I’M often saying how lucky we are to live in such a great place for cycling and this was one of those days that reaffirmed that feeling.
As I opened the curtains that morning the rain was tipping down and it looked liked my bike ride might be one to endure rather than enjoy.
As it turned out, that was far from the case. The weather, thankfully, slowly improved and although it was a chilly Sunday I was just delighted to be pedalling along on quiet country roads.
I planned a route that would take me on one short stretch I hadn’t been on before – and I always love to explore new places and new routes.
The section in question was at the Bog of Cawdor where the OS map marks a ford and a footbridge across the River Nairn. The Milton Bridge – rebuilt in 2000 to mark the millennium – links up a dead-end road out of Cawdor and a farm road at Milton of Kilravock. It’s not one you can cycle across but a short walk over the bridge means you can avoid going most of the way to Nairn to find the next road bridge!
Starting at Inshes in Inverness, pick up the National Cycle Network Route 1 which goes over the A9 on a shared-use path and continue past the entrance to the new University of the Highlands and Islands campus at Beechwood.
Where Route 1 goes left, continue straight ahead, joining the B9006 towards Westhill. Head uphill through Westhill and turn right towards Nairnside on a minor road that climbs high above the Moray Firth – with excellent views north if you fancy an excuse for a stop to look back!
After dropping down to the B851, turn left then take the next right to drop steeply and cross the River Nairn, dropping through the gears to climb back up the other side to meet another minor road at Castletown.
Going left here you soon cross the railway via a classic "Postman Pat" bridge as the road sweeps east. Ignore a cycle sign pointing left to Culloden and Inverness and continue, with views of the impressive Culloden Viaduct over to your left, past another junction to follow cycle route 1 which heads towards Nairn on a hilly and rather roundabout route.
My ride followed the route as far as Galcantray, where I continued straight on at the crossroads, enjoying easy cycling with the wind behind me. Inevitably it would be a struggle on my return but for now I was happy to appreciate the moment.
As I met the B9090 on a sharp corner a mile outside Cawdor, I realised I had been going for barely an hour. The sign said six miles to Nairn and I was tempted to go further but family commitments meant I wanted to be home by lunch, so I stuck to my original plan.
Turning right I headed into Cawdor, going left at traffic lights in the village to pass the school and community centre and continue down a dead-end road. The road comes to an end at a turning circle and a couple of steps lead up to the Milton Bridge, which leads back over the River Nairn to a farm at Milton of Kilravock.
Cut across the grass and follow the road straight ahead to reach a T-junction.
I went left and, instead of following the B road directly to Croy, took the first right to visit the peaceful Loch Flemington, going left at an unmarked crossroads to reach the water’s edge. There’s a small passing place that’s a beautiful spot to stop and watch the bird life on the loch – mostly swans on my visit.
Beyond the loch, go left then immediately right and follow the single-track B9006 up to Croy, continuing straight on through the village. Turn right when you get to the junction and follow the B road back towards Inverness.
On the return journey the sun even came out as I caught another view of the Culloden Viaduct and, beyond, passed the edge of the battlefield before descending through Westhill back to Inshes.