As an endurance athlete, training is a big part of my life, and cycling is the biggest part of my training.
I spend hundreds of hours alone on my bike, hammering the same routes, often ‘head down’ and in the zone, whilst my mind ponders the next big adventure, or reflects on challenges past. Therefore, it is a rare and wonderful ride when I purposefully slow down, sit up and have the company to share a new route.
My favourite this year has to be along National Cycle Network Route 78, better known as the Caledonia Way, from Oban northwards to Castle Stalker.
Members of the Sustrans team made up my sociable peloton. Many of them had worked on creating the paved path and could tell me about every corner and every scene. It was a memorable and stunning ride, which came at the start of a two-week adventure and filming project, Wild About Argyll.
Argyll and the Isles is one of the best-kept secrets in Scotland, particularly when it comes to adventure sports. The trip and subsequent film were designed to create social media content, news and short films which showcased the area for what it is, a varied and world-class adventure playground.
What surprised me about my cycle up the Caledonia Way, and the following sections I went on to explore further south, were the ever-changing landscapes and seascapes. Some parts of the route follow old railway tracks and I could see the ingenuity of engineering work from the original rail and new path builders.
Being on a bike, you are also so close to iconic landmarks, fauna and flora and local history. Despite running over 200 miles from Campbeltown to Inverness, the route actually forms a small part of the entire National Cycle Network in Scotland as a whole, which covers well over 2,000 miles.
I had previously thought of the National Cycle Network as commuter routes around the major cities. But my pedal along the Caledonia Way got me thinking differently.
This was a ride which was all about the journey, the landscapes, the sights and the sounds. And, as I wasn’t in a rush to get anywhere, I realised this would have been equally rewarding to walk or at a run.
As an avid road cyclist myself, I can’t be the only one who was almost oblivious to these traffic-free routes, so close and yet well hidden from the main roads.
So I've made a few resolutions.
First of all, I will put pen to paper and help Sustrans raise awareness of the Caledonia Way and other similar routes.
And the second? That was much more personal.
I've resolved to come back and re-visit this route with my family. A very safe and beautiful way to go on their first cycling adventure!