Loch Ness 360 Bikepacking


It has become one of Scotland’s great off-road cycling trails. Yet planning a ride can be tricky, partly due to the fickle weather, but mainly due to the mix of surfaces, from tarmac to mud, made trail to loose stones. 
Most cyclists wonder, ‘what bike should I use’? We tried to answer this question in our videos, so I’d recommend watching all three. Based on the terrain you see, choose the bike to suit your ability and whether you’re carrying luggage.

Most of the trail was made for walkers, something you’ll quickly appreciate while trying to climb out of any of the towns and villages along the north coast of the loch where the route follows the Great Glen Way, one of Scotland’s long distance routes running from Fort William to Inverness. 

 Incidentally, the trail is best done clockwise if you plan to use a luggage-moving service, as most hikers travel in this direction.

Until a few years ago there was no way to connect the Great Glen Way to the South Loch Ness Trail, another walker’s route, which started at Loch Tarff and ran to Inverness. The so called ‘missing link’ to Fort Augustus was partly funded by SSE’s Stronelairg wind farm (which offers some excellent gravel biking if you have energy to spare). Joining-up the two trails created this new one which circumnavigates one of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks. 


The Loch Ness Challenge is a series of competitive events on the trail; hikes, cycling and running. Check the website for details. Lochness360.com

The races all go anti-clockwise and that’s how we rode the trail - we think that’s best. However, Ticket To Ride Highlands’ self-guided route goes clockwise because it gives an easier start (and links with baggage moving services). Tickettoridehighlands.co.uk/

If you’d like a guide on your journey, we rode with Kev from 42 Cycling (he’s in the second video). The former soldier knows everyone around here and regularly eases the visits of cyclists from Europe and beyond. 42cycling.com

Some cyclists set themselves the challenge of blasting around the trail in under 24 hours. A relaxed trip would take four days with overnight stops in Drumnadrochit, Fort Augustus and Whitebridge. We rode it in three days in short days of mid-January, breaking the trip in Invermoriston and Whitebridge.

 Where to stay

When looking for accommodation, VisitInvernessLochNess.com/ is the best starting point. This local tourist association help to run the Loch Ness 360 trail and hosted our accommodation and meals while we cycled. They found us three excellent places to stay.

Inverness: The Glen Mhor Hotel is central, comfortable, and allowed us to take bikes into our rooms. www.glen-mhor.com/

Fort Augustus: Sam and Glenn run the the cycle friendly Beaufort House Cafe and B&B. www.beauforthouselochness.com/ They have a bike shed for secure storage.

Whitebridge Hotel: An historic building, all wood panels and creaking stairs, the rooms have been refurbished by Bella and Lesley and the meals are superb. whitebridgehotel.co.uk


A series of competitive running, ultra-running and cycling events is organised around the Loch Ness 360 route. Check for latest details: Lochness360.com



Our mapping

Komoot Route: https://www.komoot.com/tour/649613784  

Ride with GPS: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/82313895

Direct download: https://www.dropbox.com/s/52z003dvx8im2hl/LochNess360.gpx?dl=1

Thanks to Visit Inverness Loch Ness and Loch Ness 360 for their support

Giveaway - Kitchen Sink Handlebars

These are the Rules for the giveaway running on the Always Another Adventure YouTube channel from 12th December 2021.

The prize is a used set of Kitchen Sink bikepacking handlebars with front loop by Redsfity sports. 

 They are 44mm and you can find full specifications on the Redshift Sports website.

Entry is only open to people with a UK postal address.  I'm very sorry about this, but since Brexit, sending stuff overseas is a nightmare.  Here's what to do if you'd like to enter.

* On Instagram: follow @redshiftsports and @always_another_adventure

* Find and like the giveaway post on @always_another_adventure

* Comment on that post, and tag a friend in that comment

The giveaway starts Monday 13th December and ends on Christmas Day 25th December 2021 with the winner drawn randomly and announced on the Always Another Adventure YouTube channel on 31st December, New Year's Eve.

The giveaway is run in accordance with YouTube and Instagram rules.  This promotion is in no way sponsored, administered, or associated with YouTube, Facebook or Instagram, Inc. By entering, entrants confirm that they are 13+ years of age, release YouTube, Facebook and Instagram of responsibility, and agree to Instagram’s terms of use.

To see all of YouTube's competition rules check here.  Entries must comply with YouTube community guidelines (I have to include that link). 




The Moray Gravel Triangle - information for bikepackers

It was Sean who devised this route.  I’m not shifting blame you understand, I’m giving him the credit, because we ended up with one of the best four-day Autumn rides I’ve done in Scotland.

