Our road bike enthusiast Anja Kallenbach spends every free minute on her Cayo and really gets around. Time and again she finds herself in wonderful places. And now she has discovered a new paradise for road bike cyclists: camping holidays in Scotland. She reveals to us her best tips.
Today I want to inspire you to try a new kind of cycling holiday: camping and cycling. I rented a camper van with a few friends and we travelled round Scotland with it for a week. The benefits? I don’t need to take a rucksack with me on the bike and I’m still in a different place every day. The back of the camper van has enough storage space to stow the bikes safely and keep them dry.
First, a few comments on Scotland. Scotland is truly a great country for cycling with its lonely roads and vast countryside. It is, of course, quite different to Germany. Firstly, you have to ride on the left. But that wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined. I actually got used to it very quickly, I just had to concentrate when turning off into another road. Most roads do not have two lanes like those in Germany do. There are multiple single-track roads with just one. There is not even enough room for a bike and a car side by side. For this reason, there are passing points every 500 meters.
In the bends you have to be very alert because cars come very fast and are suddenly right in front of you. The same goes for the sheep. They're everywhere. The thing they most like to do is stand on the road or run across it. If it weren’t for my disc brakes and the incredible performance of the CAYO in the bends, I would have ended up in a sheep crash. Highland cattle are a much larger obstacle. You quickly get uneasy when you see them standing in the road.
In addition, there are cattle grids at regular intervals – and they are really nasty! They have nothing in common whatsoever with those in the Alps. The spacing between the bars is huge. And they’re squared, not round. You should fit 28 millimetre tyres. Otherwise they’ll be an insurmountable obstacle. Oh, and don’t forget your rain jacket. There's no way around getting wet. Nonetheless, I heartily recommend Scotland.
My two favourite tours
Bealach Na Ba
One of the few Scottish mountain roads leads to the Bealach na Bà. The roads normally snake their way through the valleys. The Bealach na Bà is actually only 600 m above sea level but the countryside and the climate makes it feel like more than 2,500 metres. The 70 kilometre tour starts in Applecross and covers 1,400 metres of altitude gain.
The route from Applecross climbs directly to the Bealach na Bà. We had a great view of the coast, but the black clouds were already gathering. The climb is moderate but when the serpentine roads start, it gets really steep. We had just enough time to take a photo at the top before it started to rain. The descent, like almost all of the route, is a single-track road. It's also wet and pretty slick. Once again I was really glad of my disc brakes. Shortly after, there is a two-lane road before the road becomes a single track again. It firsts winds up and down through the woods and then all the way along the coast. A fabulous view of the sea!!
My second most favourite place is the Isle of Skye. Here, we have a really nice 100 kilometre tour with 1,500 metres of altitude gain. The start and destination are both in Portree.
The highlight of the tour is the Neist Point lighthouse. You have to do the last two kilometres on foot though; mountain bike shoes are the best choice for this tour. At first, between Portree and Dunvegan, there is a “normal” road. We took time to view the old castle. It's well worth a visit! A 17 kilometre single-track trail leads up to the lighthouse. For me, it’s one of the most beautiful roads in Scotland, with its green meadows, white houses and the ever-present view of the sea. Simply wonderful. You will also find the nastiest cattle grids here, so be careful! The lighthouse on the cliffs provides an impressive view where rare Northern gannets brood on the rocks. You do have to take the same road back but that didn’t detract from the idyllic scene for me at all. The road back to Portree takes you along the western coast. Again, you have great view of the wild mountains and the sea.
I sincerely recommend Scotland by bike. The lonely, wild countryside is more than enough compensation for having to get out the rain jacket every once in a while.