|To:||Culloden Moor (NH760446)|
|Meets:||NCN1, NCN14, NCN68, NCN71, NCN10, NCN72, NCN74, NCN73, NCN75, NCN754, NCN77, NCN1|
|Route outline (key)|
NCN Route 7 is a cycle route, running cross-country from Sunderland to Ayr via Carlisle, then up through Glasgow and the Trossachs to the A9 corridor, which takes to it Culloden Moor, near Inverness. From Castle Douglas to Culloden Moor it forms part of the EuroVelo 1 Atlantic Coast Route.
Sunderland - Glasgow
Heads over the Pennines, to Penrith, then along the Eden Valley and south coast of Scotland to Castle Douglas before cutting off the corner and heading north to Ayr, where it follows the coast a bit more, crosses to Paisley and enters Glasgow from the west.
Glasgow - Callendar
After crossing the Clyde, NCN7 splits once more from NCN75 outside the SECC complex, and heads west along the north bank of the river. It turns inland at the end of the complex and runs alongside the A814 Clydeside Expressway for about a mile before crossing back onto an old railway alignment through the industrial area of Whiteinch. This crosses the A814 at Scotstoun and then passes back under the road a mile further on. Soon after this, NCN7 joins the local road network, running along side streets and finally joining the Forth & Clyde Canal Towpath, with NCN754 heading northeast along the canal.
NCN7 now runs west along the towpath to the end of the canal at Bowling Basin on the Clyde, albeit climbing up on to another old railway just before to cross the canal. This line runs between the A814 and A82, staying south of the latter while the two routes multiplex, and leads around the back of Dumbarton's industrial area before joining side streets into the town centre. From the old Dumbarton Bridge, the route then heads north up the west bank of the River Leven, through Alexandria and into Balloch.
At Balloch Bridge, the ahead route is local route 40, running up the west bank of Loch Lomond to Tarbert. NCN7, meanwhile, crosses the bridge and runs through the park to re-cross the A811 at Ballagan. It then follows quiet side roads to Croftamie, where it picks up an old railway line, crosses the A809 and turns north on another minor road (also the West Highland Way) into Drymen, re-crossing the A811 village bypass.
At Drymen, the WHW is left behind, and the Rob Roy Way picked up instead. The two routes follow each other closely through Callander, Killin and Aberfeldy, albeit while the RRW crosses the hills, NCN7 meanders along less steep routes! After crossing the hill from Drymen to Gartmore, the route uses the old branch line into Aberfoyle, and then climbs steeply up into Achray Forest, passing through the Trossachs and along the banks of Loch Venachar on Forest Roads. The former A892 then leads the route into Callendar itself.
Callendar - Pitlochry
After a very brief run along the A81, NCN7 turns westwards through the car parks to pick up the old Callendar & Oban railway line, so never reaching the A84. The two routes do, however, run parallel through the Pass of Leny, up opposite sides of Loch Lubnaig (the cycle route using the dramatic viaduct seen from the road) and through Strathyre, where NCN7 picks up minor roads to Balquhidder.
Just before the Balquhidder road passes under the A84 at Kingshouse, the cycle route turns off north, using a path alongside the road to pick up the old railway once more. However, the trackbed has been partly used to realign the road, and so the cycle route has to use more wiggly paths through woodland before crossing the Kendrum Burn on the rebuilt rail bridge. However, this is the Crieff branch, not the mainline, so a very steep climb follows to rejoin the mainline (there is also a spur down a quiet side road into Lochearnhead).
Back on the mainline, the route climbs steadily to Glenoglehead where it crosses the A85 and drops down through the forest, initially on the old military road, then a forest road to the old Killin branchline into Killin itself. A very brief run along the A827 to Killin Bridge, and then its right onto the minor road along the southern shore of Loch Tay to Kenmore. Across Kenmore Bridge on the A827 and then the minor road to the B846, taking that route through Appin of Dull into Aberfeldy.
