The idea had been bouncing around in my head after otree and vitch pedalled their way up to aviemore for the 2007 singlespeed worlds. I wanted to do the same trip, with a bivvi stop in between. What better way to do that than to stop off at the moulin inn, namesake of our team, and enjoy some of their fine ales, before sleeping on the slopes of ben vrackie.
The weather forecast looked pretty sweet for thursday to friday, with some mild haar to deal with, so clothing and kit could be minimal. I was intent on using a new bivvi bag and taking way less additional comfort stuff with me in order to dip under 10lb of luggage on the bike. I managed, but im still definitely on the learning curve.
The route started from my front door, only *much* later than anticipated. Partly due to over sleeping, partly due to a leaking camelback bladder (ah, thats why my back was so wet after last weeks ride!) and partly due to general faffing. At mid day i left the house and rode up the west highland way after following the kelvin out to mugdock.
Near Drymen i slipped off the sustrans and made my way to aberfoyle. A lengthy road section, but all was well and the sun was shining. Contemplating the route choices, i opted for the highland fault trail.
This grinds up some fire road through Queen elizabeth forest park, then onto the hills before descending down to loch venacher. It is generally muddy and pretty hard going, but a worthwhile challenge.
It was pretty dry all things considering, but getting over styles with a loaded bike isnt easy! A quick rip down to the sparkling waters of loch venacher and then i followed the trail to callander, with a quick stop for a bacon roll, at mhor bread. Superb!
Back to sustrans route 7 and past ben ledi. Beside the calm waters of loch lubnaig i was making good time. Up to lochearnhead and over to Balquhidder where rob roy rests, From here i could see the sun beaming on to loch voil, but turned around and headed east.
I like the section of sustrans up from lochearnhead to Lix Toll, home of the weird landies. It is a disused railway line and offers a nice scenic route over to crianlarich if you are ever tempted. The rail grade is kind to tired legs and the surface makes for easy rolling.
After a plummet down to Killin, i pedalled around the south side of loch tay, where i was treated to beautiful views and a happy tail wind.
On and on towards aberfeldy. I knew time was not on my side, and having nothing but a tiny head torch i needed to pump the big meat. Not all that easy on a 34:20, but my legs were spinning the sun was still (barely) in the sky, and i had high hopes of a dinner in the moulin inn.
As it happened, the route took a significant amount of time from here to pitlochry. Perhaps worsened by a quick pint of thrappledouser in weem as i checked in with trina. In fact i was caught in the dark with a view of the town in the distance, but with the ingestion of some cherry blossom honey snacks i got on with the job in hand and dropped in for a chippy on the high street of pitlochry by 9pm. 95 miles or so and i could almost taste the ale.
Fortunately, i had over estimated the distance to the inn, and after just a few minutes i was sipping a pint and enjoying the company.
All too soon it was kicking out time. i did manage to sample all four of the handmade ales on tap, and all were indeed good.
But I had to find a suitable spot to bivvi and it was already pretty moist with the incoming haar. Needless to say beer power made me choose a rather lumpy and sloping field to bivvi in. I didnt get much sleep, and i was pretty cold. Perhaps i needed more than 1 long sleeve thin wool top for this sort of evening. In march. In scotland. Duly noted.
Early next morning i dropped back onto sustrans 7 and made my way to the ace trails at killiecrankie, past soldiers leap, back to the sustrans and onto blair atholl.
The area around blair atholl is amazing. It is owned by the duke of atholl, who is the only man in the uk allowed to raise his own private army. They are mostly workers on the estate which is indeed expansive. Well worth a stop if you are passing. From here to bruar and then onto the disused old A9 road and the tribulations of the climb over the drumochter pass.
The haar was yet to burn off and i was wearing everything i had brought. The climb consists of many, many rises, but there is a fantastic river gorge to ride beside, accessible at calvine. There is some good gorge jumping as we discovered for marty's birthday some years ago and the lining of my sinuses are still in one of those pools after a 60 foot leap.
Eventually, i dropped down towards dalwhinnie, and the haar was starting to lift. The locals were burning off heather and the tail wind meant miles of painless pedaling as i tapped my rhythm out with a pleasant smell in the nostrils, towards inshriach forrest.
Here i ducked in to the trees enjoying some trail in the sunlight before ending the journey at the mountain cafe for a mahoosive meal.
Train. Beer. Sleep.
day 1 - 97 miles, 9 hours
day 2 - 55 miles, 5.5 hours