My big bike ride for wild places

It seems, at last, like there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. The recent announcement from the Scottish government indicates that the 26 April will be the day people can move freely around the Scottish mainland.

Finally, I can tell you about a mad idea I have had with some assurance that it will actually happen in the next couple of months.

I had been planning to run the Bob Graham Round this May. However, with injury hamstringing any running I had planned for the early part of the year, I returned to the bike.

As you may have read in my previous blog, it has been a joy to get back on two wheels. I am very fortunate to turn the pedals from my front door and immediately have access to the Lake District National Park.

As a cyclist, the lockdown has been a literal breath of fresh air. With so few cars on the road, forays over Kirkstone Pass and Dunmail Raise have been nothing short of…not terrifying.

I would never consider going over Dunmail in normal times, but the quiet roads and (occasional) sunshine have opened up the roads of the Lake District like never before.

I have loved cycling since my undergraduate, spinning frantically behind my University of Stirling Cycling club friends as we formed a chaingang on the way home from an epic day in the Trossachs.

After succumbing to the notion I might not be able to do the Bob Graham for a little while, I wondered what I could invest my time in. What would get me out the door when it was wet and windy?

In 2020, I was part of the team at the John Muir Trust looking to get their Journey for Wildness off the ground. Unfortunately, as we all know, that couldn’t happen.

Yet, there was an idea even then: Linking up each of the John Muir Trust’s sites in one epic ride. I have done one or two bikepacking trips before, such as the two-day adventure in the central Highlands in 2019.

You’d think getting half-frozen in a bivvy bag in a bush just off the West Highland Way might have made my relationship with bikepacking a little…frosty. Yet it seems that, with time, such memories thaw, and a warm fuzzy feeling takes over and the imagination runs with it. And it wasn’t really that bad.

The plan

So, that is what I will be doing! I will be riding a rather satisfying 1001km (according to Komoot) from Kendal and visit each of the Trust’s properties in support of Journey for Wildness.

They are: Glenridding Common (Helvellyn), Glenlude (a small woodland in the Scottish Borders), Schiehallion, Ben Nevis, Li and Coire Dhorrcail (Knoydart), Skye, Quinag and Sandwood Bay.

I am not taking the fastest lines. Instead, I am taking the scenic roads and gravel tracks. I will be mostly bivvying out, occasionally sleeping in friends’ gardens if only to catch up with them (and maybe make use of their shower!).

If you are around and want to join me, it’d be great to have the company.

The why

In doing so, I am wanting to highlight the value of our wild places. Though I am going to be in the saddle for over eight hours every day, I am hoping to do some filming and photography of my trip, showing the good, the bad and the ugly of some of our ‘wilder’ palces.

While I am creaking over the handlebars, you can support me by supporting the Trust’s work. My donation page is now LIVE. You can go there and begin supporting me. For your entertainment, I have linked my Strava to it, so you can see what I am up to in training.

Mist on Quinag


When am I doing this? Go day is 8 May. With any luck, I will be on the shores of Sandwood Bay within my 10 day target, before needing to work out how to get home.

And that is my hope. I am hoping to make this trip is environmentally-impact-free as possible. I won’t be getting any support by vehicles and aiming to use as much sustainable packaging as possible (I am going to eat a lot).

I am very excited to be swinging my leg over the bike on this, my longest adventure yet. With any luck, this is a sign of other exciting adventures by foot or by bike in the future.

Now to map out where all the coffee stops are on the route…


Big thanks to the lovely people at Outdoor Provisions for sending me some tasty snacks for the ride! Their bars come in super cool compostable packaging and made from real ingredients, helping the Pedal for Wildness to remain environmentally friendly.

Published by Ross Brannigan

“It is worth ascending unexiting heights if for nothing else than to see the big ones from nearer their own level.” - Nan Shepherd

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