Kintyre Gravel Bike Way

The Kintyre Way was ahead of its time.  Established in 2006, it's a good 100 mile walking route, usually split over seven days.   

However, since its inception a new breed of outdoor transport has appeared, the gravel bike.  

 It's a hybrid of road and mountain bikes, ideally suited to mixed terrain, and utterly perfect for the Kintyre Way.  Almost.

A few sections of the walking route are just too narrow, too steep, or too fragile to be explored on bicycles.  What if alternatives could be found to these?  What if gravel bike riders could exploit the new rough roads installed for forest harvesting and wind-farm construction?  What if there could be a rideable, top to bottom, Kintyre Gravel Bike Way?  We decided that would be a good thing, and set out to create it.

 

Disclaimer: we safely followed the route given here but that does not guarantee it is safe for you or a Right of Way.  Please use your own common sense and cycle safely.


Also available on Ride with GPS


The Kintyre Gravel Bike Way is the perfect introduction to multi-day off-road touring, offering a level of safety that's hard to find in some parts of the Scottish Highlands.  It explores seriously wild country running down the spine of Kintyre, yet descends to towns and villages every night so cyclists can camp or seek out accommodation.  If this three-day, zig-zag route gets too much it's easy to switch to road riding.  There's a mobile phone signal almost all the way.  And then there are the views. 


Kintyre is a rugged, rounded, peninsula, arguably less dramatic than many parts of the west coast.  Yet its location means it's a perfect viewing platform for the mountains of Jura to the west and Arran to the East. 

 

We're not trying to detract from the original Kintyre Way.  Those blue post waymarks are very welcome when you see them through a haze of pelting rain.  They confirm you're on the right track.  Yet we think we've improved on it for cyclists.  Using Sean McFarlane's knowledge of racing the Kintyre Way on a bike (he came second) and on foot (Kintyre Way Ultra) plus that of James McNair who runs the KR Bike Project in Campbeltown, we've stayed faithful to the experience of the route while allowing the pedals to keep turning - provided you have a good set of lungs and legs.

 

We've plotted the route we took, having first removed the sections where we became (ahem) temporarily dislocated.  You can find and download the GPS tracks on Komoot and Ride with GPS above.  We made a video of the ride which you can watch here on YouTube.

 

Once down the south end, the obvious return route is to follow The Caledonia Way, a cycling specific road route that has been adopted by Sustrans to form part of Route 78 to Inverness.  We made a video about that too.

 

 
The tourism associations Explore Kintyre and Gigha and Wild About Argyll arranged complimentary accommodation and some meals, for which we're grateful.  However, the businesses described here are those we feel are worth knowing about, regardless of whether they gave us free stuff.

 

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 take touring tents, cyclists who camp on the wild land behind their business are allowed to use their showers and facilities.   

 


Tayinloan: the obvious first night for accommodation.  Ferry Farm B&B is well placed and linked to Big Jessie's Cafe, where we stopped for coffee and cake.  However, you might have to travel a short distance up or down the coast to find somewhere, in which case we'd recommend The House at Glenbarr.  There's a cafe alongside, plus a local store and strangely a garden centre. As there's nowhere to eat evening meals locally, the owner kindly left a plate of food for us which we devoured in one of the big greenhouses.



Carradale: two great coffee stops here.  Dottie's Cafe is small and friendly with a bike repairbusiness alongside.

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.

 

 

Campbletown: We stayed in Campbeltown Backpackers which Alan kindly opened for us while he was still working out how to deal with groups of 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.

 


Southend: The Muneroy Tearoom (not sure how well that website works!) at the south end of Kintyre is something of a legend thanks to chef Francis’ amazing cakes which are baked fresh every day.  It was take-away only on our visit but worth it.

 


Machrihanish: we only had a snack here but the Old Clubhouse Pub was good.  Dunlossit House B&B was excellent with a room overlooking the first tee of the world-famous golf course, and breakfast overlooking the start of the 6km long beach.  The family who run it are keen cyclists.



On our return ride up the Caledonia Way, Sustrans 78, we now feel the best location for first night accommodation would be around Tarbet, possibly at The Gather where we left our vehicle.

Instead, we chose to cycle the 'Kilmory Loop', although some people prefer to head directly north towards Lochgilphead.  If you're doing this, then head for 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.

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 people to travel with all their own bedding.  Book well in advance if you want to stay or eat at the Kilberry Inn a seafood restaurant with rooms.

