Professional mountain biker Hannah Barnes shares her favourite mountain bike adventure in the Scottish Highlands.
“For a really special and one-off adventure to truly remember, I would ride on the Knoydart Peninsula in the Scottish Highlands, also referred to as Britain’s last wilderness. It is only accessible by boat or a 30km rough trail. The 11km of tarred road is not connected to the UK road system. Before the Highland Clearances and mass emigration to Canada, the population was over one thousand. Today only 100 people live in Inverie, the main settlement.
The trail is a walking path from the top end of Loch Arkaig, over to Inverie on Loch Nevis. It is only roughly 30km in distance with around 1400m of climbing and descending, yet it is a proper day out on some challenging terrain! Even in the wild weather we encountered, it’s not hard to see why this is classified as an area of outstanding beauty.
At roughly halfway there is an awesome long descent, dropping down to the coast and to Sourlies Bothy. Here we found a couple of walkers taking shelter. It was November, raining, getting dark, no phone signal and one of them had a broken ankle, so we didn’t stop for long so that we wouldn’t lose time in finding help for them. We also had to rush to make the river crossing: being right at the head of the loch the river height is affected by the tide, and the tide was coming in!
This ride really is an adventure, with plenty of room for the day to take some twists and turns.
After one long climb, more breath-taking views, then one final long descent, you arrive in Inverie on the shores of Loch Nevis. Hopefully you arrive with time for hot food and a beer at The Old Forge, Britain’s most remote pub!
It was November, raining, getting dark, no phone signal and one of them had a broken ankle.
- Hannah Barnes
Make sure to bring a good selection of spares to fix your bike, plus a first aid kit, survival blanket, spare clothes, plenty of food (plus extra food), OS map app, OS map and compass, and anything else I may have forgotten! There are long stretches with no phone signal, and weather and visibility can quickly deteriorate, so you really are out there alone and need to be self-sufficient. Whilst daunting, if you’re well prepared then it’s no stress and really adds to the magic and adventure of it all!
From Inverie, you can stay the night in the bunkhouse or jump on the ferry back to Mallaig.
Having had an amazing and memorable day out in the wild weather when I did this ride one cold November, I really can’t wait to do this in the summer months! I can only imagine how magical it will be with more hours of daylight, sunshine, T-shirts, stopping to swim in rivers and jump off the Inverie pier at the end of the day.
It’s close to home and I can use a mountain bike to access and enjoy jaw-dropping scenery and trails – I can’t think of anything better!”