonmore or as part of the Golf Course Circular either onwards past Loch Gynack through the conifer plantation to the golf course or to the right skirting around the side of Creag Bheag to the caravan site. Either way on the golf course circular path brings you back into Kingussie and the Ardvonie car park either by Ardbroilach Road and the High Street or the mill trail and Gynack Road. A longer route is to follow the Newtonmore path then a track to Pitmain farm returning to Ardvonie by West Terrace.