Winter bikepacking on the Isle of Mull
By Marcus Nicolson
I have previously ridden large sections of the Wild About Argyll trail and was keen to try out some different routes in the area. With friends, we agreed to test out an ‘off-the-grid’ section around the Isle of Mull before heading north to end out trip in Fort William.
Regular trains (with sufficiently large bike carriages) leaving from Glasgow made things easy to get up to Oban for the start of the trip. We stayed in Oban Youth Hostel, where they have bike storage facilities at the back of the building. The hostel is comfortable and I would recommend it to any cycle tourer who finds themselves in Oban for the night.
Arriving on the Isle of Mull
We took the CalMac ferry across to Mull early on Saturday morning to begin our trip from Craignure. Roads in Mull are peaceful in comparison with riding on the mainland and we enjoyed the tranquillity of our surroundings. We covered a treacherous section of coastal path, where even walking would have been difficult. This is not a route I would recommend anyone follow with bikes. Rather, I would encourage readers to search for Markus Stitz’ new Mull Gravel Bikepacking route which offers plenty more rideable terrain.
Due to the slow coastal section we were forced to change our original plans of reaching Tobermory by night. Thankfully, we discovered another feasible accommodation option for the night and rode on to Tomsleibhee bothy which is accessible via a rideable gravel track.
The bothy has a nice vantage point of the island and is frequently used by hillwalkers exploring the area. Bothy’s are a great option for bikepackers looking for some shelter, just make sure you leave it as you found it and to take warm sleeping equipment!
The next morning, after the obligatory porridge and coffee, we rode back down the road, passing some local Highland Cows on the way. We took the short ferry crossing from Fishnish over to Lochaline back on the mainland. There are shops and even a few cafes in Lochaline where we could warm up ahead of another long day’s riding.
Back on the mainland
The rest of our trip saw us ride up to Strontian, again with an off-road diversion over some boggy terrain, before another night in a bothy at Resourie. Loch Sheil provided one of the most spectacular and fast-riding sections of our route before we re-joined the road in Glenfinnan. We concluded the weekend adventure in Fort William where there are again plenty of train services running to Glasgow.
The trip affirmed that winter bikepacking around Argyll is very-doable. Public transport links make it easily accessible from Scotland’s larger cities. Be sure to plan out rest stops and warm shelters for the night well in advance. I’ll be looking forward to exploring the soon to be released gravel bikepacking route for Mull and planning out my next adventure.
You can find information on Scottish mountain bothies at MountainBothies.org.uk. The MBA rely on donations and membership to maintain the bothies, and I strongly encourage anyone planning to use this great resource to become a member.