Weekender: Cape Wrath
Start/finish: Ferry jetty, down the road from Durness.
OS grid reference: NC 37744 66157.
Map: OS Landranger 9.
Ride length: 23.8 miles.
Bike type: MTB, E-MTB, gravel/adventure bike, tourer with wide tyres.
Ride level: Adventurous beginner and up.
Cape Wrath is Britain’s most north-westerly point. Located in Sutherland in the Highlands of Scotland, it’s truly a special place – and not just because it’s a Special Protection Area, Special Area of Conservation, and Site of Special Scientific Interest!
It’s a pretty much untouched landscape: windblown and frequently rainswept, with vast open skies, heathland, and babbling burns. Puffins, Arctic skua, white-tailed eagles, sea eagles, and gulls are all known to breed in the area along the cliffs. In part, we have the MoD to thank for this: a vast swathe of the region is used for regular training and artillery bombardment, and that’s kept it free of people and vehicles.
Unless you’re willing to wade through the bogs of the Cape Wrath Trail, the only way to get there is by a little open-top ferry (an adventure in itself!) that will take you across the Kyle of Durness to a battered, traffic-free ‘road’ to the lighthouse.
With a bunkhouse at the 24-hour café by the lighthouse and a bothy in beautiful Kearvaig bay, it’s easy to stay over. By reaching the lighthouse, you’re eligible to join Cycling UK’s Cape Wrath Fellowship. All you need to do is take a photo of yourself with your bike at the lighthouse and send it to us, and we'll sign you up to this historic fellowship.
1 Kyle of Durness
The ferry from just outside Durness is £10 return for you and your bike. It runs when the tides and weather allow. Check in with Malcolm the ferryman beforehand on 07719 544 207.
2 Unexploded ordnance!
Just before the three-mile marker, you’ll enter the firing range. Heed the advice on the big signs and placards!
3 The Lighthouse
After 11 miles of ups and downs along a rough track, you will reach journey’s end: the lighthouse, built in 1828 by Robert Stevenson. Grab a snap of you and your bike so you’re eligible to join the Cape Wrath Fellowship, then visit the 24-hour Ozone Café.
4 Stone bridge
There’s a glorious swooping descent from the heights (the plumpest tyres you can fit will make this part a pleasure). It takes you down to one of the few man-made features in the wilderness – a picturesque stone bridge that must have been built around the same time as the lighthouse.
If you’re planning on spending the night at Cape Wrath, you could stay at the Ozone Café. For a more interesting evening, head back the way you came, take a detour to Kearvaig Bay and stay at the bothy. If you fancy a fire, bring your own combustibles.
After you’ve rumbled over the wooden bridge, you face a short, steep climb, but for the effort you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views across the white sands (if the tide is right).
7 The Jetty
Hopefully by the time you’ve reached the concrete jetty, there will be a ferry waiting for you… If not, you should have phone reception to call the ferryman.