Feeling a bit down about the recent weather and with post-holiday blues after returning from France, we booked a night at the remote Glen Affric Youth Hostel. The north of Scotland seems to have had better weather than the Central belt and so we hoped travelling to Cannich near Inverness would give us less mud under our tyres.
The plan was to drive up on Saturday morning, ride Saturday afternoon, stay over, ride back Sunday morning and then drive back Sunday afternoon.
We drove up in mixed weather with sunshine and showers, stopped for brunch in Inverness, parked at Dog Falls car park near Cannich and set off early afternoon. The weather was mild despite the showers and we were treated to sunny spells as we cycled along the south bank of the stunning Loch Beinn a’Mheadhoin towards Loch Affric.
The path on this section was easy and well-surfaced but quite unused and with a sense of remoteness. When we got to Loch Affric the path along the south side is even more of a well-made track and the cycling very straight forward but we were looking forward to a more interesting single-track return along the North side of Loch Affric on Sunday.
At the head of Loch Affric we reached a beautiful white sand beach and headed off up the narrowing glen following the River Affric.
The Hostel (shown in the first photo) sits about 5km from the beach at the head of Loch Affric, up a slightly more technical track which eventually runs right through Kintail to the banks of Loch Duich near Sheil Bridge. Just before we reached the hostel some heavier rain set in but we could smell the warm homely scent of wood smoke coming down the glen so we knew we were close. We arrived after 25km of cycling in just over two and a half hours.
The hostel was a great choice for our first ‘overnighter’ on the mountain bikes; we had to take sleeping bags and all our food but cooking facilities were provided and bunks so we didn’t need a stove, sleeping mats or a tent. I am not sure how well I’d be able to cycle with any more weight on my back than I had.
We arrived pretty wet due to riding through a few rather deep fords on the last section so it was a treat to get into dry clothes and sit by the wood burning stove while preparing dinner. After an early night and a really good night’s sleep, we woke to pretty awful looking weather – a strong westerly wind, low cloud and quite heavy rain. But by the time we left after breakfast, the rain was letting up and the sky brightening and thankfully as we were headed east along the valley the wind was at our backs. The biggest problem was the rain that had fallen in the night; where we had cycled across fords on the way to the hostel, we were wading through thigh-deep torrents on the way back. And some streams had completely taken over the path.
Still, once you’ve waded through the first, your feet can’t really get any wetter!
After re-tracing our route back to Loch Affric we headed round the north side which was a lot more interesting than the south had been. The path was undulating and fun to ride, with some loose sections both up and down but nothing too extreme.
At the bottom of Loch Affric we crossed a bridge and re-joined the quiet and pretty path on the south of Loch Beinn a’Mheadhoin that we’d started on, getting back to the car after another 26km and just over two and a half hours riding. Mostly the weather had been kind and dry with even a few sunny spells but we were utterly soaked from wading through “streams”. It took a half an hour walk to the Dog Falls viewpoint before the feeling came back into my toes. Driving back down the A9 it felt like we’d been away a lot longer than one night, almost like a mini-holiday.