Scotland in 2 weeks

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
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Janus
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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby Janus » 14 Jun 2015, 7:22pm

khain wrote:I've tried cycling the West Highland Way on a (rigid) mountain bike with panniers. It's possible but very rough and slow. If your mountain bike has suspension and you're used to off-road cycling you might find it ok. You could try it and switch to the road if it's too rough, which is what I did. However, there are many parts which are really just for walking and will be busy with walkers in summer. Definitely avoid the east side of Loch Lomond.

That I know and I will certainly avoid that part. Do you remember which parts exactly were the roughest, apart from Loch Lomond, and which were the nicest? My bike has no suspension and I'm no masochist, but if there are any "doable-by-bike" and enjoyable parts, I'd like to try :)

khain wrote:The east Highlands are less scenic than the west. The prettiest areas are going to be busy in summer so you have to accept that or do a less scenic route or go off-road. Alternatively use the train between major locations and cycle by-roads rather than tour. You can get a Highland rail pass which could make this economical.

That's good to know. Any recommendations on that part of my route? I looked here and there on Google Maps Street View and I really liked road A93 from Braemar to Glenshee and A924 from Enochdhu to Moulin. But I haven't checked that much, and it's not easy to find any advice on that region.

Also, is there really a passage (with a tunnel perhaps, judging from the map) from Splittal of Glenshee to Enochdhu? Or should I rather go via Dalrulzian?

khain
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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby khain » 14 Jun 2015, 8:52pm

There is a rough track and some byroad between Tyndrum and Rannoch Moor which is probably the easiest part of the WHW, however I still found it pretty rough going with panniers. All the parts from Loch Lomond to Tyndrum will be really rough going on a bike. I also don't think the path between Glencoe and Kinlochleven over the Devil's Staircase is possible on a loaded bike. It was tough enough on foot! There are alternative byroads for much of this part though. Between Kinlochleven and Fort William I'm not sure. Some of it was very rough and steep, other parts ok. The Rannoch Moor part before Glencoe was quite boggy so probably difficult on a bike. You might get a shock at how rough and boggy paths in Scotland can be - even on foot they're hard going!

There are a few photos along the WHW on my flickr page here.https://www.flickr.com/photos/61002072@N00/sets/72157633140020917
These were taken when I walked it in March. There shouldn't be snow in summer. To be honest it's all going to be very rough on a bike. I love cycling the A82 through Rannoch Moor and Glencoe but I'm not too bothered about traffic. If traffic bothers you it might be better taking an alternative route through the central Highlands, which is also lovely and more cycle friendly. Use the NCN routes and byroads then take a left turn after Dalwhinnie to Fort William.

I should also warn you that your A939/A93 part of the route is extremely hilly. It's a nice cycle but has a lot of ascent with much of it very steep. I don't know about any passage from Spittal of Glenshee to Enochdhu I'm afraid. When you're on the A93 at that point it's a long downhill so I would just go with it.

Some more photos from a Scottish cycle tour I did. https://www.flickr.com/photos/61002072@N00

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andrew_s
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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby andrew_s » 14 Jun 2015, 11:30pm

Janus wrote:is there really a passage (with a tunnel perhaps, judging from the map) from Splittal of Glenshee to Enochdhu?

It's a footpath, that looks to be grass, just about well enough marked to see were it goes, from the Spittal to about the 500 m level on the other side of the pass, after which it's land rover track, improving as you get lower.

To see what such tracks are actually like, use cycle.travel/map to plan a route that uses the track, then right-click and "find photos". To plan a route, click to set start, click to set end, then drag and drop to adjust.

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Janus
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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby Janus » 15 Jun 2015, 2:36pm

khain wrote:There is a rough track and some byroad between Tyndrum and Rannoch Moor which is probably the easiest part of the WHW, however I still found it pretty rough going with panniers. All the parts from Loch Lomond to Tyndrum will be really rough going on a bike. I also don't think the path between Glencoe and Kinlochleven over the Devil's Staircase is possible on a loaded bike. It was tough enough on foot! There are alternative byroads for much of this part though. Between Kinlochleven and Fort William I'm not sure. Some of it was very rough and steep, other parts ok. The Rannoch Moor part before Glencoe was quite boggy so probably difficult on a bike. You might get a shock at how rough and boggy paths in Scotland can be - even on foot they're hard going!

Hmm, it sounds difficult. Are there any parts which you would recommend, as scenic and easy enough for cycling? How about Tyndrum to Kingshouse, and Kinlochmore to Fort William? These two fragments look doable. I don't mind pushing my bike for some time if necessary, but not for the whole day or two, then it doesn't make much sense.

khain wrote:If traffic bothers you it might be better taking an alternative route through the central Highlands, which is also lovely and more cycle friendly. Use the NCN routes and byroads then take a left turn after Dalwhinnie to Fort William.

