Built to Last – A new film from Bikepacking Scotland set in the Cateran Ecomuseum launches seven new cycling itineraries in Perthshire and Angus

Filmed on locations featured in seven new and six existing cycling itineraries in the Cateran Ecomuseum, Built to Last is the latest film from round the world singlespeed cyclist and founder of Bikepacking Scotland Markus Stitz. The 10-minute documentary featuring Bob Ellis, founder of the Cateran Trail, Neil Tuer, owner of Alyth Cycles and Jane Wilkinson, willow weaver at Special Branch Baskets, with music from Dave Macfarlane, launches seven new cycling itineraries designed for road, mountain, gravel and touring bikes as part of Travel for All Our Tomorrows – which aims to develop new regenerative tourism experiences in the Cateran Ecomuseum.

Built to Last is available now on YouTube

The Cateran Ecomuseum is a museum without walls, close to the cities of Perth and Dundee in Scotland, both accessible by a new electric bus service from Edinburgh. One of a growing number of ecomuseums worldwide, all its sites are outside. Community led, it empowers local people to take an active role in preserving the objects, sites and cultural practices they value. Providing over 20 pre-designed cycling and walking routes that reveal the hidden heritage of this little known part of Scotland, the museum’s website also offers visitors to design their own routes around its 130 sites of interest.

Travel for All Our Tomorrows, a campaign to position the Cateran Ecomuseum as one of Scotland’s premier car-free holiday destinations, was funded through Smarter Choices Smarter Places by Paths for All, Cairngorms National Park, NatureScot, Perth & Kinross Council and Thomson Charitable Trust, together with the Cateran Ecomuseum’s own directors.

The itineraries developed by Bikepacking Scotland, for mountain bikes, gravel bikes, road bikes and touring bikes, can be downloaded as GPX files for free on the Ecomuseum’s website www.cateranecomuseum.co.uk. They range from 8.3km to 109km and feature a variety of points of interest like stone circles, standing stones, historic churches and wildlife reserves along the way.

Markus Stitz, creator of the new cycling routes and director of the film, comments: ‘Climate change and the impact of my actions on future generations is something that concerns me deeply, and I would like to offer people positive alternatives to our very car-focussed culture. For me travelling by bike has had a massive positive impact on my life, both for my own physical and mental wellbeing. I understand that changing our habits will take time and depend on good alternatives like the electric bus service I used to get to the Ecomuseum from Edinburgh. But as Jane wonderfully puts it in the film, we can make a small difference and can be part of a better history in the future. 

In my eyes we need to be more mindful about what impact we have on our planet and future generations, so that beautiful places like the Cateran Ecomuseum will inspire generations to come. For me the joy of cycling doesn’t depend on the latest innovation in cycling. It depends on a connection with people and places, and the Cateran Ecomuseum has provided exactly that for me. I came to visit for the first time in March 2019, and the idea of making a film about this part of Scotland has been on my mind since then. Clare Cooper, who’s amazing drive and vision has helped me turn an idea into a tangible outcome, invited me and I have returned many times, mostly on my bike. Being able to share the routes I enjoyed through the project and portraying people like Bob, Jane and Neil, people that make the Cateran Ecomuseum such a special place, made this one of the most rewarding sustainable tourism projects I have worked on.

Travel for All Our Tomorrows will also work with local communities and businesses in the Ecomuseum area during 2021 to promote a new family friendly cycling event and one new temporary outdoor arts installation. All routes and more information about the Cateran Ecomuseum can be found at cateranecomuseum.co.uk, Facebook @cateranecomuseum, Twitter @CateranEco, or Instagram @cateraneco

Watch the Q&A session about the routes, film and sustainable tourism

Explore your Boundaries – A short film highlighting the joys of winter cycling around Scotland’s Capital

With a new film Edinburgh-based Markus Stitz and Mark Beaumont encourage more people to enjoy winter cycling in the future. Filmed on a newly created gravel bike route, which follows the local authority boundary of the City of Edinburgh, and additional locations close to the Scottish Capital during January and February 2021, Explore your Boundaries is a short documentary that highlights the beauty and challenges of exploring places on two wheels in snow and ice.

Markus Stitz, the first person to ride a single-speed bicycle around the world, and Mark Beaumont, the Guinness World Record holder for the fastest circumnavigation in 78 days and 14 hours, are both Edinburgh residents. Teaming up to film Explore your Boundaries’ was inspired by encouraging people to see familiar and local areas in unfamiliar ways, showing how great adventures can happen from your own front door.

