A CHANGE of job, from sub-editor on Scottish Provincial Press’s titles based in Inverness to reporting on the Ross-shire Journal, means my cycle commute is a lot longer.
Instead of an easy ride from home in Lochardil, Inverness, to SPP’s offices in Stadium Road, I now carry on over the Kessock Bridge and head for Dingwall.
It’s about 17 miles from home to office, but unlike many cycle commuters I have the benefit of a cycle path and quiet roads to ride on most of the way.
It’s comforting to know I don’t have to tangle with traffic too much, which is a major deterrent to some people ditching their cars for a healthier way of getting to work.
Across the Highlands, only 1.9 per cent of people use cycling as their main mode of transport to work – slightly higher than the 1.1 per cent average across Scotland, though in Inverness that figure is nearly six per cent. In Amsterdam, where the cycling infrastructure is infinitely superior, it’s 30 per cent – with 40 per cent of people sometimes biking to work.
Yet cycling is actually far less dangerous than many people believe. You might be surprised to learn that more people are injured playing tennis or gardening than cycling.
So for this article I thought I’d describe my ride to work – but not all the way. I’m always looking for new routes to cycle and this one gave me a return to Inverness I’d not tried before.
It’s a glorious day and I’m off from home into Drummond Road, heading for the city centre. Today the cycle lane on the opposite side of the road outside Drummond School only has two cars obstructing it – often it’s nearly full, defeating the object completely.
I carry on through Crown, down Stephen’s Brae, through the railway station (pushing the bike, of course) and the underpass into Innes Street, right onto Shore Street and along past SPP’s offices up to the Kessock Bridge.
I’m on National Cycle Route 1, following the cycle path over the bridge with a sturdy barrier between me and the speeding traffic, and a wonderful view across the water towards Beauly and snowy mountains.
I continue on the cycle path to the junction into North Kessock and go through a tunnel under the A9 to emerge on the opposite side of the dual carriageway.
I’m still on the cycle path but facing the oncoming traffic, which is less pleasant. But it doesn’t last long. Soon the sign sends me onto the minor road running parallel to the A9, heading for Tore.
I really like the ride from here to Tore, which stays on the minor road apart from a very short dogleg on the B9161 to Munlochy.
There are trees and fields lining the road, which carries hardly any traffic, making for a really pleasant ride.
At Tore, still on the cycle path, I carefully negotiate the roundabout – the sight lines are not brilliant – and continue beside the A835 to its high point at Monadh Mor forest.
Going to work in Dingwall it’s all downhill from here to the Maryburgh roundabout. But after a break at a picnic table in the forest I’m making a diversion.
I cross the A835 and follow the quiet minor road to Drynie Park. This is new territory and I’m pleased to be on it, with brilliant views of the mountains – and it’s downhill too.
At a junction with the B9169 I turn left, then left again when I reach the A832 coming from Muir of Ord. Three kilometres on and I turn right onto the minor road through Milton down to Redcastle.
The ride along the lovely coastal road beside the Beauly Firth back to North Kessock has to be one of the finest stretches of cycling anywhere near Inverness.
And on a day like today, with the sun shining, a flat calm firth, oystercatchers and curlews calling on the shore, it is just perfect.
Following the cycle route, a steep little climb takes me back to the cycle path near the Kessock Bridge for the return home.
If you’re tempted to start cycling or get back on your bike after a long lapse, try the last part of my route to or from Redcastle – you won’t regret it.
Monadh Mor circuit
* Distance 23 miles / 37km
* Terrain Cycle path and mostly quiet roads
* Start/finish Lochardil, Inverness
* Map OS Explorer 432, Black Isle
My commute to work and studying maps gave me this circuit from home. And there are many variations to lengthen it if you’re so inclined