The busy A83 is the easiest way to reach Inveraray, but it isn't so pleasant for cycling. There's a quieter road that will take you there- the A819. Along the way you'll get to visit one of Scotland's prettiest train stations and the most photographed castle in the country.
Highlights of this route
West Highland Line to Dalmally
Book a free bike space and take one of Scotland's most scenic trains to Dalmally. It's around 45 minutes from Oban and about 2 hours and 20 minutes from Glasgow. Some of these trains have a special bicycle carriage, so there's plenty of space.
I loved this station ever since my first visit. Back then it was in a sorry state, boarded up and forgotten about. This time I found that something wonderful had happened. Graham took on the challenge of restoring the building and he has done an amazing job. You can now book a room and stay the night at the station. One of the rooms is called The Posting Room- it had once been used to store mail arriving by train.
Graham offered me a cup of tea and showed me around. Inside, there are many features to discover, such as original fireplaces and cornicing. "I managed to save all the ceiling roses," Graham proudly told me.
He recalled how dilapidated it had been when he took ownership, "you should have seen the size of the mushrooms growing inside. There was a fireplace fulll of them."
There's a sculpture of a granite heron on the platform. It's made from Ben Cruchan granite, the mountain that can be seen from the station.
Kilchurn castle and Loch Awe
From Dalmally station a 1 mile cycle along the A85 takes you to the start of the A819. The nicest part of the A819 is this stretch alongside the shore of Loch Awe. There's a great view of Kilchurn Castle, one of the most photographed castles in Scotland.
The road then heads away from the loch. It's a steep climb, but you are rewarded with fine views.
Soon the road is hemmed in by forest and there's not much to see. It's a functional road, not a destination in itself. The benefit is to use it as a safer and more pleasant way to get to Inverary.
Neil Munro monument, author of Para Handy
After 1.5 miles there's a hiking path to a monument dedicated to one of Scotland's most famous writers. Neil Munro was born in Inveraray, in 1863. He wrote the Para Handy stories about a steamboat captain making deliveries from Glasgow to Loch Fyne.
It's a small hill, but it gives an outstanding view. For sure this was the best part about this road
The downhill to Inveraray
The glorious descent on this road is one of those experiences that goes to make cycling one of the best things in life.
I had experienced thunder, lightning and torrential rain for most of the ride. When it passed there was a torrent of water flowing down the side of the road, gushing waterfalls on the hillsides and rocks glistening in the sunshine. The sun came out and quickly dried my sodden clothes. I was jubilant as I cruised down that hill, feeling that I had survived the extreme weather and came out the other side a better person.
My thoughts on using the A819 to reach Inveraray
This road is a much quieter and safer alternative to reaching Inveraray by bike. You will not be bothered by traffic. It might not be the most exciting road in Scotland, but the fast descent at the end is a joy and there are some great views towards Loch Awe.
The problem is that once you get to Inveraray you have no option but to use the A83 if you want to go further, or you must go back the way you came. However, if you stayed the night in Inveraray you could start cycling the A83 early in the morning when the road is quieter.