If you are heading up to the Scottish Highlands – or indeed live there – and like to mix your road cycling with a bit of trail and rough stuff, a new route on the southern side of Loch Ness might be of interest.
The South Loch Ness Trail is a brand new walking and cycling route that was officially launched this month.
While it is not suitable for a pure road bike, a machine that can handle a bit of light off-road riding, be it a cyclocross or rugged hybrid bike, should be suitable for most of it, even if a sport of portage might be required here and there.
The 28-mile trail runs from Loch Tarff near Fort Augustus in the west to Torbreck on the outskirts of Inverness in the east, and connects existing and upgraded tracks with new sections along the way.
From Loch Tarff the trail rises sharply to Suidhe Viewpoint at 1200ft from where there are magnificent views of the southern part of Loch Ness.
Bountiful wildlife and flora, forest-, heather- and peat-clad moors are what you’ll find on the "undiscovered" side of Loch Ness where there are only minor roads and small communities. The population of the area is less than 1000.
The route continues on unpaved woodland trails and minor roads sometimes taking users right to the water’s edge sometimes carrying them high above the loch, deep into a landscape rich in history, nature and spectacular scenery.
The opening of the South Loch Ness Trail represents just one part of an ambitious long-term tourism plan for the area with the Destination Loch Ness destination management organisation (DMO) working in partnership with other agencies to continuously improve the visitor experience in this unique area.
In the coming years there are plans to link the trail to the ever popular Great Glen Way on Loch Ness’s northern side, while from Spring 2012 visitors will also be able to take advantage of the new Great Glen Canoe Trail from Fort William to Inverness.
Destination Loch Ness executive director Graeme Ambrose explained: “The south side of Loch Ness has, for many years, been in the shadow of the north side with many visitors travelling the A82 and never really knowing what the opposite side has to offer. However, the south side is an exciting destination in its own right – with wonderful wide open spaces and stunning scenery.
“By linking and upgrading the existing trails and creating a 28 mile trail, we hope to encourage more visitors to explore what this amazing area has to offer.”
You can find out more about the South Loch Ness Trail and download detailed tail maps at the Destination Loch Ness website; www.visitlochness.com.