|Location Map ( geo)
|NCN73, NCN75, NCN7, NCN1
|Route outline (key)
NCN Route 78 is a cycle route up the west coast of Argyll and then through the Great Glen from Campbeltown to Inverness. The route is far from complete, with a number of problems to overcome before it is ridable throughout. It is also not particularly direct, particularly in Argyll where it deviates from the straight line significantly in order to avoid busier roads and in places steep gradients.
Campbeltown - Lochgilphead
This cycle route starts at Campbeltown harbour, curving around the shore to reach the B842 heading north out of town. Despite this being the coast road, there are many steep hills to negotiate before reaching the B8001 at Claonaig. Here NCN73 joins after crossing Arran.
Following the B8001 north west to the A83, and then taking the A83 along West Loch Tarbert allows a link to the Islay Ferries pier at Kennacraig. Just before reaching Tarbert village, a minor road takes the route to the B8024. Route NCN75 is expected to join here after crossing the Cowal Peninsula. The B8024 is the very long way round Knapdale, and while avoiding the worst of the traffic, it nevertheless has a number of hills to negotiate, and still leaves a few miles along the busy A83 into Ardrishaig, where it picks up the Crinan Canal towpath into Lochgilphead.
Lochgilphead - Oban
This is one of the most circuitous sections of the route, heading out of Lochgilphead on the towpath as far as the B8025 at Islandadd Bridge. The B8025 then takes the route north across the level moor of Moine Mhor to the Kilmartin Glen Cairns and Standing Stones. Quiet roads and tracks then make a bypass of Kilmartin village, meeting the A816 just to the north. After 2 miles on the busy road, the route turns east onto the B840. At Ford, it keeps to the north side of Loch Awe, following the minor road through Dalavich to the B845 at Kilchrenan, and overcoming some more hills along the way.
The B840 crosses another substantial hill through Glen Nant to Taynuilt, some 10miles due east of Oban. A short ride along the A85 through the village provides another unclassified road which leads through Glen Lonan to the West Coasts busy Ferry Port, from where the peace and quiet of a number of islands can be reached. If only the Bonawe Ferry still existed, linking the two ends of the B845, then Oban could be a spur route, while the main NCN route headed north more directly!
Oban - Fort William
The final route out of Oban follows the shore road to Ganavan, and then crosses the moorland to Dunbeg, where a new path alongside the A85 is to be constructed into Connel. However, it is currently a better proposition to use the quiet road inland which leads through Ardconnel to the A828 at Connel Bridge. North of the bridge the route leads through North Connel, and then runs past the airport, officially to rejoin the A828 However, a steep ramp down onto the old railway line provides a muddy trail through the caravan park to Benderloch. In Benderloch, the old railway line provides a useful route through the village, and then a new roadside path heads north out of the village to the shores of Loch Creran and has recently been extended to the Sealife centre.
From the Sea Life Centre, the route continues heading north alongside the A828 through Barcaldine and Appin to Dalnatrat at the Argyll & Bute / Highland Council Boundary. This means that there are now roughly 18 miles of off-road cycle route from Connel Bridge to Dalnatrat. For most of this route the NCN follows the old railway line, although detours onto forest roads and the old A828 alignment are used where the road has been re-aligned onto the former railway line. A short gap then exists as far as Duror, where a path linking the school to the village centre continues to Lagnaha. Here it climbs over the hill to Kentallen, near the Holly Tree Hotel, from where it is possible to cycle off-road as far as Glencoe Village, from where a quiet road leads right up into the Glen, or the circuit of Loch Leven on the B863 can be made. This, then, give another 13 miles from Cuil Bay at Duror to Achnambeithach in Glen Coe of off road or quiet on road cycling.
The main route, meanwhile, crosses the Ballachulish Bridge on the A82, and heads north to the other end of the B863. From here, the pavement whilst still occasionally narrow, has seen work in Spring 2016 to take the route to the Corran Ferry, from where cyclists are advised to cross and use the A861 to Fort William - a small ferry makes occasional crossings from the A861 at Camusnagaul into the town, or the circuit of Loch Eil can be made using the busy, but wide A830. Future options have looked at taking the route north through Glen Righ, a substantial hill climb, and then using the very hilly Blarmacfoldach road into Fort William, but no final decision has been made. The A82 corridor itself along Loch Linnhe is barely wide enough for the road, let alone an off-road cycle track.
Fort William - Inverness
The route north of Fort William is the former Great Glen Cycle Way, utilising the canal towpath and forestry tracks to Fort Augustus. This loops through Caol on the B8006, then picks up the Caledonian Canal Towpath or B8004 to Gairlochy, from where the quiet B8005 leads to Clunes. Forest Roads then continue north above Loch Lochy, through to the minor road at Kilfinnan, before rejoining the towpath at Laggan Locks. The old road and railway line have recently been rebuilt as the route up the east side of Loch Oich, although this used to be muddy and have locked gates impeding progress. At the Bridge of Oich, the towpath is once again used into Fort Augustus.
The proposed route onwards to Inverness then uses the B862, which climbs to nearly 400m in the first 5 miles out of Fort Augustus. A long steady drop, forking left onto the B852 at Whitebridge and along the relatively quiet shores of Loch Ness. Then at Dores, another hill on the B862 takes the route into the Highland Capital, where NCN routes 7 and 1 are met. Apart from the steep hills at the southern end, the roads up the east side of Loch Ness are generally quiet and have few hills, with a variety of routes to take. However, wind farm development in the area is generating heavy traffic, with some substantial road improvements.