This morning was overcast and quite cold. We travelled from Balcardine Northwards towards South Ballachulish using the Sustrans Route NCN78 and ordinary roads. NCN78 is very inconsistent. In places the surface is excellent and well graded and in others it is very poor. To be fair, I think we are looking at a work in progress - large sums of money are obviously being spent in creating paths on old railway lines - the end result should be superb.
The NCN gives gives an excellent view of Castle Stalker which was used in Monty Python and The Holy Grail.
At South Ballachulish the signage is confusing when trying to get to the bridge going North. This caused us a slight delay.
The main road North to Fort William and Inverness is horrible for cyclists. It is narrow and very busy.
In Fort William we stopped for some time to eat a substantial picnic lunch bought in Morrison's supermarket. We have learned not to skimp on lunch. Pretty obvious really, but the temptation is to keep going with minimal food stops to avoid falling behind schedule and you soon learn that you can't run on an empty tank.
After Fort William we stuck to the Great Glen Way all the way to Fort Augustus. The Great Glen Way avoids the horrors of the main road by following a combination of rough and very rough tracks alongside sections of the Caledonian Canal, along old abandoned railway lines, and narrow footpaths. The section along Loch Oich is particularly difficult as the surface is made almost impassible by matted tree roots and rocks washed off the mountain slopes above. We had to walk some sections. A mountain bike with suspension would really be required to cope happily with the terrain. However, we did it without breaking our bikes and it was an interesting experience.
Finding accommodation in Fort Augustus was a problem but we have got a small room in a hostel with bunk beds which is very cheap and perfectly adequate.
Off to Evanton tomorrow.
Here are my secret tips for cycling on rough tracks with a fully loaded touring bicycle ( don't apply to mountain bikes).
I find that I have to concentrate very hard to find the best line through the boulders and tree roots. The sides of the track are smooth except when they are rough. If you are cycling on the side of the track then it is always rough and when you are not cycling on the edge the the edge is, inevitably, smooth.
Distance 111km, max speed 41km/h,
Moving time 6hrs 22 min, moving avg 17.4km/h, ascent 337m