Welcome to Peak Tour’s very own version of the North Coast 500, our stunning new cycling tour of the Highlands of Scotland. Over the course of 7 days, we will cycle from Inverness over to the inimitable west coast of Scotland and back round to the east for some truly magical cycling.
For those that love a challenge we have built into the tour the holy grail of UK ascents “Bealach na Ba” the UK’s greatest ascent of any road in the country. This beast of a climb is not for the fainthearted and there is no tougher or more rewarding climb in the whole of the UK! Fortunately for us there is an equally impressive, equally spectacular, shorter, easier route round it if you wish to avoid it.
There are different route options on some of the days on the Highland 500 to satisfy both ends of the cycling spectrum, so two people of differing abilities will get the same amount of enjoyment from the same tour. There are a number of challenging hills on this tour and as always you will benefit from a good amount of training before the trip but it is possible to make the tour easier or harder at times according to your preference.
Scotland is home to some of the most incredible cycling the UK has to offer. We start by heading west from Inverness for a fairly easy ride out to lovely Loch Carron then on to the splendid isolation of Kinlochewe, taking in either the legendary “Bealach na Ba” or the easier route to timeless Shieldaig. Winding our way up this majestic coastline we stay at the vibrant town of Ullapool and wild, remote Durness before heading back over to the eastern coast where we finish our journey back at Inverness. White sandy beaches and crystal clear waters abound, not to mention the abundant wildlife and sweeping vistas of the Scottish highlands make this tour a truly amazing experience.
The tour runs from Saturday to Sunday with 7 days cycling. Although this tour is the Highland 500 we actually cover a distance of around 470 miles so we have used a little artistic licence! There is around 7,300m/24,000ft of climbing (6,400m/21,000 if you miss out Beleach na Ba). It should be borne in mind that a reasonably fit cyclist will average around 10-12 miles per hour (including hills) and therefore we will be in the saddle each day for around 6-8 hours.
At the start we will meet you in Inverness and transfer you to to your accommodation and at the end we will be staying a short walk from the train station or people can share taxis to the airport. If you are worried about getting your bike home at the end of the trip we can arrange for it to be packed, boxed and sent to your address for you (£70), so you can relax when you have completed the challenge. If you would like to drop your bike off and collect it from Peak Tours HQ this service is free of charge.
The tour runs in much the same way as our LEJOG or Channel to the Med tour with the ‘magic van’ providing refreshments throughout the tour. Your bags will be transported for you each day and we will be having some fantastic lunches along with our famous ‘brew stops’ twice a day providing you with everything you need to keep you going – you certainly won’t go hungry!
You are provided with detailed route notes and for those with Garmins we also have GPX files of the route (or you can hire a device from us with the route loaded on). Usually a tour guide cycles at the back of the group and there is a support vehicle on hand should you require assistance. We also carry a few spare bikes just in case you have any major mechanical problems.
This is a partly flexible tour that can be made more/less challenging on a few of the days depending on your choice of route. The tour has some tough climbs but you will be hugely rewarded with some beautifully quiet roads and unrivalled views across oceans and mountains.
To view photos from the latest tour please click here September 2018
Saturday 1st – Sunday 9th June 2019 – Tour Full
Saturday 27th July – Sunday 4th August 2019 Places available
Or why not try our Scottish End to End Tour which includes riding on the beautiful Scottish Islands of Arran, Mull and Skye Scottish End to End
Saturday: Arrival Day
After your arrival to Inverness today you will be met by the guides at the train/plane station or your accommodation. Everyone should aim to be in Inverness by 6:30pm in time for a welcome meal all together at 7:30pm
Sunday: Inverness to Lochcarron (61 miles) Elevation: 1300ft / 396m
Today we begin our adventure heading west from Inverness on a mixture of peaceful country roads and a few quieter A roads. The route becomes increasingly more impressive as the day progresses and we pass a number of small hamlets and serene lochs as we venture into ever more remote country. This is a relatively easy day in terms of climbing and we arrive to Lochcarron in good time to appreciate the fine views before tucking into a well deserved haggis (other intestine based meal options are available).