We’re fortunate enough to have some epic bikepacking routes in this country - An Turas Mor, the Highland Trail 550 and Badger Divide to name but three.  They take cyclists deep into Scotland’s wild heart, far from villages, roads or… help.  If the weather isn’t right, or you or your bike are not quite up to the challenge, then you can have serious problems.  The Moray Gravel Triangle is different.  While the cycling is excellent it’s not so committing.  The route passes through towns and villages where you can find hot food and a bed each night.

Our initial plan was to ride only the intersecting sections of three long-distance walking trails - The Speyside Way, the Moray Coastal Trail and the Dava Way.  From the beginning we called it The Moray Gravel Triangle, because we had a feeling this would be a top gravel ride.  It’s close to what walkers and runners call The Moray Way but with a few tweaks to accommodate cyclists’ needs.

At around 100 miles this seemed a little short for a multi-day ride, so we planned to ride the full length of the three trails rather than just their intersecting central triangle.  That’s when things started to get a little complicated.


Traditionally, The Speyside Way started in Aviemore.  In recent years it has been extended to Newtonmore, but somehow that didn’t feel right for us and anyway, we had a place to leave our vehicles at Badaguish Outdoor Centre just outside Aviemore, so we stuck to the traditional option.


When we started investigating the Moray Coastal Trail, two quite distinct routes emerged.  A walkers’ route clings to the coast but not all of it is rideable.  The cyclists’ route follows Sustrans NCR 1, and while easier to follow, we felt it might skip some of the best coastal scenery before it veered off inland.  Our solution was to cycle both.  We tackled the walkers’ route in one direction, then after an overnight in the town of Cullen, rode back along the cyclists’ route.  When we reached Lossiemouth, we enlisted the services of two local cyclists to keep us on track.  Mark and Martin are the founders of a cycling ‘club’ that’s not really a club, called The Moray Gravel Collective.  We had a bitter, brutal headwind that day and I’m not ashamed to admit I spent a mile or two drafting the pair as they led us on the best, rideable sections of the spectacular coastal trail.


The Dava Way, the third side of our triangle, came as the biggest surprise.  I secretly suspected this would be a boring, 25 mile flog down an old railway line, nothing more than the least worst off-road return route.  I was delighted to find a varied trail that took us into higher, more open moors than we’d seen since leaving Aviemore.  

So while the central section of our Moray Gravel Triangle remains a cracking 100 mile route, the whole tour is a fantastic way to spend a few days on a bike.  If it’s too early in the season (or too late) to tackle one of Scotland’s excellent long wilderness trails, or you just don’t fancy the exposure and risk which comes with being in such wild places, our longer tour is a great option.

Our accommodation and meals were paid for by Visit Moray and Speyside for which we’re grateful.  While there are obviously other accommodation providers, I’ve listed the ones for which we have first-hand experience.

We cycled the three trails in September / October 2021 and we are aware things change, so what was open and/or closed when we cycled might be different for you.  

Certainly the diversion for cyclists on the Speyside Way might have changed.  The section between Cromdale and Ballindalloch should be improved and open to cyclists by Spring 2022.

Guidebook: Walking the Speyside Way, the Cicerone guidebook, is useful background reading on the places through which you’ll pass and has the additional advantage of also covering the Moray Coastal Trail and the Dava Way.  Here’s a link to buy it on Amazon UK.    

Bike: A gravel bike is ideal for this route.  Technical off-road tyres are not needed - Panracer Gravel Kings proved ideal.  

Kit: Obviously be prepared for bad weather.  You can camp, but we used the following good hotels and consequently travelled much lighter.

We plan and share our routes on Komoot, and you’ll find all the options here.

Direct download of Zip files with all .GPX files


The Visit Moray and Speyside website is the best place to find accommodation and places to eat and drink.  They helped us with both when we cycled the route and we weren’t disappointed.

Craigellachie - The Highlander Inn.  Phenomenal whisky bar, good rooms and wholesome food although limited vegetarian options.  Website.

Cullen - The Royal Oak.  Lovely hotel with superb rooms and outstanding food.  Cullen Skink soup as it’s meant to be made and they organised an early breakfast for our long day.  Website.

Forres - The Carrisbrooke.  A motel-like feel to the rooms which were comfortable and warm.  Food was good although the kitchen closes at 8pm so don’t hang about or, like us, you’ll miss pudding.  Facebook.

One bike to rule them all?

Think of it as a mid-life crisis motorbike, but without the motor.

Actually, don't.  I've already had several of them and I'm probably past mid-life now.  Just think of it as a treat to myself.  

