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Cyclist Best of British: No. 3 Highlands

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5 Aug 2020
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Words: Stu Bowers Photography: Wig Worland

If you truly want to get away from it all, to a remote and rugged landscape that is as dramatic and stunning as it is challenging by bike, then the Scottish Highlands is the place to go.

To the west there’s the opportunity to explore the Atlantic coastline and its incredible scenery, especially the Western Isles like Mull and Skye.

Taking a whisky tour around one of the famous distilleries too is almost a right of passage in these parts. 

To the east and beyond the impressive sight of Ben Nevis, which will often be in your view, a wealth of stunning lochs can be visited by road, or if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, explore beyond the tarmac on gravel.

‘One of my favourite rides is out to Corrour Station,’ says komoot pioneer Neil Henderson. ‘It’s a fantastic food stop – you have to try the sticky toffee pudding, it’s bloody great – and it also happens to be the highest railway station in the UK.

‘You could take the train there but by far the best route has to be the Road to the Isles, a fantastic stretch of gravel road that takes you right up to the door, where a fire will usually be on and the beer will be waiting.’

Northwest of Fort William lies another superb ride, taking on the mighty Bealach na Ba on the Applecross peninsula.

It may only be Scotland’s third highest pass, but because it begins its conquest to reach its 626m summit from sea level it is officially the UK’s biggest (by ascent) road climb, with a distance of just under 10km.

Its lower slopes of around 5-6% lure you into a false sense of security as it only gets steeper and steeper towards the top, with spikes in gradient up to 12-20% delivering you to its dramatic upper realms.

The views make the climb up well worth the effort. On a clear day, facing east is a stunning vista with Loch Kishorn far below, framed by a perfect glacial creation and providing instant gratification of how far you’ve just ridden, and how high.

The westerly view is no less spectacular, with the Isle of Skye, and its Cuillin Ridge, and in the far distance is also the Isle of Rum. 

‘It’s not always raining in Scotland, it’s just a rumour we started we can keep the tourists away,’ says Henderson.

‘But the mountains are a sight whatever the weather. Cast in mist or bathed in sunshine they are always breathtaking.

‘The climbs in the Highlands can be steep but will reward you with some of the best views down glens and over lochs, and you’ll want to keep coming back time and time again.’

Top tip

Basing yourself in, or close to, Fort William will open up several great ride options, and also can be reached on board the Caledonian Sleeper Train – an experience and journey well worth taking, we might add, especially all the way from London Euston if that’s where you’re coming from.

If you are new to komoot, it is offering a free regional bundle (worth £8.99). Simply follow this link to komoot and create your free account today. Alternatively, head to komoot and enter the voucher code BESTOFBRITISH. Valid until 31.12.2020

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