Cycling has become an increasingly popular sporting activity in recent years. It is no longer considered only as a type of transport, but more as an opportunity to experience the unique adventure.
When traveling by bike you can see much more and experience many wonderful moments.
I am very pleased to introduce you to the interview I have had with a fantastic man who is passionate about cycling and travel across Scotland by bike.
Meet The Cycling Scot. A man who experiences and discovers the thrill of cycling through Scotland.
To begin with I would like to ask you how it all started. What and when pushed you to create The Cycling Scot?
I have always enjoyed travel writing and for years I kept private journals on my overseas trips. I had some success in getting some of this published, but I wanted an outlet that I had full control over.
I had seen friends create travel blogs and thought I would give it a go. Someone gave me a tip that I should find something unique that nobody else is doing and that’s why I decided to blog about my bicycle travels in Scotland.
Travel is a very wide topic so I wonder why did you choose this type of travel? Why a bike?
A friend, from London, that I went to Uni with suggested going on a bike tour of Orkney. I didn’t even own a bike at that point! But I liked the idea, bought a bike and then loved the experience.
From that point on I started to look into where else in Scotland I could visit using a bike. If like me you don’t own a car it can be pretty challenging to get to out of the way places in Scotland, but combining train and bicycle travel makes it simple to reach almost everywhere.
Cycling is a perfect speed in that it is fairly quick but slow enough that you actually notice the landscapes, hear the birdsong and smell the wildflowers. There is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment that comes with reaching somewhere by bike.
And you can eat as much cake as you want!
I completely agree with you that a bike is an ideal alternative for those who do not own a car and also gives you the opportunity to enjoy the exceptional beauty of Scotland. However, do you remember your first trip on a bike?
It was that Orkney trip, in my 20s. I don’t have a childhood memory of a first bike ride, just those endless blue skies and quiet single-track roads of Orkney.
I can imagine how wonderful it is to drive through these beautiful areas of Orkney but I’m very keen to know which place has enchanted you the most. What was your favourite tour?
Without a doubt, it has to be Sutherland. It is an underdog of Scottish tourism and I always support underdogs, particularly when the landscapes are this stunning.
I am not talking about the North Coast 500 route, but all those quiet country roads that really take you into the wild. Sutherland’s neighbour, Caithness is also pretty special.
And another underdog that is a favourite of mine is Dumfries and Galloway. It’s got so much to offer- castles, coastline and charming towns.
You embraced me by mentioning these places! Sutherland, Dumfries and Galloway – absolutely extraordinary locations. I believe that these places are essential to see. I wonder if maybe you are right that on a bike visiting these wonderful areas would not add new splendour to it. Do you plan to see some particular place in Scotland this year?
Believe it or not, I have yet to visit the Kelpies, so this is top of the list. The Borders Railway has made it a lot easier to explore this region by bicycle, so I always try to fit in a few trips that way. All those pretty fishing villages on the Fife coast is another long overdue trip for me.
Kelpies? How come you have never been there? That’s something I didn’t expect! But I would like to ask you something else, which is, what is your motivation? What motivates you to keep on doing what you love?
Despite Scotland’s small size, there is so much to see and do, so there is always somewhere new for me to visit by bike. I get a buzz from exploring the country and sharing my experiences online.
Travel is also my hobby, it’s hard for me to sit in one place and it’s fantastic that Scotland offers so many attractions. However is it only a Scotland that interesting you? Or maybe you plan to explore any other countries on a bike in the future?
It took a long time to realise that I am pretty lucky to live in Scotland. For years I was of the opinion that any annual leave should be used to get out of Scotland, but there is so much on our doorstep.
The more you travel the more you notice the differences in the regions of Scotland and it can easily feel like you are in another country and feel that same sense of adventure when you travel overseas.
I have cycled in other countries, most recently in Albania. I did say that I loved underdogs and Albania certainly is when it comes to tourism, but it is very beautiful and actually perfect for cycling because there are not many cars on the roads.
