Another brilliant long-distance mixed terrain route from Markus Stitz, founder of Bikepacking Scotland, the Wild About Argyll Trail takes in some 407 miles (655 km) of West Scotland’s gravel tracks, forest roads, lanes, cycle paths and singletrack.
Explore the tracks of the mainland, the Cowal, Ardgartan and Kintyre Peninsulas, the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, cross the mighty Arrochar Alps and enjoy a few ferry rides between trails, all with spectacular lochside views and far-reaching vistas to the islands of the Inner Hebrides.
You’ll rarely be far from water as you trace the length of both freshwater and sea lochs, hug the coastline, climb up rocky river glens and transfer between peninsulas and islands on a series of short ferry crossings. Besides the incredible landscape, there’s plenty of fascinating human history to see along the route too, including the ancient burial grounds at Kilmartin and numerous lochside and inland castles.
With a mixture of tarmac roads, cycle paths, gravel tracks and even some singletrack along the route, the Wild About Argyll Trail is best ridden on a mountain bike, gravel bike or sturdy hybrid with wider tyres.
Although the Wild About Argyll Trail can be ridden all year round, it’s likely to be boggy in the wet and you might experience reduced services for transport and accommodation in the winter months. Therefore, the trail is best enjoyed in the summer months, from April to October.
In Scotland you can wild camp legally thanks to the Right To Roam act (see more at scotways.com/faq/law-on-statutory-access-rights). If you’re choosing from the hotels, guesthouses and campsites along the route, make sure you do book ahead, especially in peak season during the summer months.
The Trail starts and finishes in Helensburgh, which is easily accessible by train with services from Scotrail from Edinburgh Waverley station and Glasgow. If you plan on using a car, you can find free long stay parking in Helensburgh too.
From the pier at Helensburgh, the Wild About Argyll Trail heads inland to start, though it won’t be long before you’re back alongside the water of lochs and sea on this epic journey through the wild countryside and forests of Argyll and Bute.
From the edge of the town, you’re straight out over the moorland…
As a straight line from start to finish, the second stage isn’t long, but rather it takes you through many wonderful landscapes. You trace the coastline to Dunoon before heading north along Loch Eck before heading down the Cowal Peninsula to Kames, just south of Tighnabruaich.
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The Kintyre Peninsula features in stage 3, with a short ferry crossing from Portavadie village on the Cowal Peninsula to Tarbert village. To begin the stage, you’ll ride down the coastline known as the Kyles of Bute, a narrow sea channel often called the ‘secret coast’, before riding past Ostel Bay back…
Heading up the Kintyre Peninsula from Clachan to Kilmartin, the fourth stage only features one considerable climb up Cruach a'Phubuill, and is otherwise gently undulating.
Start by joining the Tarbert Road alongside Loch Tarbert to the town, before taking the coastal road north to Stronchullin Burn. Here…
There are two ferry crossings to look forward to on this fifth stage, with a 7.5 mile (12 km) trip from Oban to Achnacroish and a much shorter 0.75 mile (1.2 km) crossing from Lismore to Port Appin.
From the historic village of Kilmartin, take the tracks past Carnasserie Castle to join the road to Ardfern…
You’ll zig-zag your way down the mainland on this penultimate stage, winding around the edges of Loch Etive and Awe before finishing on the edge of Loch Fyne. It’s a pretty hilly stage too, so make sure you’ve left plenty of fuel in the tank!
The stage starts with a road climb up the glen beside Na Maoilean…
The final stage will take you from Loch Fyne back to Helensburgh, navigating around the top of the Loch and Loch Long, crossing the Arrochar Alps and finishing with a long stint along the shores of Loch Lomond.
Passing the ruins of HMS Quebec, the track from Furnace along Loch Fyne leads to Inveraray…
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