THE remote Applecross peninsula on the west coast of the Highlands is in the running for a major cycling accolade as Best Road Ride in Britain.
For years, drivers have had Route 66 in America, motorcyclists the Snake Pass and horse-riders the Wessex Way. Now, thanks to Cycling Plus magazine, supported by Olympic champion Chris Boardman, road cyclists can vote for their favourite ride in the country.
As cycle tourism continues to take off – now worth £239 million a year to the Scottish economy – it is hoped the nomination of Applecross, as the only Scottish location in the competition, will help boost numbers.
Scott Armstrong, of VisitScotland, said: “It’s fantastic news that Applecross has been recognised as one of the best places in the UK to cycle.
“The awe-inspiring views and iconic climbs make it an ideal route for cycling enthusiasts from across the world to enjoy.”
Local councillor Ian Cockburn added: “Even being shortlisted is such an accolade, but not surprising given the views you can get. Let’s face it, going up the Bealach na Ba [road] is smashing, just like being in the Alps.”
The other finalists are Broughton Wheelers Lakes Loop in the Lake District, Cymbria in the Yorkshire Dales, Barnstable in Devon and Elan Valley in Mid-Wales.
Cycling Plus editor Rob Spedding said: “From scenery to the satisfaction and challenge of the ride, all elements of a good bike ride were discussed. We carefully deliberated a list nominated by readers and each of the finalists were ridden by the magazine’s editorial team, including Applecross, which I cycled myself. I did a 44-mile route taking in some of the most breathtaking scenery.
“It was a ride I had always wanted to do and I wasn’t disappointed. Applecross has to be a frontrunner for the title.”
Applecross – A’ Chomraich in Gaelic, meaning The Sanctuary – is directly opposite Skye, Raasay and Rona, and remains one of the most isolated areas of Scotland. It was only accessible by boat until the early 20th century, and for many years after that the only road access was over the highest pass in Scotland, the Bealach na Ba (Pass of the Cattle).
Olympic champion Boardman said: “Every keen cyclist will have their favourite ‘go to’ ride.
“For me it’s Dee Valley where I can just turn the pedals and forget about the everyday stresses of life and just enjoy being out on my bike. I’m sure it’s why cycling is so popular.”