Monday: Lochcarron to Kinlochewe (61 or 33 miles) Elevation: 5200ft or 2200ft /1584m or 670m
Today you have two options, you can either take on the challenge of the UK’s greatest ascent, Bealach na Ba (weather dependent and extra bowl of porridge required), which rises from sea level to 626m and then descends to Applecross and follows a challenging route round the coastline to Shieldaig. Or, you can take the shorter, easier route that follows the A896, again passing through Sheildaig and then onto Kinlochewe. It is a bit of a shame you have to choose between these two beauties as they are simply stunning and this area of Scotland is awe inspiring. Accommodation in Kinlochewe is limited so it may be necessary to split the very large groups this evening which may add 10 flat miles to the end of the day.
Tuesday: Kinlochewe to Ullapool (75 miles) Elevation: 5390ft / 1643m
Pushing further north we continue past the impressive mountains around Beinn Eighe and Kinlochewe. Cycling by the banks of Loch Maree we pass Loch Gairloch and Loch Ewe and pass the Isle of Ewe and also Gruinard Island before passing the Falls of Measach and onto the picturesque fishing village of Ullapool where we will spend the next two nights.
Wednesday: Ullapool Loop (51/65/83 miles) Elevation:2857ft/5206ft/6293ft – 870m/1587m/1918m
There is a lot of flexibility today on offer as we have three different routes available for exploring the area north of Ullapool. All of the routes head out past the beautiful Lochs Lurgainn and Bad a’ Ghaill on a fantastic, winding, single track road past deserted beaches of white sand. This is a fantastic area to explore and all the rides are special in their own way. The three loops have something for everybody to spend some time soaking up the sheer natural beauty of this wonderful part of the world. If you didn’t fancy a cycle there is an excellent walk to the bone caves of Ullapool or you could simply have a look for the resident seal at the harbour who will gladly relieve you of whatever food you have!
Thursday: Ullapool to Durness (68 miles) Elevation: 5016ft / 1529m
As we head further north from Ullapool hugging the coastline as we go, we ascend just past Ardvreck Castle and eventually start one of the best descents of the tour down to Kylesku Bridge. Be sure to keep your eyes on the road as they will be dragged off in every direction in this cycling heaven! Eventually we meet the southern tip of the Kyle of Durness just before we roll in through absolutely majestic scenery to our finishing point for the day at the crofters village of Durness.
Friday: Durness to Lairg (62 miles) Elevation: 2405ft / 733m
Leaving the west coast behind we start off on a fairly easy first half of the day, past amazing white sandy beaches that could be from a tropical island paradise. You run out of superlatives quickly to describe this special part of the UK, best just to go experience it! The second half of the day involves more climbing and those of you who have completed our LEJOG ride will be surprised to find themselves popping up in Altnahara from a different direction as we trace a section of our LEJOG route in reverse, past the Crask (obligatory whiskey for those so inclined) and then downhill all the way to to Lairg for our evening rest.
Saturday: Lairg to Inverness (72 miles) Elevation: 2285ft / 696m
The similarities with our LEJOG route end with Lairg as we go a completely different route back to Inverness on some cracking roads over to Dornoch and then on a really good Sustrans route, also catching a little ferry over the Cromarty Firth. The rest of the route is mostly spent on single track roads by beautiful scenery along quiet roads all the way back to Inverness for our final group meal, mandatory group hug, sing song and can-can by the river Ness.
Sunday: Departure Day
After last night’s final hurrah the guides will have beaten a hasty retreat early in the morning with all the kit leaving people free to catch the train (short walking distance), or share taxis to the airport, swapping stories and hopefully planning the next adventure!
