An off road cycle ride from Inverness to Glasgow 330km/ 210miles, 6176m/ 20202ft elevation in 3days and 2 nights with Clare.
The adventure begun when I started looking for a bike on Ebay. I chose the Cannondale Topstone 105 because it was the only XS frame I could find after lockdown cleared out most bike sales. I fitted some Schwalbe X-One All-round Evo Super ground tyres (700 x 35mm) on aware that the width would be inadequate but anything else wider rubbed my rear chain stay tube so unless I bought 650mm wheels they would have to do. That’s as geeky as I got with my bike set up. I got it serviced, wrapped the bike in electrical tape where I thought the packs would rub, loaded it up and out it in the car to drive to Scotland. We had downloaded the GPX files- I used my Garmin 945 watch and Clare used her Garmin Edge computer. It was useful to have both to navigate some of the trickier parts.
We got to Glasgow, parked the car, loaded the bikes and headed to the station to catch the train to Inverness. Unfortunately it had been cancelled due to flash flooding in Perth. We tried not to think about the implications of cycling in the rain for the next 3 days by just getting on with trying to persuade the Megabus driver to take us and our bikes on his coach which he did. It was then a wait for a few hours before departure!
It’s a bizarre memory because this is where we learnt of the Queen’s death. RIP Queen Elizabeth II.
On arrival in Inverness it was beginning to get dark and we wanted to head out of the city to find somewhere to camp. Food first though …..
Getting out of the city was the hardest bit to navigate with our devices. Eventually we got onto the Great Glen Way and found a camping spot. The next morning we headed off early with a steep climb up to Dunain Hill.
I felt I needed some time to re-skill on the technical aspects of cycling but it was straight into it! We pedalled along in the early morning mist through forest tracks, rocky trails and tarmac past Abriachan before descending through the trees down into Drumnadrochit. Food here was well timed- black pudding and egg bap!
Our first loch was Loch Ness
We head past the Loch and onward to Fort Augustus. More food before the climb up to The Corrieyarick Pass. The photos do not do justice to the steepness of this pass. It was like interval training- cycle a bit, stop to catch my breath, repeat!
The Corrieyairack Pass, originally built as a military road by General Wade, leads across the Monadhliath mountains from Fort Augustus to Laggan in Badenoch. It climbs to over 770m through remote terrain, however, it shares its route with the Beauly – Denny power line which detracts from the otherwise very wild feel of the pass.
The descent down was by far the most technical part. For the most part I just closed my eyes, held by breath and just let the bike go forward.
We really wanted to do 70miles on the first day so after dropping down towards Spey Dam Reservoir we rode a brief stint in the Cairngorms National Park to cycle past Loch Crunachdan and Loch Laggan via the Ardverikie Estate.
It was a cold start and as we descended into some low lying freezing fog I struggled to appreciate any of the surrounding beauty. It was agony, when we stopped in a sunny spot, as the blood returned to my hands and Clare’s feet.
We made relatively rapid progress going past Loch Ghuilbinn, Loch Ossian, Loch Eigheach and onwards to Loch Rannoch passing through the Corrour Estate (home to the most remote railway and pub in Britain). Rannoch Moor was my favourite part; I loved its remoteness and the technicality of the trail challenged me but was not overwhelming. During a wee stop I spotted a tick – by the end of the Divide I had pulled off over a dozen of the buggers!
Loch Rannoch went on forever as the route takes you away through some gnarly forest paths just to torture your quads some more before bringing you back to the Loch! The descent is a sharp off road one where everything is rattled and blisters appear on your hands from holding on! It was down to the Bridge of Balgie, past Loch Lyon, and the destination was an amazing cafe at Glen Lyon. It was by now 4pm and that coffee and panini was desperately needed.
Replete we gratefully cycled some easy miles on tarmac following the River Lyon as it gently climbed to Stronuich Resevoir.
The 3km KenKonock climb was steep but paved and easy to get into a rhythm. We then descended down into Glen Lochay, to Loch Tay and Killin village where we planned to camp after another 70mile day.
Killin provided all we needed- a Coop, public toilet and an outside tap!
A few miles on tarmac to warm up before passing into the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. The first climb was in Auchmore Wood on the forestry road that marks the boundary of the park. It was rooty with some technical bits and single track that required walking. I think it was here that I fell off for the 5th and final time after not being able to clip out quick enough!
It was the Rob Roy Way, the no 7 cycle route, the Glen Ogle Way, pass Lochearnhead, pass the beautiful Edinample Castle, through Strathyre Forest to the east of the River Balvag, through Glen Ample before descending to Loch Lubnaig and then onto Aberfoyle.
The town was hosting the Dukes weekender gravel bike racing so had a lively atmosphere and a great cafe stop. By now we were tired and it was reflected in our temperature regulation- coats on, coats off all day long!
We climbed out of the town into the Loch Ard Forest on the Rob Roy Way again.
The summit of this climb comes as you pass the peak of Bàt a’ Charchel, then onto the West Highland Way (having just raced the Highland Fling 50miler it bought back all sorts of memories!), a descent down through Garadhban Forest and then along Blane Water river on the John Muir Way.
The very last climb was a sharp singletrack route up Carbeth Loch. It was by now wet and slippery as the rain fell. The weather had been miraculous – we only had rain for the first and last hour of the whole trip!
Cycling into Glasgow along the West Highland Way, through Milngavie we followed the River Kelvin dodging people and their dogs on their Sunday walks.
The finish was in Kelvingrove and it was really raining by now but the smiles came out for the finish photo!
It was a tough route, not one to be underestimated. Thanks to Komfuel for the cycle kit – a great energy company- we felt suitably pro even if my bike skills lacked that description! I hung on through the downs and my fitness pulled through on the ups; our emotions and efforts mirrored the terrain!