Bikepacking Scotland – An 8bar Adventure
The Scottish countryside is legendary. It is known for its breathtaking nature, the lush green mountains and the wide, remote areas, but also for the difficult weather conditions. Yet Scotland captivates many travellers on foot and by bike – and with good reason! Perfect conditions for a new 8bar adventure. After our trip to Morocco follows now: Bikepacking Scotland!
Bikepacking Scotland – with the 8bar MITTE gravelbike through the wild, Scottish West
After the successful participation at the Grinduro Scotland on the Isle of Arran, the two 8bar team members Manuel Porzner and Stefan Schott accompanied by photographer Joshua Meissner set off for the Scottish West coast in mid July 2019. The Argyll area and the islands west of Glasgow are thinly populated and are known as “Scotland’s Adventure Coast”. It was planned to explore parts of the 655 km long Wild About Argyll Trail on a four-day Bikepacking Scotland trip. This diverse bikepacking route across the wild, western peninsulas of Scotland leads along crystal clear lakes and wild coastlines, over high, green peaks and adventurous trails. The three riders covered a total of almost 300 km during their four-day Bikepacking Scotland tour. The team not only experienced a lot, but also survived the nasty, famous midges. For the small beasts, who love humidity and warmth, it was high season at that time. When the three of them spent their time at the windy sea, the little mosquitoes didn’t attract much attention. Because the 2 mm small midges don’t like wind any more than brightness. But latest when they went with the gravelbikes into the mountains, there was no escape anymore. So they had to stay in motion, because the midges can’t keep up anymore at 10 km/h wind speed.
Day 1: From the Isle of Arran to the beach of dreams
On the first day the team started from the basecamp of Grinduro in Lamlash: Always along the east coast to the northernmost point of the Isle of Arran. And when in Scotland, the lunch break can also take place in a whisky distillery…Shortly afterwards, they took the first ferry to Claonaig on the rugged Scottish peninsula of Kintyre. From now on they were in the Council Area Argyll and Bute, which borders directly on the Scottish Highlands in the north.
The west coast of Scotland is very rough and rutted by narrow bays, often called lochs (narrow lakes). East along the West Loch Tarbert the three rode to Tarbert to take the next ferry to the mainland. The destination for the first stage was a deserted, dreamlike beach south of Portavadie – the Ostel Bay. With almost 25 degrees and the best summer weather, the three bikepackers had the best conditions to swim in the bay. At low tide they even could cycle a small, lonely lap at the beach with their 8bar MITTE gravelbikes.
Bikepacking Scotland – No problem with the right equipment
Finding the right camping spot was no problem here and so the three set up camp directly at the beach. They had everything they needed right at their gravelbikes – from ultralight tents, sleepingbags and sleepingmats, to water filters, gas cookers, homemade energy balls and lightweight trekking food. Powerbanks and spare batteries for the technical equipment were also carried. If necessary, they also bought groceries at a local supermarket a few kilometres from the planned camping site. They cooked in the evening and if possible ate lunch in one of the small villages on the way.
Day 2: Midges and the solitude of the Scottish West-Coast
At least that was the original plan. However, directly on the second day it became obvious how remote the area of the Cowal Peninsula really is. On this longest stage of their Bikepacking Scotland journey, the three of them could hardly pass any villages. They finally decided to unpack the stove and prepare their own food during a longer lunch break on top of a mountain. No problem, if you have the right equipment! From Ostel Bay the route led west along the Kyle of Bute to the north. The route had a few meters of altitude on the agenda: 1800 hm on just 105 km. The idea of their trip was very clear: There was a time when they wanted to be in Glasgow again and everything in between happened after a basic route planning. The nice thing about Bikepacking Scotland is that you can camp almost everywhere. Therefore, the 8bar team did not have to decide on a fixed camp for the night in advance.
The three of them rode through the impressive Scottish countryside, through dense forests and small villages, crossed streams and cycled up and downhill for as long as they liked. At some point in the evening they looked for a place to sleep. That could sometimes go very fast and run smoothly or could have some surprises waiting for them.
A restless night
It was already dark when the team finally looked for a place to camp on the second day. But then the midges arrived… They hardly came to a stop and were about to set up the tent, when the little insects attacked the bikepackers. The midges react to the breath of their victims and thousands of them come out at dusk. No chance. They couldn’t stay there. The 8bar crew finally grabbed their things and set off into the darkness again. After about 10 km, they tried again and pitched their tent on a hillside at Loch Eck. When the little bloodsuckers finally attacked them, the camp was already halfway there. This time Manuel, Stefan and Josh decided to stay. It was a restless night, because the midges also cling to the clothes and it was almost impossible to climb into the tent without taking many of them inside.
Day 3: Epic Trails on the Wild About Argyll Route
The departure on the next morning after the short rest was relatively hasty. Fortunately or annoyingly they found the ideal camping spot at a lake shortly afterwards. They decided to stop there, to let the wet things dry due to the nightly rain and to have breakfast in peace. After all, the day was marked by epic trails and breathtaking views. The varied route ran zigzag along Loch Long and Loch Goil, through Lochgoilhead to the Ardgartan Peninsula and to Loch Lomond.
The plan to relax there and celebrate the last evening and the successful trip was, however, destroyed again by the mean midges. Well, cycling is exhausting in Scotland and an extra cap of sleep shouldn’t be despised. So the end of the day became rather an early night’s rest – with the buzzing of thousands of small mosquitoes in the ear.
Day 4: Departure to Glasgow
So far the weather had remained stable and had been ideal for cycling. But on the last day of their trip the team finally got to know the negative aspects of the Scottish weather. It rained the whole day. So it was at least a little easier for them to arrive in Glasgow, pack their bikes and start their journey home. Manuel, Stefan and Josh, however, took with them some nice memories from their Bikepacking Scotland trip, which was so incredibly varied: their bike trip on wide tires had taken them over paved roads, rough gravel tracks, narrow trails and lush meadows through an idyllic but wild Scotland. And it was exactly the way you always imagined it to be. Only much more beautiful in reality!
All pics by Joshua Meissner!