Bealach na Ba loop by Lee Craigie
Lee Craigie is part of The Adventure Syndicate, a Cycling UK affiliated group. It is a collective of female endurance cyclists whose aim is to increase levels of self-belief and confidence in others (especially in women and girls) by telling inspiring stories, creating an encouraging community and delivering enabling workshops and training. Here's one of her favourite off-road loops in the Highlands.
I’m not the only fan of this route. In fact, local events company Hands On Events have made it into a very popular sportive in the summer months with a 144km and 72km option to suits different tastes. In fact the first time I rode it was under these conditions. We all gathered in the community hall in Kinlochewe early one June morning and signed our participation agreements before dibbing our own individual timing chips and rolling south east back up the road towards Achnasheen in the direction of Inverness.
From Achnasheen, it’s then usually a bash into a head wind all the way to the foot of the infamous Bealch Na Ba on the west coast but if undertaking this under sportive conditions it’s possible to hide in the bunch of other riders and save your breath in readiness for the hills ahead. The Bealach has rightly earned its reputation. Starting at sea level and rising to 626m in 9km, the road resembles one more often found in the French or Swiss Alps. It’s a tough climb certainly but in my opinion it’s not nearly as hard as the remainder of the route.
Once you’ve reached the top and (if it’s a clear day) marvelled at the exquisite views out to Skye and Lewis, don’t then spend the descent down to Applecross congratulating yourself too much. What follows is a torturous but stunning rolling coastal singetrack road all the way round to Sheildaig. The good news is if you’re not trying to get a fast time over the route, The Applcross Inn or Walled Garden at the start of it will fuel you and Nanny’s Café at the end will replenish you and from there it’s a simple a 27km flattish road through the foot of spectacular Glen Torridon to return you to Kinlochewe.
This truly is Scotland at its most dramatic from the road. It’s got a high climb straight out of the sea, a singletrack coastal road out on a peninsula and two classic deep mountainous glens to ride through and it includes some great food stops. Don’t forget about them.