Migrated from my old site this was originally published in June 2012
With Scotland basking under a high pressure system bringing glorious blue sky’s and little wind the obvious thing to do was to go for a big ride, linking togeather the netwoork of tracks and trails that wind through the valleys and cross the passes. Starting from Tyndrum the route initially follows the West Highland Way before heading towards the western end of Loch Tulla. Here tarmac is dispensed with entirely and the route runs the entire length of Glen Kinglass before emerging into Glen Etive and then back to civilisation.
A ride that clocks in at almost 60km (even if the guidebook claims the contrary) and leaves you miles from your starting point may not seam too good an idea. Here however is the master stroke, both start and finish are served by stations on the railway line to Oban; time it right and you’ll be back for tea and hero biscuits in no time, get it wrong…well don’t get it wrong!
The initial section on the West Highland Way is mostly on a good track apart from one short section of poor single track that is possibly just about rideable if your brave. An initial climb leaves you at the head of Glen Orchy with great view down toward Ben Dorain a giant cone of a hill that dominates the first few kilometres of the ride until you finally contour round it’s flanks and drop down towards Bridge of Orchy Station.
Crossing over the A82 and following the minor road to Inveroran the last bit of tarmac the tyres will see for a while when it ends at the head of Loch Tulla. Running through a section of Caladonian Pine forest, trees twisted into fantastic shapes a contrast of greens and browns the route is ridiculously picturesque in the bright sun. Mercifully there is just enough of a cool breeze to keep the midges at bay and bring the fresh smell of the forest.
As the track begins to climb it slowly starts to deteriorate from broad hard packed gravel road as far as the remote farm at Clashgour to two thin wheel lines weaving and climbing steeply through the grass. The view both up the valley and back down towards the Bridge of Orchy Munros is superb, with a panorama of mountains stretching away into the distance and towering over the glen.
A line of stepping stones cross the River Shira, (bridge available slightly further unstream if the levels are slightly high) and mark the start of the wildest park of the ride. A few kilometers of good climbing reaches Loch Dochard and with huge views into the vast rounded coires of Glas Bheinn Mhor, and Stob Chir’an Albannaich the Glen Etive Munros here viewed from their hidden and less well trodden side.
From here the trail is little more than a thin sliver of single track dropping down into the valley which opens out in front. Occasionally great rounded slabs of granite bedrock outcrop at the surface like vast boiler plates; their gentle angle and sooth grippy surface a joy to ride.
The route follows the infant river Kinglass here a succession of waterfalls and short canyons as it makes it’s way down the steep valley. A line of inviting plunge pools break the rivers flow and one of these offer a cool, ok cold but refreshing dip at lunchtime. Lower down the track improves before becoming a proper gravel road at Glen Kinglass Lodge then following the river for at least ten kilometres to the foot of the glen
The River Kinglass flows into Loch Etive mid way down it’s length; the loch itself is a thin sliver of sea that cuts far inland, its narrow upper reaches overlooked by some of the finest hills in the highlands. Looking back up the loch the peak of Ben Strav dominates the foreground and in the distance the fine cone of Stob Dubh marks the head of the loch.
The track now winds its way round the edge of the loch clinging to the hillside and delivering a lot of short sharp shocks to the legs with some surprisingly steep climbs. Having now covered about forty K the gradient feels hard, each climb requiring a real effort and inevitably turns out to be never the last one. Ben Cruachan looms ahead and must offer a fantastic view the entite length of Loch Etive.
This final section lasts much longer than expected and despite the good surface is the hardest section of the ride the steep climbs draining down on tired legs. Then suddenly its back to tarmac and cars for a short section on the A83.
Arriving in Taynult a bit early for the train I settle down for a coffee and cake and watch sea kayaks out on the loch. Todays ride really was one of the most fantastic I have ever done, never particularly hard but with a great remote feel and sense of journey you only really get when you do a one way trip. As the train rattles up towards Tyndrum there can be few better ways than to spend a day than this.