The outside thermometer was reading -7°C at 6.30am today after I’d dropped Neil off at the bus station for his coach south. So although I’d planned a day out on my bike, I was in no great hurry to leave. Time for breakfast and another cuppa before loading the bike in the car and heading north to Alness.
The route I’d chosen was to be a mixture of minor public roads and surfaced estate road and rough track. I headed north to the road junction at the start of the no through road to Ardross and with it being the school holidays thought it would be ok to park my car beside the school. As I headed along the minor road along Strath Rusdale, the sun was beginning to warm the air and I was soon able to remove a couple of layers of clothing for now. (I needed it again later, so was glad I was carrying sufficient layers.)
The lower section of Strath Rusdale is fertile land lying either side of the meandering River Averon or Alness. The fields here had all been ploughed and the frost must have been doing a great job of breaking the sods of soil.
The road was practically empty this morning, the only vehicles about were the postie’s van and one landrover. About 3km along this road, I came to the largest concentration of houses and one church at the wee village of Dublin, so named as it was founded by Irish immigrant workers who built Ardross Castle. Soon after I passed Ardross Castle.
Ardross Castle (seen here from across the river on my return) was built between 1838-46. It has 98 rooms including bathrooms. In 1910, the owners Perrins (of Lea & Perrins sauces) built a heated swimming pool in the castle for family and guests to use when returning cold and wet from a day on the hill, deer stalking.
The public road ends at Braeantra and from here I followed the surfaced estate road to Kildermorie. This road crosses the Black Water and I was soon enjoying the scenery of the frozen Loch Bad a Bhathaitch.
After stopping here I continued along the Kildermorie estate road gradually dropping down to the buildings in Ardross Forest close to the head of Loch Morie.
The present owners purchased Kildermorie Estate in 1994, when all the buildings were either in a poor state of repair or long derelict, and the river, paths, fences and pastures in disrepair too. The main house was demolished and a new house (above), set in its own grounds was built as a private residence for the estate owners. The surrounding estate buildings were considered deemed salvageable and have been repaired, restored and renovated to use as holiday lets. Several of the cottages had vehicles outside and I saw a group of people out walking near the cottages.
I stopped beside the loch for a bite of lunch, but after sitting there for five minutes some one (a guest? An estate worker?) began popping shots from a rifle. They were not close to me, but I did wonder if they wished to chase away the riff-raff! 😉 I left as it was too cold for sitting around.
From here I headed south on the rough track that heads along the edge of Loch Morie. This track was rough and was either covered in puddles and mud, or was frozen ruts of deer tracks. I made slow progress and had to dismount a few times to open and close deer fence gates, and to free my bike when it got stuck in one muddy puddle!
I passed a group of four cyclists on this section too; they were heading in the opposite direction and struggling with the track too. I was thankful when I reached a drier section of track, but this didn’t last long and I was soon skeetering around on icy snow.
The snow continued on the track until I reached the public road. This side of the strath is not as fertile as the north and instead of agriculture there is a windfarm, rough grazing and forestry.
Just before returning to my starting point at Ardross School, I got a wide view down over Alness and several oil-rigs moored in the Cromarty Firth., Quite a contrast to the remote highland estate with forests and open moorland.
More photos on Flickr