Mark Beaumont comments: ‘When you ride somewhere in perfect conditions, define that as the summer and the sun is shining, it’s a totally different thing than the grit and the resolve that it takes to then go there in the depth of winter. I often think as a cyclist that there are a number of motivations. People want to do exercise and want to feel healthy, but for me there’s also the other side, which is just the sheer experience of exploring places and those memories. And that’s not necessarily about wellbeing in terms of fitness. As much as I can sit indoors and do circuits or get your miles in on the turbo, I can’t feed the soul in the same way unless I actually get out and ride.’

When the second lockdown was announced in Scotland in the end of 2020 the two cyclists created a collection of routes, named ‘Explore your Boundaries’, ranging from 30 to 315 miles (48 to 505 km), using the boundaries of Scottish local authorities as guidance. The routes are free to download on this site and on Mark’s and Markus’ Komoot profiles. The idea for the film was born when both rode the Edinburgh city boundary on 2 January, completing 68 miles (110 km) in about 10 hours and documenting the journey with stills and video footage. 

With Scotland’s Capital mostly covered in snow from Christmas until the mid of February, Markus used the opportunity to capture the winter landscapes: ‘The last time I remember experiencing that much snow in Edinburgh was in 2010, shortly before I rode from Edinburgh to Germany. That journey introduced me to the joys of cycling in winter. Since then I love going out there and enjoying the elements, and this winter proved to be a perfect opportunity for that, and sharing the elation in a new film.’

While cycling in winter can be at times challenging, for both it is highly rewarding. As Beaumont puts it: ‘There’s definitely a kid inside me that loves ending up in quite tricky places and just creating those memories through big night rides, or being out in the snow. It’s about having fun with that concept of a bike ride, not just thinking I’m going out to get fit or I’m going out to train. It’s about trying to explore familiar places which are quite close to home, but you’re joining them up. And that’s when the best adventures happen.’

Bikepacking Scotland to work with the Cateran Ecomuseum to create cycling journeys for Travel for All Our Tomorrows – £82,640 of investment secured to develop a second stage of Regenerative Tourism experiences

Credit: James Robertson

Paths for All, the Cairngorms National Park, NatureScot and Perth & Kinross Council, together with the Cateran Ecomuseum’s own Directors have committed investment totalling £82,650 to develop a second stage of heritage-based walking and cycling itineraries across eastern Perthshire and western Angus. 

Travel for All Our Tomorrows will grow the number of Regenerative Tourism experiences offered by the Cateran Ecomuseum and kickstart a campaign to position it as one of Scotland’s premier car-free holiday destinations. 

Regenerative Tourism encourages people to rethink how they travel for leisure and how they enjoy the places they choose to travel to in ways that ‘leave things better’ and ensure those places are available for future generations to enjoy. Active Travel, which encompasses walking and cycling, is regenerative because it reduces carbon footprint, places less pressure on the environmental resources of host communities and replenishes and restores people’s physical and mental wellbeing.

The project will work with local communities and businesses in the Ecomuseum area during 2021, to co-design and promote nine new self-guided and guided cycling and walking itineraries for all abilities, one new family friendly cycling event and one new temporary outdoor arts installation. These, together with the Ecomuseum’s existing walking and cycling itineraries, will be further promoted via a campaign that will create new digital and printed information on how to get to and around the Ecomuseum car-free and three short films.

The cycling itineraries for Travel for All Our Tomorrows will be designed by Markus Stitz of Bikepacking Scotland, who has successfully worked with other destinations in Scotland to develop cycling routes, most recently in the neighbouring Highland Perthshire region. “I am looking forward to working with the Cateran Ecomuseum on this forward-thinking project. Cycling is a key driver to establish a more sustainable, regenerative approach to tourism in Scotland, driven by working actively with local stakeholders, can provide activities that have very low impact on the environment and add a long-term income stream to the local economy. Scotland is a land with incredible natural assets and a rich history, and Bikepacking Scotland’s vision is to provide people with ideas to harvest this potential.”

Credit: Markus Stitz

Graham McQueen, Smarter Choices Smarter Places Open-Fund Senior Development Officer, said “Paths for All have invested 50% of the cost of the Travel for All Our Tomorrows project and we are really excited to see how this innovative project progresses. Smarter Choices Smarter Places is all about creating a modal shift from cars to more sustainable forms of transport and it’s great to see such a sustainable, environmentally friendly approach to tourism contributing to this modal shift.”

