Scotland 24

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sean_iow
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Scotland 24

Post by sean_iow »

For this year's trip I was planning to write it up and post as I go along, as that would hopefully be easier than last year's canals trip where I had to try and remember what we did each day after finishing. I did start well writing up the first 2 days but it became apparent that adding photos using just the phone and having the energy and time each night was unlikely to continue.

I switched tactics to making notes as I went, usually at every stop for food, so as to have the rough detail and then I'll flesh these out for the write up.

We had a plan for the ride but were not wedded to it and would could bits out or deviate completely if required as there was a fixed connection to meet at one point.

Day 1 Milngavie to Killin

We'd left Mike's (from Bromsgrove) at half 5 in the morning and drove up to the start. An earlier start than we'd originally thought of having but the day before we'd decided we'd sacrifice sleep to get on the trails earlier. No traffic issues and a clear run meant we were riding by 12:00. Stopped at Gregg's at the start of the West Highland Way for a scotch pie to fuel up, well it's right next to the start.


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We were following the Badger Divide route but in reverse, but we also rode some extra bits of the West Highland Way when the route deviated onto the main roads, slower but much nicer.

Despite the forecast in the weeks before we had sunshine and dry trails.

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Made it to Aberfoyle for an amazing chickpea curry pie at The Station Café, recommended. Climbed up through the forest on full stomachs then dropped down and skirted Callander before climbing up through Glen Ample and dropped down to Lochearnhead. On the climb up the Glen Ample, which is very very steep, I went to select the lowest gear and then all sorts of horrible mechanical noises started and I was stopped dead. The gear cable had pulled out of the mech, karma for fitting gears to the bike. Soon fixed but the Sram cable routing is fiddly at the side of the trail.

We skipped the last section of the Badger and used the sustrans to drop into Killing. Got to the pub after they'd finished serving but the chef is the landlady's family so she told them they're cooking for us anyway.

Ended up talking to a local woman who works for SEPA who was drinking with two other locals. One of these said it's his number on the No Camping sign and we could call him for permission. Mike had also spoken to a local who suggested the head of Loch Tay. This is the area with the sign so I just asked the chap whilst we were still in the pub, besides, he was pretty hammered so probably wouldn't have been able to work his phone anyway. Found a lovely spot with a wall to lean the bikes against and just enough breeze to keep the midges away.

59 miles, 4810 feet of climbing.

Day 2 Killin to just past Corrour Station

Awake early, it gets light at 3am, snoozed on and off but didn't get up, well sit up, untill 7. Temperature dropped to 7 overnight which was ok but marginal with the 150 quilt. Coffee and porridge from the tent. Unfortunately it had been raining on and off during the night and it was now raining again.

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Packed up in the rain, few chores at the public toilets which were all of half a mile away and then another few hundred yards to the co-op. More coffee and a sausage and bean pastry for second breakfast, eaten stood outside under the roof whist rain poured off like a waterfall. Spoke to a guy from Italy who was backpacking, he had a tarp as his shelter, no groundsheet and just his mat and sleeping bag, brave!

Left town in the rain but soon we were climbing so at least we were warm. Long back lane along the Glen and at the end of the road we turned to climb up to the top of the pass to then drop down to Loch Lyon. The climb up is very steep on broken tarmac and very hard going. The descent is on a much better surface and not as steep, probably why the badger goes the other way, as does the Lomond Trossachs Loop.

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We were now on the HT550 route, so knew it wasn't far to the café at Bridge of Balgie. Stopped, obviously, and asked if we could air our wet tents out as the sun was now out. Once permission was obtained we preceded to take over a large chuck of the outdoor area with damp kit. We did buy 2 courses of food each and two rounds of hot drinks. My bike was blocking a display of plants for sale from the local nursery school, they sell them to raise funds, so I made a donation as an apology, not that they'd missed much trade.

The birds are obviously used to people here and free food as they're on the table looking for crumbs before you've even finished.

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After a good long stop it was time to head out for what we knew would be a tough section. It's the HT550 route up to Ranoch Forest and we then descended to the campsite at Carie on some great newly built trails.
Back up into the forest before arriving at the closed bridge. Fencing soon negotiated, luckily I didn't look underneath at the damage before crossing as it's quite badly damaged. Then it was a long slog across the moor. I've no recollection of this from the HT550, I must have wanted to forget it, or it was easier going in the sun of 2018. Today it was wet, cold and windy.

