applecross mtb loop

Tue, Apr 2, 2013

It seems the north west has inherited the weather from the Caribbean as we've had about a month of wall to wall sunshine and barely any precipitation, although it's been tempered by a bitingly cold east wind that's kept the Cuillin white. It was in these conditions that Penguin and I headed across the Bealach na Ba road which goes up to about 2000 feet and is a great candidate for a Matt Munro job. Not quite the same number of hairpins but you get the idea.

Our destination was Applecross and a fantastic romp cross country on manageable singletrack to Kenmore on the old coffin road and back by the coast road. So we parked just before the bridge across the River Applecross and cycled up Srath Maolchaluim on the landrover track. The Gaelic name for Applecross is A'Chomraich (ih-chom-a-reech) and means The Sanctuary, from the days when St. Maelrubha founded a monastery in 673 and had links with Ashaig on Skye.

Looking north from the slopes of Meall Arachaidh

After a few Km the LRT runs out and the route becomes singletrack. Fairly easy at first, if steep but then becomes much steeper and rockier with some buttock clenching drops into the gorge. I decided to push past the worst of it but it turned out this initial climb onto the moorland was the hardest cycling of the day. Once you're up there it's wonderful. The photo above is the view from the top of the steep ascent looking out over the rest of the route. Solid singletrack, if a little wet here and there but nothing too bad, although the ground was frozen and very very dry which helped a lot.

Looking to Lochan na h-Airighe Riabhaich

It's pretty fast singletrack across the moors with beautiful views in all directions and there's a cracking descent to Loch Gaineamhach (the sandy loch) where the track goes right down to the shore. A fantastic, peaceful spot.

Loch Gaineamhach

It's then 'uppy doony' on fast singletrack for a bit before popping out onto a short 'balcony' path high above Loch Torridon. This is a fantastic spot to sit and look at the view and contemplate the descent as the houses at Kenmore look rather small and yet rather near.

Penguin above Loch a'Choire Bhuidhe

The descent from here it just out of this world though. I thought about dropping the seat but it didn't look steep enough for that. Just steep enough to get me screaming like a banshee but with delight rather than terror. It's rocky but no drop offs apart from the occasional fashioned step but nothing that hindered progress. I must add at this point that I only had a front brake. A very grippy Hope disc brake (I'd never got round to replacing the back brake!) so I was feathering like mad on the way down, trying not to make like a wheel spider. You know, those wee leggy things that roll down sand dunes in the Sahara! There was one point where path work had created a large enough step to bring me to halt, just. Indecision clicked in and I felt the back of the bike rise up and the ground in front rise up but before the whole thing couped over I stepped off nursing only a banged bollock! Ouch!

End of the track at Kenmore

It was then back on and speeding down the final descent to Kenmore and a brew-up above the loch.

Torridon from the track

We thought about returning the same way but on reflection, the route is best done Applecross to Kenmore as the climbs are much more prevalent going the other way, plus the descent to Applecross wouldn't be as nice as it's very rocky singletrack along the side of a very steep gorge. There would be no way you'd be able to stop yourself of you went over the side at a few points. Literally. So we saddled up and returned via the coast road. One of the best roads in Britain on a sunny day like this.

Cycling south down the Applecross coastal road

There's a fair bit of up and down on big open roads once you're past the single track part but the views are out of this world.

Skye from Sand on the Applecross peninsula

We finished off the day with superb coffee and cake at The Potting Shed cafe at the Walled Garden in Applecross. Thoroughly recommended!

You can see all the pics here.