Thursday, 19 June 2014

Another trip up to Arran ... and more

An open invitation to join some of the Scottish tribe on Cycle Chat on a circuit of Arran proved irresistible for me and the Cube.

My pal Bernie's been a bit confined to barracks following a nasty op on his foot, so I asked if he wanted to join me, not for the Arran ride (bit too much for him in recuperation) but for the odd bimble around afterwards.

So, we loaded up the van and were off up the motoryway to Scotland.

The Saturday of THE RIDE dawned dismal and grey. 10 minutes before the start it began to rain. It stopped ... an hour after we'd finished! 56 miles in pi**ing rain! So ... sorry, but no photos of the ride. Great fun though, in great company.

Next day, with me nursing a sore knee, an' Bernie borrowing my trekking poles, we managed a couple of short, touristy wanders. 

Then, next day, I egged Bernie on, to throw a leg over his hybrid and he valiantly managed 15 miles. Not bad with a dodgy foot. Still no cycly pics though. Sorry ... I was too busy peddlin' ... with a sore knee. And I didn't like to ask Bernie ... with 'is sore foot. Wot a pair.

We caught the little ferry from Lochranza over to Kintyre. Please ... don't mention bl**dy Paul McCartney!

We set off up to Lochgilphead and a tour along the Crinan Canal.

Along the way we detoured to visit the hill fort at Dunadd, home to the Scotti (the original Scots?).

And I fantasised about what the land would 'ave been like if I'D bin king.

The heavens opened, but we carried on, stoically.

Back on the road, and north, past Oban, to Port Appin and a passenger ferry to the island of Lismore.

From here, we headed south to Loch Lomond and managed a ride along the loch side. Then down to a favourite van camp spot near Megget Reservoir, where I did battle with a really tough little climb on the bike, but that's another story. An' I took no piccys. Then home in time for tea :)

Sunday, 1 June 2014

A Highland cycle camping tour

My mate Hamish and I just completed a four day cycle tour of Perthshire.

Driving up in our vans along with Chrissie, we settled into the Caravan Club site at Killin with a week to spare. Close examination of weather forecasts showed some showery weather but led us to prepare for the off next morning.

So, loaded up with camping gear, away we rode.

Following the back road along the south of Loch Tay proved an easy warm up and we were soon at the reconstructed crannog near Kenmore.

Just as we finished our soup and cake lunch at the quayside café the rain came. Undeterred, we donned waterproofs and set off towards the stiffest climb of the trip; 4.5 miles up to the shoulder of Schiehallion. It took us around an hour but, once we’d turned west on the road to Loch Rannoch, we  were rewarded with a restful descent and stunning views.

 Opting again for the quiet road along the south of Loch Rannoch we found a perfect spot to camp, having covered 40 miles that day.

I was up at 6 making a refreshing coffee.

And after a lazy breakfast, we broke camp and continued on the circuit of Loch Rannoch.

The café at Kinloch Rannoch closes on Mondays (today) despite it being a bank holiday! So lunch was taken courtesy of the village store and a welcome bench outside. Then away to Tummel Bridge and the only black arrow on the OS map of our route. It was short and sweet though. The quiet lane south of Loch Tummel  yielded up our next campsite. 

We had the only rain of the day as we erected the tents but, later, we were sunbathing, decadently shirtless.

 Our route next day saw us paralleling the A9 along the cycleway as we bypassed the heady delights of Pitlochry. This had been the day I’d been looking forward to most. We paused to view the Dunfallandy Stone.

Returning to the Tay Valley, we crossed the river on the old railway bridge ...

... then spun our way along the narrow lanes, before detouring into Aberfeldy for the most delicious lunch of the trip at Habitat Café in the centre. Their cauliflower cheese soup was unbelievably tasty. This café is highly recommended.

The sun was out and its warming rays meant I switched to shorts for the first time, performing a quick change in the café’s loo. We stocked up with essential supplies (beer & whisky) at the Co-op then set off for the glorious Glen Lyon. We stopped for a look at the Fortinghall Yew …

… and admired the timber roof of the church …

 … before continuing up the magnificent glen, with frequent stops for photos.

  Eventually we arrived at the Glen Lyon Post Office tearoom.

 Suitably filled, we embarked on the last few miles to our final night’s camp.

We’d had no rain at all and enjoyed a good meal, beer,  whisky and really meaningful discussion before retiring to the soothing sound of the river.

We rose next day and reveled in bacon butties.

Our final day saw us heading off up the glen to Loch Lyon before the inevitable climb over the pass into Glen Lochay and the final few miles back to Killin. 

We stopped for a quick look at the longhouse just before the town. 

Then, a great, slobbery welcome from my three girls back at the van.

It had been a brilliant short tour covering around 136 miles. The mixed forecast had proved to be overly pessimistic and we’d been rained on as we rode for only 20 minutes on the first day. AND, as an added bonus, there had been remarkably few midges!

We enjoyed a couple of days walking from Killin before our return south to the Peak District. I’m now preparing for the possible challenge of a circuit of Arran with Cycle Chat’s Scottish contingent in just a week’s time. Life is good!