The film is the output of our latest successful co-operation with the North Coast 500. ‘Where Roads End’ additionally supported by Komoot, is available to watch on YouTube now.
Bikepacking Scotland founder Markus Stitz fondly remembers his first bikepacking trip in Scotland and comments on the co-operation with the NC500: ‘My first ever bikepacking adventure in 2006 took me through the absolutely stunning North of Scotland, and I vividly remember that journey. Having worked on a couple of different cycling route projects over the last years and most recently a book about gravel riding in Britain, I was interested to partner up with the North Coast 500 not only to showcase the stunning landscapes I travelled through, but also to give people an idea that the NC500 is much more than just a driving route.’
More information about the bikepacking route can be found at our website here. More information about the North Coast 500 can be found here, and bikes can be hired from Ticket to Ride here.
Argyll’s islands, the Inner Hebrides and Bute, offer fantastic bikepacking filled with beautiful beaches, some of the world’s best distilleries, great gravel tracks and local food experiences.
Our Bikepacking Argyll’s Islandsroute, commissioned by CalMac Ferries and Wild About Argyll, maps a 496km-journey (308 miles) connecting the Isles of Mull, Jura, Islay and Bute on a mixture of gravel tracks, singletrail, cycle paths and roads. The route also makes great use of ScotRail’s Highland Explorer, which provides space for up to 20 bikes, including tandems. The newly introduced train carriage offers a bike-friendly train connection between Glasgow, host city of the UCI Cycling World Championships in 2023, and Oban, where the new route begins. Bikes travel free on trains and all ferries along the route.
For new bikepackers and gravel cyclists Bikepacking Argyll’s Islands offers a wide range of accommodation and incentives to stop. Experienced cyclists will find plenty of opportunities to extend the route or combine it with other established trails.
‘Wild About Bikepacking’ is the third short film from Markus Stitzthat is set in Argyll, self-filmed in October 2021 when he travelled on a Twmpa Cycles GR 1.0, a bike built around a unique wooden frame. The route Markus cycled also includes part of his journey around the world on a singlespeed bike in 2015/2016.
Markus comments: ‘When I arrived from my 34,000km-trip around the world with a small boat in Port Ellen, I instantly fell in love with Islay. I returned a few times since, and was delighted when I had the opportunity to work with Wild About Argyll and CalMac Ferries to map a new bikepacking route across the lesser frequented islands in Argyll. It complements the existing Wild About Argyll Trail, which has been enjoyed by many cyclists since its launch in January 2018.’
Stitz continues: ‘For me, boarding a ferry to an island is the perfect start to a bikepacking adventure, and this route includes some of the most scenic ferry journeys in Scotland. Different from other routes I mapped, this one features quite a few road sections. Most of them are really quiet and enjoyable, like the Long Road on Jura. A gravel bike is the perfect bike to cycle the Bikepacking Argyll’s Islands route. What I really like about it is the combination of great cycling, culinary offers and accommodation. And there are plenty of opportunities to unearth Scotland’s history in places like Kilmartin Glen, which has the most important concentration of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in mainland Scotland.’
The route adds to Wild About Argyll’s ‘Pedaddling’ offer. The region, dubbed as Scotland’s Adventure Coast, offers multiple opportunities for water sports with 3750km (2330 miles) of coastline, 23 inhabited islands and 40 lochs, which are complemented by long distance cycling routes like the Wild About Argyll Trailand Caledonia Wayand a network of shorter Rail & Trail routes.
‘Wild About Bikepacking’ is available to watch for free on YouTube. The Bikepacking Argyll’s Islandsroute, divided into eight day itineraries, can be navigated by downloading the GPX-files for free on our website here.
Adventure Show presenter Amy Irons travels to the Scottish Borders, a part of Scotland often ignored by outdoor enthusiasts keen to get to the big mountains. She joins Bikepacking Scotland founder Markus Stitz on a two-day trip sampling part of the Capital Trail and discovers a landscape that is wild, remote and full of surprises.
You can watch the Adventure on Friday 21 Jan at 8pm and Sat 22 Jan at 7.30pm on BBC Scotland or shortly afterwards on iPlayer. More information can be found here.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.’
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.”