The Moydart ride




2 Days 260 km

July 2000




I did not have a camera back then, I am afraid. So no pictures from that tour. But click on the button below to open up Google Maps.
Enter "Fort Williams" in the search field & Google Earth for xtra pictures





I had always wanted to do Glencoe on a bike again due to it's beauty and the problems faced on the two previous attempts. I was living in Helensburgh and the London to Fort Williams night train passed a nearby trainstation every Saturday morning. The prices was not that bad either. I also had a look at the map and found a small road winding itself around the Moydart area. This area is pretty obscure and not hailed as one of Scotland's most scenic areas from what I could see back then. I found next to nothing on the internet about this area. I like obscure areas with no traffic so this addition to the Glencoe ride was perfect for my use. I ordered a room at Ardgour Inn at Ardgour and was really looking forward to this weekend long bikeride.



Day 1 115 km



I set off from my flat in Helensburgh on this sunny morning up the hill to Helensburgh Upper railway station. I had plenty of time and had a bit time to wait until the train arrived. The almost three hours long train journey on the world famous West Highland Line was very scenic over Rannoch Moor and down to the end station Fort Williams. But I was eager to get on with the 115 km long bikeride around Moydart. The road out of Fort Williams first took me north for a couple of kilometer on the A 82 to a crossroad where I took the road towards Mallaig over Caledonian Canal and along the fjord. The road was dead flat, but also very dusty. I made very good progress in this stunning beautiful landscape to the head of this fjord. An almost not noticeable small climb took me around a corner and then a small descent down to the visitor centre at Glenfinnan Monument.
I gladly admit I went very touristy on this place at the head of Loch Shiel which surely must be one of the most beautiful places in Scotland. I even climbed the monument itself. It has a very narrow staircase inside the monument. This is Scotland's national monument, although unofficial. But please make it the official national monument. The Glenfinnan viaduct and the surrounding hills makes Glenfinnan to what it is.

I still had 80 km plus ahead of me and I cracked up the steep hills from Glenfinnan past the railway station and over a small mountain. The descent down to the other side was very beautiful too. I was soon in Lochailort after an excellent bikeride. I now left the Fort Williams to Mallaig road for the rather more obscure A 861 road out the Loch Ailort fjord to Glenuig. The road was mostly flat and does not have the big scenery. But it was still interesting and I made good progress out to Glenuig. I took a dinner break in the local pub . It was a good dinner if I remember right. After this long dinner, I set off up the long climb in a narrow valley towards the highest point of the day at around 175 meters above sea level. With a bit of a heavy stomach and in the sun, this was not the easiest or even an interesting climb. But the views back down the valley and over the sea made it all worth it. The view over the rest of Moydart from the top was also interesting. I passed a couple of Germans going the opposite way from Isle Of Mull to Isle Of Skye on the vertical descent down to the loch on the other side and the forest surrounding Kinlochmoidart. It was a strange landscape I had now entered. A mix of moorland and forest. A short climb took me from Kinlochmoidart towards the moor and peatbogs on the western side of Loch Shiel. The road over these peatbogs down to the southern end of Loch Shiel at Acharacle was very interesting. A bit flat with a lot of twists and turns all the way. The views was very interesting. Strange, very strange terrain. I reached the southern end and the road turned around Loch Shiel and through this village. A very remote village, indeed.
A small hill took me up to a small moor and a descent took me down to sea level at Salen which resides at Loch Sunart. This was and still is a crossroad where the road to the right takes off to the most western point in mainland Britain, the lighthouse at Ardnamurchan Point 25 miles further west of this crossroad. I turned to the left though alongside this fjord towards Strontian.
This very narrow road did not particular follow the fjord though. This road was mostly vicious undulating with a lot of vertical climbs and drops. The scenery was not that interesting either and I was also running out of time, surprise surprise after spending too much time at Glenfinnan and Glenuig. The ride to Strontian was really heavy going in other words. I was very glad to see the small village of Strontian after this rather this hard ride. I stopped and bought a couple of chocolate bars here. The road became far more agreeable after this village. Mostly flat along the fjord until the head of Loch Sunart and the foot of the climbs taking me back to Loch Linnhe again. I was very tired on this climb and overtaken by some other cyclists who offered me assistance. I polite declined and explained my tiredness.
The climb topped out at around 125 meters above sea level on a moor in a narrow valley and a very long descent on a very good road took me down to the sea level again. The final 10 km along this fjord was easy cycling and I reached the hotel at Ardgour with plenty of time to spare. My room was next to the ferry quay and has excellent views. I slept very well that night.


