COVID-19 has changed the way we do lots of things we do. We want to ensure your visit is an enjoyable and safe one.
Make sure you follow the Scottish Government’s FACTS advice – helping to protect yourself, your family and your local community, and follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code helping to keep Scotland beautiful.
Latest forest information
- Roadside chipping will be taking place between 9th November and 31st January 2021 affecting access along some forest roads as work progresses. Please follow all on site signage.
- Work to repair the Hill 99 Tower will be continuing through November 2020. It will be necessary to divert trails at times during the work. Please obey all signage on site and follow all diversions when in place.
- Tree thinning operations will be ongoing until 31st March 2021. Rolling diversions will be in place as the work progresses.
A vast and varied forest that's perfect for a family day out
This diverse and ever-changing coastal forest has a fascinating network of tracks to explore on foot or by bike. Hill 99 is the only waymarked trail, but by using the recommendations in our free map and following our numbered junction posts you can easily make your own adventure. If it's your first visit, you'll certainly not want to miss the panoramic views from the top of the Hill 99 tower over the high trees of the forest across to Easter Ross.
Gravel Pit Ponds Trail
A gentle wander through pretty pine and birch woodland, and around the Gravel Pit Ponds.
Firm and smooth gravel surface. Generally flat with gentle slopes and some short moderate sections. No obstacles.
Allow ½ an hour
Hill 99 Trail
A trail notice is in effect
Work to repair the Hill 99 Tower will be continuing through October 2020. It will be necessary to the divert the trail at times during the work. Please obey all signage on site and follow all diversions when in place.
Wind through the pine-covered sand dunes to the viewing tower on Hill 99 for a ‘squirrel’s eye’ view over the forest and across the Moray Firth.
Largely wide, firm and smooth gravel and sandy surface. Generally flat with some long moderate slopes and short steep sections. Includes some steps up to the viewing platform.
Allow 2 hours
The path winds through the forest to the Gravelpit Ponds, a pretty stop for a picnic or birdwatching, then across shingle ridges and through lichen beds to gently climb Hill 99, Culbin's highest sand dune at a dizzy 99 feet. On a clear day you can see over the sea to the Sutherland hills! Return through mossy glades, passing the Dragonfly Pond, which teems with wildlife.
The trail starts at Wellhill car park.
Top tips for exploring Culbin
With a forest stretching for more than 8½ miles along an ever-shifting coastline, there's lots to discover. Here are our top twelve things to see and do – a useful guide, especially if you’ve never visited before. They’re all marked in the Culbin leaflet – and there are plenty of stories about the place there too.
- The Hill 99 viewpoint trail
Wind through the sandy pinewoods and experience the forest canopy from the top of the amazing viewpoint tower.
- Gravelpit Ponds
An attractive area of marshy ground and ponds close to Wellhill car park, with easy walking on well-surfaced paths that are suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
- Dragonfly Pond
A pretty pond on the Hill 99 viewpoint trail, where you can spot brilliantly-coloured dragonflies in summer.
- Hidden History
This peaceful stopping-point tells some of Culbin’s human story in unexpected ways.
A pleasant, heathery corner surrounded by lichen beds, where you can find out how life clings on in such a hostile environment.
- The Gut
This muddy bay is a haven for all kinds of wading and water-birds – just don’t expect to find a beach here.
- Buckie Loch
There the forest meets the sea. Wild and empty coastline which may one day become a true sea-loch again. It’s currently a stretch of marram dunes and heath.
- Findhorn Bay
If you’re lucky, you’ll see ospreys or seals fishing at this river-mouth with a beautiful view towards the village of Findhorn.
- Lady Culbin’s Buried Trees
Growing on the edges of Culbin’s largest sand-dune system, some of the deep-rooted trees here have bizarre, tapering trunks twice as long as they look.
- The Minister’s Pool
A reedy freshwater pool that attracts both birdlife and walkers. It’s very close to Nairn East Beach.
- Otter Pool
A big pool in a hidden corner of Culbin, and a good place to spot some of Culbin's mammals drinking.
Most of Culbin’s shoreline, from the trees to the low tide mark, is an RSPB reserve. This mix of saltmarsh, mudflats, sand and shingle is a vital feeding ground for wading birds throughout the year. If you do come across nesting birds, allow them to feed and rest in peace. If they have to fly away, they are wasting valuable energy.
Culbin is a good places to watch seals too. Do keep your distance though - They frighten easily, so are best admired from a distance.
Facilities & access
The toilet block at the main car park is open year-round. It includes easy access facilities and a baby changing station. There is a cafe and shop at Brodie Countryfare on the A96, near Brodie Castle.
Car parking charges
- £1 for up to 1 hour
- £1.50 for up to 3 hours
- £2 for all day
- £8 for minibus and coach all day
Season passes are also available. Contact us if you would like further details.
Culbin is on the north side of the A96 between Nairn and Forres. If coming from the west, the turning for Culbin is on the left just after the large Brodie Countryfare shop. If coming from the east, take the turning for 'Broom of Moy' and 'Kintessack' a mile out of Forres. The routes to the car park are well signposted from both turnings.
National Cycle Route 1 runs through the south side of Culbin, around half a mile from the main car park.
You can walk into Culbin from Nairn East Beach – a good option if you’re interested in birdwatching and coastal wildlife.
IV36 2TG is the nearest postcode.
By public transport
Public transport to Culbin is extremely limited, although a local bus service passes the forest on schooldays. Forres is a ten minute taxi ride away. Plan your journey at Traveline Scotland.
Get in touch
Have a question or suggestion for improvement?