Tag Archives: highlands

The crap cycle facility to the isles

Glenfinnan

In January I said some nice things about the Caledonia Way, what is shaping up to be a very nice leisure (and perhaps, for some locals, plain utility) ride between Oban and Fort William, via Glencoe. I never got around to writing the other half of the story: the road to the isles. I don’t really have any interesting point to make about it, it’s just an excuse to post pictures of pretty places and crap cycle tracks. Continue reading

Caledonia Way

Another quick update on a Scottish cycle route, before I post my conclusions about them. This is the Caledonia Way, NCN78, a 350km route from Campbeltown and the Mull of Kintyre up the Argyll coast to Oban, alongside the sea lochs to Fort William, and up the Great Glen to Inverness. The Caledonia Way is being developed primarily to be a great all abilities tourist trail (though with uses as a serious local transport route), linking some great Highland landscape to the railway towns via a relatively flat route.

The intention is for the route to be on dedicated cycle paths and tracks throughout, except a few short sections where existing suitable very quiet lanes and streets exist. This is, of course, a similar aspiration to that of the National Cycle Network, but one that sadly hasn’t always worked out quite as intended.

But the Oban to Glencoe section shows how the Caledonia Way is doing. Here, the cycle route runs alongside sea lochs, going the same way as the A828, a non-trunk primary route which is not very busy but is in many places engineered for very high speeds. Over the past few years the road has been acquiring cycle tracks. The organisations involved have not compromised on acquiring the amount of land that is required to build something on which you can pass, overtake and ride three-abreast:

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Nor do they seem to have compromised on building all of the foundations, drainage and other structures that the route needs:

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Here, where the road went into an existing wood, the path has been threaded further back from the road, hiding the traffic a little…

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…but for much of the route cyclists don’t have to follow the road at all. The old Oban to Ballachulish railway also ran along here, and the cycle route has taken over the trackbed for several miles in a couple of different places:

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Sometimes it doesn’t follow road or railway, but takes its own paths of least resistance:

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There are a couple of places where the cycle tracks briefly get nasty. But the designers have at least proved that they understand what “minimum standard” means: the bare minimum which can be acceptable for those few yards where the expense of engineering out the geography would be unreasonable, not the sustained standard at which to build the whole route.

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Sadly there have been a couple of really embarrassing  prioritisation decisions, involving a (disused?) gated quarry road and one really very unfortunate little mess at a driveway (I’m hoping that this mess, which is next to the pinch-point above left and is only a short section of poor quality tracks between good quality railway paths, is just an interim link before something better can be done using the railway).

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But, on the new tracks and paths, those are the most notable issues in the 50kms between Oban and Glencoe. That is, on the new tracks. There are some at the Oban end that are several years older, and are your typical 2.0m pavement construction. I hope it’s not too late for those to be revisited by the new designers, who clearly have a better idea what they’re doing…

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But it’s not too late for everything to go wrong. Only a little over two thirds of the tracks and paths to bypass the A828 have been built so far, often leaving you back on the main road:

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Though Irish Navvies (no really, the contractor’s trucks had IRL plates) are out there right now building more of it (and the progress since I rode it in the spring almost two years is immense):

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And Oban to Glencoe is so far the only section of the Caledonia Way to have been built. Which brings me to my point — or will, when I get around to posting it.

The remotest road

This was the ‘A’ road across the top of Scotland until the EU built a new, full-size one. It’s high up on the Moine — the moss — between Tongue and Hope. The house is miles from anything, built with the original road as an inn, back before bicycles and motor cars made Tongue to Hope less than a morning’s journey. I wrote about it before.

It’s a lovely place to go for a bicycle ride.

The friday photo theme is just an excuse to plug my pictures and prints.

Car-free holidays: bicycle over Rannoch Moor

Rannoch Moor. Click the images for larger versions.

Google Earth paths for this tour

Download Google Earth paths

It’s January and all the magazines are overflowing with supplements trying to sell you Mediterranean cruises and horrible beach holidays 4,000 miles away.  AWWTM will therefore overflow with easy-to-organise alternative holidays, giving far greater satisfaction at a fraction of the price.  They involve no sweltering traffic jams, no crowded beaches, no 2 hour check-ins and no 15 hours in economy seats.  Nor do they need to involve lycra or mud — though for some you might want sun cream, and a bicycle with at least three gears.

From the train home over Rannoch Moor at sunset

My first suggestion for a car-free break is a really easy way for southerners to see the mountains, glens, lochs, and castles of the Highlands.  It only takes a weekend, combines one of the best railway journeys in Britain with two days of 50-60 mile bicycle rides, and if you’re clever with the booking it could cost less than £60 for the whole thing.  Londoners get there on the Caledonian Sleeper train, leaving Euston at just after 9pm on a Friday evening (others can board at Crewe or Preston later in the evening).  Decide when you want to go (I recommend May, as it’s late enough to have long days, but too early for the midges) and set a reminder for 12 weeks in advance, when the £19 advance train tickets go on sale (prices can rise to over £100 each way when the advance fares run out, and in May the train is liable to be fully booked days in advance, but deciding at the last minute would at least give you the benefit of being able to pick a weekend that you know will be sunny).  On the sleeper, you get a bed; a retro lounge car that will serve you breakfast as you cross Rannoch Moor in the morning sunshine, and dinner as you return the next day at sunset; a real old fashioned luggage van for your bicycle; and you get deposited at Fort William ready to start your ride on Saturday morning, and then back at Euston in time for work on Monday.  Since it’s only a weekend trip, all you need is a small backpack or pannier to carry a change of t-shirt and pants, your sun cream, and a supply of bananas.  Preparation couldn’t be less stressful. Continue reading

Can you work out where I am?