Day 2 145 km


The big day had arrived after a very nice sleep in an excellent bed at this hotel. It was a sunny morning too. I ate a solid breakfast and set off the ten meters down to the ferry which took me over to the main A 82 road. This ferry was free too and excellent. I set off in the fjord towards the bridge at Ballachulish. I kept a good tempo on these flat roads to the bridge and crossed over it with excellent views to the Ballachulish hotel. One of the more scenic hotels in Scotland. I continued in the flat road to the Glencoe village. I knew by experience how hard the next 50 km was going to be and I did not want to waste any energy unless I had to.
A small climb took me into the valley called Glencoe. This valley is one of the most scenic places in Scotland and also one of the most holy places in this land, soiled by the blood of the infamous Glencoe Massacre. The climb through this valley tops out on 310 meters above sea level and it is both epic and alpine scenic. It is also moderate steep. It is very hard though. After an hour hard slog, I reached the top overlooking Rannoch Moor. The 50 km long Glencoe Rannoch Moor road has four main mountains between 300 and 320 meters above sea level. The road never drops below 200 meters above sea level though. But this is still a very hard bikeride. The sun was blazing down on me when I started on the descent down to Kingshouse Hotel . The views are incredible here in all direction. This hotel is at the foot of the climb up to Rannoch Moor and not to be underestimated. It did not feel that steep, but it was very hard going over several kilometers. It tops out at this big right hand bend in the road at around 320 meters above sea level. The 360 degrees views in the blazing sunshine was fantastic. I was as always on this place running out of water. A sharp descent down to some small lakes solved that problem and I refilled my bottles. The landscape here is surreal with some major lakes and peat bogs. I was also at the foot of another big climb again. The smallest of these four climbs, it was. But it was still a hard climb in the intense heat. I was very happy when I topped out and took on the descent down towards the lakes below. I crossed a bridge and raced over a small hill to the hotel and pub at Bridge Of Orchy . I stopped here for a dinner.

The food was good, but the menu and the bill was very steep too. That's my last ever dinner at that hotel. No offense, but the food there is not meant for cyclists on a budget. I continued my journey down a small hill to the foot of the next and the second hardest hill of the day; the hill over to Tyndrum. This climb seems gentle. It anything but gentle. In particular in blazing sun like that day and with a heavy stomach. It was hard going and I was very relieved to be on the top of this hill. A quick descent down to familiar terrain at Tyndrum followed and a fast bikeride down to Crianlarich again. My tempo over Rannoch Moor was not that great. But with that behind me, my tempo increased down the hill from Crianlarich to Loch Lomond where I held a very respectable tempo alongside this now very familiar road to me. The hill at Inveruglas gave me an exuse to take a five minutes long break before I continued down to Tarbet. For some reasons I never understood, I always crossed over to Arrochar for the ride down Loch Long instead of continuing the road down Loch Lomond with the small hill over to Helensburgh. It is far easier than the Loch Long route which is far harder alongside Loch Long and with that nasty vertical climb over to Garelochhead. A route I now followed. Although it was not as exposed to the sun as the Loch Lomond route, it was hard going. The vertical climb a real test. The road over the moor and the descent down to Garelochhead pretty boring. I was very glad to be home in my flat in Helensburgh again after this hard ride.

Conclusion



A very good bikeride on the backroads around Moydart and over Glencoe again. The route from Glencoe down Loch Lomond is brilliant in sunshine. The Moydart circuit very good too although the scenery, Glenfinnan exluded, is not that great. This is a tour I would love to repeat again and that with a camera. That is why I recommend this two days long bikeride.