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Bringing together a route of just over 500 miles of stunning coastal scenery, the North Coast 500 naturally follows the roads along the coastal edges of the North Highlands, taking in the regions of Wester Ross, Sutherland, Caithness, Easter Ross, the Black Isle and Inverness-shire. The official North Coast 500 route begins and ends at Inverness Castle which, perched on top of a hill, is the perfect starting point to the route and offers unparalleled views over the capital city of the Highlands.
In his new short film Where Roads End, Markus Stitz showcases a more compact version of this iconic route as an inspiration to cycle Scotland. Below you’ll find the film along with route information from komoot and a breakdown of Markus’ kit and bike setup he used for this adventure.
500 miles is a lot of miles, regardless if you’re a seasoned bike rider or taking timid steps into cycle touring. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that the NC500 offers some of the best riding in the UK. So, taking into account the time constraints that make it difficult for many people to cycle the whole route Markus Stitz designed an itinerary that can be ridden in a week or less.
Markus’ new film Where Roads End is the story of that 200-mile journey.
‘My first ever bikepacking adventure in 2006 took me through the absolutely stunning north of Scotland, and I vividly remember that journey,’ says Markus. ‘Having worked on a couple of different cycling route projects over the last years and most recently a book about gravel riding in Britain, I was interested to partner up with the North Coast 500 not only to showcase the stunning landscapes I travelled through, but also to give people an idea that the NC 500 is much more than just a driving route.’
Stitz cycled on a gravel bike hired from Ticket to Ride, Inverness-based bike hire specialists, staying in hostels, B&Bs and hotels along the route in Shieldaig, Ullapool, Invergordon and Inverness.
Distance: 200 miles Ascent: 3,420 m Terrain: Mix of on and off-road sections, some very remote. Difficulty: The route contains gates which, if closed, might require you to lift your bike over the gate and may require pushing on more technical uphill and downhill sections. Best time to visit: April to October. Some sections can be muddy or boggy in wet weather conditions.
Starting his journey in Strathcarron, taking a train for the first leg, he then followed the NC500 route up and down the Bealach na Bà, on the third-highest road in Scotland. On the second day he set off from the picturesque fishing village of Shieldaig in Wester Ross, to combine the NC500 route with gravel tracks along Upper Loch Torridon, then continuing through picturesque Glen Torridon.
From the shores of Loch Maree, he ventured off the NC500 route towards Achnasheen and on to Lochluichart. This section can be done by either bike or train. Markus crossed the Lochluichart Wind Farm on gravel tracks to meet the A835 at Loch Glascarnoch. His route joined the North Coast 500 again at Corrieshalloch Gorge, continuing on the road and an alternative route on the opposite side of the River Broom to Ullapool.
From Ullapool Stitz continued on a well-known coast-to-coast route to Oykel Bridge, having already ridden this section during his inaugural bikepacking trip in 2006 and also during the Highland Trail 550. He continued on to Culrain, where his route met the railway once again to Ardgay. After a final overnight stop near Invergordon he continued on a mixture of roads, paths and Sustrans National Cycle Route 1 across the Black Isle back to Inverness.
the NC500 is much more than just a driving route
North Coast 500 Bikepacking Kit List
For any bikepacking adventure, the exact kit and bike set up you chose to use is going to depend on a couple of key questions. What kind of terrain will you be expecting to ride? How remote are the landscapes in which you are going to ride? What’s the weather going to be like? Where will you be staying? And how do you plan to source your food? The answers to those questions will then determine the amount of kit you’ll need and how best to carry it.
An instrumental character in the development of bikepacking routes across Scotland, having ridden around the world Markus Stitz is well versed in the art of packing for bike based adventure. For his 200 mile bikepacking version of the NC500 he hired a gravel bike, swapped tyres and used his own bikepacking bags. Opting to stay in hostels, B&Bs and hotels along the route it meant he could significantly cut down his kit. meaning he still had plenty of space for the cold weather gear he’d certainly still require.
Apidura Backcountry Hip Pack (2.5l)
DJI Mavic Air2S Drone in case
DJI Osmo Pocket 2 camera
DJI Osmo Action 2 front touch screen module
Tripod mount for DJI Osmo Action 2
Apidura Racing Frame Pack (4L)
2 spare batteries for drone
Manfrotto mini tripod
Spare Schwalbe Aerothan tube
Anker power bank and iPhone cable
Apidura Racing Top Tube Pack (1L)
Canon G7X Mark III camera (in case)
Apidura Handlebar Bag
Endura MT500 D3O® glove
Apidura Backcountry Food Pouch Plus (1.2L)
Controller for drone in waterproof bag
Apidura Racing Saddle Pack (5L)
Endura GV500 Foyle shorts
45NRTH Lumi lightweight wool socks
Charger for drone, charger for iPhone, various charging cables
45NRTH Stavanger merino beanie
45NRTH Ltd wool tee
Spare Buff (antiviral)
Toothbrush & toothpaste
Rode wireless microphone
2 spare batteries for Canon camera
LEZYNE Tool Box
Schwalbe Aerothan tube
Tyre levers, chain link,
DJI Osmo Action 2 camera (around neck)
Endura GV500 waterproof jacket
Endura GV500 Reiver bibshort
45NRTH Electric Rift midweight socks
45NRTH Ragnarök Black boots
Endura BaaBaa Blend L/S Baselayer
45NRTH Naughtvind bib knickers
Endura PRO SL PrimaLoft® gilet
Abus Airbreaker helmet
45NRTH Blowtorch gaiter
RadTrail cycling hat
45NRTH Sturmfist 4 gloves
Bike – Trek Domane AL 4 Disc
Schwalbe G-One Allround tires on Aerothan tubes
Exposure Diablo MK12 front light
Exposure Blaze MK2 back light
Lezyne Mega XL GPS
Water bottle & pump
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