Pete Crane, Head of Visitor Services for the Cairngorms National Park, said “The latest Cairngorms National Park visitor survey shows that 57% of our visitors – that’s 1.2 million people each year – want to enjoy a low level walk with great things to experience, with well over a quarter of a million enjoying a bike ride. This project offers so much for visitors; the chance to safely, responsibly and slowly enjoy the amazing culture of Cateran Country and the southern Cairngorms in a way that brings our heritage to life. A great way to explore one of the quieter parts of the Highlands, along with the chance to meet and chat with those of us who live here and want to share our love of this amazing place.”

Janet Hunter, Director of the Cateran Ecomuseum, said “We’re very pleased to have been able to put together such a sizeable budget for Active Travel in the Ecomuseum and very grateful to our funders, especially given the very difficult context of the Pandemic. This investment builds on what we have already achieved during our launch phase and gives us an opportunity to grow our innovative Regenerative Tourism approach. We want people to explore the Cateran Ecomuseum on foot and by bike, travelling slowly so that they can take in the amazing landscape and discover the extraordinary heritage and stories along the way, and we want them to really get to know our host communities and all they have to offer. We’re also looking forward to building relationships with public and private transport providers to enable people to travel to the Ecomuseum car free much more easily. We are delighted that our community ambition to promote healthy, climate conscious experiences for everyone is being recognised and I’m looking forward to trying out all the new routes.”

More information about the Cateran Ecomuseum can be found at cateranecomuseum.co.uk

Our final report rounds up the highly-successful first phase of the Highland Perthshire Gravel Trails Project

Our final report of the Highland Perthshire Gravel Trails details the different stages of the project and evaluates its success, using the key findings of a route user survey and the feedback of local stakeholders. The report contains key analytics, the press coverage generated and a final summary. It is available to download as PDF for free here.

Our film ‘Drovers’ was at the heart of our marketing campaign for perthshiregravel.com

The project mapped and promoted hundreds of miles of traffic-free off-road cycling routes across Highland Perthshire for varying abilities of rider, and was, as yet, our biggest project. It was made possible with the vision and trust from Highland Perthshire Cycling and the generous support from The Rural Perth & Kinross LEADER Programme and SSE as funders. It was also made possible with the engagement of people that call Highland Perthshire their home, either if they live here or have a close association with the area, and the support from the bike industry.

Photo: Markus Stitz

The outcomes of the project, detailed in the report, are encouraging. The success of the Perthshire Gravel Trails Project demonstrates that bikepacking and gravel cycling are no longer niche activities. Next to traditional cycle touring, mountain biking and road cycling, bikepacking and gravel cycling can become key drivers to establish a more sustainable, regenerative approach to tourism in Scotland.

This approach, driven by working actively with local stakeholders, can provide activities that have very low impact on the environment and add a long-term income stream to the local economy. Scotland is a land with incredible natural assets and a rich history, and Bikepacking Scotland’s vision is to provide people with ideas to harvest this potential.

The project has demonstrated that this is possible. We look forward to working with Highland Perthshire Cycling on future phases of the project. Bikepacking Scotland will also build onto the success and findings from the project to work with other areas in Scotland and to promote cycling as a key driver for a more sustainable future. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss future projects with us.

Photo: Markus Stitz

All routes and more information about the project can be found at www.perthshiregravel.com.

Unhurried – Our new film celebrates the experience of bikepacking Scotland coast to coast on the John Muir Way

In our latest film Unhurried’ Bikepacking Scotland founder and filmmaker Markus Stitz documents his trip on the John Muir Way, one of Scotland’s Great Trails. The film reveals a unique coast to coast journey through Scotland’s varied landscapes, history and heritage, during which Markus reflects on one of the great advantages of travelling by bike: being able to slow down and connect more fully with your surroundings.

Unhurried is now available to watch on YouTube.

The John Muir Way links Helensburgh in the west with Dunbar, the birthplace of John Muir, in the east. Using a combination of the waymarked walking and cycling routes, we have produced a recommended bikepacking version, which you can download as GPX on our website here. The route passes through Scotland’s first national park, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, and provides a journey of contrasts and the chance to connect with nature, taking advantage of the green spaces that link coasts, villages, towns and the capital city, Edinburgh.

What to pack on your first bikepacking adventure? Find out more.

We have already developed a number of long-distance cycling routes through Bikepacking Scotland, including the Wild About Argyll Trail and the Go East Lothian Trail, which both use sections of the John Muir Way. The new film has been created in cooperation with the Green Action Trust, a charity focused on environmental and regeneration outcomes for Scotland, which manages the route.

A short teaser to start planning your next adventure.

Here are some of our highlights from the route, which is also fabulous for day trips and microadventures.

