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The region of Argyllshire is divided in two by Loch Linnhe, with Mainland Argyllshire characterised by its rugged, mountainous Highland scenery and its many lochs. The area is bordered by an undulating coastline and a myriad of islands that lie within the Inner Hebrides, including the mountainous isles of Jura and Mull, and the contrastingly flat landscapes of Coll and Tiree.
Created by Bikepacking Scotland, the new Argyll’s Islands route explores beautiful beaches, some of the world’s best distilleries, winding gravel tracks and the finest local culinary experiences in a region known as Scotland’s Adventure Coast. Markus Stitz’ self-filmed short Wild About Bikepacking launches this new 496km (308 miles) route connecting four of 23 of Argyll’s inhabited islands, as he takes a reconnaissance tour on a unique wooden-framed Twmpa Cycles GR 1.0 gravel bike.
Co-author of Big Rides: Great Britain & Ireland and author of Great British Gravel Rides (due to be released in July 2022), Markus is a seasoned cyclist with a proven track record in bikepacking races. Having cycled around the world on a singlespeed bike, he continues to develop new bikepacking and gravel routes closer to home as the founder of Bikepacking Scotland, encouraging others to explore their own boundaries by bike.
Tall trees trail at Loch Awe.
Scallastle Bay, Mull.
For new bikepackers and gravel cyclists, the route offers a wide range of accommodation and incentives to stop, and experienced cyclists will find plenty of opportunities to extend the route or combine it with other established trails. The route incorporates a mixture of terrain including gravel tracks, singletrail, cycle paths and roads, and makes use of ScotRail’s Highland Explorer train. The specialised carriage has space for up to 20 bikes on board and offers a connection between Glasgow, host city of the UCI Cycling World Championships in 2023, and Oban, where the new route begins. Bikes travel free on trains and all ferries along the route.
‘For me, boarding a ferry to an island is the perfect start to a bikepacking adventure, and this route includes some of the most scenic ferry journeys in Scotland,’ Markus says. ‘Different from other routes I mapped, this one features quite a few road sections. Most of them are really quiet and enjoyable, like the Long Road on Jura. A gravel bike is the perfect bike to cycle the Bikepacking Argyll’s Islands route.’
Ferry from Oban to Craignure, Mull.
boarding a ferry to an island is the perfect start to a bikepacking adventure
Gravel track on the west coast of Jura with the Paps of Jura ahead.
Isle of Jura Distillery, Craighouse.
there are plenty of opportunities to unearth Scotland’s history
The route, which was commissioned by CalMac Ferries and Wild About Argyll, includes 5,100m of ascent, and although there are no hike-a-bike sections, does require the odd push on technical uphill sections! This year-round trail passes a number of worthwhile stop-offs, landmarks and attractions including Loch Na Keal and MacCulloch’s Fossil Tree on Mull, Islay’s distilleries and Finlaggan historic site and Mount Stuart and the Canada Hill Serpentine Road on Bute.
‘What I really like about it is the combination of great cycling, culinary offers and accommodation. And there are plenty of opportunities to unearth Scotland’s history in places like Kilmartin Glen, which has the most important concentration of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in mainland Scotland,’ says Markus.
The varied terrain and accessible nature of the route from Glasgow make it an excellent addition to Bikepacking Scotland’s extensive selection of pedal-powered adventure options. Bikepacking Argyll’s Islands route is divided into eight day itineraries, and can be navigated by downloading the GPX-files for free on the Bikepacking Scotland website.
Road from Port Ellen to Bowmore, Islay.
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