The tour price includes 8 nights accommodation, 8 breakfasts, 7 lunches, snacks, tea, coffee, & hot chocolate, fresh fruit, nuts and dried fruit, cake, jelly babies etc! Full trip support including a tour leader that cycles with the group (on smaller groups there will just be back up vehicles), back up van with spare parts and a few spare bikes, detailed route notes so that you can cycle at your own pace, Full route GPX files provided (Garmin hire available for £35) certificate, luggage transfer each day, lots of fun!
What’s Not Included?
Evening meals, cycle hire (available for a fee), transport to and from Inverness.
The group will be a minimum of 8 and a maximum of 25 people. We feel that this size of group works best as there will always be enough in the group for some good company but there won’t be so many people that it becomes overcrowded.
We stay in a mixture of B&B’s and hotels. The price quoted assumes that you will be sharing a twin or double room. If you are travelling alone you will share a twin room rotated with others that have chosen the same accommodation option. If you choose the single room option then you will have your own room throughout.
Although we don’t always stick to the official North Coast 500 route, our own version of the route of around 500 miles (depending on which route options you choose) avoids many of the main roads and takes in some of Scotland’s most beautiful scenery. Wherever possible we cycle along quiet country lanes and cycleways and only join main roads when we absolutely have to. We devised the route as we did, incorporating a loop in Ullapool, to take full advantage of all the most scenic parts of the trip. We also avoid as much as possible as we can of the A9, there are two very short sections where this is unavoidable but they are very short and for the most part there is a small cycling strip to cycle in.
All of your breakfasts and lunches are included in the price of the trip. You will have a choice of full English, toast, cereals, fruit juices, tea, coffee etc. Lunches will be provided each day and will generally be a buffet at a cafe or a country pub. Evening meals can be bought at your accommodation or in a nearby pub. The back up van also stops to brews and snacks in the morning and afternoon.
An experienced tour leader will cycle with you each day and be on hand to help with any bike problems that may occur. You will have detailed route notes so that you can go slower or faster than the leader if you prefer or you can cycle with the tour guide at the back so that you don’t have to navigate at all.
A back up van will leap frog the group a number of times each day so that help is never far away. We carry a range of spare parts so that repairs can be made en-route and we will have a couple of spare bikes available in the event that your bike has a serious breakdown.
We highly recommend that you use a bike that you are used to and feel comfortable riding. Your bike should be fully serviced and in good condition before you start, this will reduce the risk of mechanical problems and unnecessary stoppages along the way. Either a road bike or a touring bike is preferable. We have a range of road and touring bikes available for hire (£80 – £150 depending on bike choice) if you don’t have your own bike. We will take your bike over for you if you bring it to us before hand and we will take it back for you at the end of the tour as well (free of charge if you drop off and pick up or we can box the bike and post it to you for a charge).
This tour is suitable for someone with a good level of fitness and who wants a challenge. If you do plenty of training beforehand you should have no problem completing the ride. We will have a training day in the Peak District available if you would like to join the group before the main event.
It must be stressed that a good amount of training before the ride will make your tour much more enjoyable and ensure that you finish your ride. We are always happy to advise you about training plans in preparation for the ride.
Clothing & Equipment
Clothing for all weathers is recommended so waterproofs are essential. A full recommended kit list is provided and we are always happy to answer any questions that you may have.
It is highly recommended that you take out adequate insurance to cover against, personal accident, loss of belongings and cancellation cover. This should cover you in the event that you have to cancel the tour anytime after the final payment has been made as we may be unable to fill your place. There are many insurance companies out there and we prefer not to get involved with recommending a particular company and there are so many policies available depending on your own personal circumstances.
What happens when I arrive?
If you would like collecting from Inverness, we will meet you at the station and take you, your luggage and your bike to the hotel where we will spend our first night. Just let us know when you want picking up and we will meet you then. We will have a group meal at 19:30 for 20:00 on the Saturday night so if you are arriving much earlier you have the time free to yourself.
