Lochs, bothies & the heart of the highlands — The Badger Divide

Mountain Biking Collection by Katherine Moore
5-9 days
3-5 h / day
212 mi
16,625 ft
16,625 ft

Welcome to the Badger Divide; a 200 mile (320 km) bikepacking route across the Scottish Highlands, linking the cities of Inverness to the north and Glasgow to the south. Devised by local off road enthusiast Stu Allan, the Badger Divide links up several established trails including the Great Glen Way and West Highland Way, as well as national long distance cycle trails. The result is a flowing and accessible trail that can be ridden either on a gravel bike, robust touring bike or mountain bike, showcasing some of the best landscapes along the length of the Highlands.

Expect long and meandering gravel roads, chunky rocky passes, forestry roads and quiet linking lanes. There’s also quite a few towns and villages on the route, making resupply fairly simple, especially considering how remote some of these areas can be.

For exceptionally fit, experienced and ambitious riders, the Badger Divide can be completed in two days with an overnight stop at Loch Ossian Youth Hostel or camping nearby. While there’s no hike-a-bike along the route, some of the climbs are not to be underestimated and can take some time, especially in inclement weather. Here we propose the route over five stages, which of course you can choose to combine or ride as single day stages – up to you.

You might be wondering where the name came from? Comically, it’s a play on words referring to the Baja Divide, a well known bikepacking route in Baja, California.

Open Access Legislation in Scotland makes this route possible, so make sure you’re respectful of the environment and follow the Outdoor Access Code (outdooraccess-scotland.scot). There are a number of bothies and youth hostels, hotels and guesthouses along the route if you’d rather not camp or if the weather is rough.

The best time of year to tackle the Badger Divide is either late spring to early summer, once the ground has dried out a little, yet before the onset of midge season, or after it in September/October. It’s not recommended for the winter season due to potential severe weather and dangerous river crossings.

When travelling to the start and finish of the Badger Divide, access is very easy by train, with both of these points being close to major city train stations. Find out more and plan your journey at scotrail.co.uk.

Find out more about the Badger Divide and the institutions that help make this possible here thebadgerdivide.co.uk and more about The Racing Collective’s annual ride using this route here theracingcollective.com/scotduro.html

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

  • Difficult
    05:54
    41.3 mi
    7.0 mph
    4,075 ft
    4,050 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Start your Highlands adventure leaving the train station in Inverness, a short ride from the official start point at the spectacular Inverness Castle. On this first stage you’ll have 41.3 miles (66.4 km) to tackle before reaching Fort Augustus at the end of the stage. Leave the buzz of the city behind as you head south along the River Ness, before the first climb up toward Craig Leach on the West Glen Way, on singletrack and doubletrack fire roads. Follow this well-marked track along the tops before the awesome descent down to the shores of Loch Ness and into Drumnadrochit on fast singletrack. The next climb starts straight out of the town on a sharp singletrack that joins a quiet road at the top looking down over Loch Ness. The road soon turns into gravel doubletrack, still following Loch Ness along the western edge up on the ridge. Climb over the two highest points near to the summits of Meall na Sroine and Creag nan Eun, before descending sharply to Invermoriston on a wider gravel doubletrack road.Cross the Telford Bridge and follow the Highland Trail 550 here, still along the Great Glen Way, on a much more gentle gravel road continuing along Loch Ness through Portclair Forest. This leads into Fort Augustus, where you’ll find plenty of options for resupply, a good meal and a bed for the night – just make sure you book your accommodation in advance, especially in peak season.

  • Difficult
    05:36
    37.4 mi
    6.7 mph
    3,875 ft
    2,950 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The second stage is a little shorter and easier, totalling 37.4 miles (60.2 km) with just one climb, taking you from Fort Augustus over the well known Corrieyairack Pass. After dropping down towards Spey Dam Reservoir, you’ll ride a brief stint in the Cairngorms National Park and reach the head of Loch Laggan via the Ardverikie Estate.Leave the comfort of Fort Augustus behind on this stage and head straight up and over the Corrieyairack Pass, also featured on the Highland Trail 550 and the Great North Trail (komoot.com/collection/904449/britain-s-newest-long-distance-challenge-great-north-trail). Enjoy the switchbacks both on the climb and descent here on one of General Wade’s old military roads. Descend towards the Spey Dam Reservoir, turning right to pass Loch Crunachdan and onto the gentle climb of the Deer Park Road. The clue’s in the name – keep your eyes peeled for wild beasts! Hit the shores of Loch Laggan now, passing a beach with excellent views over the lake (and some fun cyclo-cross practice)!Rather than take the doubletrack along the loch edge, take a higher gravel road through the woodland in the Ardverikie Estate. You might spy the castle down by the loch, made famous by the British TV series ‘Monarch of the Glen’. Follow the eastern shore of Lochan na h-Earba on the other side of Binnein Shuas Peak to Loch Laggan, still on the same route as the Highland Trail 550. Skirt around the southern edge of the peak, rejoining Loch Laggan into Glen Spean. This is where today’s stage ends; if you are staying overnight here, there are plenty of wonderful spots to camp nearby.

