Scotland in 2 weeks

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Janus
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Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby Janus » 10 Jun 2015, 7:55pm

Hello!
My name is Janka, I'm 28 years old and I'm going for a 2 weeks long bicycle trip around Scotland this summer (late June - early July). So far I've been on four bicycle tours - Sweden, Norway, Iceland and New Zealand, with the last three done solo. However, all my previous tours were at least 1 month long and now I find it really difficult to plan my route given such a limited time. I love nature - mountains, lakes, highlands, islands... Since I've never been to Scotland and only twice in the UK, I'll be also happy to see nice old villages, castle ruins etc., but nature has priority. What I don't like is busy roads, big cities and flat, urbanized areas. I'm eager to take a train or bus to avoid these, saving time for more scenic regions.

Having browsed hundreds of websites with tips on route planning and nature attractions in Scotland, I prepared a draft of my route. Here it is:
https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid= ... sp=sharing

I would be very grateful for any comments! The route is ca 1500 km (~930 miles) long, and since I only have 12 full days, I will be riding a loaded MTB and I often have bad luck with weather (sorry guys, prepare for the worst summer ever!), that's too long. As I wrote earlier, I have nothing against taking a train/bus here and there to skip less rewarding route fragments (perhaps from south of Cairngorms NP to Edinburgh, or Lairg to Iverness?).

Thanks very much in advance for all the comments and suggestions!

Cheers,
Janka

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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby mnichols » 10 Jun 2015, 10:15pm

I'm thinking of doing something similar next year so await the replies with interest

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Spinners
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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby Spinners » 10 Jun 2015, 10:31pm

Apart from doing LEJOG my cycling in Scotland has been limited to the West Highlands and also the lovely Isle of Arran. So I'd like to do something similar to you some day but I would include Arran and take the ferry over to Kintyre and then up to Mull. I hope you get the Piper at Glencoe!
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LollyKat
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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby LollyKat » 10 Jun 2015, 10:36pm

All of that route is scenic, though some bits busier than others - the road from Glasgow to Fort William is probably the worst. Public transport is limited but may therefore make your choices easier. Options are:

Train from Glasgow to Fortwilliam or on to Mallaig. It's a spectacular train journey, and the train trundles along quite slowly, giving you plenty of time to enjoy it.
Train from Inverness to Edinburgh - the northern part of the line as far as Perth is also very scenic, and near Edinburgh you get to go over the Forth Bridge.
Train from Lairg to Inverness.
There is also the Bike Bus between Durness and Inverness which runs once a day - it travels down the west to Ullapool and then across to Inverness.

With all of these you will have to book your bike space in advance. There may be some other bus services that take bikes too.

At this time of year the days are long, giving you plenty of cycling time if you have the legs for it. Have a great time - just watch out for midgies and kamikaze sheep. If there are two or three sheep on the same side of the road they are likely to stay there, but if there are some on each side, as sure as anything one will leap across at the last second to join the others. I learnt to drive in the highlands and this was one of the many useful tips my father gave me.

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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby Paulatic » 10 Jun 2015, 10:38pm

I Can't believe you've totally missed out Dumfries & Galloway and the Borders.
Well I can, as most motorists do too which is why it's great cycling.
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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby irc » 10 Jun 2015, 11:01pm

Your route from Glasgow to Loch Lomond is busy. I live just off it. it isn't unsafe but I wouldn't waste part of a 12 day tour riding it. Likewise the A82 is very busy in summer.

I'd suggest train to Oban then ferry to Mull. Ferry off Mull to Kilchoan then ride north to rejoin your route.

If you are taking the Oban train you will need to book a bike space at the same time as buying your ticket. The earlier the better as there is only about 6 bike spaces on the train. Booking the bike is free. It can be done on arrival at any train station. Or online

http://www.cyclingscot.co.uk/taking-you ... train.html

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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby rualexander » 11 Jun 2015, 12:20am

Go to Mull instead of Skye, it's a much better island for cycling. Skye is good for walking.

