Cairngorms
Scotland
2017

Scottish Highlands


10. 6. 2017 - 18. 6. 2017

Bertrand Jeannet and Peter Schrammel

Weather

D1: sunny;
D2: partially cloudy in the beginning, drizzle when reaching Glen Quaich, raining cats and dogs when arriving in Kenmore, sunnier afterwards;
D3: sunny spells, some darker clouds towards Spittal of Glenshee;
D4: partly cloudy and dry;
D5: mostly sunny, almost cloudless towards the evening;
D6: heavy showers the whole day;
D7: thick clouds when arriving in Rannoch, some sunny spells in Glen Lyon;
D8: sunny;
D9: sunny

Interest

*****: amazing tour twice across the Scottish Highlands with many scenic highlights

Route

D1: Edinburgh Waverley, 45m - Edinburgh Haymarket, 45m - (train) - Dunfermline, 57m - Cult Hill pass, 207m - Pool of Muckhart, 155m;
D2: Pool of Muckhart - Glendevon pass, 269m - Crieff, 91m - Corrymuckloch pass, 304m - Glen Quaich pass, 538m - Kenmore, 109m - Aberfeldy, 98m - Logierait, 72m - Pitlochry, 117m;
D3: Pitlochry - Glen Brerachan pass, 385m - Kirkmichael, 223m - Spittal of Glenshee, 351m - Glenshee pass, 674m - Braemar, 339m - Balmoral, 283m - Crathie pass 479m - Glen Gairn, 329m - Tornahaish pass 544m - Cock Bridge, 334m - Lecht ski centre, 635m - Tomintoul, 333m;
D4: Tomintoul - Glenlivet, 253m - Cragganmore, 140m - Advie, 149m - Upper Knockando, 133m - Glen Lossie pass, 302m - Dallas, 154m - Forres, 11m - (train) - Muir of Ord, 3m;
D5: Muir of Ord - Inverness, 22m - Dores, 81m - Foyers, 41m - Whitebridge, 215m - Gleann Nan Eun pass, 382m - Fort Augustus, 43m - Gairlochy, 20m - Banavie, 12m;
D6: Banavie - Buccleuch Guest House, Fort William, 14m - Ben Nevis Distillery, 12m - Fort William;
D7: Fort William - (train) - Rannoch, 299m - Bridge of Gaur, 208m - Kinloch Rannoch, 208m - Braes of Foss, 376m - Fortingall, 110m - Bridge of Balgie, 223m - Edramucky pass, 549m - Killin, 111m;
D8: Killin - Glen Ogle pass 290m - Lochearnhead, 105m - Strathyre, 154m - Callander, 70m - Thornhill, 41m - Stirling, 51m - The Falkirk Wheel, 44m - Falkirk, 47m;
D9: Falkirk - (train) - Edinburgh Haymarket - Edinburgh Airport - Edinburgh Waverley

Accommodations

D1: Baldiesburn B&B, Pool of Muckart;
D2: Rosehill Hotel, Pitlochry;
D3: Argyle Guest House, Tomintoul;
D4: Ord Arms Hotel, Muir of Ord;
D5: Chase the Wild Goose Hostel, Fort William;
D6: Buccleuch Guest House, Fort Wiliam;
D7: Falls of Dochart, Killin;
D8: Antonine Hotel, Falkirk

Altitude difference

+5595/-5921
D1: +319/-212;
D2: +940/-973;
D3: +1577/-1351;
D4: +450/-784;
D5: +1000/-1018;
D6: 24;
D7: +743/-931;
D8:+478/-562;
D9: +64/-66

Distance

673km
D1: 34km;
D2: 101km;
D3: 113km;
D4: 76km;
D5: 125km;
D6: 13km;
D7: 95km;
D8: 93km;
D9: 23km

Timing

45 3/4h;
D1: 2 1/2 (3/4 + 1 + 3/4);
D2: 6 3/4 (1/2 + 1 1/4 + 1 1/2 + 1 + 1/2 + 1/2 + 3/4 + 3/4);
D3: 7 3/4 (1 + 1/2 + 1 1/2 + 3/4 + 3/4 + 3/4 + 3/4 + 1/4 + 3/4 + 1/4 + 3/4 + 3/4);
D4: 5 1/2 (1 + 3/4 + 3/4 + 1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1 + 1/4);
D5: 8 1/2 (1 1/2 + 1 + 1 + 3/4 + 3/4 + 1/2 + 2 + 1);
D6: 1 (1/3 + 1/3 + 1/3);
D7: 6 3/4 (1/2 + 1 1/4 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1);
D8: 5 1/2 (3/4 + 1/4 + 1/2 + 1 1/4 + 1/2 + 1 + 1 + 1/4);
D9: 1 1/2 (1/4 + 1/2 + 3/4)