There’s no doubt that many people appreciate the remote and unknown places more than the areas which they have in their “backyard”. I totally agree that Scotland is so unique that everyone can easily find something interesting for themselves here. However, I have always wondered whether cycling enthusiasts prefer to ride alone or with the company so do you prefer to ride by yourself or do you like a partner/team trips?
I do enjoy riding by myself because I am in complete control of where I am going and how long I take to get there.
I am easily distracted by things and stop quite a lot to take a closer look at something or take photos or notes in my journal. I think a companion would find that annoying!
I have done a lot of trips with my friend Paul and it is pretty special to experience things together and have some banter along the way.
Some journeys are nice to do alone, but sometimes a good companion is important, for example, in dangerous situations. What was the most horrific experience you had when cycling?
In September 2018 I found myself cycling during Storm Ali which produced 80mph winds.
I was in a remote part of the Scottish Borders and the wind was pushing me along at incredible speed. It was good at first, but when the wind changed direction it was frightening and difficult to keep my balance on the bike.
I had to stop so many times and walk with the bike. There was nowhere to shelter on this route, no cafes or hotels so I had to just keep going. I came across roads blocked by fallen trees and had to carry my bike around or over.
A lorry driver thought I was crazy and told me to be very careful about trees coming down. It was then that I realised how dangerous it was.
I hit a stretch of isolated road where the air was thick with wood dust from all the damaged trees.
It was like being in a saw mill- it was in my eyes and the taste was in my mouth. The road was covered in broken branches and I could hear this cracking sound, like thunder- it was the sound of trees being broken apart.
One tree came down in a field right next to me. I saw it fall and then a herd of cows ran away from it, terrified! My heart was in my mouth the whole time and I could not wait to get out of it.
I realise now that I was lucky as I could so easily have been hurt. My advice is not to go cycling in these conditions.
Thanks for the advice but seriously the situation that happened to you could really have been very tragic. The weather in Scotland can be very unpredictable. I wonder, considering your experience, what tracks or roads you can highly recommend to other cycling lovers?
Take the Borders Railway from Edinburgh to the last stop, Tweedbank, and right opposite the station you will find the start of a cycle path.
This takes you on a fabulous journey through the Borders- wonderful countryside, the famous 4 Abbeys and historic houses.
For a true wilderness adventure take a train to Altnabreac in Sutherland. This station is very remote and trains only stop there if a passenger specifically tells the guard they want to get off.
From the station, there is a remote road that is perfect for cycling, but you need to come prepared as there are no facilities out here.
Take your bike on a ferry to one of Scotland’s islands, they have some of the best cyclings in the country because there are few cars and they are very beautiful peaceful places.
I was on Colonsay recently and it was glorious. You soon run out of roads to cycle on, but it forces you to slow down and just enjoy exploring with frequent off-bike excursions to beaches.
I loved the road to the Mull of Kintyre lighthouse. It’s a tough road that requires a lot of effort, but the scenery is spectacular and it ends at a beautiful lighthouse.
It’s one of those places that makes you feel so happy that you made the effort to reach.
All the places you have mentioned sound very welcoming, so I would like to take my bike and set off on a journey. However, before such a trip you should be well prepared, so I must ask you to give me 3 things that everyone should take with them on such a bike journey across Scotland.
Scotland’s remoteness means you must be self-sufficient so the three must-haves are water, spare inner tube and pump (and the knowledge to replace a punctured tube)
And finally, I would like to ask you if you want to say something to our readers to motivate them to do what they really love in their lives.
Think of the feeling that you got when you did something that you love. You felt alive, happy and full of energy. I bet you would like to feel like that more often, so keep doing what makes you feel that way and create opportunities to do more of it.
The Cycling Scot is a beautiful showcase of Scotland and its stunning landscapes. Colin is a man full of passion and love for Scotland as well as for cycling. It was a pleasure to invite him to take part in my new series.
I am fascinated by people with passion, who will do a lot to fulfil their dreams and follow their own path. Colin is definitely one of those people. At this point, I would like to thank him sincerely for sharing a little bit of his passion to me and of course to you too.