- Distance: 48 miles in total
- Type: Largely traffic free (but see notes)
- National Cycle Network: Route 78
- Access: Oban, Connel and Fort William Train Stations
A dedicated page lists any major route closures and diversions for the National Cycle Network in Scotland.
This 48 mile section of route, set in spectacular scenery, is part of the much longer Caledonia Way (Slighe na h-Alba), which runs for 237 miles from Campbeltown to Inverness - National Route 78.
The description below starts in Oban and heads north to Fort William as this is (usually) the direction of the prevailing wind. A more detailed map leaflet is available - download this below. It is also available from our online shop and from local outlets.
Between Oban and Ballachulish are long sections of high quality traffic free path - but please note that there currently remain two unavoidable short gaps in National Route 78 due to landownership and other constraints. These are around Ledaig (1.1 miles/1.8km) and south of Duror (3km/ 1.9 miles). Any onward travel here means there is no option but temporarily joining the narrow high speed trunk road, and this is not recommended for children or inexperienced cyclists, or those on foot. Over recent years we and other stakeholders have worked hard to progress alternative traffic-free path routes in these areas, and we are optimistic that work on improving the situation may be possible over the next few years. We continue to investigate all options here. There are a few additional details about these gaps in the descriptions below.
Oban to Dunbeg - four miles (future National Route)
At present (2017/18) Oban is on a spur of National Route 78. In future we hope the northbound route will use the quiet road north from Oban to Ganaven, and the beautiful traffic free path from here to Dunbeg. Unfortunately currently there is no link between Dunbeg and Connel except on the busy A85 trunk road, which is not part of the National Cycle Network route (see this map link). We recommend that the route described below is used instead. Even if you are on a longer journey the Oban to Dunbeg route is still worth a look for a shorter ride, or if you have time to spare, and it is described on our Oban to Dunbeg route description.
Oban to Connel – main northbound route - six miles
From Oban railway station head up Combie Street (A816), turn left at the fork onto Glencruitten Road and follow that past the golf course, following the road to the right at the next fork. The road passes under the railway line, past Luachrach Loch and less than a mile further on, reaches the T-junction near Barranrioch Farm. At this point turn left (north) to follow the northbound Route 78 on the minor road over to Connel via Ardconnel. Turning right (south) here instead puts you on the main route south for Campbeltown.
This section overall is a pleasant route on a quiet road with a few notable hills.
Connel Bridge to Benderloch - two miles
Follow the Route 78 signs over the bridge and then through housing and past Connel Airfield. There is a currently a short gap in National Route 78 here. It is possible to join the main trunk road for just under a mile - but please note that this is narrow high-speed road, and it is not recommended for children or inexperienced cyclists. A footpath heads off to the left through the trees before you reach the trunk road, but in addition to being a bit muddy and overgrown this is not part of the National Cycle Network route. This joins with the beginning of the tarmac path to the south of Benderloch. This area (but not the additional path) is shown in this map link.
Benderloch to the Sea Life Sanctuary - four miles
A traffic-free path follows the line of the old railway into Benderloch village. From near the primary school, it runs alongside the A828 trunk road to the Sea Life Sanctuary, which has interesting marine displays, other wildlife such as otters, a nature trail and an adventure play area, plus a cafe.
Sea Life Sanctuary to Appin and Dalnatrat (the Highland boundary) - 13 miles
This is a glorious, almost entirely traffic-free section that starts from the east side of the Sea Life Sanctuary car park. There are several crossings of the trunk road on this section, where you should exercise care. The route runs through woodland and then joins minor roads through the settlement of Barcaldine and the forest of Sutherland’s Grove, and along railway path to above Creagan road bridge. Here you will see signs for the Loch Creran Loop, a six mile route on quiet road. Route 78 continues over the bridge. A traffic-free path runs alongside the road to Inverfolla and then the route rejoins the line of the old railway past Appin and Castle Stalker. Look out for the signs for the Port Appin Loop, which takes you down to Port Appin where you can catch the passenger ferry to the Isle of Lismore. After passing Castle Stalker, there’s a bit under a mile where the route shares a quiet access road with road traffic and skirts a layby, followed by more traffic-free path and less than a mile on very quiet minor road. A further two miles of entirely traffic-free path ends at Dalnatrat, near the foot of Salachan Glen.
Dalnatrat to Duror - two miles
Between Dalnatrat and Duror is currently a gap of almost two miles in the National Route 78. It has not yet been possible to build a path here and to continue a northbound journey temporarily using the busy trunk road is unavoidable. Please note that this is narrow high-speed road, and it is not recommended for children or inexperienced cyclists, or those on foot. Look out for the cycle route signs to the right as you enter Duror village to take you back onto the National Cycle Network.
This area is shown here, on our mapping. There are some rough paths and tracks in nearby woodland to the southeast of the road - but these are not part of the National Cycle Network, they don't bridge the gap entirely, and the loose surfaces and steep inclines make them relatively challenging even if on an unladen mountain bike or on foot. Please note that current Google based mapping shows a bridge which no longer exists. Openstreetmap based mapping currently (Sept 2017) shows the correct details.
Duror to Ballachullish – six miles
Traffic-free path runs from the south of Duror village and loops round on minor road to rejoin the line of the old railway. The path over the hill to Kentallen takes you to the highest point on the route where you get a seat and a wonderful view over Loch Linnhe. The path then heads down to Kentallen, across the road and onto one of the most scenic sections as the railway path hugs the coastline for a couple of miles, before heading inland and emerging just to the south of Ballachulish Bridge. At this junction, you can continue right for another three miles on a traffic-free link path to the village of Glencoe, or turn left to continue on Route 78 over Ballachulish Bridge to North Ballachulish.
North Ballachulish to Corran Ferry - 3.5 miles
This section of route mainly consists of a shared use footway adjacent to the A82 trunk road. The road has a speed limit of 40mph. In the immediate area south of here much of Route 78 is made up from traffic free paths, which are safe and suitable for family cycling, and the section of road used north of Corran Ferry (on the west of the loch) carries very little traffic. The aspiration for this section was to provide a traffic free link between these other sections of route. Positively, the majority of the paths are at least 2m in width. However due to land and geological constraints there are areas which are not up to this standard. Sections of the shared footway are as narrow as 1.2m in places and considerable care should be taken in these areas. Heavy vehicles may pass very close by, and at speed. Despite these limitations it is believed that the new shared footway provides considerable benefits to the local community and as a cycle route in comparison to the situation prior to construction.
Sustrans has committed to working with the local community and Transport Scotland to make ongoing improvements in the future as opportunities arise.
Corran Ferry to Fort William - 10 miles
By using the ferries, you can cycle on the quiet, single track road that runs for 10.5 miles up the west side of the loch (avoiding the busy and fast A82). The vehicle ferry crosses regularly between Corran (Nether Lochaber on the timetable) and Ardgour, with the last sailing at about 21.20 (date of information: 2015). Foot passengers and bikes travel free. The Camasnagaul Ferry between Treslaig and Fort William has only four scheduled crossings a day, the last one at 16.35, and does not run on a Sunday (date of information: 2015). However, if there are more than two cyclists, the ferry will make extra runs to pick you up. Call 07826 695160. At time of writing, the cost was £1.50 for passengers and £1.50 for bikes. For details of the ferry timetables, see www.lochabertransport.org.uk
- Oban, Kintyrne & the Trossachs
- The Caledonia Way South
- The Caledonia Way North Cycle Route Map - Oban to Inverness.
The Road to the Isles (Skye) - leaving Route 78
If you wish to go to Mallaig without visiting Fort William, then continue west from Camusnagaul on the A861 for another 10 miles along the south side of Loch Eil (despite its A-road status, this is generally quiet). You have to join the busy A830 for 19 miles before joining a new cycle path immediately past Beasdale Station which takes you on a combination of new path and quiet roads past the spectacular beaches of Morar to Mallaig and the ferry to Skye.
Parts of this journey can be completed by train.
The building of sections of path between Oban and Fort William is the biggest construction project that Sustrans Scotland has undertaken. The project, which began in 2007, was led by Sustrans, in partnership with Transport Scotland, The Forestry Commission Scotland, Argyll & Bute Council and the Highland Council and was made possible by financial assistance from the Scottish Government and the ERDF.
"Can I do it on a road bike?"
We're often asked this question about the Caledonia Way. It's difficult to answer well because different people have very different expectations (and bikes). However in general we consider that all of this section of the Caledonia Way can be tackled by road bike.
Map covers National Route 78 from Oban to Inverness passing through Fort William
This 48-mile section of route, set in spectacular scenery, is part of the much longer Caledonia Way (National Route 78) which runs for 237 miles from Campbeltown to Inverness. Both Oban and Fort William are accessible by train, and Oban is also a busy ferry terminal - making it possible to incorporate this journey into many others.