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Out at the road we turned left and into an increasingly strong headwind. Turning off at the track up to Corrour Station the weather ramped up the misery to 11 and we crawled along into the wind and rain.

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After what seemed like hours we reached the turning for the out and back to the station. There's a hostel here and we stopped and chatted to a bloke walking up the track. We inquired about staying but it was booked for a private group. I could tell he wanted to let us stay given the conditions but the group that had booked was a naturalist walking group! Who goes walking up here in the buff, we were only just surviving in waterproofs!

We fell through the station door at about half 7, 30 minutes too late for food, they took one look at us and said we could have hot food. The venison stew brought back some sense of normality but we must have been suffering as we chose hot chocolate over a beer. Another couple arrived who had ridden the badger from Inverses that day. The lad had bibs, an MTB casual jersey and a cheap no-name insulated gillet. That was it, no waterproofs. His girlfriend at least had a waterproof jacket.

The station offered the lawn for camping but the wind was far too strong.

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We followed the route down to the loch and checked out an area on a peninsula that people obviously camp at but the wind was howling in from the loch. Further down then track and with trees between us and the loch we found just enough space for the tents.

62 miles, 6300 feet of climbing

tbc
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Fargoist
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by Fargoist »

Look forward to reading more! Can echo about weather up here, BBC claim 0% of rain with sun all day, yet sitting in a downpour :lol:
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fatbikephil
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by fatbikephil »

:-bd
Was up there on the Straggler the other day, got up the Pubil climb over to Glen Lyon on 2:! :mrgreen:
Looking forward to the rest of the tale
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sean_iow
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by sean_iow »

Day 3 Loch Ossian to Invermoriston

Packed up in the dry and the wind had dropped, much better than the night before. It got down to 4 degrees in the night. As well as my boxers/sleping top I was also wearing my windproof trouser/down jacket/long finger gloves so made it through reasonably comfortably.

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Headed off down the track in search of second breakfast. Stopped on the track for some admin and I spotted a square shaped rock, picked it up and it's a leather wallet. If I hadn't been right next to it I'd never have seen it. It has the owners driving license, cards etc. but no obvious phone number to call or message and besides there's no signal. The only thing I can think of is to take it with us and work out how to reunite it with the owner later. There's some really nice tracks here and the gradients weren't too bad luckily as now it's day 3 my legs are starting to feel the strain. On and off rain but it did at least provide a rainbow :grin:

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When the sun did come out it was a spectacular place to be riding.

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It was over 20 miles from our campsite to the first bit of tarmac, which didn't last and then a very steep climb up, this would obviously be a descent if we were riding the route the correct way :roll: It was then more reasonable gradients along the tops. I wasn't worried about the lack of climbing as I knew what was ahead :lol: We stopped at a farm and filled our bottles whilst chatting to the locals. The wind had picked up and the headwind was making it harder work than necessary but we were getting used to this by now. We'd not passed any places for food during the morning so we stopped at Melgarve bothy and cooked up some noodles for lunch as fuel for the climb ahead. It also meant we were inside whist the worst of the rain went past.

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With conditions improving and refueled we headed out to take on the climb ahead. I've been over the pass twice before, 2018 in sunshine and 2019 in rain. Rain again today so it's now 2/1 to the bad weather. Having seen on Instagram that the leaders on this years HT550 rode the zig-zags we obviously.... pushed up them, we could easily have ridden them but didn't want to show off :lol:

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As we got higher the conditions got steadily worse, culminating with 2 degrees C and very strong winds at the top. I see the door has been removed from one of the concrete huts at the summit and it's been set up as an emergency refuge complete with sleeping bag. Either that or someone has moved in.

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The descent down towards Fort Augustus was as fast as I remembered although frozen hands didn't help, but I managed not to repeat my crash of 2018. In my mind it was all downhill from the summit to town but actually there are a few little climbs which were hard on the now cold legs. Once at Fort Augustus it was straight to The Moorings for dinner. I'd already decided I'd have the lasagne and chips as I'd had it in 2018 and it was just the thing then. Unlike 2018 I washed this one down with a couple of beers and had a desert :grin:

Post dinner we rode to the local police station which was shut, so I put the wallet through the letterbox and hopefully it will have been returned to the owner. The climb out of town is on the HT550 route but I have no recollection of the push up through the woods :???: I do remember the Great Glen Way being up and down. There's been logging here recently as well so the track was muddy in places. At Invermoriston the route uses the current HT550 route up the zig-zag tarmac rode. Too steep for us to want to try and ride and the push helped stretch the legs out before bed. Bivi spots were looking tricky but we found a camp spot just off the track that people had obviously been using by the presence of a fire pit.