My excellent road bike is showing its age.  My gravel bike is great, but a little heavy.  

Could I find one of the new generation of carbon, lightweight gravel bikes that would be at home on virtually any surface, road or trail.  

Spoiler alert - I still don't know.  

I bought one but it'll be a while before I know whether it fulfils every criteria.  Still, it'll be fun finding out, and that's the thing which counts.  Unlike most of the videos on Always Another Adventure, this one is a personal blog involving a trip back to my roots.

Report & Advice from the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail

In June/July 2021 Hannah and Frodo completed the whole trail in under two weeks. 

 They have some great advice for doing the shuttle at the end of the trip, and some warnings for anyone thinking portages around tricky bits might be easy - they're not.  

 Hannah has kindly allowed me to publish her email to me, because I think others will find it helpful.

In the spirit of helping others, I'll put her most practical comment first:  

 Checking in at Ardmair Campsite allowed us to find a safe place to leave our kayaks whilst we went to get our car back.

In terms of car shuttling logistics the quickest way to get back to Tayinloan turned out to be to get the coach from Ullapool to Inverness and then hire a car to compete the rest of the journey, returning it the next day whilst on route home. The car hire worked out at the same cost of a bus ticket for two people and took 4 hours off doing the whole trip by coach, allowing us to compete this round trip in one day.

That's a very useful, potentially cost saving tip, so thanks Hannah.  Here's the rest of her email and a little from a follow-up she asked me to include.

We’re just on the way back home having completed the Scottish Sea Kayaking Trail.  We started on the 22nd June in Tayinloan and did the whole route in a single push finishing at Ullapool yesterday early morning (5th July).

We just wanted to say awesome book and thank you for providing us through it with the idea for this epic adventure.

We were hoping at this stage to recommend some portage options to avoid crossing around headlands and high winds but unfortunately we can’t really recommend any of the following;

We portaged from the end of Loch Sween to Loch Crinan after sitting out a day of rain at Kilberry Head and not wanting to loose out another day to strong north westerly winds. This portage however turns out to involve the negotiation of a very steep and slippery embankment at the end of the Loch.


Four days later at Ardnamurchan Point high winds forced us to detour down Loch Sunart and portage the next day from Salen to the River Shiel at Ardshealach. A most enjoyable detour with bacon butties and coffee at Salen and an ice cream stop before launching at the pier on an outgoing tide. 


That is until we encountered an unexpected 8ft drop, which would have made a nice Grade 3 whitewater rapid, barring our access to the south channel off Eileen Shona which as the river appeared to be tidal was the last thing we expected. Remember the bacon button and ice cream... yeah we should not have missed high water. 


We press ganged our throw lines into action to repel the kayaks down the rapid, climbing down behind and enjoyed the rest of the day thinking....well not quite sure what we were thinking. This is an awesome portage depending on our appetite for white water rapids.



We finally reached Mellon Udrigle on the evening of the 3rd July falsely thinking we were pretty much there and woke up the next morning to smooth seas. Setting off to the Summer Isles the conditions drastically changed with force 4 wind gusts coming in several hours ahead of the forecast. 



So we decided to bail for Ullapool. When crossing the mouth of Little Loch Broom we realised something was up when a sailing yacht passed us heading hard for shore to shelter and figured we better check the weather forecast, which now implied our location to be right in the path of an incoming thunderstorm. 



Looking at the map we decided we couldn’t really fail so short with only 10km to go and an obvious solution would be to portage from the campsite at Badrallach over the hill to a jetty at a hotel shown on our 1997 eBay acquired OS map. 


Well, it turns out this portage involves (beside the obvious height gain of 270meters), the negation of a locked 5 bar gate and a gravel track down the hill signposted as only suitable for 4x4 vehicles. And if you were hoping for a pint it turns out the hotel is permanently shut. We had happened to meet the owner at the top of the hill and he kindly gave us permission to launch from his garden/pier.



So far the day had involved some rather rough water, getting completely drenched in a thunderstorm having clambered ashore to escape the lightening and spending the best part of 4 hours pulling two fully loaded sea kayaks up to a spot height of 230m. All this to have both trolley axles break within the space of 25m of each other whilst Ullapool's lights were mocking us from only 2km away across the bay. This portage is definitely not recommended unless you are training for a Strong Man competition as even calling it “leg day” does not do justice to the effort involved in what followed next.


The trolleys, purpose built for this trip, had so far survived 18km of pothole-ridden roads without any complaint and had allowed us to leave the car in Tayinloan and attempt the whole trip as an unsupported continuous push endeavor. This also meant we were now slightly stuck. 


