Unforgettable Trip to Moidart. Useful Tips for Traveling by Bicycle
Moidart. Jason Macintyre was a talented racing cyclist from Fort William. He was good enough to ride the Tour de France, but stayed in Scotland to help care for his handicapped daughter. Still, he was a national champion, and I came here in 2008 to interview him and take photographs on his favorite ride, which he called the Glen Uig Loop. Five months later he was killed in a road accident while training here. This is Jason’s ride.
It starts in Fort William right under Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, and after ten miles requires a short ferry crossing of the Corran Narrows. From there the ride just keeps getting better and better.
Stately mountains are reflected in Loch Linnhe, then fade slowly and disappear as you enter the fortress hills of Kingair Loch. They signal the start of the ride’s hardest climb, Taob Dubh. It’s not hard in absolute terms, but it’s just one of many on this ride. Pace yourself, because afterwards the hills come thick and fast.
Up and down to Loch Sunart, then to the south-west tip of Loch Shiel, and you’ve reached halfway. There’s no going back now. Jason reckoned this ride was character-building, because once you’re halfway you’re committed to the finish. It certainly became part of who he was, and it gave him some of the steely determination that enabled him to compete at so high a level without the advantages of other top racers.
You climb to Captain Robinson’s Cairn and descend past the Seven Men of Moidart. This refers to seven beech trees that were planted here because it’s said to be where Bonnie Prince Charlie landed with seven companions on his return from exile in 1745, although there’s a question mark over that. Only four of the seven beeches remain.
Hills, headlands and loch shores are a repeating pattern until you reach Glen Uig and its village, and the most beautiful view of this incredible ride. Look north-west from Glenuig and the sea is studded with islands – Eigg, Muck, Rum, Canna – and on the horizon you can just see the Cuillin Hills of Skye.
It’s remote here; access by road was only made in 1966, and mains electricity didn’t reach the tiny settlement until 1983. Yet there have been people here for thousands of years. The Gulf Stream passes nearby, making the climate milder than it should be this far north. The land was productive until the Highland Clearances changed it, and transport was by horseback and by sea and loch.
You join the A830 ‘Road to the Isles’ at Lochailort and head east back to Fort William. Glenfinnan is just over one third of the way back. This is where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard and began his fight to win back the Scottish throne for his father, James Stuart, and make Scotland Scottish once more – a fight which ended eight months later at the Battle of Culloden. A huge and noble tower marks the spot.
Follow the A82 south-west from Fort William and turn right just before Inchree to the Corran Ferry. Crossings take just a few minutes on a first come, first served basis. With Loch Linnhe behind you, take the left road in Corran, so the loch is on your left. This bit is gently rolling, but the ride starts getting hilly after Inversanda, where you keep left onto the B8043, and especially hilly after Kingair Loch.
Turn right onto the A884 after Lochuisge and left onto the A861 to Strontian. The road undulates gently along Loch Sunart, then climbs over a series of low headlands to Ardshealach, Kinlochmoidart and Glenuig village. Remain on the A861.
Turn right onto the A830 for the final 25 miles back to Fort William. This leg starts out hilly but returns to undulation before the end. Nowhere is it flat, though, and I promise you won’t ever forget the views of Ben Nevis getting closer as you ride this section.
Trip to Moidart. Start + Finish: Fort William
Trip to Moidart. Getting There: Fort William is on the A82, 95 miles north of Glasgow. There is also a rail link with Glasgow.
Trip to Moidart. Bike Shop: Nevis Cycles, 4 & 6 Lochy Crescent, Inverlochy
Trip to Moidart. Cafe: JJ’s Cafe in Lochybridge is on the Road to the Isles, so you see it as you finish the ride.
Trip to Moidart. Local Delicacy: Smoked salmon
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