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Round the world cyclists explore Scotland’s Adventure Coast in a new film

After the success of their first two Explore Your Boundaries films, round the world cyclists Mark Beaumont and Markus Stitz have teamed up with Jenny Graham, the fastest woman to cycle around the world, and filmmaker and photographer Maciek Tomiczek to explore the boundary of Scotland’s Adventure Coast. Their journey is beautifully captured in a new 14-min film ‘Explore Your Boundaries – Argyll and the Isles’, which has just been released on YouTube.

Their 500-mile (800km) route is a key feature of Wild About Argyll’s Pedaddling initiative, led by Argyll & The Isles Tourism Cooperative with funding from VisitScotland, which is showcasing the wealth of people-powered adventures available to the novice and the enthusiast across the breadth of Argyll and the Isles, easily accessible by public transport. The film was produced with additional support from Schwalbe Tyres UK, and sees the three adventurers using their gravel bikes as well as ferries and boats to travel along the boundary of Argyll and explore its rugged coasts and beautiful scenery.

Mark Beaumont commented: “I love the idea behind Explore Your Boundaries; you don’t need to go far to find adventure – and that is surprisingly true of Argyll, sitting immediately to the west of Glasgow. This was a much longer route than our rides in 2021. The rugged Argyll coastline and the Inner Hebridean islands were perfect to showcase opportunities to find new routes to inspire people to get out. We are spoilt for choice in terms of places to go in Scotland, and I want to give people the quiet confidence of getting out there and having adventures themselves, to appreciate wild spaces and get a new understanding of what’s on their doorstep.”

Jenny Graham commented: “It was exciting to be joining Mark and Markus to explore the boundary of Argyll and the Isles. I think it’s the perfect concept to showcase the adventure potential available from your doorstep. We were using Scotrail’s Highland Explorer carriage and Calmac ferries for part of our journey, which made getting to and cycling in the wild and diverse area of Argyll all the more accessible. Each time I adventure in this area I’m left with the feeling that I’ve only just scratched the surface.”

The three round the world cyclists cycled the boundary of Argyll in three ‘chapters’. Mark Beaumont and Markus Stitz kicked off their adventures in May with boat ride with Venture West from Crinan to the northern end of the Isle of Jura, cycling on gravel tracks and ‘The Long Road’ along the island’s rugged east coast to Craighouse, and on to the ferry from Feolin to Port Askaig. After a loop on Islay, including a visit to Bunnahabhain Distillery and Finlaggan, the Centre of the Lordship of the Isles, they continued their journey with Calmac Ferries via Colonsay to Oban, and from there to Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. While the original plan was to cycle on Coll and Tiree on the third day, high winds meant that both cyclists couldn’t travel to the smaller islands. The great gravel tracks and quiet coastal roads on the Isle of Mull offered a great alternative, and Mark and Markus finished the first chapter by taking the ferry back to Oban.

The second chapter of ‘Explore Your Boundaries – Argyll and the Isles’ took Jenny Graham and Markus Stitz from Dunoon on the Cowal Peninsula to Helensburgh, bikepacking parts of the Wild About Argyll Trail and Dunoon Dirt Dash routes. From Helensburgh the two cyclists put their waterproofs to a proper test and rode in, at times torrential, rain on the John Muir Way and Sustrans Lochs and Glens North route to Balmaha, and crossed Loch Lomond by water taxi. From Luss their journey took them along the western shore of the largest lake in Great Britain by surface area, and on the West Highland Way to Crianlarich. After drying all clothes at Crianlarich Youth Hostel they continued on the third day to Tyndrum, and from there through Glen Orchy to Dalmally. Scotrail’s Highland Explorer train took both cyclists to Connel Ferry, from where they cruised to Oban to enjoy a glorious Argyll sunset.

The third chapter of the film involved all three cyclists, accompanied by filmmaker Maciek Tomiczek (‘What Would Mary Do?’). From Cairnbaan they enjoyed their journey along the Crinan Canal and a sunset swim with Dan the Merman, a local wild swimming and snorkelling guide. On the following day they continued along the Knapdale & Kintyre coasts to Tayinloan, and with another Calmac ferry to the Isle of Gigha. From Gigha they carried on along the Kintyre 66 route to Southend at the Mull of Kintyre, and then along the Caledonia Way from Campbeltown to Tarbert. After another ferry and breakfast at Portavadie Marina they continued along Argyll’s Secret Coast to Colintraive, and around the Isle of Bute to Rothesay, to finish the ride on the Canada Hill serpentine road.

Cathy Craig, CEO at Wild About Argyll, said: “Appetite for the great outdoors grew massively during lockdown with bike, SUP and wetsuit sales rocketing. This summer, we created Pedaddling to encourage everyone to leave the car behind and enjoy people-powered adventures in stunning locations on Scotland’s Adventure Coast. And as you’ll see from the film, Mark, Jenny and Markus are the perfect people to showcase what is on offer on Glasgow’s doorstep.” 

David Adams McGilp, Regional Director VisitScotland, said: “Every year tens of thousands of visitors come to Scotland to explore our country by bike, including the stunning scenery and coastline around Argyll & Isles, and we expect this epic journey will inspire many more. There’s no better time to celebrate the power of the bike, as we countdown to next year’s UCI Cycling World Championships taking place in Glasgow and across Scotland.”

The film is available to watch with English and German subtitles on YouTube here, and the full route can be found on the Wild About Argyll Komoot channel here. More about Explore Your Boundaries can be found here.

Where Roads End – our new short film encourages you to use the iconic North Coast 500 route as an inspiration to cycle Scotland

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.

The film has received great media responses in Scotland in the Edinburgh Evening News and Daily Record, in the UK in Cyclist, Base Mag, off-road.cc and UK Hillwalking, and internationally in bikepacking.com, Gravel Cyclist and Gravel Collective.

Wild About Bikepacking – A new film from Bikepacking Scotland launches a 496-km bikepacking route connecting the Argyll islands of Mull, Jura, Islay and Bute

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 Islands route, 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 Stitz that 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 Trail and Caledonia Way and a network of shorter Rail & Trail routes.

‘Wild About Bikepacking’ is available to watch for free on YouTube. The Bikepacking Argyll’s Islands route, divided into eight day itineraries, can be navigated by downloading the GPX-files for free on our website here.

Bikepacking the Capital Trail on the BBC Adventure Show

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.

Camping on the Capital Trail  – Picture: Rupert Shanks © Adventure Show Productions

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.” 

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.

Wild About Argyll in German and travel feature in Bike Adventure

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.

Wild About Argyll – Our new video captures the beauty of Scotland’s Adventure Coast

Argyll and the Isles, Scotland’s Adventure Coast, provides an awe-inspiring setting for bikepacking. With funding from Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-Operative, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland we  have recently added another trail to our routes, and just released the new short film ‘Wild About Argyll’ to showcase the route. At 655 km (407 miles) the Wild About Argyll Trail is a long-distance cycling trail that was designed specifically with gravel bikes in mind.

Continue reading “Wild About Argyll – Our new video captures the beauty of Scotland’s Adventure Coast”