So we unpacked our kayaks into IKEA bags, carried each kayak down separately the remaining 1.5km to the pier and, having walked up the hill yet again for the third time to collect the bags, decided that we might as well camp here as 1am is late enough. After three hours sleep we lugged our remaining belongings down the hill to load up the kayaks one last time to finally make it to Ullapool yesterday after 14 days of the most enjoyable kayaking experience.

We would be interested to hear if you are aware of others having done the trip as a continuous self supported push and if so how long it took them.

The only problem now is it’s going to be a challenge to find a holiday that tops this one.

Thanks so much to Hannah and Frodo for the advice and entertainment!  It shows what I've said all along - you can decide how far you're going to paddle the trail, or how long you're going to paddle the trail, but not both.  

 Of such stuff is adventure made.

Kayak Fishing in the UK

How big is kayak fishing in the UK? More to the point - how big will it become? Because in the US it is big.
Pesda Press (who also publish my book) clearly think there is potential to grow.
Hence this new publication in their Practical Manual series. It's the first on the subject this side of the Atlantic, with our different fish species and fishing techniques.
It's aimed less at the kayaker, more at the angler who fancies trying kayak fishing. Andy Benham has written for angling magazines for 25 years, is addicted to kayak fishing he says, and is keen to share what he know, including:
* Choosing fishing and kayak equipment.
* Modifying the kayak and installing a fish finder
* Fishing skills - tips on anchoring and 'downtiding'
* What to fish for
* Freshwater fish and wreck fishing
* Staying safe at sea
* Seamanship
* How to use handheld GPS and VHF radio
In the USA kayak fishing is big. Our DVD distributor there, Heliconia Press, has produced DVDs, book and even has a Kayak Fishing TV channel on YouTube. Here's the sort of thing they show.

The Caledonia Way

The Caledonia Way is a somewhat unusual long distance cycling route.  While it's mostly on minor roads, you can't ride the whole thing on a road bike.   

There are at least three sections where it heads into distinctly off-road territory.    

Not full mountain bike country, but rough enough to give anyone on a 23-25mm skinny tyre a hard time with skids and pinch flats.  Touring 28mm and upwards would be fine.

The other curious thing is that the National Cycling Network seems to dis-own a few sections.  NCN78 signs are rare between Campbeltown and Oban, confined to the few off-road parts which aren't the Caledonian Canal towpath.


If that wasn't confusing enough, at Fort William the Caledonia Way acquires a second name, and for part of this final section it's better known as the Great Glen Way.  The walker's Great Glen Way (which can be ridden on an MTB) splits off and takes a different, rough, high route as it approaches Inverness on entirely the opposite side of Loch Ness.


See what I mean about it being unusual?  Hopefully, our three videos will clarify things before you ride.  Should you choose to come this way, I have one request - please don't ride the A82 between Corran and Fort William unless absolutely necessary, and then make yourself as visible as possible.  This is my local patch, but I'd rather ride 35 miles around the loch than 10 miles with fast traffic skimming my elbow.


I've broken this down into the three sections shown in the video and added a few links I hope you'll find useful, including those to the mapping on Komoot and RideWithGPS.  I also have a direct download link to the GPX file.

There is a guidebook to the route and Sustrans has dedicated a page of its website to the Caledonia Way, both of which are helpful.  The more detailed maps are not needed unless you want a souvenir of your ride.




Campbeltown to Oban  121 miles 8025 ft ascent

Although it's the first section, this is the last one I cycled.  I rode it as a return ride after completing the Kintyre Gravel Bike Way with Sean McFarlane, and it was the only route on which I needed accommodation.


I'll list where we stopped for food and overnight accommodation.  The accommodation came courtesy of Wild About Argyll but I've also listed a couple of places I think would make good options too. 


Getting to the start: ScotRail trains from Glasgow connect with the summer only ferry by Caledonian MacBrayne from Ardrossen on the mainland to Campbeltown.  Alternatively you could ride down the A83 on the west side of Kintyre but it's a busy road and not recommended, even though it's part of the new 'KN66' marketing push.


Campbletown: We stayed in Campbeltown Backpackers which opened for us while it was still working out how it would deal with visitors during a pandemic.


We had a great dinner at Craigard HouseHotel and a frankly superb dinner at Ardshiel Hotel which is walking distance from the hostel and has a multi-award winning whisky bar.



Saddle Bay: You can find the Anthony Gormley statue GRIP in the grounds of Saddle Castle on the shore side of the road opposite Saddle Abbey which is marked.



Carradale: two great coffee stops here.  Dottie's Cafe is small and friendly with abike repair business alongside runby Ian Brodie.  Hopefully you won't need his services.



