The Faultline Trail is the ultimate Scottish end-to-end challenge, from the most southerly tip at the Mull of Galloway to the most northerly at Dunnet Head, in anything but direct fashion.
This is a serious bikepacking challenge, covering over 730 miles (1,175 km) of Scotland’s most remote moorlands, spectacular loch networks, testing mountains and pine-fresh forests. Unconventional and indirect, do you have what it takes to cover the vast country by roads both rough and smooth?
A lovechild of Scotland-based cycling collective Albannach, which literally translates as ‘to belong to Scotland’, this route was formulated by Jim Cameron and tested together with Neil Henderson in May 2019.
The ‘Faultline Trail’ name was initially used to describe the fault that runs through Scotland between Campbeltown and Inverness, but as you’ll see they got a bit carried away with the cartophilia and ended up with an even longer route that spans the whole gaelic country from lighthouse to lighthouse!
The route is around 50:50 roads and off road, so the perfect bike for this kind of ride is likely to be a gravel bike with wide tyres, preferably 40mm plus. Of course, this will depend on personal preference and a rigid or hardtail mountain bike will also be fine. You’ll need to be able to carry equipment with you on your bike as several of the stages end in remote areas with no accommodation options other than wild camping.
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.
This is not a beginner’s trip; you will need to have bikepacking experience to tackle this challenge, not only due to its length and terrain difficulty, but also due to how remote the areas are that you’ll pass through. Regardless of experience level, make sure that you can carry the right equipment for the conditions as well as emergency kit (rations, first aid, extra layers and survival bags etc.) as well as be familiar with local emergency procedures.
The best time of year to tackle the Faultline Trail is undoubtedly late spring to early summer, once the ground has dried out a little, but before the onset of midge season. Alternatively the late summer months can also be good, including September and early October. It’s not recommended for the winter season due to boggy conditions under tyre, some potentially dangerous river crossings and severe weather.
Access to either end is a little more complex than some other bikepacking routes due to the extremities of the country that it spans. To get to the start at the Mull of Galloway, there are rail connections to Stranraer, which is a 21.7 mile (35 km) ride from the lighthouse at the start. Similarly at the other end, the nearest train station at Thurso is a 13.4 mile (21.5 km) ride from the finish at Dunnet Head. Check out more about these train journeys at scotrail.co.uk.
Check out more from the routemasters at albannach.cc/thefaultlinetrail
Ready to get going? Create and customize your own version of this adventure using the full Tour below as a template.
Last updated: November 10, 2021
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
You’ll start your ambitious Scottish traverse from the Mull of Galloway, next to the gleaming white lighthouse. On this first stage, there’s no less than 58 miles (93.2 km) to cover, so don’t spend too long in the museum there before getting going!
Leave Scotland’s most southerly point behind as you head…
Stage 2 involves a total of 44.3 miles (71.3 km) from water to water, the banks of Loch Moan to the Afton Reservoir, across Carrick Forest and Carsphairn Forest. Therefore, you’ll be riding a lot of wide, gravel forestry roads today, a good way to keep a modest pace.
After a short stint along National…
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The third stage of the Faultline Trail starts with a long descent, and is also the shortest of all the stages at 26.8 miles (43.1 km). You’ll finish in the small village of Glespin, but not before passing through the town of New Cumnock on the way.
The general direction of the stage is north east, firstly…
From the little village of Glespin in South Lanarkshire to the bright lights of Glasgow city, this fourth stage will take you over 56.7 miles (91.2 km) of winding wind farm gravel access roads, country park trails and along the Forth and Clyde Canal. It might look like a very long stage, but the terrain…
Rather than carry on in a direct line to the most northern tip of Scotland, this stage actually takes you north west over 54.2 miles (87.2 km) to Lochgoilhead. The anything-but-direct Faultline Trail leads you toward the Isle of Jura before heading north again.
The contrast between the suburbs of Glasgow…
One of the most beautiful stages of them all, this sixth stage totals 50.1 miles (80.7 km) from Lochgoilhead to Tarbert, after the ferry across Loch Fyne from Portavadie. You leave the Cowal Peninsula behind to ride to the Kintyre Peninsula along coastal sea loch and the hilly Acharossan Forest.
Stage 7 is a journey of two halves; firstly the hilly crossing from Tarbert to the Sound of Jura and then back to Loch Fyne, then a flat ride along the lochside and Crinin canal to the historical village of Kilmartin. In total it is a stage of 45.6 miles (73.4 km).
Start by leaving Tarbert behind to head…
Leave the fascinating ancient history of Kilmartin village behind as you begin this long 57.7 mile (93 km) stage to the Bridge of Orchy. Thankfully there’s a great hotel at the end of this tough stage which you might need after completing it! If you’d rather camp nearby, of course there’s the option…
The ninth stage takes you from bridge to bridge, over the River Orchy to the River Gaur some 41.2 miles (66.3 km) later. There are two big climbs on the menu on this stage; the first more gentle and the second steeper.
Start by leaving the Bridge of Orchy and heading south-east taking the gravel road…
This tenth stage takes you to the heart of the Scottish Highlands, to the lively town of Fort Augustus that’s a mecca for outdoorsy types and adventurers!
You’ll ride 60.6 miles (97.5 km) from the edge of Loch Rannoch north through the Corrour Estate past beautiful Loch Ossian and the most remote train…
Update: the Hydro Bothy has been demolished (June 2020). Find an alternative 5 km east at Tighachrochadair Bothy.
From the comfort of a lively town back to the wilderness, today’s eleventh stage takes you along part of the Highland Trail 550 route to end at the very basic ‘Hydro Bothy’. It’s a shorter…
From the basic charm of the Hydro Bothy to the luxury of the Oykel Bridge Hotel, stage 12 is a 58 mile (93.5 km) stage zig-zagging in a general northerly direction via Contin and the remote Loch Vaich.
Start your day with the descent past Orrin Dam and down to Marybank where you rejoin the road. If…
You’re really in the North Highlands on stage 13, navigating over 52 miles (83.8 km) to the hamlet of Altnaharra next to Loch Naver. The biggest climb on the route today is on asphalt, known as the ‘power station climb’, but otherwise it’s a relatively gentle day for the legs!
Head east along the road…
You’re really getting close now as the penultimate stage takes you almost to the end of your incredible end-to-end journey across Scotland, from the southern to the northern tip via the gorgeous west.
A total of 48.7 miles (78.3 km) across this wild and unforgiving landscape awaits you, from the tiny…
The fifteenth and final stage of the Faultline Trail is the shortest at 36.1 miles (58.1 km), designed so that you can enjoy your finish at Dunnet Head lighthouse with plenty of the day left for celebrating, relaxing and planning your overnight stay or onward travel home.
Rather than taking the classic…
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