Stamina

CFHDGAEDA

Difficulty

+: roads with variable tarmac quality, except the section on the old railway line along Loch Lubnaig on gravel +

Danger

1

Visitor frequency

cccdeecee: limited amount of car traffic on side roads

Report

Day 1: At 7.19am I took the train to London Victoria and cycled to King's cross. That was a challenge as there are lots of one-way and blocked roads. It took me 35min, but got onto my train on time. At 1.30pm I arrived in Edinburgh and cycled to Edinburgh Gateway station. I was much too early. So, I cycled to a supermarket to buy something to eat and drink and laundry liquid that Bertrand lost at the security check in Geneva. This time Bertrand decided not to take his trailer, but use bags instead. I had two bags attached to the rear of my bicycle and a small backbag. Finally, Bertrand arrived at 6.20pm. As always he complained about the dirt on my bicycle and joked whether I had enough money on my wallet to buy a new one when it broke down. It would survive without incident, but... We took the train over Forth Bridge to Dunfermline at 7.15pm. We cycled up through the old town and continued north on the A823. The weather was nice and sunny and there was little traffic. The landscape was dominated by green hills and meadows full of sheep. Over a little pass we rolled down to Powmill and via a small road to our B&B Baldiesburn at Pool of Muckhart, which we reached at 8.30pm. The rooms were luxurious and the very friendly land-couple explained us where we could still get dinner at that time. We put down baggage and cycled to the recommended inn for dinner.

Day 2: It was raining during night. After an excellent breakfast with smoked salmon, we attached our bags and started cycling towards our goal Pitlochry at 10.15am. The rain stopped soon. The skies were grey, but the freshly washed landscape was even more impressive while climbing up beautiful Glen Devon. There was only little traffic and we made fast progress down to Gleneagles and through woods and fields to Muthill, where we stopped at the ruins of a church. After a few raindrops, we crossed river Earn and climbed up to the High Street of Crieff. The sun had come out again, while we got some sandwiches from a deli for a later lunch break. Then we continued on the A822 over a first shallow pass and then followed the beautiful valley of river Almond, which we escaped over a second pass to Amulree. It started raining again. It was only 1.45pm. So, we had enough time to take the road to Kenmore via Loch Freuchie. We stopped and ate sandwiches on the road side during a short break with sunshine. Our eyes ligthened up as we spotted the steep road to the pass ahead: 25%. We had nice views towards the higher mountains in the north west. The steep, narrow road was winding down to Kenmore at Loch Tay surrounded by forests that we reached at 4pm. We had coffee at the hotel on the main square while it was raining cats and dogs outside. The rain didn't stop. So, we had to continue in the rain. We didn't look at the map and just followed the road signs to Aberfeldy, not knowing that there was a quieter route on the other side of the river. From Aberfeldy we followed the cycle path indications. The rain was now more intermittent rain. We rode on the busy main road again until Logierait. There we took a steep side road up on the left which had exhausting ups and downs. Suddenly, Bertrand stopped with a flat tyre. After the routine repair, we finally arrived in Pitlochry at 6.45pm. We stayed at the rather bland Rosehill guest house and had a decent dinner at the Auld Smiddy Inn.

