The Loch Katrine Tour




June 2010
130 km



Background

I have for the last twelve years looked at the road up to Loch Katrine with envy when I was starting on the vertical climb up to Dukes Pass from Aberfoyle. Until earlier this year, I had no idea that there was a road around Loch Katrine. It is not on my map. But there was a cycle competition around Loch Katrine earlier this road which was advertised. I had a look at the route and thought that this would make an excellent ride. I did not enter the competition itself though. I just wanted to do this tour on my own in my own tempo. A good choice, it turned out.

The alarm clock woke me up at 0500 in the morning. This was a pretty cold morning. I had a mug of coffee, some water and a breakfast. I took my bike outside and raced down to the first train to Milngavie.
The tour started with the familiar climb out of Milngavie and over the hill to Strathblane. My body did not feel alive and I was wearing both long trousers and a long jumper. I got the feeling that this was going to be a rather hard day. The descent down to Strathblane and the Glengoyne distillery one mile further up the valley was a vertical drop. The road from the Glengoyne distillery was pretty flat along the valley floor with a small climb up to the Balfron Station which now serves as a cross road between Stirling, Balloch, Aberfoyle and Glasgow. My body felt dead and my mind was pretty docile with slow reaction time. I changed over to my bike clothes on this climb. I was soon at Balfron Station and cycled over and down the long flat stretch of road to Aberfoyle where I stopped for a pick-me-up meal with chocolate. I also stocked up with some caffeine based sport drink. I was well behind schedule at this time when I continued up the road towards Loch Katrine. The road soon started to rise in small climbs and vertical drops alongside the scenic small lake called Loch Ard.


Towards Loch Ard and Ben Lomond at Kinlochard


The road surface was pretty bad throughout and the climb up from Loch Ard to Loch Chon was pretty hard in the baking hot sun. There was also a lot of traffic on this narrow road. I almost had a collision with a large lorry on the descent to Loch Chon and that shook me up a lot. My brakes was in a pretty bad state and my brain still a bit at sleep. But that near fatal collision really woke me up. I also thought I had a broken spoke. But it was only the censor for the cycle computer which had dislodged and was rubbing against the tire. It was fixed in a matter of seconds. Loch Chon is a lake with a mystical feel and is pretty scenic. The same can be said about Loch Ard too. I just wish the road surface had been better ! Anyway, the road climbed pretty steady through the dense forest from Loch Chon to a hill overlooking Loch Arklet. This is an absolute stunning view point which alone removed all my doubts about this tour.


The truly stunning Loch Arklet


A truly stunning view and a good reason to return to this place over and over again. I now understand why this area is so highly rated. The same can also be said about the whole area from Aberfoyle up to Loch Arklet. It is a truly stunning area.
The descent down to the crossroad between Inversnaid (at Loch Lomond) and Stronachlachar was very good with good road surface. A tour to Inversnaid is on my itenary at the end of the summer or next year. I get the feeling I will see a lot more of this area in the future...... I went down the small descent to Stronachlachar at Loch Katrine . I stopped at the quay and met another cyclist there.


Loch Katrine from the quay, looking towards east


We had a long talk. I was well behind my schedule so I cracked on again on this narrow cycle path. The cyclist had warned me against the up and down cycle path and he was spot on. The road surface was good. But it had a lot of climbs up and down to the north-western end where it turned back again towards the east. The climb past the western edge of Loch Katrine past a farm to a big hill overlooking Stronachlachar was epic.


Overlooking the north-western end of Loch Katrine



Overlooking Stronachlachar on the other side of Loch Katrine


In short, the 20 km long ride from Stronachlachar to the end of Loch Katrine on this cycle path is very good and highly recommended. It is also pretty hard when done as a part of an 80 miles roundtrip and I was suffering. But the landscape is stunning throughout. Loch Katrine is without any doubts one of the finest tourist attractions in the central belt of Scotland. It also rivals the best of the Highlands too. After some hard up and downs, I soon reached the end of Loch Katrine.


Loch Katrine from the eastern end of the lake


The last kilometer was pretty flat and I reached the boat and the tourist centre at the eastern shore of Loch Katrine. A very nice place with a cycle hire which was doing brisk business that day. I fully understand why. A bike ride along Loch Katerine in a combination with this boat to Stronachlachar seems like an excellent day out. When I get 80 years old, I will do it.


The boat at the end of Loch Katerine


I was well behind my schedule so I had to hurry up down the one kilometer road to the Callander to Aberfoyle main road. I reached that and soon started on the climb up the Dukes Pass. This climb is a lot longer and not as steep as from Aberfoyle. But it was steep enough for me. The landscape was stunning though. The amount of flies not so funny. I had put on plenty of anti-flies spray and that kept them at bay. But this experience was still not great though. I was soon at the top of the climb and faced the descent down to Aberfoyle again. First pretty gentle and then a vertical drop down to this village. It was a very hairy descent down to my failing brakes. I was glad to be back again in Aberfoyle. A small ice cream at the tourist centre gave me some extra energy and I made my way towards Balfron. I followed the same way as I had arrived before I took the road over towards Bucklyvie. After a couple of kilometers, I then took a small B road leading up to the Stirling-Balloch mainroad. This B road was pretty steep until I reached this main road. I followed that for one kilometer before I took the road over to Balfron.


From the Balfron road, looking back towards the Aberfoyle area


I was pretty dehydrated now and the climb up the hill and the descent down to the shops at the small village of Balfron was pretty hairy. I took a long break at Balfron where I rehydrated myself with some Powerade sports drink before I took the road down to River Ettrick and the bridge crossing that river. The climb towards Killearn was OK and not too heavy. I was well behind schedule now, but not too tired. I had a small stop for more water at Killearn before I cycled down the hill to the Glengoyne distillery. I knew I still had some hillclimbs ahead of me. I tried to avoid going over Milngavie again by doing a smaller hill between the distillery and Clydebank. The steep zig zag road named B821 is not a small hill. It is a vertical hill climb. But it was still pretty fun and I forgave myself for this error. I was pretty tired, but not exhausted. The climb past the Hilton golf course was pretty OK too and I soon reached the cross road which took me over to Duntocher. A last minute change of plans meant that I went for the Renfrew Ferry instead of the Erskine Bridge. A good idea, but I still had to negotiate the pretty busy road past Dalmuir and Clydebank before I went down onto the cycle path alongside the Clyde river. I tried to reach the last ferry at 2100. I did that with good margin. I also believe the last ferry is at around 2230 now. But I was there around 2030. The waiting time was around five minutes before the ferry arrived and took me over to Renfrew again. I reached my home at around 2100 after a long day on the bike. I was tired, but not exhausted.


Conclusion



This is another excellent ride in the Glasgow area and I am pretty sure I will do this ride again and again. The whole tour from Aberfoyle over Loch Ard, Loch Arklet and Loch Katerine is very special. The rest too is very good. I am very pleased with this tour. The only negative thing is the bad road surface from Aberfoyle to Loch Katerine and between Milngavie and Killearn. That is my only issue with this tour. I cannot recommend it highly enough.