MY SPECIAL RIDE
‘Fern lines the hillsides in a duvet of green & brown’
Stick a pin into a map of the Highlands and you’ll struggle to hit anything but an outstanding road – the tarmac is routinely fantastic and, on the rare occasions it isn’t, the eye-popping panoramas always are. To say nothing of a full Scottish breakfast before you set off. One of the finest roads is the A87. It feeds off the A82 – the trunk route running along the Great Glen between Inverness and Fort William – at the village of Invergarry on the shores of Loch Oich. The first mile or so is in a 40mph zone – but then a long sweeping right-hander announces the road proper. The road climbs with a steady flow of mid-speed corners alongside the banks of Loch Garry – with that grippy, grainy Scots surface that looks like it’s just as grippy wet as dry – until, after around five miles, the treeline recedes, gives way to a heathery moorland, and the view opens out across the dark mirror of the loch’s waters to the mountains beyond.
The first set of tight turns appear – swoop over a right, then left, a short straight, into a tighter left, cut back for a right – and then over the top of what turns out to be connecting ridge of hills with a view of Loch Loyne below to the left. Drop down past the dam and meet the A887. Turn
left, staying on the A87 – now you’re heading west, spearing along the rapid, pale grey tarmac, lined by Armco and flanking the low bank of Loch Cluanie. Beware here; it’s easy to get disorientated by mountainous perspective and find your speed creeping into triple figures. Dwarfed by the landscape, 100mph feels like you’re barely moving.
Past the Cluanie Inn – food and fuel if you need them – and onwards, now keeping track of the River Cluanie. There have been many ancient battles fought in this glen and it’s not hard to imagine the ring of claymores and spilled blood staining the heather. The road slims as it winds downwards, fern fronds lining the hillsides in a duvet of green and brown, passing through Shiel (more fuel) with the ridge of the Five Sisters of Kintail rising to the right. We’re now at the southern end of Loch Duich, passing through villages, before reaching the end of this part of your Highland ride at Eilean Donan Castle – made famous in the movie Highlander.
From here you can stay on the A87 to Skye – you really must, if you haven’t – or peel off north on the A890 towards Lochcarron and Applecross. Again, if you haven’t you really must. And if you can’t decide... stick a pin in the map.
‘The tarmac is routinely fantastic and the panoramas are eye-popping’