The Caledonia Way: 4 stops you must make
Relaunching later in 2016, The Caledonia Way (National Cycle Route 78) is 237 miles of pure dead Scottish brilliance. Don't miss the best of the route's historical, cultural and foodie offerings with our hitlist. Share yours over on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Crinan and Kilmartin (Route: Oban to Campbeltown)
Although they showcase totally different sides to cultural Scotland, Crinan and Kilmartin are well worth braking for. Kilmartin Glen – which boasts over 350 prehistoric monuments – is thought to be the birthplace of our northern nation. Nearby is the crags of Dunadd, the coronation spot of ancient Scottish kings. There is also a museum if you’re intrigued by the history: it’s in the heart of Kilmartin village.
Following the canal to where it joins the sea, you’ll reach Crinan. It’s a tiny, almost-car free village that sits right at the end of the waterway. Along with being a picturesque hub for yachts of all shapes and sizes, it’s also a pretty decent stop-off for cyclists. There are benches around the basin and some famous eateries nearby.
THE PHOTO OP… either stop by the red-and-white hexagon of Crinan Lighthouse – where you’ll get views across the Sound of Jura and to Mull – or continue further along the towpath to Dunadd where you’ll get higher views across the rugged landscape.
Oban and Connel (Rotue: Oban to Fort William)
One of Scotland’s quintessential fishing hubs, Oban welcomes island-hopping tourists and enthusiastic outdoor lovers. Sit by the harbour, get your lunch from the seafood hut and watch ferries press past Kerrera and on towards the Hebrides.
The must-see sight in Oban is the curved, Colosseum-like structure that sits on the top of the hill. McCaig’s Tower (or ‘Folly’ to locals) was designed by banker and self-made architect John Stuart McCaig, who sadly died in 1902 before work could be completed. The unfinished art gallery is now a garden, and frames panoramas across the bay to Lismore, Kerrera and Mull.
GET REFUELLED… If you’re looking for a quick and local lunch, grab a takeaway at the Oban Seafood Hut. Right at the harbour, this seafood is fresh and fantastic, with reviewers labelling its grub as ‘the best seafood in the world’. If you’re just after an afternoon sugar hit, down a hot chocolate from the Oban Chocolate Shop. With views over the bay, you can even watch their chocolatiers at work. Try to leave without buying fish-and-chip shaped chocolate.
THE PHOTO OP… Take your pic(k)! There’s a ton of beautiful views to snap in the 12 mile stretch between Oban and Connel. A shot through the arches of McCaig’s Folly is a favourite, or pause on the geometric Connel Bridge for amazing scenery up and down Loch Etive. Going further? Don’t miss Castle Stalker, perched precariously on a rock at the edge of Loch Linnhe.
You’ll enjoy a variety of stunning scenery as you cycle from the Caledonian Canal past Loch Ness. If you want to stop and rest your legs, there’s no better place than Dores Beach. Even atmospheric on a dull day, the pebbled shore slopes down to the clear waters of the loch.
GET REFUELLED… at Dores Inn. A traditional eatery right on the loch, it consistently serves imaginative ‘pub grub’. From your fish-and-chip classics to spiced lamb rump and grilled mackerel with black pudding, this is one break you’ll want to take.
THE PHOTO OP… There’s nowhere more obvious to get snap happy than on Dores Beach itself. And if you’re feeling optimistic about your chance to discover the monster, get some tips from Nessie Hunter Steve Feltham.
Fort William (Route: Fort William to Inverness)
Historically, An Gearasdan was the site of a fort which Cromwell used to control the Scots – and subsequent Jacobites – in the 1700s. Nowadays, it’s a major tourist hotspot for those who are hiking, biking or simply exploring the Highlands.
Make the most of Fort William’s surroundings by putting a few stops on your list. You’ll pass Neptune’s Staircase on your route, the longest staircase canal lock in Britain. Catch a glimpse of Ben Nevis from here, providing the Scottish weather is treating you kindly. If you’ve got time to spare and don't mind traffic, why not take a day trip up the A830 to Glenfinnan? Both the monument and ‘Harry Potter’ viaduct enjoy stunning views straight down Loch Shiel.
GET REFUELLED… After a 15 minute cycle south-east of the town, you’ll reach the Ben Nevis Inn. Championing traditional Scottish fare – like haggis with whisky sauce and ale-battered haddock – you won’t want to leave this cosy, converted barn.
THE PHOTO OP… On a clear day, Fort William offers great views from its very shores: snap the hills of Ardgour or the summit of Ben Nevis. We’d really recommend a trip to Glenfinnan though for the ultimate Instagram shot.