We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Cycling through Scottish Highlands this July

Olomouc, Czech...
Level Contributor
38 posts
58 reviews
Save Topic
Cycling through Scottish Highlands this July

I'm planning to cycle from Edinburgh to Crieff and the next day on to Elgin. I've read a few horror stories about the state of sustrans cycle paths going along the A9 so I'm looking at leaving Crieff heading north to Dunkeld, on to Blairgowrie and up through Spittal of Glenshee to Braemar, then on to Tomintoul, Glenrinnes to Elgin. I'm still pondering about approaching Crieff via Stirling or Dumfermline so I'd be gratefull for any advice regards any of the 2 days cycling. I have a road bike which also manages well maintained, non-paved roads so I'm not concerned about the quickest option. I have never done any serious cycling in Scotland before so would appreciate advice on cycling culture and habits I should be aware of. Thanks, Mike

9 replies to this topic
Scotland
Level Contributor
1,031 posts
17 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Cycling through Scottish Highlands this July

How is it with badly maintained, paved roads? After a harsh winter, many roads are in a shocking condition with broken surfaces and potholes and even many of the less bad ones are still pretty rough. Smooth asphalt is a rarity. Added to that, localised torrential rain on the last two Saturdays (in an otherwise freak dry spell) has washed debris onto many country roads, which are unlikely to be swept, or cleared by volume of traffic.

Typically, vehicles will pass at speed, often failing to give adequate clearance. Some drivers can be hostile and abusive (Edinburgh seems to have a particular problem with this). Some other cyclists can be idiots (Edinburgh ditto). Pedestrians can show a startling lack of awareness.

Despite all of the above, I still do a bit of cycling, some of it on main roads, largely on a road bike with robust 25mm tyres. (Mostly Stirling/ Falkirk area, which you may pass through). Most drivers are reasonably considerate, despite everything, and there are many lightly trafficked country roads to enjoy. Having looked at your profile, I see that the distances should not be an issue, and I hope you have checked the elevation profile for the route via Glenshee.

Note that the National Cycle Network is not in any way a road cycling network. Parts of it are road, but for example if you are planning on taking NCN 76 form Edinburgh to Stirling, note that the first twenty miles or so (to past Bo'ness) are highly varied, with most of it on "off-road" surfaces. In this weather, doable on a road bike, though you might find some sections a bit sketchy. It is a lovely trip, though.

Via Dunfermline you would have three options: over the Cleish Hills and through Glendevon - a fine and testing bit of classic road cycling; NCN764 which is easy and traffic free along a former railway line (pleasant in a slightly dull way); or not go as far as Dunfermline and take NCN76 north of the Forth which is for the most part highly agreeable (as long as the weather is not blasting along the Forth).

Here is a map (which you have probably seen) https:/…route-76

PS: why post this under "Carrbridge" when it seems that you won't be going anywhere near there?

Edited: 11 June 2018, 21:17
Olomouc, Czech...
Level Contributor
38 posts
58 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Cycling through Scottish Highlands this July

Thank you David for your great tips which I'll take seriously into account. It's amazing how many, otherwise balanced people, turn into someone or something else when they get behind the wheel. I see things from a cyclist's perspective of course but nevertheless do get annoyed when I see cyclists giving no heed to car users. When the road is quite narrow and I see a vehicle approaching me from behind, I usually wave it past as even half a metre width is fine as long as the car isn't speeding. Drivers very often flash in appreciation as they have no idea what type of cyclist is ahead, possibly a frustrated one making a youtube clip about how determined he is to keep the 150cm width rule. But, as you mentioned, there are drivers who go out of their way to make cyclists extremely unwelcome on the road. Thanks for the Edinburgh driver hint. Is it anything to do with a superiority complex or it this just a myth?

Olomouc, Czech...
Level Contributor
38 posts
58 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Cycling through Scottish Highlands this July

ps. I don't know why Carrbridge popped up in my message. I hit 'all forums' but maybe didn't hit hard enough!