How do I get to Inverness?
You can get to Inverness by plane, car, bus and train (or you could cycle). We can pick you up at Inverness when you arrive on Saturday and transport you and your bike to our first nights accommodation. If you could let us know when you will be arriving and we will make arrangements to collect you if required.
To get to Inverness:
By Car If you are using a hire car there are a couple of car hire companies who have a depot at Inverness. Just let us know when you want picking up and we can collect you once you have dropped off the car.
By Train There are frequent trains into Inverness as it is on the West Coast Mainline. For train timetables tel: 08457 48 49 50 or book online at www.nationalrail.co.uk
What happens at the end?
At the end we will be staying close to the Greig St footbridge which it is possible to get into town from and the train station is only a 5 minute walk away. For those people flying home it would be worth talking together and co-ordinating sharing taxis to the airport, the guides, as ever, will be happy to help with this and your accommodation providers will also know plenty of taxi numbers.
What mechanical knowledge do I need?
We don’t expect you to be an expert bike mechanic but there are a few simple skills that will be a great benefit to you. The most important skill you need to know is how to fix a puncture. It is quite likely that at some point you will have a puncture or two so it is essential that you carry a puncture repair kit & a spare tube or two with you. It is also helpful if you know how to change your brake pads and adjust your brakes & gears however this isn’t essential. Our guides will help you with any repairs & adjustments en-route.
What are the lunches like?
We arrange a buffet lunch at a pub or café each day. This will be a mixture of sandwiches, pasta salads, soup, quiche, salads etc and will be different at each place. There will always be enough to go round so don’t worry if you are at the back of the group. The lunch stops provide a good opportunity to re-group & catch up with others and compare notes.
Will I be left behind?
No, a tour leader cycles at the back of the group so that you won’t be left behind if you are worried about cycling too slowly. Throughout the group there will be a mix of abilities and cycling speeds so you will usually be able to cycle with others that cycle at a similar pace. Some people like to cycle fast whilst others prefer to take their time, stop for coffee and cake or stop to take photos etc so whether you are a ‘speed demon’ or more of a ‘tourer’ there will usually be someone to cycle with each day.
Do I need to be super fit?
No, you don’t need to be super fit but a good level of fitness is important as the Highland 500 is a challenging ride. The fitter you are & the more training that you do beforehand will add to the enjoyment of your tour and improve your chances of succeeding the challenge. If you need any advice about fitness please contact us and we will be happy to discuss any questions & concerns that you may have.
What are the groups like?
Obviously each group is different but generally they are a fun, friendly, helpful and adventurous bunch. There will be people of all ages and from all walks of life. We tend to get quite a few older riders although there will always be a few younger riders as well. So far our youngest rider was 15 and the eldest 82. We think that a group of 15-25 is ideal as there will be plenty of people with similar interests and character without being such a big group that it becomes too much.
Generally the group will be split 50/50 between people travelling alone and people that travel as a pair such as two brothers, two friends, two partners. There will be plenty of people to socialise with throughout the day and in the evening.
How do I get my bike home at the end of the trip?
If you can get your bike to us in Glossop, Derbyshire then we can take it and bring it back to Peak Tours HQ for you free of charge. If that option isn’t available to you then you can always use the same postal service we use for LEJOG and the price for this is £77, we will send out a link to book on for the service a bit closer to the start date and you can let us know anytime about that.
What happens in the evenings?
Once you have arrived at your accommodation you should have chance for some time to relax, have a shower etc before the evening meal. We usually arrange somewhere to eat for the evening meal so that we can all get together and you won’t be left alone if you would like to eat with others. Quite often we will simply arrange a certain pub to meet up and just drift in when you are ready whilst at other places we have a set time to eat – it just depends on the location.
Does the support vehicle follow the group?
