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Car-free holidays: bicycle over Rannoch Moor

Rannoch Moor. Click the images for larger versions.

Google Earth paths for this tour

Download Google Earth paths

It’s January and all the magazines are overflowing with supplements trying to sell you Mediterranean cruises and horrible beach holidays 4,000 miles away.  AWWTM will therefore overflow with easy-to-organise alternative holidays, giving far greater satisfaction at a fraction of the price.  They involve no sweltering traffic jams, no crowded beaches, no 2 hour check-ins and no 15 hours in economy seats.  Nor do they need to involve lycra or mud — though for some you might want sun cream, and a bicycle with at least three gears.

From the train home over Rannoch Moor at sunset

My first suggestion for a car-free break is a really easy way for southerners to see the mountains, glens, lochs, and castles of the Highlands.  It only takes a weekend, combines one of the best railway journeys in Britain with two days of 50-60 mile bicycle rides, and if you’re clever with the booking it could cost less than £60 for the whole thing.  Londoners get there on the Caledonian Sleeper train, leaving Euston at just after 9pm on a Friday evening (others can board at Crewe or Preston later in the evening).  Decide when you want to go (I recommend May, as it’s late enough to have long days, but too early for the midges) and set a reminder for 12 weeks in advance, when the £19 advance train tickets go on sale (prices can rise to over £100 each way when the advance fares run out, and in May the train is liable to be fully booked days in advance, but deciding at the last minute would at least give you the benefit of being able to pick a weekend that you know will be sunny).  On the sleeper, you get a bed; a retro lounge car that will serve you breakfast as you cross Rannoch Moor in the morning sunshine, and dinner as you return the next day at sunset; a real old fashioned luggage van for your bicycle; and you get deposited at Fort William ready to start your ride on Saturday morning, and then back at Euston in time for work on Monday.  Since it’s only a weekend trip, all you need is a small backpack or pannier to carry a change of t-shirt and pants, your sun cream, and a supply of bananas.  Preparation couldn’t be less stressful. Continue reading