Join the ride to make Inverness a cycle-friendly city!

Press release – Pedal on Parliament Inverness launch

Walking and cycling enthusiasts are organising a mass cycle to Highland Council headquarters in Inverness to demand more action to improve active travel facilities in the city.

Families are being encouraged to join the Pedal on Parliament ride on April 22.

And they are calling on anybody who wants to live in a city where people of all ages and abilities are able to walk and cycle easily and safely to join them.

The Pedal on Parliament Inverness ride will ask council candidates to pledge to commit to its aims to improve facilities for walking and cycling in their council wards ahead of local elections on May 4.

Organised by local cyclist Mark Falconer, POP Inverness is a group of clubs, organisations and individuals committed to making Inverness a safer and happier place to walk, cycle and live.

The mass ride will take place next month, with two route options – one for experienced cyclists and one for novices and families – going from Bellfield Park to the council’s Glenurquhart Road headquarters.

Cyclists face busy roads in and around the Highland capital

Pedal on Parliament rides have taken place in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen over the last few years and Mr Falconer explained what drove him to set up a similar event in the Highland capital.

He said: “I’ve attended a previous Pedal on Parliament so was always commited to its aims and was impressed by the wide range of people taking part.

“Inverness is a great city and deserves a great active travel infrastructure and I hope by staging an event we can persuade all the prospective councillors and the Scottish Government to make the small investment required to reap the great rewards it would bring.”

The benefits of walking and cycling are extremely well researched and documented, and backed up by a variety of Scottish Government policies and targets. Cycling and walking for short journeys in local communities help provide an answer to pressing issues faced in Scotland, including air pollution, town and city congestion, ill health, obesity and the rising cost of physical inactivity to the NHS.

Walking and cycling are also a cost effective method of transport for short journeys, and can be an enjoyable and fun way of travelling if the environment is safe and accessible. POP Inverness wants children and families, older people, disabled people and everyone else to be able to walk and cycle easily and safely and will be asking council candidates if they agree.

The group has joined forces with We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote to ask candidates to pledge their support for more financial investment in Highland for cycling and walking to 10 per cent of the transport budget, improved infrastructure to enable everyone to cycle and walk safely and conveniently, and to tackle local barriers to increased walking and cycling in their council wards.

Despite some high-profile cycle route developments in recent years, include the Millburn Road shared-use path and the Golden Bridge, campaigners remain concerned about poor cycling and walking provision, which includes indirect and inconvenient routes, barriers such as bollards and chicanes, shared space for pedestrians and cyclists which causes conflict, and poor on-road cycling facilities.

POP Inverness organiser Mark Falconer

Residents are also concerned with inconsiderate parking, badly surfaced pavements and high levels of traffic, which contributes towards air pollution, noise pollution, congestion, low levels of physical activity and health concerns, and more dangerous streets for people who want to walk and ride a bike for short journeys from A to B.

A spokesman said: “Pedal on Parliament Inverness is campaigning for all candidates in the 2017 local elections to help turn Inverness into a healthier, wealthier, happier place and help transform our lives and the lives of our children.

“Our three asks for the local elections are – Investment: provide sustained, long-term investment in both cycling and walking, reaching 10 per cent of the transport budget; Infrastructure: build and maintain dedicated cycling infrastructure suitable for people of all ages and abilities; local action: to solve the main local barriers to active travel, as identified by residents and businesses.”

Pedal on Parliament Inverness will set off from Bellfield Park on Saturday, April 22, at 11.30am. Everybody is urged to join the ride by meeting in the park by 11.15am.

For more information, see

After 12 years… a new PB at the 2017 Inverness Half Marathon

John after finishing the 2017 Inverness Half Marathon in a personal best of 1:34.37

The Inverness Half Marathon is always one of the first events on my calendar, and it so often feels like spring is really here (on the years it doesn’t snow, at least) once it is done. That was the case today as the sun shone in the late afternoon, despite a heavy downpour that wasn’t forecast during the race.

