A tale of two cycles: Part 2 – Benderloch to a frighteningly fast and un-navigable A-road.

After such a wonderful cycle to Ballachulish we wanted to do some more of route 78 and so, since we were at the beach at Tralee, Benderloch, I arranged to cycle north with the kids for around 10k to meet my husband with the car at Loch Crearen to finish the day.

It started off nicely with a short section down the old railway starting at the old Bendeloch station. However after about 100yrds the disused railway continued, looking inviting and hung either side with drooping tree boughs, but was fenced off, while the cycle track took a dogleg and started to follow the main road on a separate and parallel track.20140714-210831-76111501.jpg

The ambitions of cycle route 78 to follow the old railway is brilliant and, it would surely be one of Scotland’s best cycle routes if that ambition could be realised. However it is evident that the route’s creators and visionaries have come up against many land-owners who have refused to allow the cycle track to continue along the obvious route and so quite large sections have needed to be made on alternative routes, sometimes in fields adjacent (as in Glen Duror to good effect), and in many places alongside the road. When the railways were closed, land across Scotland, and indeed the UK, was practically given away to the landowners rather than being held as strategic routes, and so it irks somewhat that some landowners are not cooperating in the process of creating this beautiful cycle route.

I don’t mind cycling on an off road cycle track alongside a main road. I do mind if that cycle path peters out entirely and I am informed that it continues one and a half miles further along the busy Oban-Fort William road.

Now, I am a hardened Glasgow cycle commuter, daily doing battle with rush-hour traffic along Dumbarton road, but the thought of heading out onto that road where cars were doing upward of 60mph, and numerous scary overtaking maneuvers of caravans/campers/trucks happened as we stood there, was not attractive. There was simply no way on earth we could go any further with the kids.


My phone battery was on 1%, I texted the husband then the phone battery died. We contemplated our options. Either there would be an unusual confluence of circumstances (a) he had his phone with him, b) his phone was on, c) his phone was charged, and d) that he was paying attention to it) and he’d get the text, or (more likely) he wouldn’t. We waited a bit longer than the amount of time it would take him to reach us if he got the text and then headed back to Benderloch.

Fortunately there was Ben Lora Cafe and Books to keep us occupied and the sun was shining. We wondered how long it would take for hubby to realise we were gone.

We all had a drink and a snack, time dawdled. We bought newspapers and magazines to read. Two of the hourly buses passed to Balcardine and I regretted not getting on one of them. We contemplated hitch hiking up the road, and still he didn’t appear.

The man clearing tables asked if we were ok. ‘Sounds just like me’, he said as I explained that it probably hadn’t crossed hubby’s mind to check his phone and that, if he actually had it with him, on and charged, it would be a miracle ‘I never have my phone on, drives my wife crazy’. He helpfully offered to charge my phone.20140714-211758-76678128.jpg

By 530 pm and an hour and a half of waiting later, we were all getting a little bored. ‘They’re closing its road tonight at 10pm for roadworks’, I thought, ‘I wonder whether Ruedi will come back to look for us in time, or whether we’ll have to kip down here for the night ….’

‘He’ll probably come back when he’s hungry’ said the man.

I went inside to pay and the woman at the counter told me that her husband never has his phone on either. She has an anaphylactic reaction to stings and she told me that, when she’s out for a walk and has forgotten her epi-pen, she often muses over, were she to get stung, how long it would take her husband to notice she were gone. ‘Probably not till the next day’ she said ‘perhaps at breakfast time’.

We giggle about husbands for a bit and then she said ‘Mind you, the shoe’s been on the other foot’ and told me her story. One evening her husband didn’t return home and she didn’t think anything of it, when he still wasn’t back the next night she assumed he was visiting his mother and it was only when his mother called to speak to him, she started to wonder where he was. It wasn’t until he’d been gone five days (‘FIVE DAYS??!!’ I echoed incredulously) that he returned as if nothing had happened. When she had finished shrieking ‘where-the-hell-have-you-been-I’ve-been-worried-sick?’ It turned out that he’d been over in Sheffield for work but had omitted to tell her the plan.

It seems that things could be far worse than waiting two hours in a comfortable cafe garden in the sun….

And when did we eventually get rescued? At 6pm hubby eventually turned into the car park. After waiting, and wandering along the shore, and reading, and snoozing he had, at last, started to wonder where we were and had turned on his phone to see what time it was (…dinner time…?)

Sustrans leaflet on cycle route 78 Oban to Fort William



A tale of two cycles: Part 1 – Cuil Bay to Ballachullish

20140714-210834-76114055.jpgCycle Route 78 is entirely off road from Cuil Bay to Ballachulish and much of it is along the old Oban- Ballachulish branch line which shut in 1966. The plan is to extend the cycle way off road all the way to Oban but there seem to be some difficult negotiations with land owners along the way (see part 2 of the story) and so there are some bits that are still on the main road.


However the route we took on day one of our family cycle adventures was one of the nicer routes I’ve done and perfect for a bike with the kids, about 7-8 miles each way.

We started at Cuil Bay and cycled along the minor road to a crossing with the main road which took us through fields and across a beautiful new wooden bridge curving elegantly over the river Duror.

Cycling past banks of foxgloves and meadowsweet, the path wove between fields and then onto the old railway, through cuttings and under a viaduct that must have once taken a road or another railway. In Duror a panel told of the connections of the area with the Appin murder the inspiration for Stephehson’s classic novel ‘Kidnapped’. A cycle up the glen would have taken us to the birthplace of James of the Glen, the subject of that most infamous miscarriage of justice.20140714-210827-76107787.jpg

Passing Duror campsite and some gypsy caravan glamping we were back on the disused railway again, following the contours of the vast shoulder of Beinn a Bheithir, the Ballachulish Horseshoe. The track leaves the railway to climb up for a splendid view of Loch Linnhe and the architectural copses of trees on the Ardsheal estate, before a, rather-too-steep decent takes you to the Holly Tree hotel (the perfect stop for lunch and a swim) and then back onto the old railway now running along the shoreline.20140714-210826-76106674.jpg

The views arcross to Ardgour and Morven were divine, and later there were views of the pap of Glencoe and hints of larger mountains behind in the cloud. We made a short detour up into the forest at Letir Mhor to see the monument at the spot where Colin Campbell was murdered.20140714-210825-76105023.jpg

While we stopped for water we were passed by two ladies on low-slung trikes. Each was holding an umbrella spray painted silver. Kit and provisions were piled on to the back of each bike and while one had a pack of warburtons sliced bread bungeed to the top, the other trailed some Tibetan prayer flags.

The final four miles of the route is alongside the road from South Balachulish to Glencoe. Amazing views of the mountains of Glencoe looming ahead was rather distracting given the very fast and busy road the track runs alongside. However, all in all it was a perfect family cycle ride. We rode back for a very deserved dinner and swim at the Holly Tree.20140714-210828-76108786.jpg

Sustrans leaflet on cycle route 78 Oban to Fort William