I’ve been away from London for three weeks now, taking a break from the noise and the taxi drivers.  I needed to eliminate distractions to get a couple of work and writing projects completed, so I’m doing an extreme telecommute experiment for the winter, while observing the transport and environment situation at the opposite end of the urban-rural spectrum.  Can you work out where I am?

There’s a valley, one side of which won’t see direct sunlight this month…

And a railway station, with just a single change of trains on the 12 hour journey from London — but you would only be able to get here on one early morning departure a day from King’s Cross, or one late evening departure from Euston. Continue reading

Weekly War Bulletin, 3 July

US Embassy nearing £3 million in unpaid congestion charge fines.  Afghanistan owes nearly £35,000 to the boroughs in parking tickets.  The diplomats claim immunity from paying these taxes.  Because unlike water and electricity, for which they are presumably required to pay, the highway is not provided as a service, it’s a human right.

Motorists are being asked how much they should be fined for breaking the rules.  In other news, turkeys promised referendum on christmas.  They haven’t done much of a job of promoting their “consultation”, but I think I’ve tracked down the instructions here, should any of our readers wish to have their say.

In the Highlands, councillors are getting on their bikes to save money.  The Highlands.  That’s the council with the lowest population density in the UK; the biggest mountains; the convoluted coastline and isolated islands; the long wide trunk roads to nowhere; the few, slow railway lines; with harbour towns at the end of fifty mile roads and scattered crofts on single track lanes, a hundred miles from the county town.  And there are councillors in London who think it not inappropriate to drive a car around town.

Having beautified the M40 last week, 25 tonnes of rubbish on the railway at Banbury were the next target for those seeking to keep the home counties looking perfect.

Private train operating companies are asking the government to allow them to fight over the scraps of public money left to the railways.  Those that loose out can always fall back on the confusing fares fraud to raise revenue.

What did they expect of a man from Yeovil?

Allegedly there is anger at Edinburgh airport introducing a £1 — a whole one pound — charge for using their drop-off car park.  That’s the war on the Motorist, that is.

Wi-fi going down the tube?  Haven’t they been saying these things for years?  Surely it will get cut off under the terms of the digital economy act anyway?  And only at stations?  What use is that?

Three day 200 mile journey on free bus pass.

In the Congo, a speeding oil tanker driver has been involved in a collision with a village, killing 200.

The “Road Safety Foundation”, front for the AA and road lobby, gets free publicity with claim that road safety has been achieved by road construction — but that more needs to be done.

Searching the news for “crash” is an eye opener.  Just a small selection of those from this week… Three year old has severe facial injuries after crash. Elsewhere, another has head injuries.  Nine year old cyclist collides with car in Perterborough.  Pedestrian collides with lorry in Berkshire.  Van shares the road in Manchester.  Bin-man dies after bungalow collides with rubbish truck in Kent.  Tree collides with car in Warwickshire.  Tractor collides with lorry in Essex.  Railway bridge collides with double-deck school bus in Flintshire.  It’s not the only Welsh bridge playing up: there are calls for a new bridge to be constructed after a pesky grade II listed crossing has repeatedly collided with lorries and then demanded accurate reconstruction.  In Staffordshire, another grade II listed bridge has been involved in a similar incident with an 80 year old driver.  And a lorry/bridge collision in CambridgeshireIn Ealing, shopping centre roof collides with Mercedes in innocent mix-up between brake and accelerator.  Tyneside metro train hits car.  Milk tanker crashes in Wiltshire, spilling its load.  Impaled Motorist saved by four-leaf clover.  Lorry driver arrested for death of teenager.  Lorry driver arrested for death of biker.  Taxi driver charged for death by dangerous driving.  Drivers charged for deaths of pensioners.  Sir Ranulph Fiennes charged after driver seriously injured.  Traffic cop in court after causing death with sports car.  Fireman in court for crash on emergency call.  Farmer jailed for causing death by trailer.  Two year ban is the penalty for driving into pregnant woman; lorry driver who killed school kid also “spared” prison.  And finally, another cyclist hit by a truck from the Shard building site.

Just a small sample of the more interesting stories from the week.  For every one of them there is a straightforward death-on-the-road story.

But the BBC’s Nick Bryant has been exploring solutions to dangerous roads.  Pedestrians need to look where they’re going, he finds.  Stop listening to music, taking phone calls, talking to people, and looking around at the scenery; and don’t whatever you do try walking after a drink.  In other news, those seeking to end rape announce that the solution is for women to cover up and stay indoors.

Your moment of zen: