The Dulsie Bridge survived the Muckle Flood of 1829, which devastated many farms and settlements as the river rose 40 feet above its usual level.
The water was reaching within a yard of the keystone of the main arch which seemed almost impossible on this dry summer day as I watched from the vantage point.
The bridge was built in 1755 by Major William Caulfield, the successor to the more famous General George Wade, as part of the military road network that helped suppress the local population in the 18th century.
For £ 150, this particular bridge has stood the test of time rather well. This is a great goal to aim for any road trip in the area, and I have enjoyed variations on this circuit for many years.
Departing from Nairn harbor gives a satisfying ascent into the hills to the south, and you are well rewarded on the return journey not only with many descents but, on a day like this, with a fabulous view of the Moray Firth.
There is parking at the port (for an optional donation) and I walked past the boats and crossed the bridge across the river. Take a cycle path to the right for collective use and follow the river upstream, continuing straight on at the junction of the national cycle route.
It’s a stretch to slow down and take your time, as it can get a lot of pedestrians, and it won’t be long before you’re on the open road anyway. Follow the route under the road bridge and then continue under the railway line before the route branches off. Go left to follow the path to the A939 Grantown road.
Turn right on the main road for a few hundred meters then leave it to take a right in a 90 degree turn to the left, still on the national cycle path 1. We have been sticking to this lane for some time now because the Ascent begins gently, going right and then immediately left to cross the B9101 and continue through a series of quaint little villages.
If in doubt just follow the blue Route 1 cycle signs which soon take you right at a junction near Mid Urchany, then left at a junction approaching Little Urchany. At the next intersection, however, we leave the cycle path and turn left to pass Clunas where the climbing begins to intensify.
The roads here are fabulous and I had barely seen more than a handful of cars as I approached the Highland Boath junction where Drynachan and Dalness are signposted 4.5 miles. This exposed road cuts through the moors and with a slight headwind and more uphill to come I knew it was going to be tough for a while.
You are soon warned to watch out for the lambs on the road and sure enough there were plenty of them, jumping from side to side to be with their mothers as I approached. I looked forward to the shelter of the forest that I knew was ahead.
After a cattle gate a sign warns of red squirrels and a large road begins to descend towards Drynachan, first straight on and then through sharp hairpin bends on a very narrow road – tempting to leave a little speed going up here, but the thought of any vehicle coming the other way combined with the steep incline to the side means this is not a place to take chances.
At the bottom take a sharp left turn and follow the road along the serene and peaceful Findhorn River along this stretch except for the few fish that surface today.
A steep climb follows as you pull away from the river and through the forest to a T-junction at Dulsie. Our route starts from here, but you can’t get that close and visit the historic Dulsie Bridge. So I turned right and fell to cross the Findhorn by the two arch structure that seems to jump across the water from boulder to boulder.
A little higher on the other side, a picnic area offers a great view of the bridge if you follow the path a short distance behind a few trees. It is possible to get closer to the water by following the path further, but I still had a few kilometers to go. After a quick bite, I returned to the bridge and walked up the steep incline to the junction.
Go straight now, ignore the first road on the right, towards Nairn, and instead take an unmarked junction about a mile beyond. Finally you can now enjoy a real descent, and it was an easy ride with the wind behind and the sun on my back as I crossed the Muckle Burn to reach another crossroads.
It seems logical – and it probably is – to go left here, but I went right to cross a dry ford over the burn and enter the forest. In front of me on the road was a red squirrel which jumped into the tree canopy as I approached.
There is a sharp left turn in the road, and the operating system map shows a grave here. The roadside stone commemorates an “unknown clan man” who is believed to have died here after succumbing to wounds sustained at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.
This road continues to join the A939. I turned left onto the main road, then took the first right onto a quiet road that led to Fornighty. After passing the main house, fork left to a steeply sloping ford – but the walkway on the left is certainly a safer option than this finely constructed ford for those of us on two wheels.
Beyond the burn, the road turns left and then climbs up to a crossroads, where you go right to continue uphill after the aptly named Braeside. There was work in the fields here and I let a tractor coming out of a field take some distance to avoid the worst of the dust and debris it was leaving in its wake, so I could take advantage of the descent that I had just won.
Turn left at Easter Arr and continue towards Auldearn, ignoring a left turn in a bend but looking, further down, for the unmarked left turn at Newmill which passes over a small bridge and past a number of beautiful houses and a few small lochans, initially masked by trees.
This pleasant little road joins the B9101 at Grigorhill, where you cross straight down Granny Barbour’s Road – past a sawmill – to come out onto Grantown Road opposite where the cycle path returns along the river.
With lots of people roaming the area, I coasted most of the way back, to be greeted by a family of swans with seven swans entering the mouth of the River Nairn as I crossed the bridge to return to the port.
Nairn to Dulsie Bridge Road Bike Tour
Distance 35 miles / 56 km
Ground Secondary roads, short sections of paved cycle path, very short section of main road
Beginning end The port of Nairn
Menu Landranger operating system 27
From the port to the hill on a walk through history