FINDRA Ambassador Danny O’Callaghan and his partner headed on a road trip to the north west of Scotland taking in some classic trails on the mountain bike.
With our European road trip plans scuppered by Covid-19, we headed north of the border on a grand tour of Scotland and what a tour it was. Biking, beaches, beers, sunsets and chills. Van life at its best.
We started off with some riding in Dunkeld before heading to the Braemar area for a couple of days. Dunkeld is mega, loads of well built trails in the hills either side of the village, if you get chance to do any riding up there it is more than worth it. At Braemar we kicked off with Carn an t-Sagairt Mor – a great Munro, remnants of an old plane crash scattered across the summit and a descent that offers a bit of everything – starts techy and ends on flow. Afterwards we hit the ever impressive Heartbreak Ridge and Mastermind – these are definitely ones for the hit list!
Glenlivet was the next stop for a bit of flow and to break up the journey north. The following day we started on the North Coast 500. A 516-mile scenic route around the north coast of Scotland. We decided to start at Inverness, travelling anticlockwise and finishing on the beautiful west coast. Plenty of riding to go at and a few days taking in some amazing beaches like Sango Bay Sands and Murkle Beach, a quick stop at John O’Groats (literally just for the selfie) and a quick walk around the Smoo Caves followed by the best hot chocolate in Scotland (apparently) . . .
Golspie was the first stop to ride the Wildcat Trails. Golspie is home to the longest trail centre black descent in the country and it didn’t disappoint. A technical climb known as the lactic ladder to get up there, some epic views, a massive monument and a true black descent with quite a few challenging features. Some natural trails on the hill that are also awesome and well worth the extra climbing (even Kate agreed)! Highly recommended.
Next up – Sandwood Bay, reputedly the most beautiful beach in Britain. Almost 1.5 miles of wide pink sands, flanked by cliffs and cool rock formations, a 6km walk / ride in from the road so pretty much deserted, heaven! Shame it was only 10 degrees and blowing a hooley!!
As we moved further south, we stopped off at the Quinag for a hike but we decided to take the bikes, much more fun getting down on those!! After carrying the bikes through boulder fields and a bit of a maze, not knowing what was lying ahead, we ditched the bikes just below the summit and finished the climb on foot. The track was pretty vague in places but luckily it was full of massive rock slabs to play around on, it was pretty darn cool!
Moving closer and closer towards civilization and on the way down the west coast, we thought we’d revisit Torridon so Kate could ride Achnashellach, unfinished business after a puncture stopped her last time. Achnashellach is arguably one of the best singletrack descents in the UK and definitely one of my all-time favourites.
It was time to the rest the legs, well sort of. As we were passing Fort William we decided to ride the World Cup Downhill Track . . . on a 135mm trail bike what could go wrong? Nothing as it turns out. The Pace RC 295 was absolutely superb – handling everything that the tracks threw its way – Mega!
Laggan Wolftrax was the next on the hit list! We tackled the endless slabs and rock rolls on the black trail before heading over the road to sample some of Laggan’s finest loam! Wicked trails, so much fun and smiles all round.
Time to “Walk the Talk” and head to Pitlochry to ride Ben Cathro’s test track of the same name. This trail had some serious graft put into it over lockdown and oh boy it did not disappoint! Absolutely smashing trail. The track itself is fast, like really fast and there’s some big doubles if you want to take them on! Seriously well-built and great fun!
I’ve had Ben Ledi in my sights for a while and with the weather looking (almost) favourable I decided this was the time to do it. I opted for an out and back ride to save time and energy, heading straight to the summit up the hiking path. It was a fairly easy ascent taking just over an hour to reach the memorial at the top. Coming down was pretty spicy! Some fast flat out sections throwing you into spiral stair cases a lot quicker than you’d like to be. Every bit worth it.
Ending the trip on a high we stopped at the Tweed valley to ride the famous Golfie trails. These are an absolute must on any Scotland trip and if you haven’t been here before, get up there.
After 2 weeks of being on the road we decided to call it day there and headed back to the lakes, what an absolutely awesome trip. Did we miss going to the Alps? Not in the slightest, Scotland delivered and has so much more to offer. Its amazing to have this so close to home and 100% worth exploring!
TRAIL OF THE WEEK
In his post, Danny mentioned that classic loop of Quinag in Assynt, a classic circular route taking in the three Corbets that forms the mountain.
Starting from the main road just north of Inchnadamph, the route is around 14km in distance and takes around 6-7 hours on foot. More information about the route can be found on walkhighlands.co.uk and there’s a good writeup about the route with pictures here.
MUSIC OF THE WEEK
In last week’s post we missed Moira’s choice of song from Brian Ferry’s album of the same name. So here it is, a classic dance floor filler if ever there was one!
Brian Ferry – Let’s Stick Together