Cycling near Lochinver, Assynt

80 miles and 7700 feet of paradise riding in north-west Scotland – amazing roads, better scenery…

80 miles, 7700+ feet of ascent

Dave Barter’s Best British Bike Ride…

Last weekend we were in the right place at the right time to take on the ultimate route in Dave Barter’s excellent Great British Bike Rides guidebook.

This is an amazingly scenic 80 mile loop around Lochinver and the hills of Assynt – you get to see Sulivan from 360 degrees (literally). Photos courtesy Rob T of ARCC…

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Some of Britain’s best mountains too… Stac Pollaidh, Cul Mor and Sulivan, Canisp and Quinag behind.

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Looking across to the Summer Isles

The roads are fantastically quiet and predominantly singletrack, except for a fair pitch in the middle along the deserted and very wide A837. The route has a respectable amount of ascent – 7,700 feet – but there are no classic climbs, just a never-ending rollercoaster of sharp coastal grades, topping out at 25% or so.

All things considered the riding is absolutely world-class, and easily justifies the monstrous 5+ hour drive from central Scotland.

We took a leisurely six hours on this circuit, stopping off for toasties and a bitter shandy opposite the Summer Isles. I managed to sneak a KOM in, which topped off a perfect day.

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The Drumbeg road: Scotland’s hilliest?

I deliberately haven’t broken this route down as I have most of my others, since you should support Dave Barter by buying his excellent guidebook instead.

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Route map / elevation profile

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Beside Loch Osgaig

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The highly deserted A837 “main road”

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A 25% pitch on the Drumbeg road – mile after mile of hairpins, blind bends… perfect terrain!

What are you waiting for? It’s only three hours drive north of Inverness! 😉

Gorebridge – Peebles – Innerleithen

Fifty miles of near-deserted tarmac to the south of Edinburgh, with just a couple of busier bits, and plenty of cake!

Superb quiet-roads route within spitting distance of Edinburgh

Last weekend saw us celebrate mid-February’s unseasonably superb weather (no gloves! suncream!) with a cracking ~50 mile circular from Gorebridge to Peebles and back via Innerleithen. Often rolling, it doesn’t feel particularly hilly – although the total ascent is around 3,000′.

Note: there is a short (2.5 mile) stretch of the A703 Peebles-Edinburgh road, which is OK – well used by cyclists, all things considered – albiet not pleasant. This leaves almost exactly 50 miles of deserted road to enjoy, but if it’s not your thing, I can’t find any ready alternative for this part of the route.

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Above: smooth empty roads between Temple and the A703… perfect!

Here’s the overview map: a simple route to navigate, heading counter-clockwise for no particular reason. Very quiet roads and plenty of opportunity for cake!

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Leg one: Gorebridge – A703 (10 miles)

A landslip near Temple has closed the minor road for the duration (although it’s easily bypassed by car or bike by heading through the village instead) making the first section of the ride even more super deserted than would otherwise be the case.

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Apart from the dip down to the river at Temple proper, this whole section is very gentle with no major gradients. The road surface is generally excellent, having been recently relaid for large stretches of the route.

Leg two: A703 (2.5 miles)

Unfortunately, there’s no ready alternative to the A703 if you want to head in either direction from the end of the minor road.

Outside of peak times, this road is relatively lightly trafficed; I recommend planning the direction of your overall ride so that you would be going south in the morning (while people are driving north into Edinburgh to shop), or would be riding north later on (at the time that they’re all driving home).

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Ten minutes of gritted teeth will see you to the exit at the village of Eddlestone.

In future years, if the railbed between Peebles and Penicuik is ever transformed into a cycle route, this section would be the cherry on the cake…

Leg three: Eddlestone – A72 (5 miles)

From the picturesque village of Eddlestone a minor road heads south-west, meeting the A72 a couple of miles west of Peebles.

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A fair climb but steady, you will be rewarded for your efforts with a fantastic zoom downhill on a narrow, winding road.

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There is some farm traffic on the ascent, with accompanying mud, but otherwise this section is a dream to ride.

