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JOHN’S BLOG: A biking weekend in the Highlands

November 15th, 2016

We’re lucky in Richmond to have so many lovely roads we can ride from the front door. But there is a shortage of plunging vistas and a distinct lack of wilderness, mountain or coastline.

In the course of writing 12 Months in the Saddle with Phil Ashley a few years ago, we visited some pretty wonderful riding destinations – Ventoux, Tuscany, Flanders etc – but our unanimous choice of best chapter was the weekend we spent in North West Scotland.

This area has received a little more attention in recent times with the establishment of the North Coast 500, a circuit of the top half of the country. But is it still quiet enough to get that feeling of other-worldliness? Can Britain’s own Stelvio, the Bealach-na-Bá, still be conquered without avoiding coach parties on every corner?

We arrived at Inverness Airport on a Thursday night in October with a regular day at work under our belts and a bunch of bikes and kit in tow for testing (thanks for not breaking anything EasyJet). Scotland has a real “waist” here at the top end of the Great Glen, meaning you can cross the country very quickly on fast roads. You may decide to head south west into Lochaber or further north past Ullapool into Coigach and Assynt. That area is home to the ludicrous Mad Wee Road that the NC500 misses out. If you ever find yourself in that most remote corner of this island, you must ride it. But make sure you’ve got gears… 30% inclines aren’t rare there.

We went there on our last northern weekend, so this time we’re concentrating on Applecross, the peninsula that juts out into the Inner Sound opposite Skye, reached by scaling the Bealach. The little road around Applecross was only completed in the last quarter of the 20th Century and in our opinion is the most fun you can have on a road bike. Check out these pictures and see for yourself.

With a great B&B looking out over the Sound and the finest pub in Britain on the doorstep, we felt we’d been away for a month. In actual fact, it was one day’s annual leave, a cheap evening return flight and a couple of days’ car hire.

Pop into the shop if you’re thinking of going and we’ll help you plan.