It’s been great to be back on the bike for more than just the few miles to and from work recently, and this route to the west of Inverness was right up my street.
I love cycling along narrow country roads, navigating my way along the lesser-used highways and byways, and exploring what is out there off the beaten path.
Even in Inverness, there are plenty of little cycle-friendly back routes for those willing to explore.
I started off from the city by heading over the Infirmary Bridge – the pedestrian suspension bridge nearest the Ness Islands – and turning left towards the Bught. Go right at the mini-roundabout onto Ballifeary Lane then take a left onto Ballifeary Road to reach the A82 just before Tomnahurich Bridge, where works are ongoing to link this road to the new River Ness crossing.
Immediately before the canal bridge, I took the towpath right – fine on a solid touring bike like mine but those with narrower tyres may prefer to go via General Booth Road instead. From the towpath, cross at the first lock gate then go left up Canal Road to meet that alternative road route.
Turn right then immediately left onto Scorguie Road and, on the way down the brae, take a left onto Kennedy Drive. Then take the second left onto Woodside Crescent and bear right where the road splits to join a narrow lane past a few houses and through some woodland before enjoying views over the Beauly Firth to Ben Wyvis.
This is a fantastic quiet route that all too soon comes to an abrupt end where the public road stops.
However, you can carry on by bike, going right down the steep hill which twists and turns to arrive at a level crossing just before the A862.
Go left and follow the main road through Bunchrew and under the railway and take the next left, signed to Inchberry, from where it’s back on the quieter roads for some time.
There’s a bit of climbing involved from here, too, as the route follows the road up to Newtonhill, a peaceful spot just a few miles from the busy city.
Go left then right at the staggered junction and enjoy the wonderful views from this high road before it drops steeply to a T-junction. Take a right turn here for a serious descent – watching out for the signed “dangerous bend” on the way down – to cross the Moniack Burn at Reelig Glen, once home to Britain’s tallest tree Dughall Mor at more than 200ft (64 metres) high. After going left past Moniack Castle take the first left towards Clunes to tackle the steepest hill of the day, bearing right where the road forks ahead.
The gradient eases and it’s soon an easy ride with views over to the Strathfarrar hills, covered in cloud on my visit, and I was so preoccupied I almost missed the right turn that cuts the corner instead of heading all the way to Foxhole.
This little road was a great find. It drops sharply past a couple of houses then enters a nice bit of woodland as it meanders down to a serious hairpin on its way to a junction, where a right turn takes you over the Belladrum Burn and to the A833.
Cross straight over here, heading for the village of Kiltarlity. Turn right at a T-junction then go left a short distance ahead. After a 90-degree left-hand bend, turn right past the free church to reach the main route through the village.
Take a left and follow the road to a tight left bend, ignoring the sign for Beauly and instead heading to Eskadale and Struy. Keep on this road to Hughton, where you do now follow the sign to Beauly up to the right on another lovely stretch that passes Fanellan.
A left turn at the end of this road takes you over the River Beauly beside the dam and power station, before you turn right onto the A831 to head towards Beauly.
Where you meet the main road – the A862 – on the corner, turn right to cross the Lovat Bridge then go left at the Kirkhill junction. I decided to follow the quieter roads as far back to Inverness as possible, so I forked left a little way up the hill at Ferrybrae to follow the minor road as it parallels the railway line before rising away from it to rejoin the B9164 into the village. Keep on this road to Inchmore, where you rejoin the A862 for the last seven miles into the city.
To avoid any further traffic, after reaching the railway bridge at Clachnaharry, I turned left at the lights to join the canal path at the Muirtown Basin and follow my outward route back into town.
It made for a gentle finish to a fairly hilly ride that makes the most of some of the area’s most pleasant and peaceful roads.