Glen Strathfarrar – a wonderful family cycle ride

Glen Strathfarrar is a very special place, lush and green with steep mountains rising on each side of then glen. A few miles to the west of Beauly, Glen Strathfarrar contains a ‘locked’ road servicing the hydro-electric power scheme. This is family cycling at its best; a good quality tarmac road with hardly any traffic. We saw around a dozen vehicles in total, and all were driving very considerately. Read on to find out more about the route, and how to access the glen.

Distance: The road runs for about 13 miles / 21km to the Monar Dam, so the longest return trip would be roughly 26 miles / 42km , but you can turn back at any point.

Glen Strathfarrar: parking and access

The road through the glen is locked, which is what makes it so fantastic for family cycling. In the summer season, the estates kindly allow 25 tourist cars per day to access the road. The times and arrangements can be viewed on the Mountaineering Scotland website. However, if you are just wanting to cycle through the glen, there is no need to drive through the gate, as it is possible to park before it.

There is a good-sized car park about 40m before the Glen Strathfarrar gate. Taking the A831 from Beauly, take the right turn just before the bridge at Struy and follow the road for about half a mile. You will see the car park on the left before the gatehouse.

Normal bicycles will be able to navigate around the gate without issue. If you are bringing a bike trailer, you will need to ask for the gate to be unlocked. The gate is manned from April to October and the Mountaineering Scotland website gives details of the access times.

Glen Strathfarrar: the route

The road runs in a broadly westerly direction alongside the River Farrar. There is a lovely pebbly beach with a bench quite near the start of the route, and our children enjoyed playing here.

In the summertime, the glen is lush and green. The road goes gently up and down, generally following the course of the river. There were some hilly stretches, but they were short and gentle. Our youngest cyclist walked briefly for a couple of hills on the way out, but none on the way back.

After about 5 miles you arrive at the dam at the entrance to Loch Beannacharan. We decided to turn back here with young children, but for those with more stamina, the route continues on along the side of Loch Beannacharan, then up to Loch a’ Mhuillidh, and finally to Loch Monar and the Monar dam. There’s lots to explore!

What is the terrain like?

There is a sign at the gate cautioning visitors to be careful of the potholes. But in reality, we found this to be a very high quality tarmac road! There were far fewer potholes than on the roads around our house.

We saw very few cars, and those that passed us were friendly and considerate.

There are two cattle grids near the beginning of the road, but there are large side gates, which made it straightforward for us to pass these with bikes and trailers.

Glen Strathfarrar bike route: final thoughts

I would heartily recommend Glen Strathfarrar to families looking for a safe place for a cycle ride in beautiful surroundings. We had a fantastic day out, especially our youngest independent rider, who enjoyed the freedom. This is a route which will appeal to younger children on their own bikes, but also to older children who will be able to take on the challenge of the full distance. Once you are in the glen it feels very remote; I could hardly believe that we were only half an hour’s drive from Inverness.

Glen Strathfarrar is a beautiful place, and we hope to return here again and enjoy some more of this special route. Many thanks to the local estates for enabling good access for cyclists.

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