57 miles and 5830 feet of climbing.

Day 4

A warmer night, only got down to 7 degrees and the sun was shining. Unfortunately this also meant the midges were now out :roll: Coffee made just by poking my hand out through the inner and then packed up as much as I could before donning head-nets and heading outside.

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The route skirts along the edge of Loch Ness albeit high up on the hillside and the riding is good, some great downhills as well as up. Went past the view catcher I'd seen on the HT550 Instagram feeds.

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And good views over Loch Ness from further along the route.

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Stopped at a great little cafe just before Drumnadrocih for breakfast. Whist looking at the Scotrail website we noticed that the train we were due to get from Inverness to Thurso was cancelled :roll: Mike hadn't had an email or message to warn him. Not much we could do but ride on and see that was happening when we got to the station. Slightly tricky bit of navigation just outside Inverness as a new housing development has been built and the trial is lost but found our way through. Into town via the park and some back streets, one of which was a one way but of course we're riding the route the wrong way.

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First stop was the station to see what the score was regarding the train. Apparently there was no driver. There is a replacement coach and hopefully they will be able to get the bikes on but it's up to the driver. If not then Scotrail will get us a taxi (I assume minibus size) to get us to Thurso - this only costs £400 :roll: Maybe they should offer this to the train driver and they'd turn up? Mike came back from taking to the staff to say they have showers at the station, £5 each including the towel, and we can take our bikes in so they'll be safe :-bd

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Changed into my 'town' clothes, basically my sleeping boxers and top + some gravel baggies over the top. Put on the down jacket and headed across town to a launderette, looking quite the Instagram bike-packer :lol: They have these handy roadside ones, usually at petrol stations, I guess aimed at the camper vans but just as handy when on the bike. All of our riding kit chucked in and we went to get fish and chips whilst it was washing. Got back just in time to put it all in the dryer and eat dinner sat on the ground lent against the machine, the glamorous life of a bike-packer.

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Clean kit packed away on the bikes we headed back to the station to check out the score with the coach. The driver was happy to take the bikes so bags off to make them easier to load and coach boarded. Sat at the front to take in the views. The driver lives in Wick and that would be his last stop. Judging by the speed we were doing his Sunday lunch must have been in the oven waiting for him :lol: Got chatting to the girl sat behind me who tipped us off about the log cabin - see my June BAM. She said to me 'would I like a duck?' I wasn't entirely sure what she said then she handed me something small and blue. At fist I thought it might be a sweet but it was actually a plastic duck, about the size of an smartie :lol:

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Mike also has one, in a more traditional yellow. We arrived at Thurso over an hour ahead of the when the train would get us there. The station was closed so got changed on the platform back into the riding kit, only too very high locals down the other end. I advised them the train wasn't coming in case they were waiting for it, they didn't seem to care. Off to the co-op for supplies and then rode out towards Dunnet Head to the woods we'd been tipped off about. The log cabin was exactly as described :grin:

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I'd treated myself to an appropriately named beer and some crisps to celebrate completion of the first part of the trip and the accommodation.

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We were now much further north and the extra daylight was noticeable. It had been light-ish all night so far but it didn't really get dark at all up here. Got a good nights sleep anyway and having benches/tables to organise the kit is much easier.

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32 miles and 3380 feet of climbing on the Badger Divide route. Then 5 to the launderette and back and another 15 miles and 750 feet to the log cabin.
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RIP
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by RIP »

Some cracking stories gents!

Those temperatures sound ridiculous for June. Frostbite?

"Would you like a duck?". Well I've been in some entertaining situations over the years but that's one offer I wouldn't be able to refuse.

I liked your idea of paying the train driver the £400 to turn up that the taxi would otherwise have had. It's a bonkers world.

Oh and the wallet, that was a bit of luck. Worth leaving your details with the cops to see who the person was. Wonder why they were rummaging in their pockets at that spot.

