A great two day bike-and-hike adventure to Corrour with my friend Cath.
The easy way? No thanks!
When a friend from southern England asked if I’d like to join her and her young son for dinner at one of Scotland’s most remote pubs, I decided I would turn the trip into an adventure.
Like Myrid and Rowan, it would have been possible for me to travel by train on the West Highland Line to reach Corrour Station House Restaurant, at the heart of the vast Corrour Estate on the edge of Rannoch Moor in the Highlands.
I could have also booked into the Signal Box Accommodation, just like the mother and son, for a comfortable overnight in a quirky B&B, located on the platform of the UK’s highest mainline station.
But, instead, my aspirations were for a wilder and more budget-friendly experience. I came up with two-day plan for a bikepacking trip that would include the dinner with friends, a wild camp and a hike of three mountains.
I invited one of my local friends Cath, who, like me, was happy to eschew the modern luxuries of railways and a room with an en suite.
Aside from the train, the only way for the public to reach Corrour is by bike or on foot. So, while Myrid and seven-year-old Rowan enjoyed the train journey, Cath and I cycled on a rough and undulating track to the south of the estate, having left a car at the side of a narrow, no-through-road between the small settlements of Kinloch Rannoch and Rannoch Station in Perth and Kinross.
At the first hill, which came quickly, we could feel the sudden heaviness of our bikes laden with packs full of all the items we would need for our adventure. Instead of trying to push too had, we dropped gears and settled into a slow ascent, sometimes getting off our bikes to walk and push.
As we cycled and walked, we chatted not about the challenge but happily about the fabulous sense of freedom that comes from a self-supported trip in Scotland.
Within minutes of leaving behind the singletrack road, we were immersed in a glorious scenery free of other people, buildings and modern life.
Although only 10.5 miles, the ride took us almost twice as long as we had imagined and when we finally glimpsed Loch Ossian, just east of Corrour Station at the base of the final descent, the sun was beginning to set.
A light drizzle and a chill wind made us cycle all the faster towards the warmth of the restaurant, Myrid and Rowan and the promise of a hot and hearty dinner.
As we ate, young Rowan told us about his first hike of a Munro, one of Scotland’s highest mountains. Alongside his mum, and two Glasgow friends, the youngster had reached the 3074ft summit of Beinn na Lap that afternoon.
With excitement and his own adventurous dreams, he informed us he would like to bag all the Munros sometime.
In turn, I told him the story of my ascent of Beinn na Lap, only the year before, which was also my last peak in my first round of all the 282 Munros. Myrid had joined the group who walked wiht me and this inspired her to return to Corrour with Rowan.
We also chatted about tomorrow’s plans for a hike of two other Corrour Munros, plus a Corbett, which is part of another list of Scottish mountains.
First though, Cath and I needed a rest. Feeling warm and refuelled, we said goodbye to Myrid and Rowan and headed out into the dark to find a camping spot.
The Scottish Outdoors Access Code allows people to camp in wild places, so long as they behave responsibly. This means choosing quiet locations, away from roads and private property and leaving no trace.
None of this was difficult at Corrour Estate and in less than 45 minutes, Cath and I had pitched our tents, blown up sleeping mattresses, puffed out sleeping bags and we were boiling hot water on camping stoves for a cup of tea and hot water bottles.
A sunny day for a bike and hike of three mountains
Rising early and well rested thanks to the peace and solitude of camping, we once again made use of our stoves for a cooked breakfast. We were delighted to find the weather was promisingly calm and sunny.
With bags packed, we retraced our cycling route, skirting first along a short section of the southern shore of Loch Ossian and then pedalling the long uphill we had descended only around 12 hours before.
Again, although a challenging cycling route, we marvelled at the superb landscape and the joy of seemingly having it all to ourselves. Apart from busy Corrour Station and a few walkers heading for Hostelling Scotland’s nearby Loch Ossian Youth Hostel, we saw only half a dozen other people while biking and walking over two days.
From bike to hike
A couple of miles shy of returning to the B841, Cath and I stopped, locked our bikes together and changed into walking clothing.
The next 10 miles would be on foot, not two wheels. In almost perfect weather, we navigated a route to three high summits, first the two Munros, Càrn Dearg at 3087ft and 3133ft tall Sgòr Gaibhre and then Meall na Meoig – Beinn Pharlagain, which rises to 2847ft.
The terrain was rugged and while we enjoyed some paths, much of our self-designed circuit was on a rough terrain of heather, grassy tussocks and several sections of wet boggy ground.
We set a fairly brisk pace, feeling much lighter than when cycling our bikes, but we also made plenty of stops to marvel at our location. Our vista took in many mountains, including the distinctive triangle of Schiehallion and the peaks of the Ben Alder area, as well as several large lochs.
Time and miles went by much faster thanks to the company of my friend and although weary when we regained our bikes, Cath and I had still not run out of topics to chat about.
The final couple of miles comprised a rough and body shaking ride downhill but all of a sudden, or so it seemed, we were back at the tarmac road, our car and a drive back to our busy lives in the modern world.
We both agreed that while we had been away for only a night, it felt like a much longer big adventure.
Bike return: Total of 21 miles and 2500ft of ascent.
Hike of three summits: 10 miles and 3645ft of ascent.
Kit list for Corrour bike and hike
- Gravel bike or mountain bike
- Bike packs, bags attached to a pannier rack and/or rucksack.
- Lightweight tent or aa bivvy bag
- Inflatable mattress
- Seeing bag
- Cooking stove, pot, plate, cup and spork
- Food and snacks
- Cycling kit: Padded shorts, t-shirt, baselayer, lightweight waterproof jacket, gloves, bike helmet
- Puncture repair kit, spare inner tube, bike pump
- Bike lights
- Bike lock
- Small first aid kit
- Trail shoes for cycling and hiking
- Hiking kit: Skort, tights, fresh t-shirt, insulated jacket, extra gloves, waterproof trousers, buff, rucksack
- Map & compass
- Phone with routes loaded on to OS Maps app
- Other bits and pieces: Sunglasses, cash, ear-plugs, small pot of moisturiser, sun lotion, toothbrush and toothpaste, wet wipes, toilet paper, toileting trowel and kit and emergency bivvy bag
• This Corrour mountains adventure in The Scots Magazine. Every month, the magazine features a range of inspiring outdoor stories and interviews.