Our latest gravel bikepacking route launches with Drovers, a film about the ancient drove roads in Scotland

Filmed on the ‘Drovers Trail’, our latest 331-km-long gravel bikepacking route spanning almost the entirety of Highland Perthshire, ‘Drovers’ tells the story of the ancient drove roads, an important part of Scottish history, which inspired Scotland’s greatest writers like Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. The new video from round the world singlespeed cyclist, film-maker and Bikepacking Scotland founder Markus Stitz follows him on his adventure along the route, retracing the footsteps of the cattle drovers on their journey from the Cairngorms through the Tay Valley to Crieff, which became Scotland’s most important cattle market at the end of the 17th century.

The project was led and administered by Highland Perthshire Cycling, a charity set up to promote, encourage and enable more cycling in Highland Perthshire for both locals and visitors, and delivered by us, Bikepacking Scotland. It received a grant of £9,835 from Rural Perth & Kinross LEADER Programme 2014-2020: The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas, match funded with £15,000 from the SSE Griffin and Calliachar Community Fund.

The Drovers Trail seen from Ben Chonzie

The new gravel bikepacking route is part of eleven different itineraries, which are now available to download for free at www.perthshiregravel.com. The lengths of the individual routes range from 12 km to 120 km, starting in the Highland Perthshire towns and villages of Dunkeld, Pitlochry, Blair Atholl, Aberfeldy, and Comrie, as well as the remote Rannoch Station. Eight of the eleven routes are easily accessible by Scotrail and Caledonian Sleeper train services.

Glenturret Distillery

The different routes are designed as day journeys for different ages and abilities, but can also be combined or shortened by using quiet roads or cycle paths. They are graded as easy, straightforward, challenging or expert. The different criteria for the grading and detailed route descriptions with pictures are available on the website. While the routes have been designed for  bikes with tyres 35 mm and wider, they will also appeal to mountain bikers and make great day trips for touring cyclists. 

Launch of the project in November 2019 in Dunkeld

Markus comments: “Designing the various routes made me aware of not only the rich history of Highland Perthshire and the Tay Valley, but also of the huge variety of landscapes that can be found across the area. I sought to use the story of the cattle drovers to draw parallels with the adventurous spirit of bikepacking nowadays, while showcasing the immense beauty of the area, not just for cyclists. I hope the new film and the route network will encourage more people to explore the area and will also give locals new ideas to experience their immediate surroundings.” 

Leave the car behind, catch the ferry and have an adventure in Dunoon

Wild About Argyll has teamed up with Bikepacking Scotland and Calmac Ferries to promote a series of car-free walking and cycling adventures for various abilities, starting at Dunoon Pier and Benmore Botanic Gardens.

Dunoon is the jewel in the Firth of Clyde, very close to Scotland’s biggest city Glasgow. Situated on the Cowal Peninsula, the seaside resort is a gateway to the great outdoors, with an abundance of walking and cycling adventures accessible easily by public transport from the ferry pier.

Local businesses are embracing the opportunities the great outdoors offer, like Jon Smith from the St Ives Guesthouse explains: ‘Ìf you love the great outdoors, if you love friendly people, this is a place to come. We have got everything: Forests, mountain bike trails, boating, fishing, botanical gardens; nature at its finest.’

Bikes at Puck’s Rest, a Dunoon Guesthouse which caters to bikepackers.

The Rail and Sail Ticket, a joint offer from CalMac Ferries and ScotRail, makes travelling on public transport simple and encourages people to leave their car at home. With a combined ticket for train and ferry travel, which can be bought at staffed stations, online or on the train, it is the perfect opportunity for a spontaneous escape to Scotland’s Adventure Coast and the opportunity to get #wildaboutargyll without a car.

Jenny Tough, an Edinburgh-based adventure traveller and endurance challenger, who has recently taken part in the Dunoon Dirt Dash, is excited about the potential of Rail and Sail: ‘I am very passionate about human-powered endurance challenges and encouraging others to explore this beautiful planet. At the same time I feel strongly about protecting our wild places. Offering people good alternatives to ditch the car and spontaneously have an adventure to explore their own limits is a great idea.’

The stunning scenery around Dunoon.

Steve Bate MBE, adventurer and double Paralympic Champion, has been to Argyll twice in a year and loves the opportunities Dunoon offers for cycling:  ‘Argyll is a fantastic part of Scotland to be explored. I have enjoyed cycling the Dunoon Dirt Dash recently after finishing this year’s road race season, which allows me a week or two of downtime. I love going on adventures when most pro riders put their bikes down. It’s great to encourage people to have an adventure close or far away from home. Dunoon’s setting and the easy access by ferry and train makes it even more tempting to return soon.’

