Mountain Bikes and Bothy Nights
As the nights draw in, think back (or forwards) to those long summer days, and their scope for adventure. And as long summer days go, few are more pronounced than those in the Scottish Highlands, a surprisingly wild and untamed land that promises (in our humble opinion) amongst the best bikepacking in Europe…
… as long as you’re prepared to play Russian Roulette with its inclement weather, that is, or risk its onslaught of midges. But for those that do, the rewards are far reaching. Thanks to the progressive Land Reform Act of 2003, and the related Scottish Outdoor Access Code, unhindered access to the countryside is available to all, both hikers and mountain bikers alike. Trails abound – many remote and challenging – making it ripe for adventures of all shapes and sizes.
With its stunning drone footage, inspired storytelling and fascinating history, this film from Alastair Humphreys captures perfectly both the majesty, and the sheer bikepacking potential, of this beautiful land. It poetically recounts the story of its remarkable bothies, the simple houses and huts that dot its glens and coastlines; sanctuaries from the elements open to whomever makes the journey to them (though for their exact location, you’ll have to do your own detective work).
Planning a trip? Expect tempestuous weather at any time of the year, tempered by the magical Highland light that comes with it. To best avoid Scotland’s infamous midges – tiny but vindictive flying insects – we’d recommend hitting the highlands in late May/June, or late September, to lessen the chances of become someone else’s two-wheeled feast.
As for the bothies, they’re usually left unlocked, and available to anyone free of charge, often in mountainous and isolated locales. Part of their charm lies in figuring out where they are, and wondering what form each might take.
While you’re researching the area, don’t forget to check out two of the country’s most recent bikepacking routes – the Capital Trail and the Highland 550 – as well as other classics like the Scottish Coast to Coast off road, and the Cairngorms Loop.
All images copyright Alastair Humphreys.