Turning out to be a proper BBB epic this is - nice one men :-bd
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by Blackhound »

Looking forward to the rest of your writing. I had thought before of a reverse Badger to Inverness and then the Pictish down to Embra which would be 8-10 days for me depending. I would be interested to know what your thoughts would be on which of the two to do in reverse, ta.
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by fatbikephil »

Hard to answer that as both go both ways very nicely, it's down to wind really. Probably do the BD up and PT down if it's south or North westerley but mebbes tempted by the other way round if it's easterlies of which there have been a lot this year.
I'm toying with bits of the BD up the way, South Loch Ness trail instead of Great Glen way to miss out Shneckie, then transfer to the Pictish trail via the Dava way and some nice tracks in the hills south of the lower Spey.
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by sean_iow »

Spoiler alert - we did the Badger Divide in reverse to Inverness then Pictish to Edinburgh then back to Milngavie where we started.

It took us 14 days in total but the last day was only about 6 miles back to the van.

I'm total it's over 800 miles and nearly 60,000 feet. At my current fitness level that's as fast as I could ride it. We did have the wind against us at times. There's half a days faffing to get from Inverness to Thurso to factor in.
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by Teaman »

Enjoyed reading about your adventures, so thanks for posting and well done!
I’m currently in the Pennines en route back South after my first ever visit to Scotland (in the MoHo) and loved it up there :grin:
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by Blackhound »

Thanks all, will have a look at some of the options if I find the time. Not sure about fatbikephil's options without getting the maps out. Hoping to find time in September to do something.
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by fatbikephil »

Blackhound wrote: Fri Jun 28, 2024 7:55 am Thanks all, will have a look at some of the options if I find the time. Not sure about fatbikephil's options without getting the maps out. Hoping to find time in September to do something.
PM me and I'll send you some GPX's
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by Mike »

You touch on some of the dava way on Pictish and from what I remember it’s all good. Just food for thought but there’s a route called the cuckoo in the glen from Aberdeen to Glasgow which we also cross few times and this is also cracking!! So much great riding in Scotland.
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by Blackhound »

Phil, thanks for the offer. If I get my train booked I will drop you a pm. So much to do up there.
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by sean_iow »

Day 5

After leaving the log cabin it was into a headwind that increased in strength the further north we got. It also started raining so it was on with the waterproofs. The last section to Dunnet Head was very hard work as the headwind had increased to full on gale and we were going uphill. At least it would be easier on the way back :grin: Stopped for a photo at the top, reset the trip on the garmin and headed south.... which is the only way you can go from here :grin:

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Very easy riding back to Thurso with the wind on our backs. We called in at the YNOT for breakfast. This is a pub, I think, that is also a cafe in the day? Met 2 other cyclists who were refueling before the last bit of their LEJOG. Post breakfast it was the co-op for supplies, photo at the railway station and continue on.

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The route actually heads due east for the first 15 miles out of Thurso , the latter half being on a main road but there aren't many other choices of route here. We also seemed to be riding into the wind again :???: Turning off the main road and due south we were now on a section that is a designated logging road (or words to that affect) which meant high speed logging trucks. Luckily we could hear them coming from quite some distance and there were lots of passing places to get out of the way before they arrived. We were still on tarmac and the I was beginning to question to reason for the route choice as since Dunnet Head we had ridden nearly 40 miles of tarmac. In addition the rain was on and off so we kept stopping to add then remove waterproofs.

Finally we turned off the tarmac onto a smooth gravel (sandy) track. We climbed up to the edge of the woods and stopped to eat. Refueled we climber higher through the woods before the view opened out before us.

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A smooth sandy/gravel track stretching as far as the eye could see :grin: This was easy and fast riding. There were climbs but nothing too steep. This is clearly why there is the long main road section beforehand. After 10 miles we passed Altnabreac Station. I had wondered what facilities might be at the station?

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Basic :lol: You get a platform and a shed for a waiting room which is boarded up. There's not even a station name sign to take a picture of the bikes next to. The great track continued on and by the end we had ridden 23 miles without seeing another soul, despite passing several lodges.

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As re rejoined the tarmac there was a handy phone box which still works as well.

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I have the number so I must call it sometime to see if anyone answers. We now left the tarmac, across a farmyard then over the river. Luckily there was a 'bridge' so we didn't have to wade. As a civil engineer I tried not to look to closely at the construction details. If I had to do a report on it I think I could just say 'very sketchy - repair or replace immediately' :lol:

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You could see by the debris hanging off the underside that the water level had reached the deck so it could have been worse.... oh hang on it was about to get worse. At first it was just a wet bumpy feint path beside the river but then it started to climb up the edge of the slope before becoming a wet peaty narrow rocky tussocky death march

