Day 12

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Origin:        Tomintoul
Destination:   Alness
Waypoints:     Grantown on Spey, Cawdor, Inverness, Dingwall
Lunch:         bought from the Co-op in Grantown on Spey, eaten in Cawdor
Accommodation: Westmore B&B, Alness
Cake:          nothing formal, but a flapjack stop in Dingwall
Dinner:        The Station Hotel, Alness
Google Maps
Distance:      75.2mi
Ascent:        2923ft by Google

We had a rainy start in rainy Tomintoul, through rainy Bridge of Brown (bit of a climb, but nothing compared to the previous day) and onwards, rainily and uppy-downily. Despite the rain, the scenery was wonderful, and things had eased off by Grantown on Spey, where we approached as the road curved inside the old railway line. The station there appeared remarkably newly preserved and bestowed with some short lengths of track, but we did not tarry to investigate. In town, the Co-op had some top-notch flapjack.

Things were more woodsy out of Grantown, but then becoming briefly bridgey (yet more ex-railway) after which the landscape gradually opened up to offer some wider vistas. We took a left onto a tiny remote backroad towards Cawdor, which felt a little adventurous although staying on the main road a fair bit longer would not have added much to the distance. (I haven't mapped this because it's fairly obvious—just stay on the A939, then eventually left on the B9101—and, not having done it, I have nothing to say about it. I'm sure it's lovely.)

Mind the tourists around the castle... but Cawdor really is a beautifully kept village. From there it was a nice quiet road approaching Inverness, under a spectacular viaduct (“freedom!”). Into Inverness was a bit of a chug along main-ish roads, before a sudden right turn past a little park shortcutted us towards the city centre along Stephen's Brae. We did a bit of pushing through the pedestrian area on foot as it was busy with shoppers (although technically our route is merely “no motor vehicles”), past the railway station, we were off again into an industrial area and the bike-path approach to the A9 bridge over the Moray Firth. (A minor diversion is also mapped here: if you follow the Sustrans route you'll avoid some but not all of the pedestrian-heavy city centre, and will also make it to the bridge avoiding the big roundabout.) The view from the bridge is pretty nice.

After the bridge, it was a little left and straight down to the North Kessock shoreline, then climbing back up to join a cycle path on the right-hand side of the A9. This was the start of a somewhat Sustransy journey through Inverness suburb-land. As usual with Sustrans routes, you have to be psychic to know where to turn. At the insanely oversized roundabout at Tore, we ended up on a rather unpleasantly fast road because we failed to notice that if you cling onto the vast expanse of roundabout tarmac a little further, or go around it the wrong way, there is a tiny gap in a fence through which you can reach a cycle path. Of course the cycle path is inaccessible once you're on the main road, which is why we ended up stuck on a nasty bit of 60mph black stuff. You can Street view the roundabout approach to play the game for yourself.

The mostly road-adjacent Sustransiness continues past Conon Bridge and on towards the outskirts of Dingwall, where it did its usual trick of morphing gradually into pavement; I've shown the route simply taking the A862 into town after the last roundabout, which was the tactic we adopted fairly quickly. Dingwall itself is a nice enough place for a cake stop and public toilet stop (down by the gift shop, towards the car park). After a bit of confusion about how to get out of town—the off-road paths again rather dizzying and ill-connected, which is so unusual—we were off onwards toward Alness, climbing up the old Evanton Road. It's a steadyish climb, and gives a nice view good view of the tiny toy traffic traversing the Cromarty Bridge below. Evanton is pleasingly isolated from the main road below, and the high road took us smoothly enough to Alness and our lodgings for the evening.

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Content updated at Thu 23 Jan 22:54:00 GMT 2020.
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