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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby eileithyia » 11 Jun 2015, 7:23am

I would not attempt such a large mileage... why not cut it down a bit.
In the past i have done a 2 week tour from Inverness, Great Glen out to West Coast, up the coast across the top and back down the east coast to Inverness.

Get across to Ayr, do a ferry hopping trip up through the Islands and West Coast?
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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby Janus » 11 Jun 2015, 8:48am

Hi guys,
Thanks for all the suggestions, very helpful! Regarding the way from Glasgow to Fort William - I'm not planning to stay on the main road A82, but rather cycle the West Highland Way apart from the fragment along the eastern side of Loch Lommond, which I've heard is very technical - I'll cycle along the western side instead (where there is another cycle path). That's what some other bicyclle tourists recommended me to do. Has any of you done that trail on a loaded bike? I'll try to keep my luggage at around 15 kg (33 pounds).

The very beginning of my route (Glasgow - Loch Lomond) is a total draft. I wouldn't mind starting around Killearn instead of riding through Glasgow and its suburbs, but I don't know how I can get there. I will arrive at Edinburgh Airport and I just know there are some buses to Glasgow.

The Isle of Mull looks great, but I'd need to skip the West Highland Way. I'll think about it! Regarding the Dumfries & Galloway and the Borders, I would really like to go there too, but I only have two weeks, I can't see everything. As I wrote earlier, I never had this little time for a bike trip and find it difficult to plan a route. Hopefully I can visit those regions some other time :)

Good to know I need to book tickets for myself and the bike in advance, I didn't know that! And thanks LollyKat for all the info about buses, trains, sheep and midges :) I've had the "pleasure" of meeting midges in Scandinavia ("knott") and New Zealand ("sandflies"), so I'm well prepared - mosquito net is at the very top of my luggage list :)

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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby stu1102 » 11 Jun 2015, 9:54am

Janus wrote:Hi guys,
Thanks for all the suggestions, very helpful! Regarding the way from Glasgow to Fort William - I'm not planning to stay on the main road A82, but rather cycle the West Highland Way apart from the fragment along the eastern side of Loch Lommond, which I've heard is very technical - I'll cycle along the western side instead (where there is another cycle path). That's what some other bicyclle tourists recommended me to do. Has any of you done that trail on a loaded bike? I'll try to keep my luggage at around 15 kg (33 pounds).


I've just done the WHW walking last week. My advice would be to forget it and cycle Mull instead I did encounter 2 cyclists on one section neither were carrying panniers both were on Mountain bikes. As was stated above your mileage seems high why not reduce it and spend a little time walking in Scotland's villages rather than just passing them

.

The Isle of Mull looks great, but I'd need to skip the West Highland Way. I'll think about it!

WHW is great for walking, Mull is great for cycling and walking

Regarding the Dumfries & Galloway and the Borders, I would really like to go there too, but I only have two weeks, I can't see everything. As I wrote earlier, I never had this little time for a bike trip and find it difficult to plan a route. Hopefully I can visit those regions some other time :)

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Janus
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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby Janus » 11 Jun 2015, 10:09am

Does any of you have a photo album from a bike trip in Scotland (preferably geotagged or with a caption describing location, so that I know where the pictures were taken) and would be willing to share the link? I'd be very happy to see some pictures!

@Stu1102, is the WHW too difficult for cycling? I know the part along Loch Lomond is technically difficult, how about the other parts? I saw some pictures from that trail, the scenery looked stunning and the trail itself not that hard. As long as it's not more difficult than Icelandic interior (e.g. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid ... c3e73bac2a), it's fine :)

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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby LollyKat » 11 Jun 2015, 11:05am

Janus wrote:Hi guys,
Thanks for all the suggestions, very helpful! Regarding the way from Glasgow to Fort William - I'm not planning to stay on the main road A82, but rather cycle the West Highland Way apart from the fragment along the eastern side of Loch Lommond, which I've heard is very technical - I'll cycle along the western side instead (where there is another cycle path). That's what some other bicyclle tourists recommended me to do. Has any of you done that trail on a loaded bike? I'll try to keep my luggage at around 15 kg (33 pounds).

