Three Lochs loop, Scottish Highlands by Karen Darke
Paralympian gold medal hand cyclist and member of the Adventure Syndicate, Karen Darke takes us on one of her favourite Highlands routes.
It’s easy to whizz on by Inverness to the beckon of the northwest Highlands, but there are some great rides to be had from the city itself. The 'Three Lochans' is one of my favourite routes to ride from my door.
Starting at the castle in Inverness, follow Culduthel Road out through the leafy residential area of western Inverness, towards the bike-popular Essich hill. You’re likely to see local riders zipping down the hill or working to catch you up the steady climb, and you quickly trade any feeling of city for Highland countryside. Views of heather-blanketed hills open up, and a stunning panorama explodes before you as approach the top of the hill. This ride is a tonic for me, with the layers of mountains beyond Loch Ness, the loch deep down below, and smells of pine forest or of coconut gorse depending on the time of year. The climb levels out as the lane undulates near the shore of Loch Ashie, to the crossroad where a right turn would take you down the locally famous Macbain Hill — switchback bends down to the B-road running from Inverness to Dores.
I prefer to turn left, descending through the woods to almost touch the southern end of Loch Ashie, then along to the shores of Loch Duntelchaig, The road follows the water, past the climbing crags at the loch’s far edge, and then continues to skirt the shores of Loch a’ Chachain, a smaller, pretty loch that is good for birdwatching and swimming should you fancy any mid-ride distraction!
If you’re riding at speed, watch out for the blind corner before the quaint church in Dunlichty, and enjoy the pretty rollercoaster along to the T-junction near Inverarnie. A left-turn up a short easy-graded climb of the B861 brings you an exhilarating descent back to Inverness with great views northward of the Beauly Firth and Ben Wyvis.