The Loop Cycle Challenge - ride for Romania

The congregation of Gairloch Church of Scotland are taking to the road again this year in a cycling event to raise money for tow charities in Romania working with children and young people there. All are welcome to join in on this challenge in stunning scenery.



first published 11/02/10


The next Loop Challenge (the seventh running) is schedule for -

Saturday 8th September 2012

The Loop PictureThe Loop sponsored cycle ride is held each year to support the work of two charities, the Acts Trust and the Csemete Foundation.

Both charities have been working to transform the lives of children and young people in Romania for over ten years. So far over £30,000 has been raised for these charities.

Hedley Calvert, one of the organisers from Gairloch Church of Scotland, has written:

The 2009 event, on September 12th, was the fourth riding of this challenge. Each year we have more people entering and enjoying the atmosphere and the aims of the event, perhaps more so now that we encourage team/relay participation in both the full loop from a Gairloch start and finish by way of Braemore Junction, Garve and Achnasheen (109 miles), and a shorter route from Gairloch to Kinlochewe and back (40 miles).

We are pleased to welcome all and especially those from other churches in the Highlands and invite you to visit our web site where you will find more information together with contact details and application forms..

In 2010 the Loop will be held on Saturday 11th September, and the organisers are looking forward to seeing lots of new faces then. The route is run over some of Scotland's most beautiful scenery.
General event and route information can be found here.

The Loop Route

Robert Johnson has written of  The Loop 2009:

The 109 miles that form the route of “The Loop” combine some very demanding cycling, including hill climbs totalling over 5,000 feet, exposed stretches of road where wind can either help or hinder, some fast downhills and some of the best scenery in the world. Cycling 109 miles in a day is not something to be taken lightly, but completing the loop is well worth the effort.

Starting at Gairloch, the route begins with several significant hills separated by some very fast descents down to sea level. It then heads generally eastward to the half way point via a major climb of about 1000 feet, but it’s a fairly consistent gradient so not too difficult, just long. The second half of the route heads west toward Achnasheen and back to Gairloch.

It’s much easier terrain, but is prone to headwinds on the section to Achnasheen that can make it very tough indeed. A few miles after Achnasheen there’s a long downhill section with wonderful views and then you’re on the way to Loch Maree. If you get that far, you’ll get all the way round. The route is fairly simple to follow and very well signposted both for the benefit of the riders as well as a warning for drivers. Generally the roads are fairly quiet with some of the single track sections at the beginning and end being pretty much free of traffic.

The middle section of the route after Braemore Junction is the only mildly busy section. Support is very well organised with five checkpoints along the route where water and food is available, and soup and sandwiches are provided at the finish back in Gairloch. Although everyone wants to set a good time, it’s not a competitive event and there’s great camaraderie amongst the riders and a friendly welcome at all the checkpoints.

It’s a really enjoyable event to take part in and of course it raises money for a worthwhile cause, but you need to be well prepared for a challenging route if you want to go all the way round.

The memorable moments of the 2009 event for me would be:
  • Finishing the event in a respectable time
  • Passing very close to a herd of red deer on the early morning climb out of Aultbea
  • The view from the first checkpoint
  • Battling against the headwind on the way to Achnasheen
  • The home baking at the checkpoints
  • The soup and sandwiches at the end
  • The exhausted riders at the finish saying “Never again!” knowing full well that they’ll probably be back next year.

Isabel Seaton writes of her experience during the 2011 Loop Challenge:

On the morning of Saturday 11th September three friends and I left a very wet and windy Inverness to drive to Gairloch to take part in the Loop Cycle Challenge. I was slightly apprehensive, two in the group were good cyclists but two of us were novices and had only managed out to train four or five times.

I had planned to cycle the route beforehand to mentally prepare for the challenge but never quite managed. We made a pact that we would all cycle together whatever happened. So with bags of jelly babies and Haribos we set off on our cycle.

The longer route, 109 miles from Gairloch and back via Braemore and Garve, was way too daunting for amateurs like ourselves, so we settled for the shorter route of 40 miles. The less taxing route took us from Gairloch to Beinn Eighe and back.

We were hoping to do this in beautiful autumn sunshine and able to enjoy the beautiful countryside and views of Loch Maree as we cycled to the Beinn Eighe car park. We all managed to complete the cycle but unfortunately due to the inclement weather we never did see Loch Maree or Beinn Eighe until we drove home later in the day when the rain had cleared and the sun was shining!!!

We all had a really great day out and in fact we might think of doing the 109 miles next year as part of a relay team. If anyone thinks they might be up for the challenge do get in touch with the organisers to help a very needy and worthwhile cause in eastern Europe. If 109 miles does not appeal I would recommend the 40 miles. I did very little training and managed to get there and back and more to the point enjoyed it.

Visit the Loop Challenge website for further information.

Catriona MacLean, 12/08/2010