Loch an Eilein (loch of the island) with its island castle ruin and stunning surroundings of forest and hill, has seen human use for many centuries. It has also long been a much loved favourite of countless thousands of visitors. No surprise, then, that in 2010 it was voted Britain’s Favourite Picnic Spot in a poll organised by Warburtons to commemorate National Bread Week.
You can explore the area at your own pace; a short stroll from the car park will reveal dramatic views of ancient pine trees, mountain and castle. A walk of 3 miles (5 kilometres) along some of the best low level walking paths in Scotland and part of a Rothiemurchus network of trails, will take you all the way around the loch. You may encounter some of our exceptional forest wildlife; Red Squirrel, Scottish Crossbill and Crested Tit make their home here. In summer, Ospreys may occasionally be seen scouting the waters for fish.
Very little written material exists about the construction of the island castle, though informed opinion dates its origin back to the late 14th century. It was built as a place of safety against marauding clan war bands, who used the so-called ‘Thieves’ Road’ along the eastern shores of the loch to descend on Strathspey in search of plunder. Modern examination of the stonework indicates the original basic stronghold was added to in later centuries until it gradually fell into disuse in the late 1700s. Repairs to shore up crumbling masonry were carried out in the 1800s.
The castle has had its share of excitement. In 1644, the shores of the loch echoed to the tramp of soldiers on the march. James Graham, Marquis Montrose, a supporter of King Charles I during the English Civil War, led his army this way during one of his epic forced marches across Scotland.
In 1690, a Jacobite army was routed by Government forces at the Battle of Cromdale. Jacobite survivors retreated by way of Aviemore and briefly attacked Loch an Eilein castle, at the time occupied mainly by the women, children and old folk of Rothiemurchus. One account of the attack had the Laird’s wife, Grizel Mor (Big Grace), casting lead musket balls for the defenders and shouting choice abuse at the enemy.
Legend has it that a zigzag underwater causeway linked castle island and shore, but no evidence has ever been found. The loch water level was increased in the 1700s by building a dam and sluice at the north end so that felled timber logs could be floated down a flooded stream to the River Spey. Elizabeth Grant describes this activity in her book, ‘Memoirs of a Highland Lady’. In the same book, set in the early 1800s, she also writes that Ospreys (‘fish eagles’) nested on the castle battlements. There are accounts of Victorian egg thieves on occasion swimming out to rob nests, though Grant lairds at the time tried to prevent this. In recent times the castle featured as the island graveyard in series 1 of BBC TV’s ‘Monarch of the Glen’.
Please exercise your dog responsibly and keep dogs under control. Dogs can alarm other visitors and wildlife especially ground nesting birds. Please clear your dog’s mess from paths and public area, but don’t litter the area with plastic bags! We’re pleased to offer you a dog exercise area where your furry friend can run free without alarming other visitors and wildlife.
This is perhaps the greatest threat to the forest and its wildlife. Just the heat from a disposable barbecue or camping gas stove can cause a fire as can a cigarette end, please be careful.
At Loch an Eilein, the attended car park is open daily and the attendant can help answer any questions you may have. They can also help you catch a glimpse of beautiful Crested Tits as Loch an Eilein is home to many rare and protected species.
There is a car parking charge at Loch an Eilein (£1.50 per person or £4.50 per car), these vital funds go towards the investment we make in keeping the trails safe and maintained and, importantly, helps to protect the environment around Loch an Eilein for our wildlife too.
‘Friends of Rothiemurchus’ receive year-round parking at Loch and Eilein as one of the benefits, discounts in the Farm Shop, The Barn and on activities too.
Includes a great map and other benefits
The image below shows the view across Loch an Eilein from the shoreline where ceremonies take place. This is a stunning location and is ideal for small, intimate weddings for those couples who love Scotland and the outdoors. As the loch is such a popular location for walkers, bikers and picnickers we ask that numbers are kept at a maximum of 30 (including bridal party, photographer and piper etc).
This is an outside venue and there is no ‘bad weather’ alternative for the ceremony, so it will take place come rain, hail, snow or gales. Please bear this in mind when you come to plan your wedding outfit and also let your guests know to dress accordingly. The location is kept as natural as possible so we don’t permit marquees, tents, seats or confetti for the weddings, however, we can allow the use a small garden style ‘instant’ gazebo for the bride and groom to stand under if they have one.
We make a charge of £450.00 for weddings at Loch an Eilein enabling us to care for this very special part of the Cairngorms. The cost covers one pre-wedding visit to the shoreline of Loch an Eilein, parking for up to 2 cars at the lochside for up to 1 hour, parking for a further 8 cars in Loch an Eilein Car Park for up to 2 hours and a member of staff to be present during the ceremony (this person can also be a witness if required). If you require an additional witness this is charged at £30.00.
It is your responsibility to finalise the legalities with the appropriate Registrar’s Office.
If you would like to find out more and speak to a member of our team we would ask that you first complete and return this form:
Aviemore, PH22 1QH