Itinerary - Remote Highlands
9 day off road
Day 1: Inverness
redspokes Mountain Lochs and Glens cycling tour begins in Highland capital city Inverness. Flights to Inverness are routed from destinations across the UK and Europe. There are good coach and rail links to Inverness as well. Taxis are readily available to take you to your hotel. For details see Essential Information and your Joining Details. You have a free afternoon to explore the area. You could visit the Old Town and Victorian Market or St Andrew's Cathedral. You can take a circular walk from the castle along the river and through the Ness Islands.
There will be a group meeting at 6pm this evening at our tour accommodation with introductions and a tour briefing.
If you are unable to arrive this evening, please be sure to arrive no later than 08.30am on the morning of Day 2.
Accommodation: Guest House
Day 2: Inverness to Fort Augustus
We depart Inverness this morning beginning our tour with a ride towards the legendary Loch Ness. Our cycling begins at the start of the Great Glen Way near Inverness Castle. We will cycle down the west side of the loch through farmland and forested areas enjoying some lovely views. We’ll be riding on path, track and minor road tackling a few short steep stretches. A flat initial mile out of the city we quickly begin our first climb of the day heading toward Abriachan. The incline takes us over the next 6 miles. We’ll then drop down in a fast descent over the next 4 miles riding alongside the loch. We will have views of Urquhart Castle perched on the shoreline. The castle commands spectacular views across the water, especially from the top of its tower. It was the site of many battles and raids during the years it was in use, often switching hands and was eventually blown up by departing government forces in 1692, so that it could not be used by the Jacobites. There is also a full sized, working trebuchet siege engine in the castle grounds.
We curve away from the water to Drumnadrochit passing the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition before we return to the Lochside We’ll be climbing again over the next few miles before we drop down slightly then begin another climb followed by a steeper descent. The remainder of our day’s cycling continues along the Great Glen Way on flatter terrain following the loch. We pass an Iron Age fort near Grotaig and ride on through the picturesque scenery of Glen Moriston riding through Invermoriston where the River Moriston crashes over waterfalls into Loch Ness, passing under a famous Thomas Telford bridge built in 1813. We cycle on through pine forest and finish the day at Fort Augustus. This is a small busy town at the southern end of Loch Ness, built around the locks that lower the Caledonian Canal to the level of the loch. The village was named thus on the building of Fort Augustus, following the defeat of the 1715 Jacobite uprising, after the younger son of King George II, who was to become the notorious Butcher of Cumberland.
Cycling Distance: 40.1 miles (64.5 km)
Cycling Ascent: 3,850 ft (1,170 m)
Cycling Descent: 3,775 ft (1,150 m)
Accommodation: B&B (B,S,L)
Day 3: Fort Augustus to Struy
We begin the day riding out of Fort Augustus and soon we're cycling on single-track and paths through Inchnacardoch Forest. This is part of an old military road constructed during the middle part of the 18th century by the British government in the aftermath of the Jacobite uprising.
We begin with the first of 2 big climbs over the initial few miles. We then swoop back downhill through Moriston valley before our second steeper ascent which brings us to Glen Affric. Glen Affric nature reserve stretches over 30 miles of ancient pinewood; one of the largest ancient Caledonian pine woods in Scotland. It’s a habitat rich in wildlife including ospreys, otters or red- and black-throated divers and red deer. Once over the peak we’ll be cycling downhill again for the next 8 miles following tracks with views of mountain peaks in the distance before a final flat stretch following the river over 10 miles to reach Struy.
Cycling Distance: 30.8 miles (49.6 km)
Cycling Ascent: 3,150 ft (960 m)
Cycling Descent: 3,025 ft (930 m)
Accommodation: Hotel (B,S,L)
Day 4: Struy to Inchbae
We begin the day passing the 16th Century Erchless castle and climbing for 5 miles to our highest point of the day’s ride at 1200ft; we then gradually continue riding undulating track towards the Glen Orrin Dam for around 6 miles continuing downhill over the next 12 miles. On our descent we reach the Orrin reservoir then follow the river towards Marybank on good track and minor road.
Shortly after passing Marybank we cross over the river Conon and begin another climb on forest track for around 13 miles, dropping down to Black Water briefly before we’re riding uphill again. We pass scenic waters at Rogie Falls and Loch Garve. Climbing on through coniferous Garbat Forest in the gentle foothills of Ben Wyvis we ride on track and minor roads making a final short descent to reach Inchbae.
Cycling Distance: 34.2 miles (55.0 km)
Cycling Ascent: 2,575 ft (790 m)
Cycling Descent: 2,225 ft (680 m)
Accommodation: Hotel (B,S,L)
Day 5: Inchbae to Ullapool
Today we begin riding on a short stretch of road following Black Water before turning off on to surfaced and rough track climbing with a few dips on the way for the first 10 miles to cycle past Loch Vaich with lovely views of the loch and the valley. We’ll see highland cattle grazing peacefully and the odd forgotten bothy. We descend to follow the river Deanich over the next 10 miles riding through the Alladale Wilderness Reserve; an area dedicated to reintroducing native species and the lost woodlands that were known by the Romans as the Great Forest of Caledon.
