Following on from our write up of our west coast mountain bike holiday, we thought you might like to read an account of a coast to coast holiday from last year:
It’s early on a bright summer’s morning in Inverness, the capital of the Highlands of Scotland. I am meeting a group of enthusiastic mountain bikers from around the globe who have converged on the Highlands to join us on our epic all-mountain coast-to-coast holiday. After the introductions, we grab a coffee, pack the van and head north east to the village of Bonar Bridge, and the starting point of our impending all-mountain adventure.
On arrival, we treat ourselves to a good lunch then get the bikes out for an afternoon ride to stretch our legs and to settle any of the pre-trip nerves. We head to the most northerly trail centre in Scotland, Golspie, which boasts a fantastic climb and the longest man-made descent in the country.
This late summer evening ride at Golspie gets the thumbs-up from the whole group, and we retire to a local pub for a couple of drinks and some good post-ride Scottish grub, before slipping off to bed early to prepare for the first day of our all-mountain coast-to-coast.
The next morning there is a mood of quiet anticipation amongst the group, but after a cup of tea and a hearty breakfast, the conversation soon picks up as everyone relives the thrills and spills of the previous day’s ride.
Time to throw our kit in the van, say goodbye to the support driver and set off into the Scottish wilderness – where we’ll be lucky to see two people all day! With the weather looking good for us and the trails riding nicely, this first leg – the longest but easiest day of the trip – turns out to be the perfect start to our Scottish coast-to-coast.
Day three, and there’s a bit of respite for the legs as we take a boat ride across the loch to the start of the trail. This is the only powered mode of transport we’ll experience all week, so we all make the most of the 10-minute crossing before getting stuck into some classic Scottish mountain biking. Today we’re riding through some of the most impressive mountain areas in the Highlands, and the group ranges from waxing lyrical about the scenery to being struck dumb by its beauty. The final stretch of the day is a sweet singletrack descent into the village of Poolewe where we spend the night.
From Poolewe we head in the direction of Loch Maree, which is the good weather option for day four. Soon after leaving the village we take a natural climb that weaves its way through a narrow rock formation to the summit, where we have the obligatory photo stop to capture the view of Loch Maree and Slioch. We spend the rest of the day in the shadow of these two stunning natural features until our final stop of the day in Kinlochewe. We have a fantastic home cooked meal and a few beers to finish off the evening. Tomorrow Torridon!
Day five starts with a lively breakfast, full of tales of the previous day’s – and night’s – antics. Once we are all fed and watered it’s time to ride Torridon, and some of the best trails in the whole of the UK. We leave our support driver, knowing when we see next him, he’ll have lunch for us and we will have ridden one of the best descents on the trip. The ride to the top of the now infamous descent passes largely without incident; the odd sigh and curse but on the whole, job done! Sitting at the top of the climb eating a snack and dissecting the climb, you get some time to look around and appreciate where you are, and believe me, it is amazing. And now, for the descent. Every member of the group swoops, hops and drifts their way to the bottom where, for five minutes, everyone is talking at each other at the same time and not one person is listening to any of it. That’s the sign of a good day on the bike!
We meet our driver for a delicious lunch of locally-sourced produce like, cheese, bread, baking and fruit and veg. After we set off we have a short road spin to get the legs warmed up again before we set upon the toughest singletrack climb of the week. Tough but great!
As we work our way up this stunning valley the crew comment that I’m ‘sure making them work for their beer today!’ but as soon as we crest the hill to start our 6km descent all of the grumbling turns to whooping and laughing. We stop a few times to allow people to look around and take in the view, but I’m keeping the best ‘til last. As we drop out at the bottom of the trail onto the road everyone looks at me expectantly: ‘Where now?’ I turn and point 100m up the road to the pub, our accommodation and the waiting van. A trail that ends with a 6km descent and a pub in sight? Now that’s what I’m talking about!
Sitting next to the log fire with a beer in our hands, sore from two amazing descents, we chat about the highs and lows of the day’s riding until close to midnight. No need to set alarm clocks the next morning as it is time for our rest day. Some of the crew get a lift to a small coastal village to spend the day reading and drinking coffee, and I take some others out on a four hour blast around some local hills.
Day seven and our final day of riding is a coastal singletrack extravaganza that offers us amazing clear views over to the Isle of Skye and back into Torridon. After a nice piece of singletrack and a couple of stream crossings we descend a lovely rocky singletrack descent to the west coast village of Applecross and the end of our epic coast-to-coast journey.
Let the celebrations commence!