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.

Fàilte – Have you got the bikepacking spirit?

Fàilte! Welcome to the new home of bikepacking in Scotland. While bikepacking is possibly nothing new,  its popularity is constantly growing.

With its very good access laws, Scotland is a unique country for bikepacking. Rich in history with an abundance of heritage paths crossing the vast landscape, quiet country roads, purpose-built mountain bike trails, and a great network of bothies and hostels, great local cuisine and friendly people, it is hard to beat as an off-road cycling destination.

After creating the Capital Trail and riding around the world on a singlespeed bike through 26 countries, I am back in bonnie Scotland. Bikepacking Scotland is a work in progress, but my aim is to give you ideas for routes, gear reviews and inspiration to explore Scotland’s wonderful scenery on two wheels.

You can follow Bikepacking Scotland on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and subscribe to the free newsletter here. Please spread the word and tell your friends. And enjoy the ride, long or short!

Thanks for visiting!

Markus (markusstitz.com)