Scotland
Level Contributor
1,031 posts
17 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Cycling through Scottish Highlands this July

I think Edinburgh is a mix of congestion, road layout, a higher than usual amount of cyclists on the streets (hardly Amsterdam, but there is more "bicycle as transport" eg commuters than many UK cities) and yes, a dollop of Edinburgh entitled attitude on top. It does however have a good offroad path network (again, often based on former railways) so you could be able to escape the city without encountering too much of the road mayhem. Note that most, if not all, of the bicycle paths are shared use with pedestrians - one conflict source is cyclists riding these like they are roads. Also, onroad, bikes can use bus lanes.

(Another way out of Edinburgh is along the Union Canal towpath. Flat, traffic free and recently resurfaced (slightly loose compressed grit over tarmac: some parts may just be tarmac). Bit of a dogleg to go around Falkirk but if you want to see some sights on the way you could go to the Falkirk Wheel (through a long tunnel!) and down to the Kelpies, then enjoy some rare (for Scotland) flat road cycling to Stirling.)

The forums here will let you read about Edinburgh's rubbish driving, cycling and walking, if you wish http://citycyclingedinburgh.info/bbpress/

Edinburgh, United...
Level Contributor
2,936 posts
9 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Cycling through Scottish Highlands this July

Yup, you'll be searching through the gears as you head up Glenshee, but the more general pain in the posterior could be prevailing wind. I know you get wind in the Czech Republic :-) In Scotland, with Atlantic weather systems, you're more likely to come across headwinds.

Olomouc, Czech...
Level Contributor
38 posts
58 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Cycling through Scottish Highlands this July

Thank you for the warning of Atlantic headwinds. Thank goodness I won't be rushing for a plane, rather a cool shower and a nip of Glenrothes malt whisky. I would also choose steep hills to flat country with more traffic anyday. I understand there must be a few conflicts between road users, whether they be car drivers, cyclists or pedestrians. Maybe the recent interest in cycling as transport, not just Sunday pleasure rides, has taken the government by surprise as the infrastructure is unfortunately still geared heavily towards car use. Also, there's the good old question about who has extra right of the road. Just to take an example, our Czech government has just gone hundreds of million euros over budget to constuct a car-only tunnel in Prague. This is our income tax money which, at the end of the day, means that cyclists are subsidising car drivers much more than the other way round. The old idea that car drivers pay tax and cyclists don't falls flat on its face. I imagine the annual UK road tax is a mere drop in the ocean toward the overall bill of road network or do UK drivers also take the assumption that they are subsidising cyclists? Just a question which may explain some selfish road behaviour. Cheers, Mike.

Scotland
Level Contributor
1,031 posts
17 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Cycling through Scottish Highlands this July

Any media debate on cycling will quickly have some drivers claiming that "cyclists don't pay road tax" (and by extension, that they have no right to be on the road). However, for many years, no UK drivers have paid road tax: what is paid is vehicle excise duty, which is a payment for the right to drive your polluting vehicle about. As a bicycle is not a polluting vehicle, cyclists do not pay it; neither indeed do some car drivers (and other car drivers might pay a more or less token sum.) In reality, of course, most cyclists do pay it, as they also have cars.

Oddly, it does seem to be drivers of the largest, most polluting, cars who particularly bang on about it, and who seem most unable to grasp that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ROAD TAX! no matter how many times it is explained to them.

(Tax on vehicles paying specifically for roads ended in 1937, I just checked.)

That tunnel in Prague has finally been finished? A few years since I've been there and it was well under way then.

Edited: 12 June 2018, 22:30
East Neuk of Fife...
Destination Expert
for St Andrews
Level Contributor
11,315 posts
179 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Cycling through Scottish Highlands this July

I don't mean to sound patronising @mikeesson, but your English is perfect for a Czech national. I really wanted a " like" button to push on your answer in Post #2. Well said!

Enjoy your trip and safe travels

Woody

Olomouc, Czech...
Level Contributor
38 posts
58 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Cycling through Scottish Highlands this July

Well said about road tax. I don't know if the Šarka tunnel is finished as I don't keep in top of Prague transport news, too depressing.

Reply to: Cycling through Scottish Highlands this July
Get notified by e-mail when a reply is posted
Get answers to your questions about Carrbridge