The group of young women taking a dip in Loch Ness were braver than me – I had my swimming kit on underneath the cycling trousers but the chilly wind at Dores put me off a spot of wild swimming.
For us, the journey to the beach and back was the main point of this outing, a family bike ride from home to the loch-side village for a picnic and a play at the park.
The cycle route from the southern outskirts of Inverness is nice and quiet and provides a great little trip for all levels of rider. With Meg pulling Matthew in the baby trailer at the front and me keeping an eye on the girls from the back, we set off to pick up Route 78 where it meets the Essich roundabout on the distributor road in Inverness.
You can easily follow the wide shared-use paths past the houses, where the route turns right down the Torbreck road to pass over the Holm Burn. This is a single-track road and we enjoyed a gentle tootle down the lane, spotting horses in the fields while Jennifer enthused about the “beautiful woods” we were cycling through.
There are great trails through these woods for running and mountain biking too, and it marks the start of the South Loch Ness Trail which stretches as far south as Fort Augustus.
We continued until we met the main road at the bottom and turned left onto a surfaced cycle path that is signed to Dores. This runs alongside the road as far as the farmhouse at Cullaird, where it tucks behind a line of trees for a little downhill stretch before crossing a narrow wooden bridge.
I was concerned our big bike trailer might not fit through but Meg was on the other side without any problems before I’d even got there. At Scaniport, the route meets a side road and turns left to follow it around a corner and alongside rolling fields.
This wonderful stretch feels a million miles away from the city as views to the steep hills down the Great Glen come to the fore. The road surface deteriorates somewhat as you pass a farm but otherwise it’s a great ride with just a tiny climb towards the end for the children to push themselves on – all good practice for using their gears.
Dropping to a T-junction, Route 78 is signed right and then you pick up a traffic-free cycle path on your left immediately after the last house. This provides a fun little ride through the fields but with a couple of sharp corners to watch out for.
The cycle path twists and turns around Aldourie Primary School about a mile outside Dores, then crosses the unsurfaced car park to pick up an old cycle path that runs parallel to the main road again. This one is in need of some upgrading and widening but Meg managed to negotiate a way through with the trailer.
As you get nearer the village, a spectacular view down the length of Loch Ness opens up, with the prominent hill of Meall Fuar’mhonaidh dominant on the west side of the water. From here it’s just a gentle descent into the village before crossing the road at the Dores Inn to reach the beach and play park.
We’d enjoyed the sunshine on the way here but there was a cool blast coming off the water as clouds gathered now, so we wrapped up to eat lunch – rather than stripping off to go swimming!
Matthew enjoyed getting out of the trailer and stretching his legs on the beach with his sisters before playing in the little park. All too soon – for them at least – it was time to make our way home.
This is often the most difficult bit to do but with a good lunch inside them – and one or two treats held in reserve for the return journey – Clara and Jennifer made easy work of the ride back, despite a few more hills to tackle this way.
Jennifer ended up riding the last bit with Meg and Matthew, while Clara and I chatted away to each other on our way – until we were interrupted by Matthew shouting out his favourite word from the comfort of his trailer: “Car! Car!”
A few more rides like this and hopefully we will convert him to shouting “Bike! Bike!” instead.
Dores family cycle
Distance 14 miles / 23km return
Terrain Surfaced cycle paths and quiet minor roads
Map OS Landranger 26
A ride to the beach for a well-earned picnic