No, the back up van doesn’t drive behind the group at all times but the van shouldn’t be too far away if you require assistance. In the morning we have a group brief and set off cycling, meanwhile the backup driver will collect all the luggage from the various B&B’s and hostels. Once all of the luggage has been loaded, the support vehicle will leapfrog the group stopping when necessary. The backup driver will be at the lunch stop should you need anything from the van & in the afternoon will go on ahead to ensure that your luggage is in place before you arrive.
How much luggage can I take?
There is limited space in the back up van to store luggage. We therefore request that you try to keep your luggage size to a minimum & try not to bring too much with you. Washing clothes can be done en-route so you shouldn’t need to bring a clean set of clothes for every day. The ideal size for luggage is 70 x 50 x 30 cm and a weight of 15-18kg (or less).
What training should I do?
The more the better. We will provide a training guide for you so that you can build up your cycling strength and prepare for the ride in the correct way. It is important that you cycle two long days back to back whilst training & also that you cycle on some hills. We hold training weekends at the start of the season so that you can meet with others in the group, ask any questions you may have & also test yourselves amongst the hills of the Peak District.
What bike should I use?
The most suitable bike for this trip is a hybrid/touring bike or a road bike, however it is entirely up to you what type of bike you use. Some people may be riding mountain bikes, others hybrids & others on racing bikes.
Please ensure that your bike is fully serviced and in good working order before the start of the trip.
If you are riding a mountain bike then it is advisable to use slick tyres. If you are using a lightweight racing bike it would be better to use a slightly wider tyre than 23mm if possible for touring long distances, for comfort and the different road surfaces you may encounter. Tyre inflation & rubber composition is important and a tyre width of 25mm or more is recommended for this tour. Please ensure that you have hard wearing tyres with plenty of tread.
You are going to cycle just under 500 miles so it is important that your bike won’t let you down. You may want to fit new brake blocks, tyres & inner tubes before you start the ride and also bring 3-4 spare inner tubes, pump, puncture repair kit and multi-tool to carry with you each day. It is essential that you are able to fix a puncture.
It is also advisable to have front and rear lights on your bikes and try to be a visible as possible.
Can I hire a bike from you?
It is advisable to use your own bike if possible, however we realise that it is not always possible to use your own steed so you may wish to hire one. We have three types of hybrid bike available and two types of road bike. Details of these bikes can be found by clicking on the ‘Tour Extras’ tab.
All of our hire bikes come fitted with cycle computer, water bottle cage, bell, map holder, rear rack & mudguards (hybrids) and front and rear lights. We can also provide a pannier for the hybrids with a multi-tool, pump, puncture repair kit, spare tube and tyre levers at no extra cost. All bikes can have flat pedals or SPD’s but if you would prefer to use your own (and maybe your own saddle) then please bring these along with you. We can also provide a helmet for you at no extra cost.
What gear should I take?
We provide a suggested kit list so please contact us if you would like a copy sending to you.
What is the male / female ratio?
This varies with each group. There are usually a few more guys than gals but an average would be about 1/3rd ladies & 2/3rds gents.
To book a tour please send a completed booking form and (a) Deposit of £250.00 per person for tours of 7 days or longer or £50.00 for all other tours or (b) The full holiday cost. If only the deposit is paid at time of booking then full payment of the holiday is required no less than 8 weeks before the start of your holiday. No further reminder is sent. If you book your holiday within 8 weeks of the holiday start date, the full holiday cost is required at time of booking.
Cancellation by Us
In the unlikely event that we have to cancel the tour you will be entitled to a full refund of all monies paid or we will move you to a different tour date if you’re able to do so. If the tour is cancelled because the minimum number of people required to operate this tour hasn’t been reached then you will be notified no less than 3 calendar months before the departure date. If the tour is cancelled by us we will not be responsible for any incidental expenses that you may have incurred such as travel expenses, visas etc & no compensation will be paid to cover these expenses.
