Bikepacking The 321km Badger Divide | Inverness to Glasgow - Outdoors Magic

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Bikepacking The 321km Badger Divide | Inverness to Glasgow

Easily accessible from Scotland's central belt (and its train stations and airports), this adventure must be on the bucket list of every bikepacker

The Badger Divide is a 321km off-road route from Inverness to Glasgow that offers big adventure bang for your time away from the office/family buck.

Taking in some of the finest scenery Scotland has to offer but requiring nothing like the level of commitment and planning required by other well-known, somewhat burlier undertakings such as the Highland Trail 550 and the Cairngorms Loop, The Badger Divide is an ideal long weekend adventure with the exact duration determined by rider motivation and VO2 Max.

Created by Stu Allen, the Badger is a clever little beastie that weaves its way north to south (or the other way round if you prefer) through the middle of Scotland, linking well trodden Rights of Way, Heritage Paths, estate tracks, singletrack delights alongside the odd section of bum-relieving tarmac.

A spectacular and varied journey, it hits the spot if you’re short on time but looking for a legitimate taste of remote Scottish wilderness with regular forays back to civilisation for a well-earned scone/beer/comfy bed.

In terms of how long it will take – that’s really up to you – the official route website suggests anything from 2-5 days. If you’re motivated by mega adventure Insta cred or only have limited time to play with then by all means grab your lightweight bivvy bag and go for it in a single push. Be warned though – this will hurt. A lot.

“We reached the bothy just before 7.30pm and were delighted to find it not only way bigger than described but also totally empty, midge free and equipped with firewood. Total result!”

If, however, you’re more into looking around, stopping on the way to ‘meet folk’ (bikepacker code for eating as many scones as humanly possible) and fancy the idea of resting your weary limbs in a bothy/hostel/B&B/hotel at the end of a hard day in the saddle, then four days is probably about right.

We opted for this ‘Type 1’ approach to the Badger, leaving Inverness on Thursday morning and aimed to arrive in Glasgow on Sunday afternoon, 200 miles later.

Here’s how it went down.

Photo: Sophie Nicholson
Photo: Sophie Nicholson

Day 1 – Inverness to Blackburn Bothy

Photo: Sophie Nicholson

Distance: 75km
Elevation: 1,900m+

We left Inverness on a grey morning at 08.30 following the Great Glen Way out of the city as it climbed steeply up to Dunain Hill. From there we made good time along the combination of forest tracks and tarmac past Abriachan before a cracking descent through the trees down into Drumnadrochit for an early lunch break. Cafe Eighty2 highly recommended.

The route onwards between ‘Drum’ and Invermoriston encompasses some leg-busting climbs if you take the high road but the views and rapid descents are well worth the work. If the weather’s good then you’ll get some spectacular pics looking west along Loch Ness.

After a few setbacks (temporarily following the wrong route and a broken chain) we finally arrived in Fort Augustus at around 5pm, somewhat behind schedule. Our original goal for Day 1 was to make it up and over the Corrieyairick Pass and down to Melgarve bothy for the night and we were bloody miles away from that.

After 2 ice creams, one packet of Spicy Bikers crisps, one Dr Pepper, a packet of Haribo and a hot chocolate, we decided to leave the comfort of civilisation and push on. The new goal was to get some way up the Pass where we hoped we would find space at the ‘2 man’ Blackburn Bothy.

We reached the bothy just before 7.30pm and were delighted to find it not only way bigger than described but also totally empty, midge free and equipped with firewood. Total result!

Day 2 – Blackburn Bothy to Kinloch Rannoch

Photo: Sophie Nicholson

Distance: 115km
Elevation: 1,400m+

Having slightly underestimated Day 1, we woke facing a monster of a second day in the saddle. 115km on a mountain bike is a hefty challenge for any rider, let alone two slightly demoralised badgers all too aware that it had taken them a good 11 hours to cover a mere 75km the day before.

As it was, Day 2 turned out just fine….in the end. We left the bothy shortly before 8.30 and headed off on the long slog up the Corrieyairack Pass with disbelieving chat constantly revolving around ‘how bloody long’ it was taking us to cover any kind of distance. We finally arrived in Laggan just before midday with a hefty 60 miles still remaining.

