We left work at 4pm, got in the car and drove north, headed for the mountains. We tolerated the average speed cameras that now hawkishly monitor the infamous A9. This road slowly twists its way up into what feels like the proper Highlands of Scotland, this is especially true as we pass Aviemore.
Our Destination was Torridon, 30 miles west of Inverness on the shores of a beautifull sea loch. This area is my favourite in the UK and was Tolkeins inspiration for Lord of the Rings – it’s easy to see why, the huge mountains striped by dark rock strata are incredibly impressive here.
More specifically that night we were headed for a remote coastal bothy that I hoped we could cycle in to.
After passing through the most impressive sunset I had seen in years we roller coasted along a narrow road to a village.
We parked up and jumped to unload bikes and bags for our overnight stay. Sadly I forgot about midges, there were millions of the mini tormentors. So many they got in your eyes, ears, up your sleeve and we breathed them in with each breath. The dangerous result of warm days and zero wind in Scotland!
Bikes loaded, DEET applied and we set off into the twilight. The views across the Loch were stunning, a purple haze of the midnight sun in the far north was resonating along the horizon as we pedalled. Then we pushed and then pushed some more. We jumped across stepping stones to ford a river. It became apparent we might be better walking. Marion ditched her bike in some trees. Only in remote areas like this could you leave a £1,500 bike unlocked in the wild woods all night!
I preserved and rode sections then carried a bit. All the time the undulating coastline was fascinating, scanning the waters for sea mammals of any description. It became clear walking was quicker but I pushed on. Then as per the map a white bothy appeared or so it seemed…. It was now gone midnight and little light was remaining but the white building was obvious.
It looked like one of the most comfortable bothies I’d bike packed to ever. AN upstairs and was that double glazing? I finally rolled up and tried the door. It was locked. I tried the door of the shed next door, locked. Bugger this isn’t a bothy it’s someone elses house, a look on the map revealed we were on the wrong peninsula!! It was almost 1am, we set out to sleep under a tree, but the midges woke up to our presence and in formation flew in to attack. We would wake up looking like a raspberry if we slept here. So with one option we headed out. By now we were into the 3 or so genuinely dark hours in June at this latitude. Headtorches on we set off back, lesson learnt to read the map better and bring a small tent!
We spent the night in the tent by the side of the car. The next day we scrambled up the horns of Bein Alligin but afterwards we were back on the bikes for another evening bike packing adventure to find the infomous Craig bothy.
This time I read the map correctly and headed towards wher eit clear said Craig Bothy. The track was 90% rideable with sea views stretchy to the distant horizon. I was back on my 26” Steel MTB and it was fun and frustrating in equal measure. The freehub was stiff meaning the chain kept dropping and the small wheels felt every rock and drop more than the bigger wheels I’m now used to. However I foget the beauty of riding a steel frame and nimble and fun small wheels.
After twisting and turning on great singletrack we dropped down an epic descent of tight corners, slick rock and spicy drops, looking up from the immediate danger on the trail, a large building appeared. Nervously I rolled over to the door only do see a MBA logo and find an open door. We were in and what a place to stay.
Craig bothy is an ex YHA hostel and has upstairs rooms, beds, wood stove, kitchen and even chairs. As bothies go it’s one of the best you’ll ever find. A local history book tells you it is the last remaining structure from 8 homesteads that were here in 1900. Locals moved to the new world and a decline in herring fishing led to a mass exodus.
We wandered to the beach and soaked up being totally alone in such a wild spot. A dip in the river was ruled out as it was later now with a chill in the air but tomorrow was all about swimming.
After a comfy night’s sleep with sea views we packed up and rode back out. The exit was more flowing downhill and felt far quicker.
For someone looking to taste bike packing I highly recommend it, the bothy is superb the riding great, but prepare for some hike a bike and pack light! It could be linked up with a ride further north to Redpoint but we didn’t test the trail that direction.