A six day cycling holiday in the Highlands of Scotland following parts of the North Coast 500 cycle route. Starts and ends in Inverness, with bikes and transport provided by Ticket to Ride, the Highland’s leading bicycle hire and cyclist transport specialists.
What do you think of when you think of the Scottish Highlands? Dramatic mountains, dark fetid forests, white painted cottages with smoking chimneys in the middle of nowhere, sparkling waterfalls, fishing boats and coastal villages. The North West Highlands has all that and more. The most remote, unspoiled part of mainland UK, has less people per square mile than any other part of Britain and most parts of Europe, and more charm, beauty and peace than most of them.
The area is great for cycling. Settlements are close enough together to make trip distances short, but far enough apart to make very day feel like a real adventure. There are plenty of Bed and Breakfasts, hotels and campsites to make finding accommodation easy, and enough secret beaches to reward every explorer with the joy of walking along the shoreline with nobody else in sight.
We can provide you high quality bike hire and transport, in this case taking you from Inverness to Ullapool, the start of your Highland adventure, and collecting you from John O'Groats on the north coast, at the end of your trip, to take you back to Inverness.
The following is our suggested itinerary for a six day tour of the north west Highlands, but of course there are lots of alternative routes and accommodation options.
Time of year - we recommend cycling this tour between April and September inclusive.
N.B. we suggest you book all accommodation in advance.
Make your way to our our bike hire centre in Bellfield Park Inverness or we can collect you from Inverness airport or train or bus stations. We will sort out your hire bikes, if you are hiring, and any other equipment you need. Our minibus and bike trailer will take you and your bikes over to Ullapool, on the west coast, for the start of your Highland cycling adventure. The trip takes about an hour and half, so you will have time to explore Ullapool and the surrounding area before settling into your accommodation and popping out for a beer or two at the FBI (the Ferry Boat Inn of course).
Climb steadily out of Ullapool tom the left turn at Drumrunie, signposted to Achiltibuie. Head west for Achiltibuie stopping at the car park for a climb up to the ridge of Stac Pollaidh, amazing views all round (n.b. stick to the path, it’s much easier anyway. The round trip to the ridge and back will take a couple of hours. The walk is easy but a little steep. The scramble from the ridge to the main summit is much more tricky and not for the inexperienced hill walker, the views from the ridge are just as good anyway.) Continue down towards the coast and turn right to Lochinver and Inverkirkaig. This is one of the most fun roads to cycle in the Highlands. Twisting and turning, you never know round the next corner. Follow the road to Achins book shop and cafe where it’s time for a rest. If Stac Pollaidh left you wanting more walking, theres a lovely two hour walk up and back to the Inverkirkaig waterfalls. Carrying on north, it’s only a few miles to Lochinver and your stop for the night. Built up an appetite? Try a world famous Lochinver pie while you’re here, delicious. Total miles only 30, but I bet it feels a lot more. [30 miles / 48km]
It’s time for a ‘dook’. Cycle north from Lochinver turning left and left agin for Achmelvich, the finest beach in the Highlands. After an explore and maybe a swim, its back on the bike to retrace your footsteps to the B869 and head north to Clachtoll for another fine beach. Through the lovely villages of Stoer and Clashnessie. Continue on the roller coaster wee road to Drumbeg and then on past the towering Quinag. The hills are steep here. Back at the main road, turn left for Kylesku and Scourie. The Kylesku Hotel does great seafood if you fancy a late lunch. Head over the dramatic sweeping bridge, gasping at the views, and continue north to stop in Scourie for the night. There is the hotel, B&Bs and a campsite with wonderful views. Total 40 fairly hilly miles. [40 miles / 64km]
From Scourie, head north to Laxford Bridge and on to Rhiconich and it’s surprisingly large hotel. From Rhiconich head north east to the truly stunning Kyle of Durness, beach as far as the eye can see. Continue on up to Durness for a well earned rest. If you have energy, a walk along the beach at Faraid is great, you might see puffins if its the spring/early summer. Or explore the giant cave at Smoo, just round the corner from Durness village, how many caves have a waterfall and a boat trip? Heading east now, its on to Loch Eriboll, there is no alternative to travelling around the whole loch, scenic but you may wish there was a ferry. Then on to the Kyle of Tongue and your stop for the night. There are two hotels here and B&Bs. [56 miles / 90km]
From Tongue head east for Bettyhill. If its a fine day, or your feeling energetic, there’s a lovely detour off the main road through the crofting settlements of Skerray and Torrisdale. From Bettyhill continue east to Strathy and Melvich. Dounreay may be a familiar name to you. The nuclear power station at Dounreay is no longer operational, maybe it will be turned into a windmill site. Thurso for a lunch, then on to John O’ Groats, the end point for so many long distance cyclists. Reaching John O'Groats you have finished your tour. The coastal walk to Duncansby Head and the sea stacks is a must. [62 miles / 100km]
We will pick you up at your accommodation in John O'Groats and transport you and your bikes back to Inverness to catch your train or plane home.
Q. What kind of cycling tour is this?
A. This is a self-guided tour, ideal for reasonably fit riders with some cycle touring experience. It is all on-road but in areas where traffic volumes are low.
Q. How far will we be riding each day?
A. The distances covered each day are between 30 and 62 miles (56km - 100km). The terrain is hilly and steep in places.
Q. How easy is it to follow the route?
A. There are few roads in this area so there are reduced opportunities to take a wrong turn. Signposting is good and we provide a map. You can also download GPX files compatible with most GPS devices and smartphones.
Q. What should I take with me?
A. If you are staying in accommodation along the way, you’ll just need your cycling clothes (including good waterproofs), clothes to change into in the evening and food and drink for each day on the trail. There are plenty of shops in Ullapool where you can stock up. If you are camping, you’ll clearly need your camping gear too. We can hire you panniers to carry all your gear.
Q. What will the weather be like?
A. The weather in this part of the country is famously unpredictable. Between April and September it is unlikely to be frosty and in July and August the mean daily maximum temperature is 19°C. Around Inverness between June and August there are normally fewer than 30 days with rainfall of more than 1mm but it is wetter in the west. For all the facts see: www.metoffice.gov.uk
Q. Do I need to book in advance?
A. Yes, we recommend you book your bike hire and all accommodation in advance.
Q. Is this tour suitable for children?
A. Fit children aged 12 and over with experience of cycle touring should enjoy this trip. Customers have completed this trip with younger children in trailers but you might consider spreading the trip over more days if you're towing!
Q. Will my mobile phone work?
A. There is a good signal in most villages but in the more remote parts of the route you may lose signal for some time. You should not rely solely on phone mapping for navigation. Mobile Phone Coverage Maps
Q. Can I camp?
A. Yes. There are lots of camp sites along the route and we've listed some in the accommodation section. For information about wild camping see: Scottish Outdoor Access Code