Day 3: We left at 10.15am and took the the A924 towards the east. Bertrand wanted to visit a distillery, but there was not enough time for a visit at Edradour Distillery this day. After a sustained climb we rolled over the flat pass surrounded by treeless flat hills. The skies were grey. During the long descent through the nice valley to Kirkmichael there were some short sunny spells, but also a bit of rain. After a coffee break at the village shop there was sunshine again and we pedalled up and down over fields to the A93. While we were slowly climbing in ups and downs into Glen Shee, Scotland first campaign cars were overtaking us. We stopped for a picknick before Spittal of Glenshee. The black clouds became more dense and emptied themselves. At Spittal the road turns north into a wonderful valley that finally climbs at a sustained 12% slope to the pass of Glenshee ski resort. On the other hand it went downhill as steeply. We had strong face wind from northwest. So, it took a bit of effort to pedal down the long beautiful valley to Braemar. It was already 3.30pm and we still had three more passes to climb. Hence, we continued right away. Now we had tail wind through pine forests on the flat road along river Dee to Balmoral Castle. We wanted to buy water somewhere. To our surprise we got free water bottles at the ticket office, although we didn't buy tickets for a visit. We had still 22 miles to go and it wouldn't be flat at all. From the first pass we had a view over a large moor. After a steep downhill we crossed River Gairn over a very steep stone bridge. The next climb was tough. It gradually got steeper and steeper with 25% towards the end. At the to we realised that this was actually just the warm up bump before the real pass, which was a gentle but long climb. We left the threatening clouds behind us and rolled fast downhill into the valley of River Don. There we had sunshine - and dead rabbits and birds every 100m on the road. The last pass after Cock Bridge started with three >25% sections. We had to stop twice and eat our last cookies. After a slightly flatter section, a final 15-20% slope, which looked horrific on the approach, led us up to Lecht ski resort. Here, there were very dark clouds again. After the last steep and fast ride downhill over wet roads we reached the Argyle guest house in Tomintoul at 8.15pm - and with sunshine. Space was quite tight in this guest house and the bathroom was shared. We had dinner at the Glenavon hotel pub before the kitchen closed at 9pm.

Day 4: After a good breakfast, we had a late start at 11am. We rode a bit up and down through nice narrow valleys with woods and meadows past Tomintoul Distillery and finally steep up to Glenlivet Distillery. It was already after noon, but this time we were going to have a visit of the distillery with four whiskeys. Bertrand immediately identified four French in the group and chatted with them. We had lunch at the visitor café. Towards 3pm we continued. We took the A95 to the left to pass River Spey at Cragganmore Distillery as indicated on Bertrand's map. But the road turned out to be a dead end. In disbelief we continued on bridleways, but ended up on a large fenced meadow. We pushed our bicycles all around to find an exit. Finally, we carried them over barbed wire to reach the busy A95 again. We fought our way upstream, but there was no road crossing before Advie. There was a calm road with ups and downs on the left bank - and also some raindrops. At Knockando we turned left to climb over a flat pass with large areas of woodland that were recently cut. The road led through nicely carved narrow valleys, but it was recently tarmacked and covered with an annoying layer of grit. After the great village of Dallas, the tarmac got rougher. At 6.30pm we reached the rather shabby city of Forres. Since we didn't have sufficient time to continue any further, we would take the train from here. But first we asked a guy on the main street for a pub. By coincidence he was French. He recommended the Red Lion. We had dinner, which was ok'ish, but not exceptional. At 8pm we took the train through Inverness to Muir of Ord, where I had booked a room because everything else in the area was fully booked. The hotel was not quite well maintained and the smell of smoke was sticking even in the tapestry. We had a beer at the bar to facilitate the process of falling asleep.

Day 5: We had breakfast early, which also not very appealing. At 9.15am we were already on the road, which led us all around the Firth of Beauly. It was low tide and looked like an enormous lake of mud. In Inverness we were looking for bikeshop because Bertrand heard a strange noise. After closer inspection, it turned out that both of his super-light tyres had cuts. We were blocked until he had changed them. He decided to buy a bit thicker ones to survive the rough Scottish roads. Also his mudguards needed adjustment, which was hardly possible; so he took off one of them. We had lunch in cafe and bought some bananas and cookies. At 1.30pm we finally still left Inverness. We had still 100km to go to reach Fort William. We took the B862, which first followed River Ness before climbing gently to a nice viewpoint before Dories. We continued on the B852 in the woody slopes along Loch Ness. It went constantly up and down, sometimes very steep. Finally, the road turns away from the lake and climbs steeply up past the Falls of Foyers. More ups than downs followed to reach B862 again. We stopped at a Catholic Church in the fields near Whitebridge, where we took a short break. The landlady who seemed to take care of the church in her backyard approached us and asked us whether we want to come and visit. Of course, we did take that odd opportunity. The road continued in progressively steeper in ups and downs like Nessie's tail to a pass. Brief spells of sun allowed for a nice view over the plateau and its numerous lakes. A sustained 12% downhill made us roll effortlessly via Loch Tarff to Fort Augustus. The weather had signifcantly improved in the meanwhile. There were some rare bits of blue sky now and there was a nice view from the southwestern end of Loch Ness. It was already after 5pm and we had just done half of the 100km. So, we did not stop and continued on the main road. There was no alternative. We crossed the river and Caledonian canal before and after Loch Oich. The only really flat section was along the first half of Loch Lochy. Then it started already to climb uphill to a plateau. From there we had our first view of Ben Nevis. The plan was that we would climb it if the weather was good the next day. The blue sky raised our mood. For the last 10km there was an alternative to A82 along the canal from Gairlochy. That road was not flat either, but we were compensated by increasingly more impressive views of Ben Nevis. We reached the hostel at Banavie at 8pm. We had excellent salmon for dinner at the Mooring Hotel next to Neptune's staircase and observed a sunset that gave Ben Nevis a beautifully pink appearance. The weather forecast for the next day was horrific, though. So, we ditched our plans already before going to bed. The hostel was very modest and there were long queues in front of the bathrooms.

