Next Steps for the Avoch – Munlochy Active Travel Link

Reported by Anne Thomas

Anyone who has tried or thought about cycling from Avoch to Munlochy, on the Black Isle, is very aware that it is currently not a pleasant experience with impatient drivers on a straight, narrow 60mph road. 

The A832 between Munlochy and Avoch is a vital link to connect these communities, but it is inhospitable to cyclists and pedestrians. (Map from OpenStreetMap)

Background

Work has been going on for some time to create a safe and attractive route for walking, wheeling and cycling between Avoch and Munlochy. This would offer local residents non-car options for everyday journeys such as for commuting and leisure, as well as improving options for visitors to the Black Isle. It would also connect to the popular link along the old railway line between Avoch and Fortrose, and to Sustrans’ National Cycle Route 1 from Munlochy to Allangrange and onwards to Inverness.

Transition Black Isle (TBI) have led on this project for a number of years, starting with an AECOM feasibility study in 2014. More recently we were supported by funding from walking and cycling charity Sustrans which funded the company Pell Frischman over a couple of years. In June 2023 the project had reached a stage of fairly detailed design following a well supported Community Consultation.

The A832 near Avoch
The A832 near to Avoch

Next Steps

For the next stage The Highland Council agreed to lead on the project going forward, subject to securing the necessary funding from Sustrans, to work with landowners and with TBI to seek a negotiated solution to deliver the route without the originally-planned stretch between Munlochy and Drumderfit, which was a disappointment, but TBI is hoping to return to tackling this stretch in the future. Funding for the design and construction of active travel projects is changing at the moment

In community engagement sessions over the last year for Opportunity Black Isle (the Black Isle Local Place Plan, now in draft form), access to goods, services, and leisure activities came up over and again as a key theme, including public transport, community transport, and walking, wheeling and cycling. There is some concern that those without a car, including the elderly and the young, and those with certain disabilities, are at risk of isolation. Many householders are feeling the pinch and would like to reduce their car use wherever possible. A shift away from the private car, where possible, also fits with Council and Scottish Government targets for carbon reduction to combat climate breakdown: transport is the biggest single source of Scotland’s carbon emissions, and those emissions haven’t fallen for a decade. 

Rural routes are always challenging being longer and with less potential users, but some are at last being built, so we take encouragement from those such as the Peffery Way project which have experienced and overcome similar hurdles to us.  

On the right the line of the old Railway can be seen atop the embankment, on the left is the A832 near Munlochy

Anne Thomas, Transition Black Isle Trustee and Chair of Avoch to Munlochy Working Group anne.katherine.thomas@gmail.com

Highland Council Active Travel contact Lizbeth Collie activetravel@highland.gov.uk

Find out about Transition Black Isle here

Find out more about Opportunity Black Isle here