Trip to Scotland

Mark Mann

Mostly the trip was to do some hiking, bird-watching and general sight-seeing, but I also wanted to do some cycling if time and weather permitted. The weather was exceptional (especially for Scotland!!) It was sunny and mild the entire week. I actually got a little sunburned while I was there!

Was the trip with a group, or did you make the arrangements yourself? I planned the trip myself. I've been to Scotland a couple times before and have been wanting to get back over there to follow-up on some new ideas for places to see.

How long did the trip take? The overall trip was for a week, but the cycling portion was just for two days.
Why did you choose this trip? I decided to ride the Caledonian Canal between Fort William and Fort Augustus due to the secluded nature of the path. Most of the roads in Scotland are pretty narrow and very busy. I really was not interested in doing any road riding over there, but have been wanting to ride the Caledonian Canal for some time. The Caledonia Canal is quiet and off the beaten path. The scenery is great and there is NO TRAFFIC!!!

Did you have to train for it? No, it's really a pretty cushy ride!! Just 35 or 40 miles each way from Fort William to Fort Augustus. Not a ride that compares to a cross country tour or even a one day century.
Did you bring your own bike, or rent a bike? I rented the bike from Nevis Bike Shop just north of Fort William. I found them on the internet and had contacted them in advance. They have mountain bikes and cruiser-touring bikes. I rented a cruiser-touring bike, and were nice enough to include panniers with the bike for my gear.

What were the accommodations like, if it was an overnight trip?
Accommodations were also booked via the internet in Fort William and Fort Augustus in advance. Both are pretty touristy areas with plenty of B&B's.
But it really is better to book in advance especially in Fort Augustus as it's a pretty small village on the north end of the canal. The canal empties into Loch Ness there.

What are some of the highlights? There are a series of 19th century canal locks on each end of the canal "Neptune's Staircase" as they're known. It's really a cool sight to see the locks as you ride up to them. Most of the boat traffic along the canal now is pleasure boaters and sightseeing excursions. The canals are not really viable for commercial traffic any more. Modern barges have outgrown the canal!
Did you have any off-the bike adventures (hiking, sightseeing, etc.)? I did some hiking in the Cairngorms National Park while I was there. Also did some bird watching and managed to sample a few variations of their distilled spirits!

Did you encounter any challenges? Actually, driving on the left side of the road with a right-hand steer vehicle was a little challenging!!! You just have to keep reminding yourself to "keep to the left, keep to the left"!!!

Would you recommend this trip? (include websites, addresses, etc.) Scotland is a great place to visit. The people there are friendly and love to chat with Americans. They all have friends or relatives in the states and most have been to the US at least a time or two. I would like to go again and spend at two or three weeks just traveling around the country.


Bent Fork June 2010 - Vol 3 Issue 4 August 2010

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