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This went in for about 4 miles. Every now and then bits would be ridable but only for a short section. The path is the line on the hill on the right about half-way up the slope. There were plenty of tyre marks so at least we weren't the only ones to have to endure this. At one point we rounded a bend only to startle a golden eagle sat on the track only feet in front of us. It took off straight over us and up close they are huge. The situation wasn't helped by the fact we wanted to get to Helmsdale for food and this was really slowing progress. Towards the end the path improved and it became a nice glen with grass besides the river. With hindsight we should have camped here but had become too focused on making it to Helmsdale. Once back on the tarmac the surface improved but we were now on the A9 and had a 13% climb that went on for a mile with lorries and cars flying past. The reward for the climb should have been a big descent but the headwind was so strong we had to pedal on the way down to keep up any speed we had :roll: We did get some respite from the main road as the route turns off and uses a section of the old abandoned road before dropping into town.

We made it to the chippy at about 20:40 and it closes at 21:00. They said we couldn't eat in as they were closing, despite it being still full of people, so we had take-away. It was raining lightly so I sat on a bench nearby and ate mine in my waterproofs. Mike ate his in the nearby toilet block but I refused to do this. Upon his return he announced it was spotless and the shower had underfloor heating, turns out it had only been open a few days. Next stop the pub for a pint and to recharge some electrics. We then headed off to a nice patch of grass down by the river. As we pushed our bikes down the steps I could see someone taking notice. As soon as we started to get our stuff off the bikes he started shouting how we couldn't camp there, we leave rubbish, etc. etc. After a brief exchange it was obvious he'd be trouble so we packed up and rode on. Within 2 miles of town we found a nice patch of woods right next to the road, pitched the tents and collapsed for the night.

81 miles for the day 5060 feet of climbing.
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by fatbikephil »

Well done for enduring that bit, I was wholly unconvinced when I saw it's inclusion in the Pictish trail, given the rest of it is fairly rideable! - I think the GNT / GB duro route is better - south from Thurso on back roads, do the full length of track past Altnabreac east to west to Forsinard, then pick the PT up at Kildonan lodge.... next time :grin:
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by Dean »

sean_iow wrote: Mon Jul 01, 2024 2:21 pmAfter 10 miles we passed Altnabreac Station. I had wondered what facilities might be at the station?

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Basic :lol: You get a platform and a shed for a waiting room which is boarded up. There's not even a station name sign to take a picture of the bikes next to. The great track continued on and by the end we had ridden 23 miles without seeing another soul, despite passing several lodges.
When I was there in May 2023 there was more shelter behind the shack than inside it due to no door and the wind direction. :roll: I don't think you missed out on much.
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by sean_iow »

Day 6

There was quite a bit of rain in the night but it had stopped by morning. It had got down to 6 overnight in the woods so would have been colder in the open down by the river. It was a nice spot in the woods but I was about to discover the downsides.

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Cooked up some porridge for breakfast with added salted caramel pretzel pieces which was really nice.

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Wiped down the tents and packed up. Once on the tarmac we did a quick tick check and there were loads of tiny ones on my legs. Mike had removed one the night before as well. I guess this is the trade-off for our sheltered woodland spot. The route follows the road up through the glen, again used by logging trucks, but it was an easy gradient on tired legs. There were lots of fishing spots laid out along the glen with little huts and paths down from the road, the fishing also came with an added bonus. When we eventually left the tarmac and crossed the river the bridge was of a much higher quality than the night before, to enable access to the fishing on the far side.

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There was only a short off road section before rejoining the 'tarmac' although I think it's been some time since any repairs have been done on this section of road. It's a fair old climb up the mountain road, nearly 700 feet of climbing in less than 3 miles since we left the glen. We were past by some German motorcycle tourers who's bikes were making light work of the climb. Once at the top it was a very long and fast descent down the other side. It had started to rain at the top but it looked better further on so I'd gambled on not putting the waterproof on, so I was very cold and damp by the time I reached the bottom. It was now back on the A9 (joy) towards Brora. The route actually turns off before Brora but it's worth the small detour for breakfast. Whilst at the cafe I went to the loo only to discover 2 ticks also having their breakfast. A quip trip out to the bike for the tweezers and they were removed, 1 from the chest and 1 from the thigh.

We then followed the back road and rejoined the route further on which is probably a better route anyway. Then some off road onto some nice tracks before a great little descent into Golsopie on the bike trails. This took us briefly back to the coast. Past the golf course and then inland again towards Bonar Bridge where we bought supplies for the evening at the Spar which had a very helpful assistant. We planned to camp out that night and there would also be a long stretch in the morning without any opportunities to buy food. I had brought my fold-up rucksack for just this situation.

