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Bikepacking around Inverness and JOGLE

Dear all, I am a passionate bikepacker from Colombia, and I will be arriving in Inverness on 13 July by train to start riding From Inverness to John O’ Groats and then to Land’s End on a gravel bike.

I came across your club, and I wonder if you could please advise me with the following:

  • Suggested bike-friendly campsites or accommodation in Inverness.
  • Suggested routes to take from Inverness to John O’Groats and back to Inverness. If you could share any Strava routes that would be great!
  • I aim to take the Badger Divide route from Inverness to Glasgow over 3 nights. If anyone has done that, what locations/campsites would you suggest to stop along the route?
  • By any chance, would the gravel enthusiasts in this group will be available to ride along on Sunday 14 July?

I would highly appreciate any advise from anyone in this group.


My profile on Strava, just in case:

Hi Edwin,

I haven’t done the Badger Divide, though it’s on my list of routes to do at some point, but I have experience of the different routes north of Inverness to the north coast. You will have a few different options, and which you choose will depend on what kind of surface you want to ride on and how much time you have available. Unfortunately, I don’t have links for Strava for any of these, but I think you should be able to get stuff out of Komoot fairly easily.

The default route to/from John O’Groats is probably the A9 road. It’s not too busy till you get further south, but it’s probably not the most enjoyable option you’ll have. In terms of road routes, you could consider either east/west half of the bike version of the North Coast 500:

The eastern half goes through Lairg, which has a decent cafe and shops to resupply as needed, and takes some of the more quieter and scenic roads. The western half would probably take 6-7 days depending on how far you want to go per day, and though spectacular is pretty hilly. In the northwest you’d be doing 2000m+ of climbing per day for a reasonable distance.

There’s also the option of the National Cycle Network, particularly Route 1:

This goes through Tongue on the north coast, down past a pretty remote pub (the Crask Inn), through Lairg and onward. The northern section is great, though I don’t like the section around Tain and you may be better switching to the NC500 bike route above. It’s a bit more hilly, but avoids going on the A9. The route is signposted, but somewhat confusingly so near Inverness at North Kessock.

There is also an off-road option – An Turas Mor (The Big Tour):

As far as I know, it essentially follows the Badger Divide when it meets up with it south of Inverness. I personally wouldn’t go that far west to meet up with it, but probably follow one of the other routes and cut west when I could. If you do start following this route, I’d head from Marybank east to Inverness – there is a section after Marybank which very much benefits from a mountain bike. There are several write-ups of the route, such as the following:

An Turas Mor: Cape Wrath to Glasgow by Bike

One way to link up with An Turas Mor, or to get some off-road riding in preference to being on-road, would be to follow either the NCN1 or any other route south from JOG to Ardgay. From there you can head inland and meet up with either the ATM or choose a slightly rougher and hillier route. This is a loop I did last year, and the western half would be on the ATM (and is a great ride), and the eastern half would be an alternative route south:

I can’t really make any recommendations for camp sites or places to camp. I normally work out the distance I intend to go, and then use an Ordnance Survey map to pick somewhere sheltered and near a sensible water source. As you may well know, we are relatively free as to where we camp as long as we follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code:

If you hop onto the ATM, you will have the option of staying at a bothy or two. These are refuges that are typically used for deer stalking in season, but can be used by the general public particularly for access to the more remote parts of the country. The Schoolhouse is an option, but will most likely be quite busy. If you choose the NCN1 then Achnanclach is south of Tongue, and maybe 20 minute walk from the road. There’s a map of bothies maintained by the Mountain Bothy Association:

Finally, if you do wild camp, watch out for ticks. They are expected to be particularly bad this year, and I’ve found them to be really bad anywhere near where livestock have been (such as Loch Loyal, just south of Tongue). Having had suspected Lyme disease I would recommend avoiding it and them. In terms of other wildlife, sheep can block quieter roads and tracks but will normally get out of the way; goats seem to be less concerned about cyclists but will still move with a bit of encouragement. Cows are normally fine, but can be a bit jittery with young calves. I’ve never had a problem with them, though.

Anyway, hopefully some of that is of some use to you, and best of luck whichever route you choose. There’s some fantastic cycling to be enjoyed in the far north. Any questions on the above, just let me know.

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