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Biking on the Black Isle – an antidote to coronavirus worries


By John Davidson


On the way up the hill from Redcastle.
On the way up the hill from Redcastle.

Just when it looked like spring was on its way, the world has been somewhat turned upside-down by the global coronavirus pandemic hitting us here in the Highlands.

I enjoyed this little circuit just a few days before restrictions started to come in across Scotland and the UK.

Thankfully, as I write this, there is nothing to stop people getting out and about in the fresh air to walk, run, cycle or otherwise be active. In fact, it’s probably one of the best things we can be doing to help us deal with the mental pressures these unprecedented changes are having on all of us.

I started this route at the retail park off the A96 in Inverness, following the bike lanes through the Inverness College UHI campus and over the Golden Bridge then alongside the busy A9 to the Kessock Bridge.

Once north of the firth, a bike link to North Kessock is followed left down a steep road to the seafront. Turn right here and the road heads straight through the village. As it starts to climb, go left just after the village hall and stick to the shoreside road through Charlestown, keeping left at new houses further along.

The Beauly Firth from a stopping point alongside the Redcastle road.
The Beauly Firth from a stopping point alongside the Redcastle road.

I never tire of this beautifully quiet road that hugs the edge of the water as it meanders west to Redcastle, getting you closer to nature and giving space to unwind. I paused in a few laybys to let cars pass as I took in the view across the water to the snow-capped mountains of Strathfarrar, Strath Conon and the Fannichs.

At one, I looked up and saw a red kite surveying the land below, searching for food, before twisting and gliding away on the gentle breeze.

At Redcastle the road bends right to climb away from the water and I continued up the hill where the round-the-firth route – marked route 20 – goes left, passing the fading snowdrops on the way to Fettes.

Cross the main road – watching for fast-moving traffic here – at the former church then continue the climb to Kilcoy. The A835 must be crossed here and again there is fast-moving traffic, but on the opposite side of the road you can join an excellent cycle route and I turned right onto this to drop to the roundabout at Tore.

Following the cycle path left round the roundabout, cross the A9 here and take the route to Tore, which soon rejoins the carriageway for a short distance until you turn right where the National Cycle Network Route 1 is signposted to the right.

The road to Munlochy on NCN Route 1.
The road to Munlochy on NCN Route 1.

The sun was shining and it was wonderful to feel the warmth on my back after a cold and wet winter as I enjoyed the descent towards Redfield, before taking a left turn at the junction to Allangrange which passes the Black Isle Brewery.

This is another of my favourite local cycle roads. It goes for just short of three miles to Munlochy and with old trees alongside some stretches and open views elsewhere, there’s a real sense of escape here. Pausing to take a photograph along the way, I looked up into the trees and saw a treecreeper hopping its way around the trunk and branches, finding insects to feed on as it moved swiftly upwards.

Reaching the junction at Munlochy, I turned right to follow the B9161 over a narrow road bridge then up the hill to a war memorial, where you fork left to leave the main road and climb on another quiet route past Drumderfit Forest.

A long, steady climb ensues, but it was made easier with views over the Black Isle to the right and the bulk of Ben Wyvis beyond. Ignore a few junctions, keeping straight ahead at each one until you drop down on a great descent past Drumsmittal to reach the North Kessock junction just off the A9.

NCN Route 1 sign at the A9 underpass beside North Kessock.
NCN Route 1 sign at the A9 underpass beside North Kessock.

A cycle path leads right to a crossing point then left around the corner – so you are facing (but separate from) the oncoming traffic. Take a right turn at a cycle route sign pointing to North Kessock and Inverness, which leads you to an underpass. Turn left the other side then cross the road, going left to follow the direct cycle route to Inverness.

This leads back to the Kessock Bridge and the wonderful view over the Beauly Firth and the city from this unique vantage point.

I followed my route back through the campus to the retail park, completing a refreshing ride on the Black Isle in the beautiful spring sunshine.

  • If you’re planning to stay active during the coronavirus outbreak, please follow government and NHS advice on social distancing and stay close to home. If you have symptoms of Covid-19, stay at home for the recommended period.
At Drumsmittal with Ben Wyvis in the distance through the trees.
At Drumsmittal with Ben Wyvis in the distance through the trees.

Route details

Black Isle circuit

Distance 27 miles / 43km

Terrain Mostly quiet roads and surfaced cycle paths; some main road crossings

Start/finish Inverness Retail Park

Map OS Landranger 26

Finding some escape from the pressures of everyday life on a road ride from Inverness



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