This is the 12th year I’ve taken part, a couple of trips up from Glasgow in 2004 and 2005 then every year since 2008 while I’ve been living in Inverness. It was that run in 2005 when I last got a personal best – and my friend took a photo of me looking pale and ghostly after achieving it!

Since then I haven’t managed to get a PB at any distance – probably because I used to regularly train with the Bellahouston Road Runners when I lived in Glasgow but didn’t join a club up here initially – but today I took 44 seconds off that 2005 time, finishing in 1hr 34mins 37secs, so I’m pretty pleased with that!

It was hard work achieving it today, though. I put in some much faster miles than I had been anticipating and did my best to keep the speed up for the duration of the 13.1 miles, only really slowing in the last mile when I knew I just had to keep going.

My eldest daughter Clara (5) also took part – but in the 5k, running with her 71-year-old grandad. She was delighted to get her third 5k medal and spend the day with her grandad!

Clara with her grandad at the start of the 5k
Outsprinting grandad on the finishing straight!

Taking a walk with the kids at Loch an Eilein

The popular walk around Loch an Eilein in Rothiemurchus forest was our plan for a wet afternoon. It’s a straightforward plod, with a waymarked trail that is good for buggies, bikes and motorised wheelchairs – but take along four young children and it can turn into a real adventure!

This place has it all, from mountain views to ancient Scots pines, wildlife watching and even a 13th century ruined castle sitting on the island after which the loch is named.

Loch an Eilein. Pictures: John Davidson |

For youngsters, it’s also a place to get off the beaten track and explore – whether that’s in the water, up the trees or finding secret paths through the undergrowth.

The children all brought their bikes and, after a quick play in the water, they were off, speeding along then stopping every wee while to play hide and seek or climb trees.

We followed the route clockwise, going left around the loch to cross a little footbridge then turning right onto a forestry track. There had been recent tree felling here but, being a Sunday, there wasn’t any work going on today.

The track undulates past a cottage and continues to a junction just after a wider bridge. The route to the left here heads to the Cairngorm Club Footbridge – gateway to the mighty Lairig Ghru and the mountains above – but our low-level route goes straight ahead through the gate.

Meg joins the children on their bikes!

After staying high through the trees you drop down to the loch-side, and we enjoyed a snack and some fun and games with the kids, using a fallen tree as a makeshift bench with plenty of room for everyone.

Eventually we decided we had better get moving again, so we followed the route to a footbridge over a tumbling burn at the outflow of Loch Gamhna. It’s possible to extend the route by continuing around this smaller loch but we decided that wasn’t the wisest move today, with four soggy, tired children to keep entertained and enthused.

Enjoying the view over Loch an Eilein.

They loved riding their bikes over the bridge but not so much the steep climb to rejoin the track on the far side, where a little bit of parental pushing was required.

They were soon back on their way, though, and despite a bumpy steep downhill section that gave poor Clara a bit of a fright, the three eldest little ones were powering on round the loch.

There’s a clear right turn in the track with a well-used shortcut path that leads round to the western edge of Loch an Eilein and the home straight.

Playing hide n seek in the forest.

The track now leads through the forest to another gate, after which you pass a cottage and then the island castle comes into sight. Little is known about its origins but it is believed its construction began in the 13th century by the Bishop of Moray, with the visible ruins today being those added in the year 1600 to increase the security of the site.

In between, the Wolf of Badenoch is thought to have added a tower house in the 1380s. The castle was beseiged by the defeated Jacobites after the Battle of Cromdale in 1690, and it was also used to shelter fugitives after the Battle of Culloden.

Today, the overgrown ruins stand peacefully in the water, surrounded by magnificent forest and towering mountains, a short distance from the end of this lovely little walk.

* Article first published in Active Outdoors | March 3, 2017

John Davidson, author and journalist, shares his love of the great outdoors from Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland

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