Day 6: As expected, the clouds almost touched the ground the next morning and it was raining without stopping. After breakfast, we cycled to Fort William Distillery for a guided tour. It was interesting to see the difference between the marketing and presentation of two distilleries, even though the production processes are identical. We then picked up our luggage and moved to a B&B in Fort William. We got so soaked on the way there that we had to change clothes. In the afternoon, we visited the West Highland Museum which explains the history of the settlement of the islands. We had dinner in the restaurant of Cruachan Hotel.

Day 7: Next morning we took the first train in direction of Glasgow. First the train climbs up an impressive valley to a plateau, where it first reaches station Corrour in the middle of nowhere. Not even a road goes there. We got off at Rannoch station in the middle of a vast moor. The extent of the plateau was hardly recognisable due to the fog that reduced the visibility. We cycled down via Loch Eigheach to Bridge of Gaur, the western end of enormous Loch Rannoch. On Bertrand's map there was a connecting road from Carie to Glen Lyon, but comparing with other maps that seemed unsuitable for our bicycles. When we got there, the signs were indicating a hiking path rather than a road. So, we continued along the loch which was quite agitated by the wind. We took a break on the bank before continuing towards Kinloch Rannoch. We didn't go into the village though, but turned right immediately to climb up a pass via the idyllic Lochan an Daim. Of course, there were a few raindrops again to make the green even greener. After Loch Kinardochy we reached the B846 road which we rolled down towards Kenmore. However, we didn't go that far, but turned into Glen Lyon at Balchroich. We felt that an afternoon coffee would be great now, but didn't find a suitable place until Fortingall. The pub was dark and old; only the waitress was young. We had coffee, tea and cookies. As many Scottish valleys Glen Lyon was extremely long and flat with an overdimensional winding river with dark brown waters, sheep and scattered old farm buildings. We followed the valley up to Bridge of Balgie, from where we attacked the sustained and wonderfully climb up to the pass to Lochan na Lairige. We had some sunny spells while the clouds were hanging low above the reservoir between rocky mountain faces. After a fast downhill to Loch Tay we pedalled the A827 down to Killin. Our accommodation was in the Falls of Dorchart inn. When I took a shower I noticed that I had a tic. I asked at the bar for tweezers and managed to remove it. The inn was very rustic and we had great food there. Afterwards we walked through the town and watched the waters roaring down the cascades.

Day 8: Next morning we followed the cycle route on the former railway track to Glen Ogle pass. From there we rolled down the A84 with views to the impressive Glen Ogle viaduct to Lochearnhead. We continued right away to Strathyre. From there we followed the cycle path along Loch Lubnaig. There was a short steep gravel section in the beginning, which confused us a bit, but then the cycle path joined the former railway track again. During a photo stop, I chatted with a German cyclist who had enormous amounts of luggage. He said that has been cycling all the way across England and Scotland. The year before he had cycled south to north through Norway. We made fast progress and arrived in Callander soon after. There we bought sandwiches for lunch before we continued up the hill to Thornhill to avoid the busy A84. There we had lunch in the churchyard. We then tried to get coffee in the local pub, but without success. So, we pedalled to Stirling without stopping. We cycled up to the top of the impressive rock and enjoyed the views over the valley. We then had coffee in a café in the beautiful city centre. We then continued across the plain of the Forth valley to Falkirk where we rode to the Falkirk wheel a huge lift for ships between two sections of a canal of different level, originally built in the 18th century and entirely rebuilt with modern technology 20 years ago. We then went back to the city centre to our rather crappy hotel. After some walking around in the nice centre we found quite a good bistro for dinner.

Day 9: The next morning we left without breakfast and took the train to Edinburgh Haymarket. We had breakfast in a café there before we cycled to the airport. There, Bertrand fetched the bicycle bag that he had put into the luggage store and started disassembling his bicycle to make it fit into the cover. We said good bye and I cycled to Waverley. I had enough time. So, I took a stroll through the city centre and ate some icecream before taking the train back to London and Brighton.


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