Torrisdale Castle's Bienn a Tuirc cafe is a little pricier but fabulous quality.  They make their own gin and their website is a useful source of local knowledge.


Tarbert: The Gather is a relatively new business where we were allowed to leave a vehicle for the duration of our ride.  As well as coffee and food, they have 'glamping' pods.  While they can't yet take touring tents, cyclists who camp on the wild land behind their business are allowed to use their showers and facilities.  There are many other options around Tarbet worth exploring and it's a good distance to ride on the first day.


We chose to cycle the Kilmory Loop, whereas some people prefer to head directly north towards Lochgilphead.


Kilmory: accommodation options are limited.  We managed to get a one night deal in a mobile home (usually 2-night minimum) at Port Ban Holiday Park although they seemed to expect us to travel with all our own bedding.  Book well in advance if you want to stay at the Kilberry Inn a seafood restaurant with rooms.



Inverneil: More modest but equally popular accommodation can be found in Argyll Backpackers' Hostel where the Kilmory Loop returns to the main road.  Run by Kate and Pam, we called in for a coffee and chat, and were impressed by their covid protection measures.


Bridgend: A short detour from route 78, but one of the nicest places we stayed, was King's Reach Vegan B&B.  In 2021 this was the only 100% vegan B&B in Argyll.  Sean and Sara were keen to learn how to be more cycle friendly, so might soon offer kit washing, track pump and bike washing facilities.  The Horseshoe Inn is walking distance away for a good meal or alternative accommodation.


Oban to Fort William  50 miles   1950 ft ascent

I regularly ride this route back from Oban after our weekly shopping and I've seen this improve from being a road ride with a few off-road sections, to being almost entirely segregated cycleway with a surface suitable for a skinny tyred road bike.  The newest section, which as you'll see in the video I rode while it was still being finished in 2020, is beautiful and inspired, passing through a nature reserve.  Just keep an eye on your watch for the ferry times.

Where the route reaches the outskirts of Ballachulish (pronounced Balla hoo-lish) you can divert east, still on cycle path, into the town itself or Glencoe village for food and/or accommodation.  (Glen Coe is the valley, Glencoe is the village).  The best supermarket is the Ballachulish Coop.  If it's a Sunday you might wish to do the because of the way the ferries work - this is explained in detail in the video.

There are four ways into Fort William, andthe two-ferry route is best.  The segregated cycleway continues to the Corran Ferry, then you ride a relatively quiet minor road to the Camusnagaul Ferry at the top of the loch. 



The service does not run on Sundays and only four times daily, but on running days it will make a special crossing for two or more cyclists.  Operated by Highland Ferries their Facebook is updated more frequently than their website.


If you miss the ferry, or the times don't work out, the safest option is to cycle around the loch adding 22 miles to the journey.


I can't recommend cycling the busyA82.  I have done, and I regularly see people riding it, but it's a scary option.


There is a great off-road option, but it strays into wild country and requires some hike-a-bike over possibly boggy ground.  You can see the route in this video where I tried a titanium bike.   There's a second off-road route here too along the West Highland Way.



Fort William to Inverness  68 miles   3100 ft ascent

This was one of the first videos I made, and I've re-cut it to fit the style of the other two.  I had to visit a dentist in Inverness, so I decided to ride there, carrying camping equipment that I could test on the return trip.

The twin-names can cause some confusion.  The Caledonia Way still exists, but it has acquired the additional title of the Great Glen Way.  That changes again shortly. 


A few years ago, parts of this section would be strictly mountain bike territory.  Sustrans has worked,  hard to improve these and added a new cycleway, so now it's all rideable on touring tyres.  I still wouldn't take a skinny 23-25mm road tyre on it.  A mix of Caledonian Canal towpath and off-road take you to the popular tourist town of Fort Augustus where many people overnight.


The walkers' Great Glen Way now climbs off up the West side of Loch Ness.  A version of this can be ridden on an MTB or Gravel Bike, but it's called the 'Loch Ness 360'.  Meanwhile, the Caledonia Way (aka cycling version of the Great Glen Way) head up the steep road hill on the East side of Loch Ness.  This is probably the toughest hill on the whole Caledonia Way, so try to divert yourself by Nessie spotting in Loch Ness below.


The route follows the 'back road' to Inverness.  While this is much quieter and safer than the A82, it's still a popular road and, first thing in the morning, you find workmen's vans whizzing past. 


Lots of cyclists from Inverness ride the roads around here, and tend to congregate in Camerons' Tea Room which 78 passes on it's way to Foyers.  It's then a flat route beside Loch Ness into Inverness.