I'm not sure which road you mean, could you write some more details?

khain wrote:Some more photos from a Scottish cycle tour I did. https://www.flickr.com/photos/61002072@N00

Thanks! So nice!

andrew_s wrote:To see what such tracks are actually like, use cycle.travel/map to plan a route that uses the track, then right-click and "find photos". To plan a route, click to set start, click to set end, then drag and drop to adjust.

What a great link, thanks!!! :)

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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby Elizabeth_S » 15 Jun 2015, 3:11pm

Just note that the Winchburgh tunnel is closed on the railway line outside Edinburgh so all trains are either running from Linlithgow on to the Fife line and then into Edinburgh or there is a replacement bus service (they are electrifying the line and hence they have to lower the level of the tunnel). Trains from Edinburgh to Glasgow are affected also. Plus there are roadworks on our motorways at the same time (our school holidays start at the beginning of July so they think that it is a good time for this work). The tunnel work runs until 26th July. This may not affect you directly but it might affect you indirectly. If you plan to use the train check for up-to-date information.

khain
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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby khain » 15 Jun 2015, 7:03pm

Hi Janus

I would recommend taking the main road, unless it's really busy, which is just as scenic and far less bumpy than the WHW. I cycle this route quite a lot and always take the road. I hate rough tracks.

Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy is a fairly decent flat track. After Bridge of Orchy take the byroad round Loch Tulla rather than the WHW. This reconnects with the WHW later or you can turn off to the main road.

Kinlochmore to Fort William should also be doable on a bike but not always on the WHW.

Google the Sustrans NCN routes for central Scotland. These are decent enough most of the way, certainly better than the WHW and there are plenty of alternative byroads (the Schiehallion road through to Kinloch Rannoch is nice, though steep). Then take the A889 and A86 from Dalwhinnie. These roads aren't too busy and are nice to cycle.

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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby rualexander » 15 Jun 2015, 7:24pm

Geograph is a good site for finding photos of tracks to see if they might be cycleable http://www.geograph.org.uk/

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Janus
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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby Janus » 16 Jul 2015, 3:46pm

So, I'm back! I cycled in Scotland for 12 days, leaving one day for walking around Edinburgh where I stayed at my friend's place. In total I rode 1100 km, with a daily distance of 100-110 km (62-68 miles) on most days. The shortest distance was I think 30 miles (a day with hiking in Quiraing on the Isle of Skye and a bus ride to Dornie), the longest 81 miles (Shieldaig to Ullapool). As planned (and suggested by some of you), I skipped some parts by bus or train.

I really loved Scotland! The scenery was wonderful and the people so nice. I even had 2 days without rain, which is 2 more than I expected :) I liked the West Highland Way a lot, the parts that I did were mostly "cycleable", and what surprised me, there were very few people there. Between Bridge of Orchy and Glencoe I didn't see a soul (only a tent:), between Kinlochmore and Fort William - only two hikers and some MTB cyclists. The only really difficult part was the short climb just after Kinlochmore, where I forgot there was an asphalt road that rejoins with the path. Oh well. I took the path instead and had to pull my loaded bike on stony stairs for some 1.5 h. But it was still fun :) At least my upper body had some training too, not only legs :)

I was surprised by how short the climbs were, way easier than what I expected. I'm not strong, so after reading your comments I was afraid I would curse myself for having planned such a route, but actually I climbed all the hills with a big smile on my face. The scenery was so nice that it was a pleasure to ride up the hills. Unfortunately I wasn't very lucky with the weather on the Applecross Pass road, extremely foggy. But the mist was also cool, it looked very spooky! The only road which made me really tired was the short stretch along the coast between Applecross and Shieldaig - constant, never ending series of short climbs and descents, very steep, like a saw blade. It was way more exhausting than the Applecross Pass itself, so even though I only did 104 km that day, it was the toughest day. The road across the Craingorms National Park was great, with very nice views and little traffic.

Many of you suggested me going to the Isle of Mull instead of Skye. I liked Skye a lot, particularly the road between Sligachan and Dunvegan as well as Quiraing. Road A87 was pretty busy indeed, and on the way back I took a bus to avoid it. I also loved the road to the Isle of Skye - from Fort William to Mallaig, so picturesque!

