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Caithness Riders Access Group
May be out of date as at 25 January 2005

from Watten take the single track road towards Camster Cairns,  parking  on the left( the parking here has been extended in response from the group ) there is not a lot of parking but you can turn your transport around 3 trailers perhaps would fit.
go around the wooden gate on to the sandy track this is very clear to any one riding, through another gate BEWARE CATTLE GRID and follow the track to the end. this goes over two fairly wide solid wooden bridges that are fine in summer possibly slightly slippy in the wet so walk over them.  You have to turn and come back and the ride would be about 4 miles each way. please be aware that walkers and cyclists also use this route so please pass them with care and remove any droppings from parking area before you leave.    
This track is located along the very minor, Camster road that runs from Occumster (near Lybster) to Watten. If you are coming south along the A99, you turn right  where a sign directs you to the Camster Cairns. If you are travelling from either Wick or Thurso along the A882, look for the minor turn off, (either just before or just after the bridge at Watten and the 30 mile zone), signed to Lybster.You will find the parking space just off the road and there is enough room to turn and to park about 3 horse boxes.

this is further on than the Archairn one passing Camster Cairns if coming from Watten, you can park at beginning of track which will leave room for other poeple to pass or drive over cattle grid where there is further parking. more parking at this ride and ability to turn.   There is a new horse gate here which is about 1ft off the ground for horses to step over this has had wood either side to protect the horses legs. there is a gap large enough for a 16hh horse to fit around the side of gate if you prefer. the track is lovely and meanders up and down the track is sandy and also stoney in parts, but there is ability to trot and canter (be aware that other users use this track). it finishes at a gate where you turn and come back. the track is about 31/2 miles long so 7miles in total.  (on this track before 10.30am you can encounter at times the huskies trainers so advise riders go after this time if it might worry your horse.)  

take the road to Lybster and turn up the road on right going out of Lybster towards the Forest enterprise /outdoor centre .
parking in the forest is ample there are tracks around this forest of various distances and the surface is good. more tracks are being made in the forest for linking up to a circular route.   

23 June 03
Loch Stemster ride are as follows:

The track goes from Loch Stemster at Achavanich (just above where the Rumster road from Lybster joins the A9 Causewaymire) to Munsary cottage, which is the Plantlife Nature Reserve. The distance is about 3 miles, so 6 there and back. The first part of the track up to Ballachly cottage is very stony but from there, it is a grassy track. Riders need to turn at the boundary of the Plantlife reserve which is before you reach Munsary Cottage, marked by a fence and gate. The only parking is the lay-by at the Stone Circle, which is just above the loch and entrance to the track, on the Rumster road. There is only room for one box and it means unloading on the road. You need to 'phone the keeper, John Anderson on 01593 741230 to let him know you are wanting to ride. He can be difficult to get hold of so probably best to 'phone the night before.

More Rumster Forest
Rumster forest is located on either side of the single track, minor road that links the A99 just south of Lybster to the A9 (Causewaymire) at Achavanich. At the Lybster end, the road is signed to Achavanich and Thurso and it starts about two hundred yards from the 40 mile zone for the village. From the A9 Thurso to Latheron road, you turn where you see a white two storey house and red phone box and the road is signed to Lybster. As with all FE forests, you may encounter forestry vehicles occasionally but there is no operational work on a Sunday. The husky racers sometimes use Rumster for training but they go early in the morning and are normally finished by about 10.30am. Also, they are very considerate to others and always post a notice on their vehicle to say that they are present. Very occasionally there are other events in the forest (eg, organised by the Countryside Ranger Service) but again, these are always well advertised.

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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!.