Great Glen Cycleway

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Great Glen Cycleway

Trip Highlights

  • Cycling a Scottish Coast to Coast trail
  • Blazing forest single track trails
  • Quiet canal and loch-side trails
  • Views of Ben Nevis, Lochs and many mountains
  • Industrial heritage and clan history
  • Interesting towns with remains of forts and castles

Trip Summary

The Great Glen Cycle Way is a Scottish Coast to Coast route largely following the walking route of the Great Glen Way National Trail, but has a different route around Loch Oich to the walkers. The ride is approximately 80 miles / 129km starting at Fort William, near the foot of Ben Nevis (Britain's highest peak), follows the shores of the famous Loch Ness and finishes at Inverness, Scotland’s north-most city and the “capital of the Highlands”. A lot of the cycling is straightforward, along canal towpaths and forest tracks, but there are some more challenging sections on gravel fire roads and on single-track. Some hills are pretty steep and it maybe just as well to get off, walk and admire the view on these sections.

Suitability

Moderate to Challenging, Averaging around 26 miles /42km a day, nevertheless the days are quite full on especially if you intend visiting attractions along the way. The route starts fairly flat but gets harder from Loch Oich with short steep hills and a longer one on the last cycling day of around 370m. Surfaces include tarmac, forest trails with tree roots, gravel fire and forestry roads, and stony single track. They do not involve technical mountain biking and as long as care is taken, the ride should be within the abilities of average mountain bikers. If necessary it is possible to opt out of the gravel tracks and follow the roads alongside the lochs all the way to Inverness.

Itinerary

Make your own way to Fort William. There are only traces left of the original fort built to keep the dreaded Highlanders at bay. Today the town is the “Chamonix” of Scotland with a proliferation of outdoor shops, cafes, bookshops and bars to entertain you. If you have an extra night and you are an experienced hill walker, you could climb Ben Nevis, or take a boat trip to “Seal Island” to see the grey seals loitering around. Accommodation: We use a selection of bed & breakfast/guesthouses in Fort William all offering ensuite facilities.

Meals:  Nil

Meet your hire bike! Once you are familiar with its functions, follow the Great Glen Way markers from the ruins of Fort William, the Hanoverian Fort built to quell the Jacobites, at the seaside of Loch Linnhe. Roll out passing underneath the mass of Ben Nevis and past an even older castle fortress at Inverlochy which is worth a browse. Cycle along to cross the River Lochy and at the loch at Corpach, you may get some great views of Ben Nevis. Now join the tow path to the famous Caledonian Canal. Via various natural lochs and man made canal sections, this runs all the way through Inverness and into the Moray Firth. You shortly ascend gently by the watery escalator of eight locks known as 'Neptunes Staircase' which bring the boats up or down to or from sea level. The ride stays on the towpath until you reach Gairlochy. It is fairly flat going up to this point, then the route heads round the west side of Loch Lochy changing onto a gravelly fire road, with a bit of ascent around the loch shore before reaching South Laggan with its lock system. You could have a break here, as an old Dutch sailing barge doubles as pub / restaurant nearby on the canal. The bike trail leaves the walking path at this point and heads up into forest above the loch before a descent through trees into the village of Invergarry which has a castle. Accommodation: A proud Victorian lodge, but inside it has a comfortable modern feel with tiled and oak flooring with under-floor heating. Rooms have tea & coffee making facilities, TV, hairdryer and free Wi-Fi. It is in a quiet setting.

Meals:  B

After breakfast, tackle your first steep hill on the climb behind Invergarry up through Nursery Woods, with commanding views of Loch Oich wherever there are breaks in the trees. The route returns to the loch then undulates on single track through the woods to cross the beautiful chain tapered suspension bridge built in 1854, bringing you into Aberchalder. Here you rejoin the Caledonian Canal towpath and the Great Glen walking trail. This pretty and relaxing section gives you time to rest your legs along the towpath to Fort Augustus. As you reach the town there is another series of boat locks before you reach the shores of Loch Ness. Some might have the idea to lock their bikes up and take a pleasure cruise on the loch to see the famed but normally rare monster; nevertheless Fort Augustus is a good place to snack up before ascending back into the forest above the loch on the fire roads. Some of the climbs are quite steep and there is no harm in walking a hill, have your camera ready for some dramatic views of Loch Ness and mountains. A sharp descent into Invermoriston follows. A pretty feature here are the falls of the Moriston River under the old Thomas Telford Bridge (1813). Another very steep climb takes you back onto the undulating balcony track above the loch for another 12 miles/20km or so until you start to descend into the unusual Scottish village with a green called Drumnadrochit. It has been a long day, but if you have the time and inclination you can cycle a couple of kms around to Urqhart Castle, one of the most dramatically situated in Scotland. Accommodation: We use a mixture of B&B's in the busy town of Drumnadrochit, all well appointed.

Meals:  B

The first part of the day climbs sharply out of Drumnadrochit away from Loch Ness through forest and up some 370 metres around the flanks of 'Carn na Leitire.' You then descend past Loch Laide to join minor roads and forest tracks deeper into the hills and fields that surround the Great Glen. The route takes you through beautiful remote moorland and wooded countryside then begins the descent into Inverness, along the River Ness, finally arriving at Inverness and the "capital of the highlands." this is an attractive and interesting small city which has a slightly frontier feel to it. Perhaps relax and celebrate completing the Great Glen Cycle route. It is worth having an extra day in Inverness: The National Trust Culloden Battle site is a short bus ride away and a bit further afield is Fort George, a fascinating complex built to protect Scotland from French invasion.

Meals:  B

Depart Inverness for your onward travel.

Meals:  B

What's Included

  • 4 Breakfasts
  • 4 nights accommodation in small guesthouses on a twin share basis with ensuite facilities where available
  • One piece of luggage per person transferred from Inn to Inn, not to exceed 20kg
  • Information pack including route notes & maps (1 pack per room booked)
  • Emergency hotline

What's Not Included

  • Lunch, Dinner and drinks
  • Entrance fees
  • Travel insurance
  • Travel to the start and from the end point of the trip
  • Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
  • Unscheduled transfers required during the trip
  • Bike Hire

Upcoming Travel Dates

AT A GLANCE

Duration:5 Days
Countries:Scotland
Starting Point:Fort William
Finishing Point:Inverness
Activities:Self-Guided Cycling
Grade:moderate to challenging  Click for more information
Trip Code:WGG
Prices From:GBP£570 Per Person
Please do not book any flights or extra arrangements until such time that your booking is confirmed by Sherpa Expeditions by phone or email.