As we rode the next section we spotted the sign for Croick :???: It seemed a long way from the Croick we'd passed on the HT550 but a check on the map showed it was indeed the same Croick, funny how you track of where you are in the country when riding long distances. Our route briefly shared the HT550 route and then we turned south into Glen Calvie. Once past the fiends with livestock we found a great patch of grass next to the river, the sort of location you see on Instagram, set up the tents and had dinner.

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The river was pretty low compared to the high water mark. There was also enough of a breeze to keep the midges away.

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Only 58 miles and 3990 feet of climbing so almost a rest day :lol:
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by sean_iow »

Day 7

I had a good nights sleep in the Glen. It was dry overnight but did get down to 6 degrees so on the limit of the 150 quilt but I was getting used to this now. I decided to cold soak my porridge using Arctic Coffee Caramel Latte and this worked well but I still got the stove out for a hot coffee as well. It was a long climb up through the Glen to start the day but we would get rewarded with a long descent the other side once we'd made it to the top of the pass.

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Descending down towards Loch Morrie we could see a rather grand residence in the distance.

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We stared to speculate about who could afford such a place? Footballer? Not really their style. Probably a middle-eastern sheikh who owns a vast oil field? Eastern European crime lord? The route goes right through the centre of it and when we were by the buildings a tractor came along. We stopped to let them past but they stopped, turned off the engine and stopped for a chat. It was driven by a middle-aged man, really nice guy. We asked if he saw many cyclists come through, which he does, the recent cold weather, how nice the buildings looked. Mike asked who owned it all, if that was ok? He replied with 'I do' :o He was amused by our earlier supposition as to who might own such a vast estate. He was Scottish, had worked all over the world and upon his return bought the first part of the estate, it had been split up over the years. Gradually he had acquired remaining parts until it was back how it was in Victorian times. All the buildings were restored in the original estate colours.

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As for the main Lodge (castle) when he bought the estate is was just a ruin and not safe. The original building looked out at the river but the course of the river had moved over the last 150 years so they rebuilt it in a new location so it was back relative to the river where it should be. This meant he could look out of his bedroom window and see the water they make the whisky he'd be drinking go past, albeit with a 10+ year wait :grin: Eventually he spotted the real boss (his wife) driving up so we said goodby and let him get on with his work for the day.

The route goes around the edge of Loch Morrie and even with the recent dry weather it was very boggy in places. This would be very hard going in the wet. After passing through Blackrock Gorge which is spectacularly deep it was along the road and into the wind (obviously) for a well earned lunch and a beer at the Highland Farm Cafe. Sadly the Museum of Victorian Childhood at the old Strafpeffer Railway station was closed.

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It was now all tarmac for a while, stopping in Beauly at the co-op for supplies (desert and a beer) and then heading slightly off route to The Old North Inn at Kirkhill for dinner and as it turns out, desert number 1, it was on the specials board and recommended. A steep road climb on full stomachs took us up into the woods. After checking out an area next to a small loch, which looked like tick paradise with the long grass, we then joined the section which is shared with the Badger Divide. Mike had spotted some good spots when we came through previously. We rode a short way uphill off route to the first but this was taken. Easy riding downhill to the second and we hit the jackpot, empty. This would be ideal as it would only be a short ride down to Inverness in the morning. It was complete with crude log benches to sit on whilst eating desert 2 and drinking a beer.

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A 59 mile day and 4400 feet of climbing.
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by sean_iow »

Day 8

Having made it to he hills above Inverness the night before this meant an easy downhill spin into town to get some chores done. It had dropped to 3 degrees overnight, the coldest night yet. I rode into town in my sleeping boxers/top and with my 'town' shorts over the top but the downhill route did little to warm me up. First stop was the launderette at the garage we'd used 4 days previously to get the riding kit clean. This would likely be the last chance to wash it before the end of the ride which was still going to take nearly a week to finish. Then off to a great little cafe near the canal for breakfast. Chatted to a couple outside (he was keen to go bikepacking) and they kept an eye on the bikes whist we sat inside in the warm. Then back to the garage to get the washing into the dryer. There was a fuel delivery taking place and the tanker was parked across the front of the washing machine area so there was no access. This actually worked in out favour as we were late back but the tanker meant no one could steal our washing. Once the tanker had finished it was into the dryer with the kit, then off to Alpkit just down the road.

