If there’s one place I’ve wanted to ride since first getting on a mountain bike, it’s the Highlands of Scotland. I’ve always thought of riding there as something that should be “epic”, exploring the closest thing we have to wilderness (or so I am led to believe), braving the weather & taking in majestic views.
With that in mind, and with the help of some experienced local knowledge, I’ve planned a new Highland Coast 2 Coast off-road route that should be as stunning as it is challenging. There were a number of changes I wanted to make to the existing & generally accepted off-road C2C route from Fort William to Montrose, and in the end I have virtually an entirely new route from start (Inverie) to finish (Stonehaven). The start at Inverie is only accessible via the ferry from Malaig (or a very long walk/ride along the mainland), which should make for a memorable start to the route.
When I return, I’ll publish the route here so others can try it out, either as an ITT following the self supported rules, or at a more leisurely touring pace. Depending on time and how I’m feeling, I’d really like to do the route in both directions, though if I’m honest my fitness isn’t quite where I’d like it to be right now so I’ll have to see how I go on the first leg.
Following the C2C ride, I’m hoping to have time to ride the Cairngorms Loop ITT, a new route designed by Steve Wilkinson that takes a double loop around the mountains to make a tough 300km. In a similar style to the Tour Divide, the Cairngorms Loop had an inaugural group start in May this year, with the fastest time being set by Aidan Harding at 22 hrs 30 mins. There was a definite split in the racers, with a few completing the route in one go, and the rest taking some sleep in the middle. Steve encourages ITTs (Individual Time Trials) on the route, and mine will I think be the first.
The Cairngorms Loop will be a really interesting ride for me. It’s pushing me beyond my comfort zone & into riding with proper sleep deprivation. Frankly, I have no idea how my body & mind will deal with it….which is exactly why I want to try it! Plan A will be to ride the route in one go, for as fast a finish as I can. Depending on conditions, and how I cope, plan B may appear which will involve a rest somewhere en route. Weather conditions will dictate how much kit I take. I’d like to just take my lightweight bivy bag, which can shut out the midges & keep me out of the rain. I’ll make a judgement on the day whether to take more…sleeping bag perhaps, down vest etc for some extra warmth if required. As for my asthma…I’m trying not to let that hold me back or change my plans. I’ll have two inhalers with me and will just have to see what transpires.
The weather forecast for the first few days is not looking pretty, but I suppose that’s why God invented Gore-Tex.
As usual, my progress, or lack of, can be followed live on my Satellite Tracking page.