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Bikepacking Glen Affric Scotland 2019 – by Illya Rudkin

A micro-adventure film exploring Scotland’s Glen Affric. The Highland Trail 550 bike race included it as part of their route it is that good. The competitors some of whom we bumped into will remember this if nothing else.

Scotland’s weather is unpredictable! The weather forecast is a mere guideline then moves. So, through the art of sun hunting aka monitor the weather apps, we determine where the best part of Scotland is to ride. In this case, we were fortunate to be flexible with two days for a bikepacking trip, the first for the year. Glen Affric had been on our list for a while now and so was slotted that into the clear weather matrix along with other destinations. As a result, we headed north to Cannich west of Inverness where the weather and Glen Affric did not disappoint.

From the outset at Cannich the scenery was “yeah ride slow, take it all in”. Glen Affric is a true Scottish landscape void of plantations which makes it all the more beautiful. Slopes of purple heather dotted with Scottish pines. While some of the deer gates can be a challenge for a packed bike they are not there to block our path due to Scotland’s open access laws. They are there as part of a managed estate with fences to keep the deer out. 

The route is an in out a fare following the full length of the glen. On the map it looked to be an undulating ride with nothing much in the way of single track. That means a fairly easy cruise admiring the views for all 34km. We started out about midday and arrived at our intended destination about 7pm. We have not been to the Glen before so we did not expect how good the pitch site was going to be. It was flat, had a sandy beach, the loch with a mirror finish, a jetty and no midges. Yes, I did say no midges.

We cooked chicken tai curry that evening followed by an exploration of the area admiring the mountains surrounding us to then settle in for the night. Waking up early the next morning I looked through the inner net mesh to see the grass under the outer sheet. It was kind of white. I thought it was a trick of the light and ignored it and put my head back down. Inevitably nature calls and I had to get up. The sun was up, in the entrance of the tent, 5 am. Crawled out to find the grass just losing its frosty coating, blue sky and still water. It is times like this you appreciate the peace and quiet and I should really try harder to do this more often.

Maybe it was the sun, but while my brain was saying its only about zero degrees Celsius it did not feel like it. Very pleasant. Note to self to switch off the heating at home, I do not need it. I wonder how far that idea goes.

After appreciating the morning, the views, the loch we had breakfast and packed up to get back to Cannich and the car. On the way home, the narrow dry spell we had ended abruptly with heavy rain at Perth only 100 miles south. It was almost unbelievable we had woken up to a blue sky to then be in dank conditions in an hour drive. That is the Gulf Stream for you.

This is one bikepacking trip with the views in the morning I shall remember for a long time along with Culbin beach in the Dava Way bikepacking trip last year.  

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