A week in Scotland (picture heavy)

My wife had, a long time ago, booked last week as a holiday. She’d planned to ride the Highland Trail 550 but Covid induced lack of fitness had put paid to that. Still we had the week booked. No plans to speak of.

I’d a few trails (in the loosest sense of the word) that I’d had my eye on for some time and just never got round to riding them. A bit of work with a route planner and I’d a handful of GPX files to keep us busy. We’d just go where the mood or weather took us.

We ended up doing three overnight rides, i.e. ride, camp, ride. And two day rides. The weather apart from one afternoon and one evening definitely played ball - we both got a bit of sunburn. For those of you not familiar with Scotland and especially if you aren’t into mountain biking/bikepacking the names of the trails or even areas won’t make much sense so I’ll just post a few pictures. (not all of them as I took over 300!) Some of the trails, or at least part of them, ended up being hike-a-bike, but that’s part and parcel of travelling over non-bike specific trails in the open country. Some trails are maintained as the shooting estates are still actively using them but others are slipping into disrepair.

Glen Kinglass and Loch Etive

Ben Alder

If you have seen the film Trainspotting then this trail is heading down to the railway station (Corrour) featured in that film. The station is out of shot to the left.

Deeside Trail

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Thanks for the write-up and pics, looks amazing, and something that I plan on doing someday.

You’ve also motivated me to finally getting around to posting up a recap of a cycling tour of Chilean Patagonia that we did earlier this year.

Lovely!

I’ve got a bunch from the Badger Divide last weekend if you’d like :slightly_smiling_face: (330k, mostly gravel/mtb)

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Great pics, shame it was so busy :wink:

I want to do some exploring in Scotland but don’t want anything too technical. Would you say there are plenty of easy trails?

Beautiful pictures and hopefully an incredible experience. I’ve only been to the Highlands once, and I loved it, but it was so cold, windy, misty, that I never even considered there would be windows where it made for beautiful riding. Thanks for sharing.

There are, the main problem is determining which is easy and which isn’t! The infamous black dashed lines on OS maps could be anything from a landrover track to technical singletrack to “is there anything here” sometimes all on the same trail marked on the map! What I didn’t show, partly because I didn’t take any shots due to rain and trying to stay on my feet, was that the loch side track on the Ben Alder route has a 400m gap that is pretty serious hike-a-bike. We took nearly an hour to do that section shuttling forwards and backwards manhandling the bikes over rock steps and heather slopes above a 5m drop onto rocks. Other than “knowing” sometimes there’s no way to know just what some bits are like.

There’s a new guidebook out - “Gravel Rides Scotland” by Vertebrate Publishing which has most of the technically easier stuff, sections of our routes coincided with some of theirs.

Generally stuff in the east, i.e. the Cairngorms, Grampians and the like, tends to be easier going than routes in the west simply because the terrain itself isn’t as rugged. So the tracks built and maintained by the shooting estates tend to be vehicle friendly rather than argocat or pony oriented.

@Pbase usually May and early June are the best times for Scotland, historically they are dry months. Also there’s still snow on the tops but the spring flowers like bluebells are out so it’s quite magical. Then again you can have a deluge!

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Dream holiday right there for me! Looks fantastic.

Many thanks. I’ll be sure to check out that guidebook.

Brilliant! - would love to see the gpx! I’ve done a bit of bikepacking around scotland but never off road. Since I moved full time to MTB i’d love to look into this!

There’s three routes. Here’s the Strava files, not sure if you have to request to follow me to be able to see them:

Glen Kinglass and Loch Etive:
https://www.strava.com/activities/7265671473
https://www.strava.com/activities/7265671544

Ben Alder:
https://www.strava.com/activities/7265671403
https://www.strava.com/activities/7265671426

Deeside Trail. We did the short version but only the part west of Ballater, i.e. up to Derry Lodge:
https://deesidetrail.com/

Other bikepacking friendly routes would include the outer loop of the Cairngorms Loop ITT, also known as The Tour of the Cairngorms, it’s in the Vertebrate guidebook to Scotland (first volume). A slightly different circuit of Ben Alder would avoid the loch side bash and head out from Ben Alder Lodge to Dalwhinnie, down to Dalnaspidal, past Loch Gary to Loch Rannoch then along the road towards Rannoch Station. All fairly obvious on a map. I think this is in the Gravel Rides Scotland guidebook I mentioned earlier. Also check out Marcus Stitz’s routes like The Capital Trail and Wild about Argyll.

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The Badger Divide - Glasgow to Inverness or Inverness to Glasgow - is a good gravel/bikepack route https://outdoorsmagic.com/article/bikepacking-the-321km-badger-divide-inverness-to-glasgow and The Badger Divide – Outdoor Provisions Shop

We did it Glasgow to Inverness over 3 days (105km Glasgow to Killin, 165km Killin to Fort Augustus, 65km Fort Augustus to Inverness). The 100 mile day was obviously tough. But if you split it into 4, you could do 2x 80km days and stay at the Corrour B&B (or Loch Ossian YHA), and that would be pretty manageable. However - that 100 miles is probably the best 100 miles of riding I have ever done in the UK and I have ridden nearly everywhere here. Just absolutely stunning.

Also did the Hebridean Way (touring bikes) for my 30th a few years back, that was great as well. And most of the NC500 before the NC500 was a thing.