The campaign features a short film showcasing the area and the opportunities Dunoon offers. Joanne Craven, an Edinburgh-based game designer, enjoyed working with FoSho Video from Glasgow on the film to promote the Rail and Sail offering: ‘The best thing about Dunoon is the ferry. Because even though you’re not going very far, it’s actually very easy. You feel like you’ve properly gone on holiday.’ 

Riders enjoying the inaugural Surly Dunoon Dirt Dash, a two-day bikepacking event taking place in and around Dunoon. Image: Neil Hanna

After a short or long day in the outdoors, Dunoon has plenty on offer to relax and great choices to stay overnight. A stroll down the promenade and the Victorian pier is highly recommended, or a visit to the historic Castle Mound and the museum. Browsing the local shops and galleries can be great fun, and local cafes and restaurants offer plenty of opportunities for lunch and dinner. 

Six walking and cycling adventures are currently featured on the Wild About Argyll website. They include a walk through Puck’s Glen, a walk from Dunoon to Bishop’s Glen reservoir and a walk up Beinn Mhor. The cycling routes include the Dunoon Dirt Dash bikepacking route, a road bike loop around the Cowal Peninsula and a mountain bike ride around Loch Eck.

Rail and Sail tickets are also available to Arran, Bute, Cumbrae and Mull can be booked at calmac.co.uk/railandsail.

Bikepacking Scotland works with Highland Perthshire Cycling at a new Gravel Trails Project across Highland Perthshire

We are delighted to work with Highland Perthshire Cycling, who have secured a grant of £9,835 from Rural Perth & Kinross LEADER Programme 2014-2020: The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas, match funded with £15,000 from the SSE Griffin and Calliachar Community Fund.

Starting in November 2019 and running until September 2020, the Perthshire Gravel Trails Project will deliver a network of gravel routes passing through the Highland Perthshire towns of Dunkeld, Pitlochry, Blair Atholl and Aberfeldy. The trails will be suitable for riders of different abilities and will be complemented and connected by a long-distance bikepacking route.

Community consultations and an online survey will form the first phase of the project. The consultations will be held on 10 December at 7pm in Dunkeld, on 11 December at 7pm in Pitlochry and on the 17 December at 3pm in Comrie and 7pm in Aberfeldy. More information about the community consultations can be found at www.perthshiregravel.com/community, where local businesses, interested groups and individuals can also sign up to an email newsletter about the project. The online survey is available at www.perthshiregravel.com/survey

The project will be led by Highland Perthshire Cycling Trustee Mike Stead, with the assistance of Project Manager Kat Brown. The routes will be designed and promoted by Bikepacking Scotland, follwing in the tyre tracks of the Wild About Argyll Trail, Dunoon Dirt Dash and Capital Trail.

Mike Stead commented: ‘Highland Perthshire is criss-crossed with many estate roads and forestry trails of varying quality and length. Some are only suited for mountain bikes, whilst others are suited for gravel or all-road bikes with fat tyres, which are the sort of bike increasingly used for long-distance multi-day cycling. Worldwide the trend is for people to use wider-tyred gravel bikes for cycle touring, as they open up the possibility to use unpaved roads and paths, to get closer to nature and away from motorised traffic. This project will increase visitor and resident participation in off-road cycling opportunities, it will increase local business income through accommodation, food and other visitor spend, and finally it will increase awareness of Highland Perthshire as a holiday destination.’

More information about the project can be found at www.perthshiregravel.com and Highland Perthshire Cycling’s Facebook page @HighlandPerthshireCycling and on our social channels.

New cycle carriages for the West Highland Line

We received the great news that Scotrail is introducing new designated carriages for up to 20 bikes and large sporting equipment on one of Scotland’s most scenic routes, the West Highland Line.

As part of the pilot, ScotRail is transforming five Class 153 trains which are due for delivery in 2020 and will be gradually rolled into service on the completion of staff training.

This will be a great opportunity to access the Wild About Argyll Trail in Oban, but also to give our West Highland Rover route a go, as the trains will be servicing Fort William, Mallaig and Oban.

The Go East Lothian Trail – a new 63km route that will make you smile!

Good news, we have just added another route to our offer of bikepacking routes in Scotland. This time we created something that is short, suitable if you are trying to get into bikepacking, fun to take your family on and also short enough to get around the route with one charge on an e-bike. The Go East Lothian Trail was developed with funding from East Lothian Council, and the video below will make you want to ride it! Find out more about the route here.