It seems to be a running trend that if I need a day off work to go on an adventure something will get in the way to make sure that I can’t get it off. When the first group ride of the Badger Divide got arranged, I was fairly disappointed that I could not get the Friday off work to tackle the full route. The Badger Divide is the brain child of Stu Allan, a predominantly gravel route that connects up many pre existing tracks and trails to create a 220 mile route stretching between Inverness to Glasgow. Guaranteed to deliver on lots of dirty bike riding and eye popping views.
I was not going to miss out completely though, eagerly leaving work I made the earliest possible train for Dalwhinnie with the aim of meeting everyone at Melgarve Bothy. It was very dark when the train left me at the small highland station and wasting no time, I pedalled off into the October night.
A blustry tailwind aided good progress and soon I arrived at the bothy to a warm welcome. Moods were high as they spoke of their tough but gratifying day tackling the first third of the route and the savagery of the Corrieyairack Pass. Melgrave Bothy is a 2 up 2 down structure so there was plenty of room for us to spread out and bed down for the night.
Due to faffing and rain we had a later start than planned. Once we were all sorted and bags strapped to bikes we were back down the road that I had ridden the night before. We turned off the tarmac and the first gravel of the day began. Following access roads that cut through remote valleys, far removed from the busy roads. A lot of the day felt like this, big country with a lot of emptiness as you meander your way through.
We skirt along the edge of Loch Laggen and then Lochan na h-Earba before a wet crossing as the path dropped below the water level. The gravel road to Loch Ossian was long and the group became spread out. There was a goal as food was on everyone’s mind as the venison stew from the Corrour station had been recommended highly. That alongside servings of coffee, cakes and beer fortified our legs for the next stage.
Refuelled and it was on to more climbing. The weather was distinctly Scottish as we lumbered up the hillside crossing swollen streams towards Rannoch. As we approached Bridge of Balgie the light was dimming and it was becoming distinctly clear that a hard decision was going to need to be made.
One member of the group was suffering and if we all kept on the planned route we would not make the second day. We decided to split ways. Two powered on to make camp in good time so they could finish the route. The rest of us nursed our weary comrade to Killin and a hotel bed before making our way to our planned lodgings. There wasn’t much conversation on arrival, we quietly ate hot soup in the cold CTC hut. It had been a long cold day in the saddle.
The decision was made to bail for the train in the morning as we couldn’t face another 100 or so miles of cold feet and wet jackets. I might have only got a small taster of the route and we may have experienced our share of grim October weather but my taster of The Badger was more than enough to get me excited to tackle the full route soon.
Strava link here.
Want to ride it? The route .GPX is available here, please ensure you have the most up to date version as it sometimes changes. If you fancy racing it, check out the Racing Collectives XDURO Scotland event on the 1st September 2018.
Please remember that this is a super remote route and you must be responsible for yourself whether you are part of an organised ride or going it alone. Be prepared with food, bad weather clothing and for some incredible views.