Bikepacking Loop – North West Scotland
We had always wanted to return to the area where Doug and Lara got married so we poured over the maps and tried to find a route that encompassed Clashnessie beach and Kylesku. As luck would have it, the northern loop of the Highland 550 includes both destinations so route planning was taken out of our hands and, for once, we were going to follow someone else’s route. How easy, we thought.
We drove up from Aviemore and arrived at Kylesku in the early afternoon. Bikes unpacked, luggage packed and we were ready for an adventure.
We followed the track around Loch Glendhu to the bothy at the far end which we had all visited the day after Doug and Lara’s wedding.
It was a great spot for our first night and we enjoyed watching the birds and seals in the loch whilst we ate our dinner.
The following morning began with an uphill climb in a north westerly direction. We were leaving familiar territory behind.
The descent to Loch More was fun but eyes were needed on the track so the scenery passed in a blur. We then had a brief stint on tarmac before we were climbing up again.
After an initial steep section the track undulated and the valley was filled with red deer.
We headed up towards Meall Horn and the highest pass of the trip. The views were good and we were lucky it was clear. A fun descent took us around to the other side of the mountain and a great camp spot near to the lochan underneath it.
After a damp night, the next morning began with a hard slog pushing and carrying our bikes over peat hags, followed by some interesting single track.
The views were pretty good.
The riding / pushing / carrying was a bit tricky on this section but it was the extended snack breaks to look at the view which slowed us down.
A super long descent took us down into the beautiful and remote Glen Golly. It would have made a lovely camping spot but it was only lunchtime so onwards we continued. Unfortunately we had a head wind as we pedaled along the wide track over the pass to Loch Merkland, which turned out to be quite a wind tunnel that day.
The day finished with lifting bikes over two locked gates, a steep hill and the private tarmac road between two hydro plants which dropped us into Glen Cassley.
The next day involved a lot of tarmac crunching but the upside was a good feed in the hotel at Oykel Bridge. This part of the journey gave us an insight into the estates and fishing worlds of Scotland. Worlds we had never really touched upon before. They certainly bring in a lot of money and jobs to the area but they seemed a million miles from our bike packing world and the journey we were on.
We were pleased to turn off the highway and to be back on the single track again.
That night we found an extremely picturesque camping spot.
The following day was my birthday and I received the best gift of all; a day of sunshine, no wind and fantastic views (background not foreground – what, no smile?!).
Our route took us past the mighty Suilven and the tops were clear all day.
Canisp was on show too.
Timing was spot on for lunch in Lochinver, famous for its pie shop. We had reached the sea – hurrah! Shockingly, we were pleased to get out of the sun for a bit! It was hard work hauling ourselves up and away from there but the views required looking at so there were frequent breaks from riding.
A final fun bit of single track took us around the coast and to the luxury of a campsite and hot shower at Clachtoll Beach. We were so hot we even braved a dip in the sea. When I say dip, I really mean dip. Brrrrrr
The final day was full of tarmac but that meant we could concentrate on the spectacular views. Clashnessie Beach was looking a little warmer than it did on the wedding day 5 years ago!
I spotted a perfect holiday cottage for when Badge refuses to camp anymore.
This section of coastline is full of inlets and islands. So much to look at – it’s hard to keep your eyes on the road.
This road took us back to Kylesku and a well earned drink at the hotel. We were tired but happy. The route was tough but very enjoyable. It included a bit of everything that Scotland has to offer: mountains, lochs, glens, sea, islands, wildlife, peace and beauty. The following weekend was the Highland 550 event and people raced the route we had ridden. But did they stop to look at the view…….