Tarbet - Oban - Glencoe - Tarbet
Updated: Apr 10, 2019
You will be hard pushed to find a more scenic 170 miles of motorcycling in the UK!!
When visiting Scotland most head all the way North to the fantastic NC500 - and of course this is a must for most bikers, this we absolutely agree on.
However if you have a touch more time, there are loads of other great routes that you can take in that fall south of Inverness; and when you ride some of these roads you will wonder why you never took these areas in before.
This RIDE takes in the west coast between Glencoe and Loch Lomond which is easily accessible from most of the central belt areas and is right on the northbound journey for those heading further north to take in the NC500.
Tarbet is the starting point of this RIDE, but as it is a loop ride - and unless you live in the small town of Tarbet, you can join it at any point and have a great day. You will most likely have some brilliant riding even getting to a starting point of this RIDE!!
Sitting on the north western banks of Loch Lomond is the small town of Tarbet. If you look over the loch you get great views of the mountains rising dramatically out of the water. This is the start of the stunning scenery that you are about to be riding through, Something Scotland does so well.
Passing the Tarbet Hotel, a grand stone built building you are heading west on the A83. You will remain on this road for almost 50 miles that snakes it's way through valleys, up and over dramatic hills and past some glorious lochs in the hills before making your way down the edge of the famous Loch Fyne - for the oyster and seafood fans amongst us.
The A83 between Tarbet and Lochgilphead is without doubt beautiful but it is also a lot of fun if you want to push on a little, the only thing that may affect you are the kamikaze logging trucks that drive flat out and all over the road (this is the case in many of the roads up here) or gawping tourists but you can't blame them for wanting to look at this scenery.
Less than 10 miles into the ride you have ridden down the stunning Glen Croe, with the A83 traversing the sheer northern side of this valley with huge wire nets to your right to catch any falling boulders.
At the top of the hill here is the Rest and be Thankful viewpoint which is a must stop for a great picture down the valley.
Here there is often a snack van if you're already thirsty. If not crack on over the hilltop and straight into more beautiful scenery.
As you come over the crest of the hill following the viewpoint stop, the road sweeps right and down hill slightly. In front of you is a small hilltop loch - Loch Restil. You are now heading down this valley that entices you to get a wiggle on through the gears as you pass the loch on your left and through base of this high, rugged V shaped valley.
After passing the loch you enter a lovely series of loose bends followed by a fabulous left hander as the valley changes direction. On entry to this left hand bend you are heading down a relatively steep decline so can see the exit of the bend and make as much use of the road as is possible to get around this stunning corner before hitting the exit of the bend which is level & straight - Grin time.
Whilst you are doing your best Cheshire cat impersonation you are now on a very straight and quick descent through the this valley that takes you down to sea level and your 1st glimpse of Loch Fyne.
A quick stint north takes you to the most northerly point of this massive sea loch before again continuing south.
From here you will almost always have this impressive body of water on your left shoulder. As you cross over the river, to your right is the old stone built military road bridge, with a stunning back drop of the towering hills in the background.
The next few miles races to the tip of this shark tooth shaped peninsula along the straight, quick road.
As you hit the sharp right hand bend you can see the loch disappearing into the distance to your left as you continue towards Inverary.
As you enter Inverary you cross a steep, stone built bridge, a quick glimpse to the right here and you get a great view of Inverary Castle, a stunning, story book type castle that looks out over the loch to your left.
Once over the bridge you come into the White and black painted town of Inverary. With everything painted the same the place has a really good feel about it. As you continue through the town you pass around the town hall and on away from the buildings and back out into the countryside.
The next 20 miles are quick and open roads where for the majority you will be on the banks of Loch Fyne. There is a short section that heads away from the loch and up onto the hills inland, this introduces some great flowing bends to the ride for about 6 miles before returning to the loch side and heading down to the town of Lochgilphead.
Once in Lochgilphead there is a decent little cafe called the Argyll Cafe. They do (or at least they did last time I was there) proper home made chips for a great chip butty.
Here you are at the most southerly part of the ride and from here will be heading in a rough northerly direction.
Following a brew or bite to eat it is time to saddle up and get back on the road. From Lochgilphead you follow the Crinan Canal in a north westerly direction. This is a cheeky cut through for boats wanting to get from Loch Fyne to the west coast and Atlantic Ocean without having to sail around the Mull of Kintyre, saving them approximately 140 miles.
The Crinan Canal follows the valley bottom and is 9 miles spent following this waterway beneath the surrounding forestry.