Our Badger-dented egos reframed our expectations for the remainder of the day and we set off again accepting of our fate and choosing to focus instead on the tasty treats that lay ahead at the Corrour Station House café – a mere 28 miles further down the line.

The sun came out, the scenery was spectacular and we made rapid work of the picturesque sections down Lochan Na Earba and onwards to the beautiful Loch Ossian. Speed was the word of the afternoon as we gulped down our bodyweight in coffees, scones and muffins at the Corrour café (located at the UK’s highest railway station) before heading up and off again across Rannoch Moor.

We had left it so late to book our trip that we were unable to find any accommodation along the route in Bridge of Gaur so had to make a 19 mile detour along the road to reach our hotel in Kinloch Rannoch.

As was the case on Day 1, we finally reached the hotel just before 7.30, more than a little bit tired, ready for a beer and even more ready for a night in a comfy bed!

Photo: Sophie Nicholson
Photo: Sophie Nicholson

Day 3 – Kinloch Rannoch to Callander

Photo: Sophie Nicholson

Distance: 95 km
Elevation: 1,340m+

We woke to a still, drizzly, dull Saturday morning but set off just after 9 with white carbs in our bellies and smiles on our faces, believing that the toughest sections of the route were out of the way (more on that anon!).

We rejoined the route on the south side of Loch Rannoch and progressed along the damp forest trails feeling positive about the day ahead. Our mood lifted yet further on the descent into Glen Lyon when we passed the Highland Trail 550 riders coming in the other direction. Admiration and high fives were in abundance as they sped past on day 1 of their own epic adventure. If you haven’t heard of the HT550, Google it. Them kids are proper nuts.

With the rain now falling relentlessly, views were non-existent and we were more than ready to stop for lunch in a café in Killin. The waitress informed us it really wasn’t long to Callander so we set off anticipating we would be in the pub by 5pm.

Yeah right. As the crow flies, it wasn’t far at all but The Badger had other plans. The section from Lochearnhead through Glen Ample to Loch Lubnaig nearly broke us. Steep, technical never-ending interval training is a nightmare at the best of times, let alone when it’s peeing it down, you’re knackered and not expecting it.

We thugged it out with humour but were undeniably happy when we finally arrived at the Youth Hostel in Callander at 6pm. The end was now definitely in sight but the ride was definitely beginning taking its toll and I’m not just talking about our rear ends. Cat’s front brakes had decided they’d had enough and were going to take a permanent leave of absence which was making descending a bit tricky to say the least. Tomorrow’s plan would need to incorporate a bike shop and a repair but for now, our priorities were SBB – showers, beers and burgers. In that order.

Photo: Sophie Nicholson
Photo: Sophie Nicholson

Day 4 – Callander to Glasgow

Photo: Sophie Nicholson

Distance: 75km
Elevation: 900m+

The final day. Having finally learned that every day so far had ended up taking us far longer than we anticipated, we decided to get ahead of ourselves, leaving the youth hostel early curly at 7.30am. We were booked on a train from Glasgow that evening and with the brake-issue still to be resolved, we needed to make sure there was a heap of wiggle room if things went wrong.

Next stop was the bike shop in Aberfoyle where we learned that Cat’s brakes needed more than a little bit of TLC. We settled in for a couple of hours of scone smashing, nervous clock watching and caffeine consumption, desperate to retain momentum and energy for the final stretch into Glasgow.

The crew did a great job of bodging things together to get us to the finish line so off we set again, safe in the knowledge that we really were on the home straight. As we neared Glasgow, the wind and rain picked up as did the on-trail traffic. Sharing the route was unchartered territory thus far but now we were on the well-trodden West Highland Way with gates and humans a plenty.

It felt weird to be back in an urban environment and strangely unsettling to be such obvious fishes out of water. Whilst we were anxious to complete the route, a part of us wanted to keep riding, out of the city and back out onto the trail that had consumed our existence for the past few days.

We arrived at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow’s West End mid afternoon and suddenly and aside from the train journey back to Inverness, that was it. The Badger was done!

We arrived back in Inverness at 21.30 that evening, full to the brim with the kind of life-affirming satisfaction that only outdoor adventures can provide. Two weary badgers, one epic adventure.

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