Cycling the West Coast of Scotland
There's no doubt that cycling has seen a significant increase in numbers over the last few years. Sports stars, politicians, your neighbour and nearly everyone else now seems to be getting on their bikes and taking to the roads or paths around Britain. Lots more people are venturing on two wheels to Scotland's west coast islands too. And with bikes going free on all CalMac ferries it's even easier to explore some of the world's most beautiful and remote coastlines.
The coast and islands around the west of Scotland are now a popular destination for all levels of cyclists. In fact, if you go out on a warm summer weekend morning you're more than likely to spot a M.A.M.I.L (Middle Aged Man In Lycra) or two.
So to help you on your way, here's some guidance in some key areas, should you too decide to venture out by pedal power:
Mountain bike or road bike?
The roads and trails of Scotland both have their appeal, so really the choice is yours. From the twisting tarmac of Tarbert (Harris) through to the singletrack of Skye, there are loads of locations to choose from.
What routes are there?
If you're on a road or hybrid machine then there are any number of set routes you can try. Families might want to start off cycling around Great Cumbrae in an hour or two, where there are also a few scenic places to stop off for a rest (and a possible pint). However more venturous types might want to loop the Isle of Arran in an afternoon or try the Claonaig to Campbeltown road (B842) and back on a warm evening.
What about something more challenging?
Our favourite all day cycle event is the 5 Ferries Cycle tour, which covers several routes in the Clyde and Argyll region. This 65 mile or so round trip takes in some of the most scenic (and sometimes hilly) terrain across Arran, Bute and the local mainland. It isn't for the faint hearted and is often done for charity fundraising.
Should I go alone?
No. Aside from the safety aspect, cycling does not have to be just a one person activity. It can be a lot more enjoyable to share your cycle experience with a friend or relative as you make your way through the varied geography; especially on the islands where there are so many scenic stopping places to refuel, or even take a dip in the ocean (if you're brave enough).
What else should I take with me?
If you're out for longer than anything beyond a small trip to the local café and back, we would always advise taking a basic backpack of: puncture repair kit, pump, a few simple tools and the obligatory waterproof jacket just in case. If you're going for a longer duration, then carrying some water and at least a few snacks (or a banana) as there's no guarantee you'll find a cafe on your travels. Oh and pack a mobile phone... you may not get a signal at all times, but you can also use a number of smartphone apps to record your activity and give you subsequent bragging rights when you get back home.
Get on your bike!
So what are you waiting for? Start planning your next cycling trip now - and remember bikes go free on all CalMac ferries but to avoid disappointment let the port know you are coming in advance, just in case there is already a large cycling group travelling.
Happy sailing... and cycling!