The very beginning of my route (Glasgow - Loch Lomond) is a total draft. I wouldn't mind starting around Killearn instead of riding through Glasgow and its suburbs, but I don't know how I can get there. I will arrive at Edinburgh Airport and I just know there are some buses to Glasgow.


The airport bus arrives at Glasgow's Buchanan St bus station, which is just a hundred yards or so from Queen Street railway station. From there you can take a train to Milngavie, getting you on to the A81 to near Killearn and beyond to National Route 7 which takes you down to Balloch, at the foot of Loch Lomond and near the start of the Loch Lomond cycle path. It's a nice run. Or you could get a train (also from Queen Street) direct to Balloch.

These local trains have no restrictions on bike carriage and do not need booking in advance. Queen St station is on two levels but it is not immediately obvious. Platforms 1-7 are at street level, 8 and up are Low Level - I think the Milngavie train uses both. Ticket machines and office are at street level. By the way Milngavie is pronounced "Mill-guy", with the stress on 'guy' (rhyming with eye). :D

There are lots of photos of the West Highland Way here. Apart from the section from Rowardennan which you are avoiding, it looks doable. Hope you get good weather!

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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby stu1102 » 11 Jun 2015, 11:32am

@Stu1102, is the WHW too difficult for cycling? I know the part along Loch Lomond is technically difficult, how about the other parts? I saw some pictures from that trail, the scenery looked stunning and the trail itself not that hard. As long as it's not more difficult than Icelandic interior (e.g. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid ... c3e73bac2a), it's fine :)[/quote]

In my view there are only certain parts of the WHW that could be tackled though to be fair if you want to cycle it, then give it a go. My own experience of walking the WHW is that I would never ever want to do it on a bike, reasons:

There is a lot of technical sections, the Icelandic photos you posed are nothing compared to some of the sections on the WHW

One of the WHW rangers who looks after the path did it on his bike when we were walking it, I saw him about 1\3 of the way around then intermittently and again at the finish to quote him 'I would never do it on my bike again'

if you are tackling it on a touring cycle with panniers then be aware a lot of the WHW is based on old military roads where the surface is not good, in fact to describe them as roads is an abuse of the English language

A number of the sections are based on traversing swathes of countryside across laid railway sleepers,boards etc. Watch out if there wet

Overall I think it would be a very unpleasant experience on a bike, just my opinion. Conversely walking the WHW is one of the most memorable experiences of my life
Last edited by stu1102 on 11 Jun 2015, 11:46am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby irc » 11 Jun 2015, 11:43am

Janus wrote:Does any of you have a photo album from a bike trip in Scotland


North of Tyndrum the WHW is OK for a touring bike with wide tyres like 26x2 or 700x42. I've done it on a rigid MTB with panniers. This link describes a trip from Fort William using a back road to skip the first 5-10 miles of the WHW. Then WHW to Bridge of Orchy. Then a remote track along Loch Lyon to Killin. This section (Bridge of Orchy - Killin) is far better than the WHW in my opinion as it is remote. The WHW from the top of Loch Lomond to Bridge of Orchy is spoiled by traffic noise from the A82.

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?doc_id=2384

If you wanted a good route riding from Glasgow my suggestion is train to Milngavie (all Milngavie trains are Queen St lower level). WHW to Drymen. Quiet roads to Callander. Sustrans Route 7 to Killin. Then revers the route in the link.

But if it was me I'd just use a train to get into the Highlands and spend 2 weeks north of the Great Glen.


WHW on the east side of Loch Lomond is best avoided.

hardrock-robroyscave.jpg
Last edited by irc on 11 Jun 2015, 11:48am, edited 1 time in total.

LollyKat
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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby LollyKat » 11 Jun 2015, 11:46am

stu1102 wrote:In my view there are only certain parts of the WHW that could be tackled though to be fair if you want to cycle it, then give it a go. My own experience of walking the WHW is that I would never ever want to do it on a bike


I tend to agree, though the OP states he is using a mountain bike. If he looks at the West Highland Way link I posted above, he can find detailed descriptions of the different sections, with photos, and links to walkers' own experiences. With a bit of forward planning he could bail out on to the road to avoid the worst bits.