Cancellation by You
If you have to cancel your holiday then please notify us as soon as possible. We always try to be fair and will always try to move you to different tour date if possible. If you cancel your tour less than 8 weeks before your tour start date then you will lose all monies already paid. It is for this reason that we strongly recommend that you take out adequate travel insurance to cover cover this.
Notice of Cancellation Charge (% of Full Price)
Length of time before the tour is due to start Cancellation Charge More than 60 days before start date Deposit Less than 60 days before start date 100%
Cooling Off Period
If you decide to cancel your tour after receipt of your booking form you will be entitled to a 14 day cooling off period. During this time you will be entitled to a full refund of any monies paid.
B&B Option – double or twin
If you chose the B&B only option you will stay in a mixture of B&B’s, hotels and country pubs. If you are travelling with a friend then you will be roomed together in a twin or or if you’re with your partner then you will be in a double room (or a twin if you prefer). If you are travelling alone then you will be roomed with another member of the group in a twin room (same sex). The actual stopovers may change from the advertised accommodation providers, if this happens then an equivalent standard of accommodation will be used nearby. The majority of the rooms you stay in will be en-suite however you may stay in a couple of rooms that are not en-suite.
Single Room Option
If you choose the single room option you will have your own room for the duration of the trip. This will be in either a single room or single occupancy of a double room in a mixture of en-suite and non en-suite rooms.
Sole Use of a Double room Option
If you choose this option you will have a guaranteed double room to yourself throughout the tour. You will always have an en-suite each night of your tour. There may be a rare occasion when you have a separate bathroom but this is very unlikely.
YHA (Youth Hostel) Option
This option is only available for the 14 day LEJOG tour. If you chose the YHA option you will stay in a mixture of hostels, hotels & B&B’s staying in single sex dormitory rooms, single rooms, twin rooms & triples.
On tours with 8 people or less in the group then there may only be one tour guide with you who will drive the back up van each day. Tours with 8 – 15 people in the group will have two tour guides with one guide driving the back up van and the other guide cycling with the group or both guides driving a back up van each. Tours with 16+ will have a guide that cycles with the group plus two back up vans do provide support.
If you choose the cycle hire option you will be provided with your bike at the start of your tour. The bike comes with everything you need for your trip although some people like you use their own saddle, peddles and/or helmet (just let us know beforehand). At the end of your tour you can simply hand your bike back to us when you finish cycling. Please see the additional cycle hire sheet for details of the bikes we have available.
If the minimum number of people required to run the trip is not met then we will have to cancel the trip. You will be notified at least 3 calendar months prior to the start date of the trip if the minimum number (usually 8 people) hasn’t been met & you will receive a full refund of all monies paid.
In order to comply with EU Travel Regulations 1992 your deposit & final payment will be held in a separate account until your holiday is completed. This is to ensure the financial security of your holiday.
It is compulsory that you take out adequate holiday insurance including medical cover, personal accident, loss of belongings & cancellation cover. We cannot be held responsible for your own illness, injury or loss/damage of your bike or belongings while on holiday.
EHIC – European Health Insurance Card (for EU nationals travelling in Europe)
This card entitles you to greatly reduced or free state medical services throughout Europe, including Switzerland. We recommend you send off for one of these before the trip and carry it with you. It’s important to bear in mind that these cards are not a substitute for travel insurance and adequate travel insurance is compulsory for this tour. This link will give you all the information you need about the EHIC. www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC
Cycling is a potentially dangerous activity & the risks involved should be considered before undertaking such a trip. We will be cycling mostly on quiet back roads however there will be times when we cycle on busier roads where traffic density is higher. All persons undertaking this tour do so at their own risk & Peak Tours cannot be held responsible for any accidents that may occur whilst on the trip. For further details please see our risk acknowledgement statement here which forms part of these conditions.
By signing your booking form you agree to the booking conditions as outlined above. Peak tours will carry out our obligations as detailed in the tour itinerary & any information supplied to you.