67 miles and 4,037 feet ascent.
Today took us up the Great Glen, following the new cycle path to Ballachulish before taking the Corran Ferry over to the west side of Loch Linnhe to avoid the busy and dangerous A82. Another ferry (the last of our five ferries) took us back across the Loch at Fort William before we followed the Caledonian Canal from Banavie and along the quiet forest tracks on the western shore of Loch Lochy. The final 8 miles of our route today took us along the A82 to Cumberlands Campsite at Fort Augustus where we planned to meet up with my Mum in her campervan.
Today’s journey in three words: ferries, cycle paths, wet.
What actually happened:
Today was a waterproofs day. The forecast was for heavy rain but to be fair, save for a few showers, it didn’t start until midday.
It was actually a really enjoyable morning. We followed the NCN78 from our campsite at Benderloch all the way to a Fort William. For the most part the new cycle path followed the old railway line which meant it was flat and with a great surface. We bowled along with the wind in our backs.
Regular readers will know that I’ve covered a range of observations about our journey north – flora/fauna, architecture, food and so on – but I haven’t said too much about the kinds of routes we chose. We deliberately tried to avoid A roads wherever possible, although in some parts if the country (eg Herefordshire/Shropshire, the North West, Cumbria, South West Scotland) there just aren’t too many alternatives. However, it’s been a joy to cycle along transport routes that have been bypassed during the later 20th Century. I’m thinking here of canal tow paths, former railway lines (we have Beeching to thank for something) and the ‘old’ roads such as the A6 through Northern Lancashire. We’ve passed long-abandoned railway stations (the platforms and wooden buildings are often still there), and small filling stations with planters out front and a tiny workshop at the side. Close you’re eyes and you can just imagine an old black Rover or Austin A40 parked in the small forecourt in the mid-1950s. Just to prove the point I spotted an old petrol pump overgrown with trees at Invermoriston (see the picture below). The old Appin railway, for example, used to transport much of the slate for the tenement roofs of Edinburgh and Glasgow, and they timed the trains to fit in with the cinema times in Oban. All part of a bygone age, largely bypassed by fast, modern thoroughfares – but the remnants are still visible along our cycle paths and back roads.
Anyway, back to today. We caught the Corran Ferry over to Ardgour (substituting this awful stretch if the A82 for a quiet B road in the western side of Loch Linnhe), and managed to get a mid-morning bacon roll and pot of coffee. Ten miles north and we took the last of the five ferries of the trip from Camusnagaul over to Fort William. This is a small passenger ferry where our bikes were strapped to the roof.
After a good lunch in Fort William the rain came on heavier and poured continuously until 6pm. Our feet and gloves were drenched and the campsite at a Fort Augustus couldn’t come soon enough. But before we got there we followed the Caledonian Canal north from Corpach, then a B road followed by the forest track west of Loch Lochy. This was a little bumpier than I remembered it but we survived, even if the bikes were filthy by this point ! We couldn’t face a night in the tent given how wet and cold we were so we booked a private room in the bunkhouse at Cumberlands Campsite in Fort Augustus. It was great to see my mum who was also staying on the same campsite to wish us well.
The high points:
- NCN78 from Benderloch to Fort William
- Quiet roads away from the busy, dangerous A82
- The wind in our backs
- Meeting my mum at Fort Augustus
And the low points:
- Heavy rain
- A sore right calf muscle
- A muddy forest track along the west side if Loch Lochy
- 75 miles cycled
- 838 miles cumulative
- 11.4 mph average speed
- 26.5 mph top speed