MTB circuit of Carn nan Tri-tighearnan
|Carn na Tri-tighearnan Circuit, 40 miles, 4,500 ft ascent. Ridden anticlockwise|
Around a year ago I first wrote about my local hills, the high moors that rise to the southeast of Inverness. At the time I noted that a planning application had been lodged for a wind farm on the Moy Estate. This application has subsequently been approved, not by Highland Council, who ran out of time, but by Richard Dent, the Reporter appointed by the Scottish Government. His report considers the combined impact of the Moy development and the existing nearby development at Farr. It also makes note of further proposals: a practically adjacent development at Daviot (not on the current version of the annually updated SNH wind farm map) and the adjoining proposals to the south at Tom nan Clach and Glenkirk. If the developers get their way this area will soon be dominated by wind farm developments, each individually approved using language similar to that employed in Richard Dent's report, an example of which I provide below.
'.......those walking in the vicinity would experience the turbines as dominant visual features. ..... although, on the other hand, it would remain possible to experience vistas in which the wind farm would not be seen. I am therefore not persuaded that the visual impact of the wind farm in recreational terms is unacceptable.'
The terrain brought to mind more exotic landscapes that I have visited abroad; the lichenous tracts of Norway's Rondane National Park and the open, rounded, ice-milled expanses of Icelandic Highlands. In the interior of Iceland low density beige tephra accumulates in the depressions of a landscape of more dense black volcanic gravel, giving the impression of vegetation where there is none. Here light patches of lichen amid the darker heather create entirely the opposite impression, that of a vegetated desert. The road across the moor is of relatively recently construction and is incongruous despite being built from local rock; no vegetation has yet gained a toe hold in its foot-high smear of crushed red rock.
|The River Findhorn at Streens|
This is a route best saved for dryish conditions, for the River Findhorn must be forded. I carried crocs with me to protect my feet during the crossings. I did not carry anything other than padded shorts to protect my posterior and during the ride through the gorge, which in all honesty was not much better than cycling across a field, I was worried that I may be inflicting damage on my undercarriage. A scene from Borat kept popping into my head, one where he inadvertently spends the night with a rather fruity gentleman and afterwards makes a statement to the effect that he had had a lovely evening but that his ass had been ruined in the process. Fortunately my concerns proved to be groundless, no ass ruination occurred.
|View west up the Findhorn from Quilichan|
There are a couple of miles of tarmac on the switchbacked climb from Drynachan after which the route cuts west across the moor, with fine views over the firth to Caithness and out west as far as Slioch, then follows the Reirach Burn to hit tarmac once more at Glengeoullie bridge. The tarmac is again shortlived, for after a couple of miles the route cuts into the Assich Forest. I rode out of the forest at Galcantray. There are a couple of routes towards Saddle Hill that would have prolonged my off-road experience but both would have involved some pushing and were not appealing at the end of what had already been a slightly longer than expected day.
So there you have it - an aesthetically pleasing 40 mile mountain bike ride through spectacular, remote and committing terrain, yet accessible from the city of Inverness. My advise is to give it a shot before the construction of the Moy windfarm completely alters the character of the area.