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Cycles in the UK

The aim is that this page will expand over time as more routes get added. I'm kicking off with a couple of short rides in the Loch Tay area of the Highlands. Both rides could be combined with a loop of Loch Tay itself to make a fairly demanding day ride.

Ben Lawers-Loch Lyon Circuit

Starting and finishing in Killin at the South end of Loch Tay, this is a 38-mile loop that goes over the pass by Ben Lawers and comes back over the pass by Loch Lyon. Some steep climbing from Loch Tay up to the Ben Lawers visitors centre, and a thrilling descent down the other side. Watch out for suicidal sheep or walkers though. Good views by Ben Lawers. All the roads are very quiet; the Western pass isn't even marked on motorist's maps as it was built by the water board to allow them to maintain the Loch Lyon dam, rather than as a public road. Takes about 2-2 1/4 hours if you don't hang about.

Glen Quaich Loop

Another hilly one, starting and finishing in Aberfeldy, going over the A826 climb south of the town and coming back via Glen Quaich and Loch Tay. The Glen Quaich pass is steep on both sides, making it a hard climb near the top and you have to pay attention on the descent. Good views back along the Glen though. 28 miles, took us about an hour and 40 minutes.


Applecross Peninsula

Another "hilly" one. We did this ride as part of a four-day tour of the Western Highlands over the Jubilee weekend. We started and finished at Shieldaig, where you can camp for free and the pub does decent food. Making it a day ride meant we didn't have to lug full camping kit over the Bealach na Ba. This road is about the nearest thing to an Alpine col one can ride in the UK: it is not quite the highest road in Britain at 2053 ft, or the steepest (the steepest pitches, near the top, are only 20% or so), but since you start from almost sea level I think it boasts the most vertical feet in one climb available in the UK. We did the ride anticlockwise, which worked out well for several reasons. The Eastern ascent is more majestic, climbing up between two huge buttresses of rock, and the Western decent is probably faster, being straighter and more open. Damian clocked 49 mph (almost 80 kph) on the way down. At the bottom the Applecross Inn does fantastic food, especially seafood and local stuff like venison sausages, and you wouldn't want to stuff yourself in there and then try and climb the bastard-much better to do the climb first and then stick the nosebag on. The coast road north from Applecross village back to Shieldaig never gets very high, but is very undulating and steep both up and down, making it quite a knackering stretch of road. About 45 miles.


Passes of the English Lakes

A very hilly trip, doable in a single day if you're in shape and a hurry. Makes a lovely weekend trip though-we stopped at Wastwater Youth Hostel on the Saturday evening, but there are many possibilities wherever you end up. What makes this trip-basically a large loop through the Lake District taking in all of the major passes-so tough is not the unreasonable amount of climbing or great heights of the climbs (they are typically only 300-400 m high), but the fact that they are so steep. Of the ones mentioned in the route summary, only Kirkstone is less than 25 % (assuming you don't climb it from Ambleside via "the struggle" route, of course), and Hardknott Pass is 33 % in places; so steep that it can be hard to balance the bike with both wheels on the ground. For the Fred Whitton Challenge I used my touring bike rather than road bike, and noticed that the more relaxed geometry felt better than my road racing bike. No wheelspin, even in the wet when climbing Hardknott, for example. There are other points on this ride with gradients of > 10 % but they are so common they don't even rate a mention. Both the scenery and food/beer on this trip are top-notch though, making it a well-recommended place to visit.


Cycling South of Edinburgh

Not a particular route, this is based on an article I wrote for the Edinburgh Triathletes Club magazine Tribull, which suggests good places (which I define as low motor traffic, good scenery, and hills) for road cycling in the area South of Edinburgh.