We turn north west toward Croick Church, built in the early 19th C and designed by Thomas Telford. The church is renowned as the scene of the Glencalvie Clearances in 1845. Agricultural ‘improvement’ (removing tenants from their lands and replacing them with large scale pastoral sheep farming) was a profitable practise across the Lowlands in the mid-1700s. At Croick, local tenants were put out of their modest dwellings (which were set on fire) by their landlords, the Countess of Sutherland and her husband Lord Stafford, whose names are reviled in the area to this day. The evicted tenants sought shelter in the church grounds respecting the sanctity of the building itself. Some scratched their names and short messages into the glass of the church windows.
We ride on following a track which runs above the northern bank of the Abhainn an t-Srath Chuileannaic, cycling uphill again for the next 8 miles. Heading away from the river we reach the peak with stunning mountain views before a steep drop followed by a couple of smaller ups and downs as we cross over the River Einig cycling remote moorland uphill towards Loch an Daimh before we challenge the last peak of the day just past the loch and cycle back downhill the final 8 miles riding alongside Loch Achall on sealed road crossing the river cycling into Ullapool.
Cycling Distance: 48.2 miles (77.6 km)
Cycling Ascent: 2,250 ft (680 m)
Cycling Descent: 2,750 ft (840 m)
Accommodation: Hotel (B,S,L)
Day 6: Ullapool - Rest Day
Although a small community of 1500, Ullapool is the largest settlement in the area and an important port and tourist destination.
The tiny white town is set in a rugged mountains landscape with Beinn Ghobhlach to the west, An Teallach to the south west (both across the loch), Beinn Dearg to the south east close to the head of Loch Broom, and Ben Mhòr na Còigich to the north. If the weather is good there are many walking routes in the area to explore from coastal routes to inland footpaths.
If the weather it is not so good the town has a beautiful museum based in a Grade A listed former church building where you can find out more about crofting, fishing, the “klondykers” and other local history. There are also many inviting pubs in the town you can retreat to.
Accommodation: Hotel (B)
Day 7: Ullapool to Poolewe
Today in the wilderness of Scotland we’ll face some challenging climbs on tracks and paths without vehicle support for most of the day as we scale the heights of munros and pass lochs that belong to the Fisherfield Five region and enjoy beautiful mountain and sea views – nature in the raw.
We take a ferry across Loch Broom and begin cycling from the south side. We climb our first, relatively gentle peak of the day and cycle down to Dundonnell over 5 miles. We are soon climbing again on track riding the slopes with close up vistas of An Teallach (the Forge Mountain). We’ll pass Shenavall Bothy before riding down to Loch na Sealga and cycle a short distance along the edge of the loch before we climb our next ascent passing the waters of Lochan Feith Mhic’ illean on snaking path, reaching our high point of the day at 1,712ft amidst towering peaks, before we’re cycling down again passing between Dunn Loch and Fionn Loch on narrow causeway the ride few final flat miles on smooth gravel based single track through wide valley with Beinn Airigh Charr to our left and Fionn Loch to our right. Finally, we follow the river Ewe into Poolewe where we stay tonight in a lovely loch side hotel.
Cycling Distance: 30.5 miles (49.1 km)
Cycling Ascent: 3,775 ft (1,150 m)
Cycling Descent: 3,850 ft (1,170 m)
Accommodation: Hotel (B,S,L)
Day 8: Poolewe - Achnashellach - Inverness
Today we’ll begin and end our ride in similar fashion with a challenging climb and descent; the route in between covers around 20 miles of gentle up and down riding through beautiful scenery. Most of the day is on surfaced road with a few sections of rough road over approximately 10 miles and just under 3 miles of gravel path.
Leaving Poolewe we climb steeply on rough track and make a careful descent dropping down to Loch Maree. Heading back inland we follow the southside of the loch for 15 miles. This is one of Scotland’s most picturesque lochs with five large islands and 25 smaller islets. It’s the only loch/lake in the UK that contains an islet within an island and a lochan within that. We’ll take a break at the Whistle Stop café. A unique characterful green corrugated iron building with a Ballachulish slate roof where a warm welcome and traditional fare are on offer.
We’re now in Beinn Eighe which was chosen as Britain's first National Nature Reserve in 1951. Passing Kinlochewe we cut across country to Achnashellach cycling alongside Loch Clair and Loch Coulin with great views of Beinn Eighe as we ride through the Coulin estate. We end our day and our cycling with a final climb to the Coulin Pass just shy of 1,000ft and roll down to Achnashellach.
At the end of our ride today we will transfer back to Inverness.
Cycling Distance: 30.2 miles (48.6 km)
Cycling Ascent: 2,450 ft (750 m)
Cycling Descent: 2,275 ft (690 m)
Accommodation: Guest House (B,S,L)
Day 9: Inverness - Home
redspokes 9 day Mountains Lochs and Glens, off-road cycle tour ends this morning.
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