This route will take you from Cawdor Castle to Ardersier and Fort George. It's a straightforward 7 mile ride.
This hump-backed bridge is a 10 minute ride from Cawdor Castle. The B9090 road used to cross it, but there's a new bridge now. You can make a short diversion off the B9090 to get to the old bridge. It's called White Bridge and was built around 1754.
There are plenty of old bridges like this in Scotland, but I never tire of discovering them. I went down to the river bank and stepped on stones to reach the island of pebbles. From here I had a close up view of the bridge and enjoyed the sound of flowing water.
A 10 minute cycle from the bridge is this small loch. I had never heard of it until I cycled its shores. I was lucky to encounter a swan with cygnets and a rainbow at the same time.
To cycle along the shore you should leave the B9090 as soon as you reach the loch. There's a minor road on the right. This road gives the best views of the loch and the chance to get a closer look at the swans.
Brachlich Gollanfield Cemetery
The views of distant hills from this cemetery are spectacular. Throw in some storm clouds with shafts of sunlight and a rainbow and this place is even more special.
This is a small cemetery, contained within a rectangular stone wall. There is some nice stone carving on display. For example, the pretty flowers on the headstone of a boot and shoemaker who died in 1853.
It is very close to Inverness airport so you'll see planes taking off and landing.
Great roads for cycling
Quiet roads with great views. What more could you ask for?
It's not the most famous area of Scotland. It does not have mountains. It does not get a lot of tourists. That means you will get to enjoy it pretty much by yourself.
To reach Ardersier you must cross the busy A96. I found the easiest way to do this was to get off my bike and wheel it across when there was a gap in the traffic.
Ardersier thatched cottage
There's a very pretty thatched cottage in Ardersier. At one point there had been 365 thatched cottages- one for every day of the year. This is the only one that survives.
Ardersier faces the Moray Firth. It means there is always a view of the water when you are exploring the village. Look out for the sculpture of a pair of jumping dolphins. This area is one of the best places in Scotland to go dolphin watching.
From Ardersier it's 2 more miles to reach Fort George.
Cawdor Castle is about 5 miles from Nairn and 12 miles from Inverness. It's famous for its Macbeth connection. There's turrets, tapestries and a tea room, but the real star is the garden. Of all the castle gardens in Scotland this is one of the best.
How to get there
National Cycle Route One comes close to Cawdor. You can follow the cycle route from Nairn (which has a train station). You have to leave the cycle route when you reach the B9101. Don't worry as this is a quiet road and its only 2.7 miles to the castle.
Through the gates
Crossing a drawbridge is right up there with climbing a spiral staircase when it comes to classic castle experiences. Not all of Scotland's castles have drawbridges, but Cawdor does. It crosses a moat and takes you to the imposing 15th century tower.
In the winter months Cawdor Castle is a family home, so it is only open to visitors in the summer. A visit to Cawdor is by a guided tour that lets you see 12 rooms.
Highlights include the seventeenth century Flemish tapestries. I loved the fireplace in the dinning room. It has carvings of a goat, a dog chassing a rabit, a fox smoking a pipe and a cat playing a fiddle. This fireplace is so heavy that it broke the drawbridge when it was being carried into the castle.
In Shakespeare's play Macbeth is told by the witches that he will become Thane of Cawdor. This is the connection that makes the castle famous. However, the castle was built much later than the period that the play is set in.
There's a great tea room in the castle. My lunch of roasted red pepper soup and a slice of coffee and walnut cake was superb.
It was nice to see inside the castle, but the gardens impressed me the most. If you are short on time then I would recommend seeing the gardens over the interior. You will not be disappointed.
There's a blue door in the gardens. It has a stone carving of a swan with a crown above it. On the other side of the door there' a blue bridge. This is your gateway to woodland walks by the Cawdor burn.
The castle's walled garden is total sensory delight. There's the smell of flowers, the vibrant colours of the flowers, the birdsong and trickling water. I felt really happy walking around here. I noticed that the other visitors all had smiles. It's just a lovely place to be.
I've been to many of Scotland's gardens and this is one of the best.
See Brodie Castle and Cawdor Castle in one day
These 2 castles are about 12 miles apart. You can use National Cycle Route One to travel between them.
You can also use the train to get near to the castles:
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.