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



Beginner cyclists start here, advice and suggestions

I've added a mini series of videos to my YouTube channel (YouTube.com/AlwaysAnotherAdventure) called What Cyclists Don't Tell You and given it a playlist.

I decided that experienced cyclists take lots of 'stuff' for granted, from types of clothing to gear-changing technique to getting comfortable pedalling position.

I hope to help new cyclists quickly acquire a few of those snippets of knowledge.

A huge increase in cycling has been widely reported during COVID19.  They might be new cyclists or those returning to it.  It would be great if those people could keep cycling once life slowly returns to normal.

Normally they'd acquire the knowledge from riding with others or going into bike shops.  At the moment, that's out.  Hence this mini-series.

Other experienced cyclists might scoff at the simplicity of the information I'm sharing, or even disagree with some of it.  That's fine. There are plenty of other adventure cycling videos on my channel to watch, and I will add to those.  Here's the first of the videos.



Constructive suggestions about additional 'stuff' I should cover would be welcome.  Either offer the explanation  yourself in the YouTube Comments, or point me in the right direction.  All my social media links are on the YouTube channel.

YouTube experts would probably caution against developing my channel in this way, but that's not the point.  It feels like the right thing to do at this time.


The day after lockdown was announced in the UK, I woke at 5am and knew I had to start a podcast in which great adventurers share their great adventures.  My thinking was, since we couldn't get outdoors much, we'd bring great outdoor adventures indoors for the duration.  I used the same title as the YouTube Channel because I'd already bought the URL https://AlwaysAnotherAdventure.com  .  3500 downloads later, it's going quite well.  Let's see what happens with the channel.


New Podcast brings Outdoor Adventure, Indoors during covid-19

While we can't get out on adventures of our own, I thought I'd bring some to you in a new Podcast.

Great adventurers share their great adventures in Always Another Adventure.

Updates Tuesdays and Thursdays with occasional extra podcasts for good measure.

You can listen on the website's web player, where they first appear at AlwaysAnotherAdventure.com

If you subscribe you'll also get them a day ahead of just waiting for the podcast streams to update.

There are links to all the usual places pleople listen including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify on the front page of the website and on the mobile version.

We opened with three accounts of world-firsts: world-first swims, world-first cycling and two world-first canoe trips.  Then we really got going. 
I can't tell you what you'll find there because it keeps changing and improving with each and every upload.  Please check it out, subscribe, and ideally leave us a glowing review if your Pod player allows.

No Pool? Start Wild Swimming in Cold Water. 7 tips to stay safe. Video.

Many swimming pools are closed, or people don't want to go there, during the COVID19 outbreak.

Might I encourage you into what we call 'The Big Pool' instead?  

Here are seven tips to get you started, safely.  Please add your own ideas in the comments, there are plenty more I could have mentioned.

We've been swimming year round in Loch Sunart for six years now.  We've had great coaching from Dan at SwimForTri and we've picked up a few ideas ourselves (like the wellies).

Shockstop suspension stem and suspension seat post - review with video

Summary: the stem is superb; the seat post is either brilliant or a drag, depending on the type of riding you do.  Here's why.

Last year I wrote to Redshift sports and asked if I could demo their Shockstop stem, make some videos and take some photos.  Off-road riding gives me pain in my thumb tendons and I wanted to test whether their stem helped to ease the vibrations. I offered to buy it afterwards if I liked it. 

Showing off for Strangers - a social media guide for beginners

I was recently asked to explain the different types of social media to a friend who wants to start using it to promote aspects of his business.  This is what I wrote.

Social Media’ is a catch-all term for very different types of media, each of which needs a specific approach.

1. Twitter - It has become a shouty, unpleasant space where it’s difficult to pick up new followers.  

They tend to find you from another route, such as looking on your website for your Twitter profile so they can ask you a question.  

As a marketing platform, for a business with a diverse product base, it’s not great.  

But it’s worth monitoring simply so you can respond to questions and build engagement.  I regularly delete all my Tweets.

There is a way to share Instagram posts to Twitter (and more) that’s much better than simply linking accounts and that's IFTTT (see below).

“Do you particularly like Titanium bikes?”

Borrowed, Lynskey Helix
“…and if so why?”  A pair of questions I was recently asked on my YouTube channel.

Good questions and the answer was too long for a comment. 

Two years ago we visited my friends in Frances.  He allowed me to ride his winter bike - a Lynskey Helix - during our stay.

My wife borrowed his wife’s Lynskey Sportive.  Both Lynskey’s are, of course, titanium.