Leg four: Eddlestone – Peebles (? miles)

If you don’t mind a bit more traffic and want an easy life, you can just proceed along the A72 directly to Peebles.

The alternative is to cross the river and enjoy the superb road around Cademuir Hill, bringing you in to the quiet south of the town on a lovely stretch of road.

There are two bridges facilitating this access. The closest is the (signposted) cycle route “border loop 82”, which crosses on a footbridge immediately south of your current location. The other option is to proceed along the A72 for a short distance before crossing on a standard minor road.

See below (border loop 82 is highlighted):

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The dedicated “Border Loop 82” route might appeal to you, but be warned that it is not suitable for most bikes, as the surface is horrendously muddy, while the path itself is narrow and poorly maintained, when it doesn’t widen into a bog:

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After confirming with some locals that this really was supposed to be a cycle route, we pressed on rather than turning back to the A72 (which I would do in future). I’m not sure my poor bike will ever be the same again, even after I removed the wheel to clear the mud and let it rotate freely:

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Leg five: Peebles – Innerleithen (8.6 miles)

However you get to Peebles, you face a choice. You can either ‘enjoy’ the ferociously busy High Street or ignore the whole town and head to picturesque Innerleithen for refreshments instead. This was the option we went for!

Below, see the end of the loop around Cademuir Hill before riding along the quiet B7062 to Innerleithen. This is another really nice stretch of road, very light traffic and just lumpy enough to keep your interest.
 

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In no time at all you will arrive at the superb Whistle Stop Cafe in Innerleithen, which does a fantastic made-to-order BLT and a fearsome selection of baking in cyclist-sized portions!

Dig in, you’ve earned it…

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Leg six: Innerleithen – Gorebridge (17.7 miles)

Suitably refreshed, you now make your way north from Innerleithen up the spectacular B7007. Carrying only a little traffic, it’s a pair of climbs which are not steep but long long long – enough that you’ll feel the effort if chasing other riders is the name of the game…

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The prevailing wind from the southwest makes it a good bet that you’ll enjoy going north on this road more than going south, but either will work when the day is as nice as this!

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As you finish descending, avoid the default option of joining the A7 with the B7007. Instead, turn left for Middleton (now following the NCN1 signage) and you can either cross the A7 towards Borthwick Castle, keep on the west side of it until you hit the crossroads, or pop onto the A7 for literally a few hundred meters to finish.

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What a fantastic afternoon out!

Breakfast alfresco: Arthur’s Seat

In the middle of the city, in the middle of nowhere, the smell of freshwater hand-reared sausage and newly laid home-kept chickens’ eggs calls to the empty stomach…

Escape Edinburgh’s rat run #1

In the middle of the city, in the middle of nowhere, the smell of freshwater hand-reared sausage and newly laid home-kept chickens’ eggs calls to the empty stomach.

Not exactly a ‘route’, but I thought it would be nice to post a couple of shots from the last time CityCyclingEdinburgh (well, just Anth) did breakfast on Arthur’s Seat.

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Cycling around Arran

~55 miles, ~2800ft of ascent, deserted roads on this cycle route around the coast of Arran – an excellent day out for all the family!

~55 miles, ~2800ft of ascent, deserted roads

A cheeky day out

An island paradise where something in the air seems to stop people driving like arses – and very accessible to the central belt (without needing to drive) as a bonus!

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Enjoying fast roads in fantastic isolation west of Lochranza!

Ardrossan is 40 minutes from Glasgow Central by train, and the ferry crossing takes under an hour.

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Cycling around the Pentlands

An Edinburgh loop around the Pentlands – one for the early birds, with ~55 miles, ~2500ft of ascent, bigger roads.

Some solid pain, high chance of seeing (chasing?) other riders, some longish pulls but no serious hills.

~55 miles, ~2500ft of ascent, good roads

Not one for rush hour

This route is a short form of the classic open road loops to the south of Edinburgh – getting some good miles under the belt without going too far from home.

As ever, the early bird enjoys the empty road, while latecomers may find the traffic (at either end just south of the bypass) less to their liking.

Pentlands Circumnavigation ride map

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