Cycling and hill-walking – a great combination

Photograph: Gareth Overton

Photograph: Gareth Overton

Has the long, tiring tramp back to the car ever taken the edge off your day in the hills? Then using your bike may be the answer.

Hill walking guidebooks often say something along these lines: “To avoid a long walk in, bring your bike.”

In the past I’ve always ignored this advice, partly through general inefficiency and partly through lack of a reliable cycle carrier to fit to the car.

Getting the bikes off the carNow, though, I’ve vowed to raise my efficiency level and also invested in an affordable cycle carrier from Halfords (www.halfords.com) that was easy to assemble initially and can be fitted to the car in seconds. It then takes only a minute or so to secure my bike to it using a combination of straps and bungees.

This discovery lately made a real delight out of what might otherwise have been a long, hard and frustrating day.

With my friend, Gareth, I set off to climb Beinn Bhuidhe, at the head of Loch Fyne. It’s described in my Cicerone (www.cicerone.co.uk) guide “Walking the Munros – Volume 1”, by Steve Kew, as a “secretive and complex little hill” that will take you six hours 25 minutes (I love the precision there) or four hours 45 minutes if using a bike.

Opting for the latter, we parked up and pedalled off along a smooth, tarmac road, closed to cars, which followed the River Fyne upstream past the Achadunan Brewery, where the excellent Fyne Ales (www.fyneales.com) come from.

Riding past cattlesWe had to share the road with no-one other than a small herd of Highland cattle, and spotted a couple of dragonflies and a buzzard. The tarmac turned to a stony track, but although we were both using road bikes this did not slow our progress and soon we were locking the bikes, probably unnecessarily, to a rail provided for the purpose some way short of the derelict Inverchorachan farmhouse.

Resting on spongy vegetation - Photograph: Gareth OvertonPassing through a gate in a fence put up to keep sheep out of a woodland regeneration area, we walked along a winding track before striking west up the steep slopes of our mountain. The sky was cloudless, the ground firm, and half way up we found the perfect lunchtime resting spot: a huge block of stone, with slightly overhanging sides and a topping of delightfully spongy vegetation which made the perfect place to rest.

Actually, if you follow the guidebook to the letter, you’ll miss this feature. To see it, when leaving the track just past Inverchorachan, walk up the right-hand side of the stream, rather than the left.

Gareth on the summitFrom the rock it was a vigorous walk to the short summit ridge and the chance to enjoy another breather with great views west over Loch Awe or north-east to Ben Lui and points beyond. Descending from the 3,110ft summit via the opposite side of the stream, we were soon back at the bikes, where it felt great to know that instead of an hour or so of weary walking on a hard surface we had only a brisk pedal of perhaps 15 minutes to reach the car.

Bikes lockedAs well as saving us a long trudge over now-familiar ground, the cycling added variety to the day and gave the trip an exhilarating, upbeat end. I’d definitely do it again – in fact I plan to use pedal power to shorten what can otherwise be a very long day going up Beinn Dearg, near Blair Atholl.

Can anyone suggest any other good “bike-in” hills?



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2 comments on “Cycling and hill-walking – a great combination
  1. Love biking and hiking. Mount Keen is a challenge to get to the top by bike but the coming down is awesome!

  2. And Ben Alder. 10 miles in and out. Lovely.

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