I had trimmed my kit to what I thought was the minimum I could get away with and at the last minute had left out my sleeping beany and just taken a buff. It was cold enough to want a buff on the neck and something on my head so treated myself to a merino buff. We also bought another dehydrated dinner in case it was needed as an emergency backup. Alpkit have the great covered racks outside, you get the key, open up, put the bike in and lock it again. There's enough room for loaded mountain bikes. Probably aimed at users of the climbing wall but equally useful for shopping.

The it was across town back to the Railway station for a shower and to get changed back into the clean riding clothes. I was nearly finished in the shower when these was a knock on the door and a voice shouted to hurry up or it would be another £5. I rushed to get my stuff sorted and on the bike and as I came out I found the attendant and Mike laughing, there was no time limit, he'd just got her to knock on the door for a laugh :lol: A steep, but short, climb up through town and we reached the Velocity Cafe. Stopped for coffee and cake but I do think there is a 'scene' tax with cycle cafes these days judging by the price. Outside we chatted to a kiwi bikepacker who was on an 6 week (or was it 8?) tour of the country. She'd ridden the Great North Divide route but failed to get to Cape Wrath as the ferry wasn't running :sad: She was now sort of following the Pictish back to Edinburgh and then on to Glasgow where her sister lived.

We left town on back lanes and then it's a climb up to Culloden Forest. After Cawdor the route follows the River Nairn. Flooding had taken a toll on the route here with long stretches of the path now missing having been washed away. There is a new 'path' through the undergrowth but it's little more than a trampled route through the undergrowth but with use it will get more defined and hopefully easier to ride. We eventually escaped this although there was evidence of riders before us abandoning their bikes to make it out :lol:

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It's a Rudge so a posh bike in its day? One for Slarge to restore maybe?

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We had now made it to Nairn and were doing well for time. We planned to bivi on the dunes out of town, hoping to find a hut marked on the map, so had time to ride out to the the end of the harbour wall for photos.

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We were even at the chippy before it opened. Following fish and chips down by the seafront and some bike maintenance - trying to see if some oil dripped down the rails into the plastic mount would stop the Brooks saddle creaking - it didn't :roll: Then to the co-op for supplies. The lad in front of me stepped out of the queue (which was only me and him) to pick up a box of beer and then rejoined behind me. I said he could go in front as he was now holding a big box of beer and I was in no rush. When he got to the counter he asked for a sausage roll as well. 'We're out' he was advised. There was probably 30 left in the cabinet at the counter. 'What about them' he said pointing to the massive pile behind the glass. 'Reserved' he was advised. Clearly a regular judging by the laughter :lol:

The route heads out of town into the Culbin Forest which is massive. It's 9 miles from tip to tip. Once in to the woods we then dropped onto the dunes for a nice ride along the edge of the forest which was surprising dry, Chatted to a local who said it was ok along the dunes for a while but at a bench marked 'The Gut' to turn back into the woods. We made it to the spot where the hut was marked on the maps but there was no sign of it. There was a nice patch of flat grass on the dunes with a handy bench overlooking the beach so we pitched there. This had been our shortest day and I finished it off sat on the bench eating Muller rice and washed down with a beer looking at the vast expanse of sand in either direction :grin:

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45 miles and only 1260 feet of climbing
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by fatbikephil »

:-bd Keep 'em coming!
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by JimmyG »

sean_iow wrote: Sun Jul 07, 2024 3:36 pm Day 8: Outside we chatted to a kiwi bikepacker who was on an 6 week (or was it 8?) tour of the country. She'd ridden the Great North Divide route but failed to get to Cape Wrath as the ferry wasn't running :sad: She was now sort of following the Pictish back to Edinburgh and then on to Glasgow where her sister lived.
I've enjoyed reading these entertaining reports Sean. Re the above extract - I had a pleasant chat with a Kiwi bikepacker who related pretty much the same tale to me when I met her just next to the Forth Railway Bridge when I was out on a ride on the 18th June. Pictish Trail completed, she was heading into Edinburgh to stay with friends (I think) for a couple of days before heading to Glasgow on the train. Impressive stuff not to mention a small world eh!
One day, you’ll wake up and there won't be any more time to do the thing you always wanted to do. Do it now. – Paolo Coelho
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by sean_iow »

JimmyG wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 6:54 pm I had a pleasant chat with a Kiwi bikepacker who related pretty much the same tale to me when I met her just next to the Forth Railway Bridge when I was out on a ride on the 18th June. Pictish Trail completed, she was heading into Edinburgh to stay with friends (I think) for a couple of days before heading to Glasgow on the train. Impressive stuff not to mention a small world eh!
It has to be the same Kiwi :grin: Personal circumstances have gotten in the way of writing more of this but I will get there.
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by JimmyG »

Yep, I was sure it had to be her. I'll look forward to reading more when you get time.
One day, you’ll wake up and there won't be any more time to do the thing you always wanted to do. Do it now. – Paolo Coelho
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by sean_iow »

Day 9

It had rained in the night and the sea sounded very rough but there was only a slight breeze at the tents so we must have been protected by the dunes.

