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.
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.
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.
Here are some of our highlights from the route, which is also fabulous for day trips and microadventures.
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 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.
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.
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.”
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.’
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.’
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.’
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 Dashbikepacking route, a road bike loop around the Cowal Peninsula and a mountain bike ride around Loch Eck.
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 atwww.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.’
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.
We are thrilled to be running a bikepacking workshop and a guided ride at this year’s Braemar Mountain Festival in the beautiful Cairngorms from Thursday 1 March to Sunday 4 March. And we are event more thrilled that adventure cycling is one of the major focuses of the event in its second year, with a great selection of more guided rides, skills sessions, talks, workshops and film screenings on offer.
We are happy to announce that our latest video Wild About Argyll is now also available in German. You can watch the video below, the original English version is available here as well. Thanks to everyone for watching, we are really looking forward to see your pictures and video once you have ridden the Wild About Argyll Trail yourself. Add us on Twitter and Instagram and tag us or use #waat to share your memories! The route can be found here.
And for everyone in the DACH region, the next issue of Bike Adventure will include a long feature on cycling in Scotland and the Wild About Argyll Trail, find out more on their Facebook Page.
To be honest. My feelings about gravel bikes were mixed. Although I am proud that my picture decorates one of the walls at the Radius Brewery in Emporia, the start of the famous Dirty Kanza, mother of all gravel races, I never warmed up to the idea of owning another bike. Drop bars and off-road, this combination only offered limited attraction to me. For me the days of drop bars were gone, and while I sometimes wished for a bit more speed on my Ogre, so far I thought there was simply not enough to make a gravel bike stand out from my trusted rigid mountain bike round the world companion.
I knew that I was wrong shortly afterwards. I worked on a project for Glasgow City Council and it was the first time I seriously thought about the idea of skinnier tires and drop bars again. The interesting thing is that my thinking had nothing to do with bikes, but somehow a rigid mountain bike wasn’t really what I would have expected in pictures advertising city cycling routes. For some reason it felt wrong. Continue reading “Gravel joy.”