Highland Titles Nature Reserve has been under construction for two years and they are beginning to see results. The restoration of original deciduous woodland and with it, indigenous flora and fauna, is a long undertaking for Highland Titles Charitable Trust, which uses profits supplied by Highland Titles Ltd from the sale of souvenir plots to people all over the world.
As one of their volunteer experts, Stewart Borland, puts it: ‘Nature can’t be hurried, you just can’t rush environmental repair – not if you want to do it properly, with lasting results which will endure for nature, for wildlife, for visitors and for the planet.’ What has all this got to do with the National Cycle Network and route 78? Well, a large section of route 78 follows the path of an old railway line that used to run between Connel and Ballachulish. In 1966 it was closed along with so many branch lines during the Beeching Cuts.
Such is the case on a section between the villages of Dalnatrat and Duror, along the side of Loch Linnhe, where for commercial reasons a local farm can no longer allow access for the National Cycle Network to pass through.
Negotiating with land owners for use of and access over their land is a major occupation for the tireless leaders of Sustrans, and not everyone can bend to their vision. So in Sustrans’ detailed map of route 78 on their excellent website it says the following:
‘Dalnatrat to Duror – 2 miles. Land negotiations mean that it has not been possible to build a path on this section. Cyclists must use the trunk road for almost two miles. Look out for the cycle route signs to the right as you enter Duror village.’
In the end this didn’t happen. The two reasons Sustrans gave for turning them down were that the A828 would have to be crossed in order to access their traffic-free route, and also that near the end of the nature reserve the incline becomes too steep for cyclists. Route 78 already requires cyclists to cross the A828 several times south of Dalnatrat, so the first reason didn’t seem too much of an obstacle. As far as the incline is concerned, it is a very short section of the path and they are still convinced that a small steep hill in a forest is a much less hairier prospect than a major trunk road.
What they would like is for cyclists to give the path a try and give them some feedback. They are considering whether it is worth investing in their own brown road sign indicating it as an alternative route for cyclists. As Peter Bevis, one of the directors, says, “please, cyclists of Scotland and beyond, ride through our land!
You can even stop for a chat with one of the volunteers who are usually on hand to say hello and discuss what’s happening on the reserve.”
You can find Highland Titles Nature Reserve easily on Google maps, and the entrance to the site is clearly signposted just off the A828. So polish up your bell and give it a try!
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