Thanks a lot again for all the comments, much appreciated! If you want, here's a link to my gallery (212 pictures):
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set ... 26d1279590

LollyKat
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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby LollyKat » 16 Jul 2015, 10:11pm

Thanks for posting your report, and link to photos. I've been wondering how you got on and am so pleased you had a great time. I agree that the coast road from Applecross to Shieldaig is harder work than the big pass - it came as a a bit of a nasty shock when I did it. The big modern roads are all carefully graded so that generally you can spin up them, but when I was a child in the 1950s most of them were twisty single track like that coast road, with some really steep bits. Sometimes my father would make us all get out of the car and walk, or even give it a it of a push to help get it to the top. :shock:

I'm sorry the sun didn't shine more for you but you have some wonderfully atmospheric photos. Hope you'll come back again one day.

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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby phil parker » 16 Jul 2015, 11:24pm

What a great trip - and some excellent photos!

I love Scotland and the cycling is fantastic - it is a gamble with the weather...and the midges; I've not explored every corner yet (despite half a dozen trips) and I have a propensity to complete every region ahead of more exotic European trips. Just viewing those photographs makes me want to be there now!

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Jimstar79
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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby Jimstar79 » 17 Jul 2015, 11:20pm

hi Janus,

wow, well done on a brilliant tour! This was exactly what I needed to see to help convince me to get up and go on the tour I have been looking forward to! Your tent near the beach in Durness really looks ideal - was it too cold for a quick swim?!

Cheers!
"Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race."
H. G. Wells quotes

sultzer
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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby sultzer » 18 Jul 2015, 8:36am

really love your photos , i did 500+ in june when you posted this , north to south zigzag across the country , some of your route as well , in 7 days fully loaded , no transport apart from bike .
you missed out the southern part of scotland which has some great country .

robing
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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby robing » 1 Aug 2015, 9:50am

Therealsouthstander wrote:In my opinion The Outer Hebrides off Scotland's West coast is among the best cycling you'll find anywhere...

Get the Ferry from Oban to the Isle of Barra , cycle around the island then get another ferry to Eriskay,then cycle South Uist,Benbecula,North Uist then the magical Bernaray.. Ferry from Bernaray to the best bit ,the Isle of Harris and Isle of Lewis.. Then ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool.. All ferries will cost about £30 in total and these islands are a cyclists dream,really quiet roads with a great surface - Did you mention nature ? You'll be in heaven :)


Do not miss The Outer Hebrides..


I'm going to do this next month. But I will get the ferry from Harris to Uig, cycle across Skye, ferry to Mallaig, cycle across Ardnamurchan and then via Mull back to Oban.

Therealsouthstander
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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby Therealsouthstander » 1 Aug 2015, 10:02am

robing wrote:
Therealsouthstander wrote:In my opinion The Outer Hebrides off Scotland's West coast is among the best cycling you'll find anywhere...

Get the Ferry from Oban to the Isle of Barra , cycle around the island then get another ferry to Eriskay,then cycle South Uist,Benbecula,North Uist then the magical Bernaray.. Ferry from Bernaray to the best bit ,the Isle of Harris and Isle of Lewis.. Then ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool.. All ferries will cost about £30 in total and these islands are a cyclists dream,really quiet roads with a great surface - Did you mention nature ? You'll be in heaven :)


Do not miss The Outer Hebrides..


I'm going to do this next month. But I will get the ferry from Harris to Uig, cycle across Skye, ferry to Mallaig, cycle across Ardnamurchan and then via Mull back to Oban.



Your route is perfect ,once You pass Harris and go into Lewis it's not as good,so heading over to Skye ,Mallaig !Ardanmurchan and Mull your going to constantly be in superb cycling areas..

Not sure if it fits in but there's a really good bunkhouse on Mull beside the ferry back to Oban...

Hopefully the weather is good for you. It's been really cold and wet this summer...

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Janus
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Re: Scotland in 2 weeks

Postby Janus » 1 Aug 2015, 10:06am

LollyKat wrote:I'm sorry the sun didn't shine more for you but you have some wonderfully atmospheric photos. Hope you'll come back again one day.

I definitely will! Actually I thought the weather was quite good! I had some days without rain, which I didn't expect, it never rained for the whole day (though often it did rain for the whole night). Plus I hate cycling when it's hot, so the temperature (usually below 15 degrees) was perfect. I only used my jacket when it was raining (or not even then).

Jimstar79 wrote:Your tent near the beach in Durness really looks ideal - was it too cold for a quick swim?!

It was, because the moment I took the picture, the sun disappeared behind the clouds... So I actually never used my swimsuit :) I also never used a much heavier windstopper, but in Iceland I learned it's better to have too many warm clothes than too little :)