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  • Difficult
    05:27
    39.7 mi
    7.3 mph
    2,425 ft
    2,600 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Stage three on the Badger Divide could arguably be described as the most spectacular of them all, passing through the Corrour Estate, home to the most remote railway station and pub in the UK! You’ll cover off 38.8 miles (62.5 km) in this stage, ending with another potential wild camp near Loch Rannoch. If you’re aiming to complete the whole Badger Divide in just two days, then a good place to overnight will be at Loch Ossian Youth Hostel which is one of the highlights midway along this stage. Follow the forestry roads to the south to start and drop down to follow the River Ossian as it leads you along the rocky, gravel doubletrack to the gorgeous Loch Ossian. Follow the tree-lined banks of Loch Ossian on the eastern edge, from the shooting lodge at one end towards the youth hostel at the other. Here’s the perfect chance to visit The Station restaurant at Corrour station, and enjoy a very warming meal. There’s a short climb up next as you turn away from the loch heading south, past Peter’s Rock and the ruin of Corrour Old Lodge. The singletrack here turns to doubletrack as you head over the valley marshland, before joining a short section of quiet road which takes you to the end of Loch Rannoch.Head south to contour around Leagag hill, riding away and then returning to Loch Rannoch, through the heart of Rannoch Forest on wide gravel forestry roads. The stage finishes near Dall Ho, just on the edge of the loch. If you’re spending the night here, you’ll find some great spots to camp.

  • Difficult
    06:18
    50.9 mi
    8.1 mph
    3,800 ft
    4,375 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    The penultimate stage on the Badger Divide covers no less than 51 miles (82 km), the longest stage by distance. From the edge of Loch Rannoch, this stage takes you past the Bridge of Balgie to touch on Loch Lyon, over the road Kenknock climb and down past Loch Lubnaig down close to Callander, where you have the choice of camping or the luxury of a night under a roof.Start by climbing the first of four hills today, passing between Meall a' Mhuic and Beinn Dearg. The descent is a sharp one on off road double track down to the Bridge of Balgie. The old post office here has a great tearoom if you haven’t had breakfast yet! Follow the road for a short while alongside the River Lyon as it very gently climbs to Stronuich Reservoir. You’ll certainly notice the start of the Kenknock climb, which is mostly paved and steep up the hillside for 1.8 miles (3 km). You’ll immediately descend over the other side, zig-zagging your way down into Glen Lochay. The road leading to the east here will take you along the River Lochay, past the Falls of Lochay to Loch Tay and the village of Killin, gently descending the whole way. You’ve now passed into the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park and will start to climb the next hill in Auchmore Wood on the forestry road that marks the boundary of the park. Before leaving the wood, take the Rob Roy Way south-west and start the descent to join the Glen Ogle Way heading south. Pass Lochearnhead and cross the road by the beautiful Edinample Castle to take the doubletrack road through Strathyre Forest to the east of the River Balvag, steadily climbing through Glen Ample before the descent to Loch Lubnaig. If you’re staying nearby for the night or need some resupply, go off route a short distance to the small town of Callander where you’ll find a few hotels, two hostels, guesthouses and lots of places to eat and shop.

  • Difficult
    05:22
    43.1 mi
    8.0 mph
    2,450 ft
    2,650 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Welcome to the fifth and final stage of the Badger Divide! On this last stage you’ll cover 43 miles (69.3 km) from near Callander to Glasgow city, finishing right on the steps of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, or rather opposite Brewdog Bar. From there it’s only a short ride to the central train station. The final stage starts with a beautiful ride along the southern edge of Loch Venachar, on gentle gravel roads that will warm you up easily on this last day. The first climb starts through the Queen Elizabeth Country Park in Achray Forest, on a fire road twisting south past Loch Drunkie. Reach the top of this climb as you pass Lochan Reoidhte. Enjoy the cracking double and singletrack descent off of these hills; much longer than you’ve climbed and past the Falls of Little Fawn. You’ll now be in Aberfoyle, home to the popular UK gravel event ‘Dukes Weekender’.After such a thrilling descent, climbing is back on the menu as you ride steadily up out of the town into the Loch Ard Forest on the Rob Roy Way again. The summit of this climb comes as you pass the peak of Bàt a' Charchel. A short road section leads you to the West Highland Way, with a wonderful doubletrack descent down through Garadhban Forest. Finish the last of the descent on lanes before a flatter section on the valley bottom along Blane Water on the John Muir Way. The very last climb of the Badger Divide is a sharp singletrack route up to Carbeth Loch. From here it’s plain sailing all the way down into Glasgow, again on the West Highland Way, past Scroggy Hill, through Milngavie and into the heart of the city following the River Kelvin. Enjoy your rest here and a big meal – you’ll need it!

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    5
  • Distance
    212 mi
  • Duration
    28:38 h
  • Elevation
    16,625 ft16,625 ft

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