19 07 2014

After the rugged beauty of Skye, I turned my attention to an old friend – Torridon. As I have mentioned before, Torridon is an awe inspiring place to ride. The terrain is rugged and technical, but the trails drain superbly, for the most part, and offer good grip: a useful characteristic as they can be steep and consequential.

I wanted to extend the usual Annat/Achnashellach/Coire Lair loop so after climbing from Coulags and descending the awesome trail to Annat, I took the road west towards the Ben Damph estate.

Incidentally, on the descent, I chatted to Alasdair McLean, who was on his way to completing the Highland Trail 550. I had pulled out of this a few weeks prior and it caused a twinge of regret to talk over his experiences. He was clearly tired but in very good spirits. I wished him well and continued down the trail.

After taking the excellent estate track south into the hills, there was an exceptionally wet singletrack alongside Loch Damh to the turn around at Kinloch Damph. Here, the trail climbs gradually, onto the shoulder of Beinn Damh, before descending from Coire Roill back to the coast.

It really wasn’t until the final few kilometers that this additional loop became worthwhile and I am not sure I can recommend it.

I had met a few other riders taking part in the HTR 550 the day prior at Strathcarron Station, including Alan Goldsmith. Alan had warned me off my previous plan of taking the trail up Coire Mhich Nòbuil behind Liathach, before descending Coire Dubh Mòr, back towards Loch Clair. As he explained it, he likes a good hike-a-bike, but the route in question was hideous. Fair enough!

I had been wondering about overnighting: climbing to Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair and (hopefully) sleeping above the midge ceiling before contining around to Loch Maree, or perhaps Fisherfield, but this will have to be another time.

After Ben Damph, I climbed back up the road from Annat, to Loch Clair and from there up the beautiful trail past the Easan Dorcha bothy.

From here, I descended the Coire Lair trail – perhaps the best trail in Scotland. A few hours later, I was sat in the Plockton Inn enjoying a seafood platter and a locally brewed pint. You can’t beat that.


Wester Ross.

28 09 2013

I have not spent much time riding in Wester Ross. Mainly due to a lack of proximity. To my mind, the dramatically juxtaposed lochs and sheer, jagged mountains of the region showcase the very best scenery in Scotland. Of course, just because a place looks cool, doesn’t mean it has cool trails. However, in this regard, Wester Ross delivers in spades.

A couple of days off allowed enough time to get there, with a three or four route smörgåsbord of possibilities. Weather and energy levels would define the riding to be done.

The first route was the Torridon classic: Achnashellach/Annat via Coire Lair. Despite leaden legs, it was very enjoyable and the descents delivered a stiff test for the new B.A set up – wide 710mm Jones bars and the X-fusion Trace up front. All good.

The plan was to bivi at the base of Liathach, but the midge and mosquitos were ferocious to say the least, so the moby was deployed and Trina managed to square me away with a last minute room at the Old Inn, round in Gairloch. Not quite as rugged as I’d intended, but my histamine levels were redlining from spending 30 minutes at the proposed base camp. When planning mtb trips in Scotland, it is best to keep things fluid.

Staying in Gairloch meant that the second ride I had planned was a goer: the ride out from Poolewe to Fisherfield Forest. Riding in this pristine wilderness is a little contentious. My feeling is that if I stick to man made trails, it is no more of an issue than hiking. The scenery, including a view of An Teallach, was otherworldly. The mostly singletrack trail through the Letterewe estate was superb: it was a shame I was riding sub-par and had to turn back when I did. Next time a through-ride via Dundonnell is the plan.