Before you reach Crinan you turn right and cross over the small canal bridge and then onwards and over the bridge that spans the surrounding wetland. Once clear of the wetland it is on the B8025, a dead straight and flat single track road that takes you away from the flat estuary and up through young forests to the A816.
The A816 is a winding and fun road that has everything a biker wants. Generally a great road surface that takes you inland and over hills, through forests and open moorland and back to the coastline where you are riding the banks of Loch Melfort, overlooking the hills in the distance that stretch out towards the Atlantic.
You ride the shoreline of Loch Melfort to Kilmelford where you then head away from the coast again and up through extensive forestry, alongside the River Oude and winding your way north over the hills and around some stunning bends that make you believe the road designer must have been a biker...
After the descent from the hills you are again heading for the coastline where you follow the waters edge on your left shoulder and on over over the next hill into Oban.
From Oban you continue north to Connel where you cross the impressive Connel Bridge with the Lora Falls rapids running beneath and on towards Loch Linnhe but not before a brew stop at Castle Stalker View Cafe.
From this vantage point you get to look out over the Loch that stretches to the hills way in the distance and over the small and impressive Castle Stalker that sits on it's own little island just off the shore. You can also look east and see the hills emerging from the other side of the loch that stretch to over 500m above sea level as they proceed west. This is such a great stopping place for those that chose not to stop in Oban.
Once you have soaked in the view and finished your brew you are again on your way up the southeastern bank of Loch Linnhe for the following 11 miles. This stretch of lochside road gives you amazing views of the western Highlands as you head north.
As the road turns east and you see the bridge at Ballachulish get ready for a visual delight. This is the start of one of my favourite roads ever!! You are now heading towards Glencoe...
As you pass the steel bridge at Ballachulish and join the A82, the terrain gets more dramatic and rugged as you ride up the valley along the banks of Loch Leven.
The road heads away from the water at the village of Glencoe and you continue inland. It is when you take a sweeping left hand bend that you understand the hype about this place instantly.
This place is something else. I am yet to decide which view I enjoy the most, from the bottom of the valley looking up or from the top looking down, they both have their own special place.
The A82 runs along the base of this immense valley with slopes towering way above you on both sides, rocky outcrops and waterfalls adding to the drama.
As you make the ascent from the western edge of the valley there are multiple places to stop and take in the views. There are very few times in the year where there won't be others doing the same so expect there to be some traffic here and people stopping randomly.
As you approach the top of the valley the road becomes more winding and tighter through rock cuttings before you arrive at the top of the hill where the road levels out and you are now on bleak yet stunning moor tops.
The scenery may be slightly less dramatic than where you just came through however the road is amazing!! Flat, fast and very open. You can see for miles ahead and let your bike show you what it can do. Some bends here but nothing too sharp that will hinder your progress however there are some tight bridges that narrow the road so worth noting these. This landscape continues for the next 10 miles as you pass the Glencoe mountain ski resort on your right and head out of the Highlands.
As you head gradually downhill moorland turns to grassland again and before you hit a series of great bends there is a viewpoint over Loch Tulla with a large car park on the right where there is frequently a piper playing through the summer months, maybe worth a photo with him before carrying on?
From the car park you head downhill to a sweeping quick right hand bend that brings you through almost 180 degrees and slingshots you onto a straight which passes the loch you were just overlooking and on through the valley ahead.
As you continue, the great U shaped valley closes in somewhat and surrounds you as the generally straight road ahead is interrupted every so often by some cheeky, fun bends on your way down hill to Tyndrum.
From Tyndrum you are on the last main section of this RIDE. The initial part of this section can be quick but having worked in this area for a good amount of time I did see a few more police than any other sections of this ride, so worth keeping an eye out if you are pushing on.
The straight road with great scenery takes you down to Crianlarich where you continue around the 2 roundabouts and remain on the A82. From here you are heading for the northern tip of Loch Lomond. Some slight bends follow the River Falloch through the valley in a great snaking motion.
Just before you reach Loch Lomond you come to a great pub that does a cracking bite to eat called the Drovers Inn. When you walk in you are greeted by everything from stuffed ravens to a bear that if I remember correctly - has a shotgun. This 300 year old pub makes a good bite to eat and is as good as you will get from here back to Tarbet. It is worth stopping for a drink to see the pub itself.
After the drovers you reach the northern tip of Loch Lomond and the road becomes very narrow in parts with coaches and other large vehicles that seem to try to take the tight bends as quickly as you could on your bike.
That said, the views over to your left are stunning in this area due to the hills on the opposite side of the water racing towards the sky and often covered in clouds before you see the summit.
Around the winding banks of the great loch and you arrive back into Tarbet and the end of this RIDE.