Although, in truth, Aberfeldy is never reached as NCN7 turns off onto a minor road before reaching the town! This route runs along the north shore of the River Tay to Strathtay, where it crosses Pitnacree Bridge, doubling back onto the B898 along the south side of the river. The river is re-crossed by Logierait Bridge, a former rail crossing, meeting NCN77 on the west bank and local route 80 on the east, forming a loop down to Dunkeld. NCN7 meanwhile crosses the A827 yet again and climbs steeply up a minor road, passing through a small forest and dropping down to the banks of the Tummel before passing under the A9 and crossing the river into Pitlochry.
Pitlochry - Newtonmore
From Pitlochry at around 100m above sea level, NCN heads north, mostly along the former A9 route over the Drumochter Summit at 460m before dropping into Strathspey. The route follows the A924 out of town, picking up the B8019 at the A9 junction, and then keeps ahead onto the B8079 at the Garry Bridge junction. This leads through Killiecrankie (with views up to the Pass of Killiecrankie Viaduct carrying the A9) and Blair Atholl to Bruar. Here NCN7 turns right onto the B847 to Calvine, where a sign opposite the village school directs cyclists onto the old A9.
The old road follows the River Garry up to Drumochter Summit, and is a real pleasure to cycle. Largely left as it was when the new A9 opened, the road still sees occasional traffic for the estates that line it, but is otherwise a quiet and relaxing ride. The interesting Dalnamein Bridge is crossed, and then at Dalnacardoch a brief diversion onto a twisty path along the roadside leads to Edendon Bridge. Beyond here, the modern A9 alignment follows the old road in places, but the cycle route stays to the west of the road, using the old tarmac whenever possible.
At Dalnaspidal Bridge there are stunning views up Loch Garry, and then the last pull up to the summit, marked by a small gate/cattle grid into a layby. The route, and the A9 now start the long descent through Dalwhinnie to the Spey, with NCN7 again using the old tarmac wherever possible, but regularly reverting to gravel paths where the old road has been upgraded online. At the edge of Dalwhinnie, the A889 is picked up just short of its junction with the A9, and followed through the village.
Beyond Dalwhinnie, the old A9 remains open to traffic, through to Crubenmore, but is only lightly trafficked. At Crubenmore, the cycle route used to continue along the old road, however this section of the A9 has recently been dualled, so some of the old road has been re-used and the cycle route now has a new path. Beyond the Glentruim junction, however, the route continues on the old road through Ralia and onto the B9150 into Newtonmore.
Newtonmore - Inverness
The B9150 becomes the A86 in Newtonmore, and the cycle route continues along the road through the village, with an off-road path running alongside the road between Newtonmore and Kingussie. Back onto the A86 into Kingussie, and then onto the B970, to cross the Spey again at Ruthven Bridge. The dramatically sited Ruthven Barracks sit alongside the road, which then winds up the east side of Strathspey to Inverdrurie. Here the route splits, one part turning left into Aviemore, and onto the Speyside Way, whilst the other turns right over Coylum Bridge and on along the B970 to Boat of Garten.
The two routes rejoin at Boat of Garten, crossing the river again and following a minor road to the A95. Here another split turns left alongside the A95 to the B9153, whilst the right turn clibs steeply through forestry. The two rejoin in Carrbridge and then follow a minor road out to the old military road across Sluggan Bridge and on, north to Slochd. Again, an alternative route follows the A939 and old A9 up to Slochd.
Continuing on the old A9 over Slochd Summit and down into Tomatin, the cycle route crosses Findhorn Bridge and passes through the tiny village. The A9 is partly an online upgrade, leaving NCN7 as a narrow track sandwiched between the road and railway before picking up the B9154. At Craggie, before rejoining the A9, the route turns onto a minor road, which drops steeply to the prehistoric Clava Cairns, where it terminates on NCN1 just before reaching Culloden and the outskirts of Inverness.