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Scotland tip to tip — the Faultline Trail

Neil

Scotland tip to tip — the Faultline Trail

Mountain Biking Collection by Katherine Moore

15-32

days

3-6 h

/ day

730 mi

46,900 ft

46,625 ft

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

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The Faultline Trail

725 mi

46,175 ft

45,925 ft

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.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Difficult
    07:16
    57.9 mi
    8.0 mph
    2,950 ft
    2,375 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    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

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    06:40
    43.8 mi
    6.6 mph
    3,575 ft
    2,825 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    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

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    03:40
    26.8 mi
    7.3 mph
    1,725 ft
    2,475 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    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

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    06:26
    56.7 mi
    8.8 mph
    2,700 ft
    3,275 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    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

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    07:13
    54.2 mi
    7.5 mph
    4,150 ft
    4,225 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    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

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    06:15
    50.1 mi
    8.0 mph
    3,575 ft
    3,575 ft
    Ferry
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    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.

    

    The road

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    06:47
    45.7 mi
    6.7 mph
    3,775 ft
    3,675 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    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

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    08:02
    57.7 mi
    7.2 mph
    4,050 ft
    3,650 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    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

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    06:19
    41.2 mi
    6.5 mph
    2,775 ft
    2,600 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    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

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    09:23
    60.6 mi
    6.5 mph
    4,500 ft
    5,125 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    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

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    06:30
    40.0 mi
    6.1 mph
    4,325 ft
    3,450 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    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

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    08:38
    58.3 mi
    6.8 mph
    3,025 ft
    3,825 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    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

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    06:15
    52.1 mi
    8.3 mph
    2,800 ft
    2,625 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    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

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    05:27
    48.6 mi
    8.9 mph
    1,900 ft
    1,700 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    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

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Intermediate
    03:54
    36.1 mi
    9.2 mph
    1,075 ft
    1,225 ft
    Intermediate gravel ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    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

    by Katherine Moore

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Questions and Comments

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    15
  • Distance
    730 mi
  • Duration
    98:47 h
  • Elevation
    46,900 ft46,625 ft

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Scotland tip to tip — the Faultline Trail

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