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Caithness Riders Access Group
May be out of date as at 25 January 2005
CYCLE PATH CAMSTER
23 June 03
More Rumster Forest
You will come across a parking area with picnic tables next to the Rumster road, but do not park here as this is really intended for cars. Instead, drive along the main track more or less opposite here, which is signed to the Rumster Outdoor Centre- this is a good forest road but may be a little bumpy in places. After about ¼ of a mile, you will notice a small tarmac road on your right. Just beyond this on the left hand side, there is a wide parking area known as The Paddock and this is where you park- you can even swing round and there is plenty of room, so no need to worry about reversing your horse box!! There are several tracks within the forest and they are all quite hard and some are a little stony, so only suitable for walking and trotting, but there is one very good canter track, so do not despair!
To get to this, turn left once you have mounted and ride down a gentle hill for about ¼ of a mile- there are lovely views beyond the trees to farmland and the coast. You will pass a track branching off to your right and can ride this if you wish- it winds downhill to a ruined croft beside a burn where the horses can get a drink. It then runs uphill and at the moment, peters out in rough ground. However, in Autumn 2003, Forest Enterprise plan to extend this track so that it will join the tarmac road beside the tall communications mast. This will then create a short, circular route since, if you ride down the ¼ of a mile of tarmac road, it leads you back down to just above The Paddock parking area.
If you choose not to go along this right-hand track at this stage, continue downhill for another ¼ of a mile. You will pass a sandy-looking track branching off to your left but if you want a canter, ignore this for the moment! Carry straight on past the Outdoor Centre which is set back in its own grounds, just off the track- the building looks a little neglected and sorry for itself now but there is nice grazing for horses just here! You leave the Forest at this point and continue on an old right of way known as the Lower Rumster road. This is an old cart track with firm wheel tracks on either side but a lovely grassy section in the middle- and lots of purple orchids growing there in the Spring. It runs straight ahead for about half a mile and is super for a good long canter (unless there has been a very great deal of rain) and it then does a sharp bend to the left, skirting the edge of fields belonging to Nottingham Mains farm. This section of track (about ¼ of a mile) is still grassy but can be boggy after rain and is quite rutted at one point so you may wish to drop the pace for a while. On your left, you will catch a glimpse of a small loch and this is a good place for birds and wildlife. The track continues past an unoccupied house (Newlands of Forse) and carries on for a further ¼ of a mile until you reach a gate- you may wish to turn round here. If you carry on through, the track soon becomes a narrow tarmac road which joins the A99 main trunk road at Forse (about ¼ mile north of the turnings for Nottingham Mains and Forse House on the right and the North Shore Pottery on the left). If you turn at the gate, you will certainly be able to canter most of the way back again, giving you about 2 miles of canter, there and back.
Re-enter the forest and go past the Outdoor Centre once again and now, if you wish, turn right up the sandy track that you passed on your way down. At the moment, the sandy track runs for about ½ km. and ends at a farm gate. Passing through this gate, you proceed along a rough track across two fields and have to go through a second farm gate which is quite dilapidated but passable.You pass some old croft buildings, the total distance being about ½ a mile and the ground can be quite boggy after rain. At the far side, you join another forest road and turn left. In Autumn 2003, Forest Enterprise plan to extend the sandy track right across this section to join up their two forest roads at this point. It will probably not be wise to ride this route while the work is in progress but it is not expected to take too long to complete. FE do not work on a Sunday, but you will need to check it out and there may be large vehicles about!
The track that you join at the far side where you turn left is quite stony in places. It runs roughly parallel to the other main track for about 1mile and then joins the Rumster road about ¼ of a mile south of the main track that you drove down. (There are plans in the pipeline to make a second link from this track back to the main one, joining up near the Paddock parking area and this will eventually give a very nice circular route completely off the road). At the moment, you need to turn left and ride a short distance up the Rumster public road to get back to the main track. This road is the natural choice for Lybster people going to and from Thurso and so you are likely to encounter some traffic, although usually not too much.
There is one more track that you can ride if you wish and this is on your right hand side, starting beside the public parking area with the picnic tables. There is a locked gate across the track at the start to stop vehicles. But a narrow side gate beside it opens and you can either go through this or squeeze round on either side of the gate posts. You then ride up a very nice track with a surface which is mostly good and where short canters are possible, especially if the ground is softer after rain. It runs for about a mile but is, unfortunately, a dead end so no choice but to retrace your steps once you reach the end! Then all you have to do is ride obliquely across the Rumster road and back down the main track for about ¼ of a mile to where you left your horse box
There is plenty of scope and variation in Rumster Forest for horse riders to choose from by going up and down the various tracks in different combinations and varying the pace. It should be even better in the near future when the new link paths are completed and there are further ideas under discussion so watch this space and enjoy your riding!.