This route follows Route 1 of the National Cycle Network and is well signed all the way to John o'Groats. From Inverness, the 'capital of the Highlands', the route crosses the graceful span of the Kessock Bridge and continues on cycleway alongside the A9 and then minor road across the Black Isle. Three miles north of the Kessock Bridge, choose between the 'summer' or 'winter' routes towards Tain. The former is the hillier of the two, crossing the Black Isle and including the historic ferry crossing from Cromarty to Nigg, part of an ancient highway to the North of Scotland (the ferry only runs in the summer - check that it is operating in advance). The latter route is equally attractive and follows cycleway alongside the A835 to Dingwall and a combination of minor roads cycle track around the north side of the Cromarty Firth.
The route then meanders on minor roads to Tain before taking the lightly-trafficked 'A' road to the west side of the Dornoch Firth to Ardgay and Invershin. There are steep steps on both sides of the footbridge over the Kyle of Sutherland at Invershin - if you are unable to negotiate steps, take an alternative route via Bonar Bridge. Carrying on northwards, the route passes through wooded glens and you may see salmon leaping upstream at Shin Falls. At the head of Loch Shin is Lairg, a good place to stock up on food as the road north is one of the most remote in Scotland. It's 21 miles to Altnaharra and a further 17 to Tongue - in between are miles of open moorland with glimpses of Scottish wildlife - deer and even the odd eagle.
The 'flow country' of Caithness and Sutherland is famous for its peat bogland and rich heritage: the route passes countless prehistoric cairns and archaeological remains. From Altnaharra, the route passes Loch Loyal before reaching the Kyle of Tongue and the Atlantic Ocean. The northern coast is spectacular with impressive hills and huge rollers breaking into sandy shores. The route passes numerous fishing communities, the most notable of which is Thurso. A sign of more modern industry is the now deactivated Dounray nuclear power station on the coast about 8 miles west of Thurso. The famous globes will disappear when the site is dismantled. The landscape at this point flattens out into the wide open vistas and awesome sea cliffs of Caithness with fine views across to Orkney. Enjoy the views before reaching your destination at John o' Groats.
We have taken all responsible steps to ensure that these routes are safe and achievable by people with a reasonable level of fitness. However, all outdoor activities involve a degree of risk. To the extent permitted by law, Sustrans accepts no responsibility for any accidents or injury resulting from following these routes. Walking and cycling routes change over time. Weather conditions may also affect path surfaces. Please use your own judgement when using the routes based upon the weather and the ability, experience and confidence levels of those in your group.