Whilst getting changed out of my sleeping kit I spitted a bit of dirt on my.... my.. erm... well you know what. Further investigation revealed it was a small tick :YMSICK:

Packed up all the gear under the outer and the rain stopped just in time to get the outer down so it was only damp. Back into the woods and then some easy quite lanes into Forres. Stopped at the Tesco first for supplies as there wouldn't be any other opportunities for food until Tomintoul. Then into town proper for breakfast 2. Once out of town it's along the route of the old railway. These are often harder going than expected. The shallow gradients mean there's little free-wheeling and in this case we were on a long uphill drag. It is nice to see that some of the old stations etc. have survived. There was also the fact that at times the route had to divert off the line of the railway for sections which were often less well surfaced.

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The route leaves the railway after going over the viaduct but the road runs parallel before turning off to get a better look.

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Couldn't get a very good picture as the trees were in the way. Perhaps the Scottish tourist board could have them cut down for those of us interested in old railway architecture? :wink: It was now a long climb up into the woods but we were on gravel again. By now we were getting hungry again so stopped for some lunch. We also took the opportunity to hang the tents out to air.

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The temperatures had improved compared to the previous few days but this meant the midges were starting to appear, but Smidge and a slight breeze kept them to manageable levels. As Mike was taking his tent off the gate it caught on a bolt sticking out from the sign and damaged the mesh of the inner door :sad: Luckily I had some tenacious tape in my repair kit, cut in half the pieces were just big enough to cover the damage with a bit of tape from each side sticking to each other with the mesh trapped between it should hold.

The route goes through the forest and then drops back down to the road and then onto another old railway line.

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The station sign has been renamed after the distillery which funded the restoration. it was previously Knockando but but it was changed to that from Dalbeallie in 1905 to avoid confusion with Dalbeattie. The trail follows the Speyside Way which was fairly pleasant, mainly on old railway lines.

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Once it reached the farm the level of pleasantness dropped considerably, to zero!

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This was taken looking back at the slurry covered bog we'd just ridden. The next section was on one of the bike trails at Glenlivet Trail Centre which was good but not enough to make up for the section before. It was now easy back lanes into Tomntoul. Usual routine, shop for supplies then find somewhere for dinner. The lady in the shop said there were 3 options. The pub for good honest food, then posher then expensive, I didn't really listen to the location of options 2 and 3 as I'd derided on the pub as she suggested it :lol:

There were 2 other groups of cyclists in the pub, a couple and 2 lads. They were both riding the Cairngorm Loop and staying in accommodation on the way round. Part way through dinner (haggis, neeps and taties) we were asked if we could move our bikes, they were leant against the front wall of the pub and were in the way of the hatch for a beer delivery. We duly obliged and the driver gave us a can of Spey's Jam for the inconvenience, though it was us who were causing an inconvenience by the choice of bike location but I wasn't going to argue if there was a free beer involved.

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Post diner it was an easy ride to the bird hide just on the edge of town. We had bought a desert beer at the shop. This was in a bottle so drank this one and saved the Spey's Jam for another day. As we'd had 2 pints at the pub this was enough. for one evening.

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No one had seen us enter the hide but it was still early so we waited a bit before getting the sleeping kit out. Unfortunately we had been spotted by a cow who insisted in standing right by the hide an mooing at great volume :lol: It did eventually wander off.

A relatively short 55 miles and 3700 feet of climbing.
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Re: Scotland 24

Post by RIP »

What a marathon gents.

Personally I enjoy reading all the minutae about what type of beer you had, who you nattered with, which personal hygiene catastrophes you suffered, location factoids, strange happenings, and what you had for tea.

Conversely I'm not really interested in what tyres you used etc :wink:

We need more reports like this :smile: .
"My God, Ponsonby, I'm two-thirds of the way to the grave and what have I done?" - RIP

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