Gravel Rides Scotland is Ed Shoote’s first shot as a book author, but his long experience as an adventure cyclist shines through the well-thought routes and gravel riding advice. The book is very informative and packs in a bunch of great routes around Scotland - although there are some areas not covered.
The book includes 28 routes, ranging from easy 31km loops to 128km mega days out, on varying surfaces. The book is split into geographic sections, covering seven Scottish regions. It also packs in a lot of information about gravel riding, and the Scottish conditions for it.
Shoote has covered everything from his own background to the boom of gravel riding, the equipment you should carry, and bike choice. As this is a book specifically about Scottish Gravel Rides, it is only appropriate that he has included Scotland-specific information about the public transport system regarding bikes, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and very interestingly, even a short Gaelic landscape vocabulary.
In case you’re completely new to gravel riding, this intro offers basically everything you might need in preparation for your first-ever gravel ride.
The book has 252 pages and in case you wanted to perhaps go bikepacking with it, this one would weigh you down 591g. However, you do not need to carry the book with you to follow the routes as it comes with a link to download GPX files from Vertebrate’s website.
Gravel Rides Scotland by Ed Shoote - the routes
Following the introduction and gravel riding basics, the rest of the book is split into regional sections detailing the routes. The seven regions featured in the book effectively cover most of Scotland from the Borders to the Highlands, so there’s plenty to choose from.
This book is not filled with totally undiscovered, remote routes, instead many of the ones included are actually well-established and known already, such as part of the Dirty Reiver route in Kielder Forest, the "Gravelfoyle" and routes around Castle Douglas. I am based in Glasgow and found that there is a little gap in the map surrounding my area and Ayrshire, and none of the glorious gravel that is on my doorstep has made it into the book. However, there are plenty of options for me to choose from still, as the closest routes for me were about a two-hour drive or a 1.5-hour train journey away.
But despite some of the routes being well ridden, Scottish gravel riding isn't as simple as just taking your bike and going. This is something that Shoote highlights in the introduction chapter as well: “these gravel routes are all pretty serious excursions into wild and remote parts of Scotland”. Even as a local it can be hard to prepare for some rides in Scotland, as re-supplying spots are sometimes far and scarce - and I think it's important it's highlighted in the book.
Each route description in the book starts with a distance and location on the map, which is followed by an introduction to the ride and the area surrounding it. Shoote has done a great job with detailed route descriptions and facts of the ride, including ascent, elevation graph, the percentage of off-road riding, and the start and finish location in many different formats from a simple address to OS maps.
The services around the route are also listed, from coffee recommendations to public transport connections, making it easier for those not owning a car to also embark on some gravel adventures.
In addition to the general ride data, I particularly liked the “gravel scale” that Shoote introduced in the book. This scale consists of five boxes, each of which has different size gravel dotted inside them. Grade one gravel (tiny dots) is well surfaced, fine gravel or quiet back roads, grade three has short sections of mud and singletrack, and section five (chunky dots) is largely on rough, rocky tracks that might require some hike-a-bike. This visual representation of the gravel’s roughness allowed me to quickly spot from the route introduction page whether it’s suitable for my bike, tyres and skills.
Overall, the thorough overview of each route made it easy to quickly determine whether the ride is interesting or not, is then followed by a more detailed route overview, a map view of the route, and then numbered route instructions. These come in handy when you're actually planning the ride.
Gravel Rides Scotland by Ed Shoote - value and verdict
In today’s digitalised world, it might seem redundant to have a book for routes and I know this is not a format everyone likes. I personally love books and everything that comes with them - the smell of them, flicking the pages and bookmarking the most interesting parts - and also the fact you can share and look at them with friends without a single screen.
Price-wise, the Gravel Rides Scotland book costs £25 which I think is very reasonable, considering it contains 28 different routes, including the GPX files. And not only this, but it also offers a great introduction to gravel riding (in Scotland), from preparation to kit and tool requirements. Other route books, such as Big Rides: Great Britain & Ireland, which Pat reviewed, cover a lot wider geographical area but that means they're not as detailed.
You might also like:
- Beginners guide on how to plan new gravel routes
- The best gravel bikes and adventure bikes
- The best gravel wheelsets you can buy