When my other half suggested a dirty weekend away for his 40th, pushing a bike up the Devil’s Staircase, dodging bogs and clattering down scary paths, was not what I imagined……but what a weekend it was!
It was a long standing ‘bucket list’ wish of Gareth’s to ride the Caledonian Sleeper from London to Scotland, and then riding point-to-point, so his 40th birthday seemed the perfect time to do it.
Our long weekend adventure started with the Caledonian Sleeper – the overnight train from London Euston to Fort William. It’s not the cheapest way to travel to Scotland, but a very fun, relaxing and fairly unique way to travel. No queues on the M5/M6, no necessary stops at service stations, no driving for hours and hours, just lovely views and an (almost) great night’s sleep. The tiny little cabins have comfy beds and the provided earplugs are useful as the walls are like paper! It’s all topped off with a morning wakeup call and complimentary coffee and shortbread biscuits brought to your cabin.
However, unless you carefully read the ‘taking your bike’ section of the SleeperScot website, you don’t realise until you check in, that you need to get up at Edinburgh station to move your bike to another carriage…..at 4 am!
We arrived at our station Upper Tyndrum just before 8am, the rain had just started, so we made a swift departure to The Real Food Café for breakfast. A lovely, welcoming café with a great breakfast and a less welcoming view of the rain bouncing off the road. After delaying our start with another cup of coffee, we put on all the waterproof gear we had and started our trip of three days along the West Highland Way (WHW).
The route is clearly signposted, and only basic navigational knowledge is required. Being so clearly marked, there was no need for any stop/starting to look at the map, so we just concentrated on riding our bikes and choosing the best lines on the rocky, boggy trails. It’s a double track all the way from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy, however it is a fun ride, a little bit techy and lots of puddles.
Once at Bridge of Orchy, you start on one of the first big climbs of the route, up and over Mam Carraigh and the start of the views that makes the WHW so appealing. The views just keep getting more spectacular with every turn, and riding along the old military road across the Black Mount to the Glencoe Ski Centre is a lovely non-technical section that allows you to look around at the panoramic views.
The Ski Centre is a great lunch stop, with decent food and one of the best views of any café (if the cloud level is not too low). If you feeling the urge then just pay £10 for the ski lift up to the top and to the start of the red and black downhill trails, or just have another hot chocolate and gaze at ‘that view’.
Our accommodation for the night was a quick almost pedal-free ride down the hill to Kings House Hotel. The hotel itself is closed for renovation, but their newly opened bunkhouse is very nice indeed with spacious bedrooms, a drying room, a common room, lovely showers and each bunk has USB charging ports. There’s not much in the way of self-catering, which means that you simply wander across the courtyard to their pub for the evening, passing the tame deer who are just kind of hanging around, with the mighty Buachaille Etive Mor in the background– it’s all very wonderfully Scottish.
Height gained:- 625m
The fun downhill bit:- 500m