Author Topic: Aviemore - Fort Ugustus - Fort William and beyond... MTBing  (Read 8898 times)


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Aviemore - Fort Ugustus - Fort William and beyond... MTBing
« on: 07 March, 2017, 04:48:51 pm »
I thought I'd popst this ride here as I've been perusing a few others and someone may find it useful. It was done a couple of years ago .....

The plan was to cycle from Aviemore over the Corrieyairack Pass to Fort Augustus, then down to Fort William and continue on home (Fife) via the West Highland Way splitting off to Calender and Stirling..... I got to the end of the first day and the weather turned nasty....

Aviemore - Corrieyairack Pass - Ft Augustua - Fort William (& beyond)

I rode this route on Friday 17th October 2014. I stayed with a friend on Thursday night in Aviemore and set off just after 8am on Fri morning. I rode the easy route down the B970 to Kingussie. I'd stupidly forgotten my two bottles, leaving Aviemore, but speaking to two another riders I passed, I was directed to a small bike repair shop on Newtonmore, The Bike Shed. It has very few spares and I guess operates as a repair place essentially, I had the only two dusty bottle he had in the window! From Newtonmore I continues down the A86 to Laggan where the small road to the Corrieyairack Pass starts. Its nice smooth tarmac for ~10 miles until the road ends and the dirt track starts at Melgarve. The track is ~8ft wide for most of its course having been re-enforced by Balfour Beaty who are in the final stages of replacing the Electric Transmission Towers. They have a parallel road (non tarmac) for much of General Wade's Road but its use is restricted (at least I didn't try it, but saw contractor traffic on it). The route it quite good and rides from Melgarve (a couple half derelict buildings now) up to a mile before the zigzags where it before a little narrower but still usable by a tracked vehicle (from what I saw of the track marks). The old and new transmission towers run side by side with the newer towers to the south. There are gullies which cross the track as it climbs (which further up have fence feet placed in to smooth them out a little) to direct water off the track. These are a large step down into the gullie where the rider rides out up a ramp. It takes it out of the bike, and my bagman holding my carradice Nelson broke half way up. From the zigzags (carrying my rucksac on my back with tent, sleeping bag, rollmat, warm clothes & food etc..) I pushed the mtb up the switchback of which there are ~7. The track then straightens out and starts to level off and top out at around 708m, having climbed from Laggan at ~250m. The top is quite spoiled by the two lines of transmission towers and old concrete weather station, but the veiws from the top are worth it. The track starts to descend less steeply on the west side and strangely has the parallel contractor's smoother wider track. As I was coming off the top I saw a Mitsubishi L200 climbing with child in the passenger seat (school holidays) gawping and pointing at me :O) The descent to Fort Augustus wasn't all down hill but mostly and my brakes (hydraulic) took a battering as I got used to the descending (I'm predominantly a road cyclist). There is loose stone and fine grit resurfacing the track up and down which is loose in places. Finally towards the lower climbs I came to civilisation at Fort Augustus, I found the canal steps and water at a local garage.

From Fort Augustus I rode first along the canal path to Loch Oich where the tracks follows the south side next to an old disused railway line, grass and gravel, but is heavily rooted in places. Finally it goes onto the railway path where it meets Laggan Locks and then routes into the forest tracks on the north side of Loch Lochy. Rising and falling a few times the track runs through the forest where trees provide shelter from the wind up the Great Glen before the rider arrives at Clunes and tarmac. A couple of miles SW at Gairlochy I picked up the canal again for a further 6.5 miles to Neptunes Staircase. I then followed the cycle signs to Morrison's in Fort William a couple of miles on from the Staircase. There I sussed out train times and food from Morrison's. The train station has showers. I then decided to see how I felt at my planned campsite, on the West Highland Way ~10km south of Fort William. I over looked just how far, and steep this road was climbing and falling and climbing again to ~250m. The camping site (not actually a campsite) was quite sparse and I eventually found grass I could pitch on behind the WHW sign on a small hill. By now the light had long gone, and the wind was beginning to get up! Slight rain showers were also starting. I pitched the tent, ate and settled down for the night, and what a night! Heavy rain for much of it and battering winds had my Wild Country Zephros nearly flattened at times and I had to check the pegs and guys were secure a few times through the night, where the tent was near blown flat on to me! Knackered I guess I got to sleep (broken) around 10pm and woke and rose at 5am having polished off the family trifle I had bought, for breakfast, from Morrison's the night before. With the scattered showers and wind/gails constant through the night, I didn't fancy a head wind to Kinlochleven. I has originally planned to ride the top 1/2 of the WHW and across to Callender from Crianlarich on Saturday and then home (Edinburgh) on Sunday. Having packed up, I descended, climbed and descended again back to Fort William where I arrived at 06:30 for the 07:40 train to Glasgow.

The trip was fab, but longer than I had hoped on the first day. The train views despite rain and dark clouds to Glasgow were great, past Corrour and Rannoch. Having walked the WHW years ago I don't feel the need to try to ride it again but I may plan something for the future.

Dave C
@DaveCrampton < wot a twit.