A bikeride to the heart of Scotland




May 2012
2 days
200 km (130 km + 70 km )



A tour I had planned for a couple of years. I had meant to do it last year. But some heart problems and being untrained made me postphone it to this year. I bought a new tent for this aon other tours as I was not happy with the too heavy big tent I had used on the Western Isles and other tours. Everything was right for this tour and the sudden outbreak of summer + some sparetime made up my mind.



I woke up at 0500 after a night without much sleep. The morning was pretty hot, but I decided to use my training trousers and long shirts until I reached the ferry. I had a breakfast and cycled down the road through Renfrew and to the the ferry where I paid my 1.70 to get over to the Clydebank side of the river. I had never done this tour before as I normally takes the train up to Milngavie. After getting stripped down to the cycling short and shirt, I tried to navigate myself over to Bearsden and the Drymen Road. A failed attempt and I almost made a full circuit of Clydebank before I had to turn around again and take a dodgy steep road up to the hill above Bearsden. A stupid mistake and I was rewarded with a not so nice descent down to Drymen Road. The packing on the pannier was also all wrong and I changed it on my way up Drymen Road towards Queen's View. I had done this road down before, but never up this way. I did it to avoid the busy and steep road over Strathblane. It was a correct decission. I was met with some fog at the top of the hill.



Looking north down into the fog from Queen's View at A809

The descent down to the crossroad was good and I chose the B834 down to the river and the river crossing. I then chose the A81 up to Balfron Station to bypass the steep hills at Killearn and Balfron. A smart choice. I chose the A811 at Balfron Station. The fog was starting to lift on my way down through Bucklyvie and Arnprior to the flatlands at Kippen. At the roundabout here, I took the road towards Thornhill and then a small road taking me more directly towards Doune



Looking back towards Kippen and Campsie Fells on the road to Doune

The flat small road ended up in a small climb before reaching the nice A873 and then the more busy A84. A pretty nasty bridge over Deanston and a short, sharp climb followed before I was in Doune . A small village I had never visited before. I had never been in this area before and I took it all in. I wanted to buy a sandwich here. But the ones on offer was not that interesting so I decided to wait until Dunblane. A wise choice. I followed the A820 out of Doune up the hill over to Dunblane.



Doune from the road to Dunblane

The road climbed steady over the motorway and along some farmfields before a short descent took me to Dunblane. I chose to take a small break here and a sandwich before heading north into the wilderness.



Dunblane Cathedral

Dunblane seemed to be a nice place (as was Doune, btw) and I had a good meal outside the cathedral. I hope to be back soon. The road took me out of Dunblane and onto the B8033 which took me past some housing estates. I was heading into the wilderness from here.



On the road towards Braco and the north from the motorway bridge north of Dunblane

The B8033 road was pretty interesting and undulating with both some gentle and some steep climbs and descents. I had not been happy with the packing on the panniers and made the final change to it while having a water break. The new arrangements was a big improvement on the previous one and one I will adopt from now on. I was overtaken by another cyclist here and we cycled together to Braco and the A822 again. This cyclist took the road over to Comrie just outside Braco and I continued up the hills towards Crieff. I found a nice park bench here and took the two pictures below when having a small break.



Looking down south towards Braco on the A822 road




Looking east towards Gleneagles from the same place on the A822 road




Looking north from the A822 road, 3 km past the two previous pictures

The climb was pretty good and the descent down to a river and a narrow bridge a bit hairy. A big lorry and a small car had a bit of an amusing argument on the bridge which blocked the bridge. The steep climb up from the bridge was a bit nasty though. But I reached Muthill.



Crieff in the far distance from the A822 road




Crieff from the hills just outside Muthill

The descent down from Muthill was nice. The sounds from my bike was nothing but nice and I feared I got a problem. So I was seeking out a cycle repair shop when I reached Crieff, a big village well worth the visit. There is no cycle repair centres left in Crieff and that gave me a problem. After a small dinner, I gave my bike a good check over just outside Crieff and located the problem as a problem with the chain. I therefore decided to crack on with the ride. A very wise choice indeed.
The climb out of Crieff was short and brutal. The descent down to Gilmerton was pretty interesting. I went back on A822 again at this crossroad. A steep climb up a glen followed. The three pictures below tells the story.



On the pretty steep climb out of Gilmerton on A822, looking east




Looking south towards Crieff from the same place




Looking west from the same place towards the mountains

This road was marked as the scenic road through the highlands and I started to understand why. The scenery was stunning up this valley towards the Foulford golf club.



Foulford golf club and hotel at A822, looking north

The road continued over a small moor before reaching the other side and some nice views down towards the valley below.



Just outside the Fendoch guest house at A822, looking north

I was now looking forward to the first glimpse of the fabled Sma Glen and that duly arrived on the descent from the moor.



The first glimpse of Sma Glen

The descent down to this narrow, 3 km long valley was a bit hairy though and I was glad when I was down in this glen. Despite of only being 3 km long, it is a really beautiful and well worth a visit.



Sma Glen, looking west




Sma Glen, looking back again towards east




The bridge at the end of Sma Glen




Newton and the river going up to the mountains to the west

I got some much needed water from the river before I continued over the bridge (picture above) and the start of the gentle climb out of Sma Glen up to the moor above it.



Looking down the hill towards Sma Glen




Looking up towards the end of the climb out of Sma Glen




On the moor between Sma Glen/Newton and Amulree

The descent down from the moor towards Amulree was gentle and I really enjoyed the views. This is very much a scenic road in the heart of Scotland. The warmth was not that bad so high up in the mountains and I felt relaxed. I reached the crossroad at Amulree.



Amulree

I stopped here for a small break and took in the landscape. Beautiful is the word. I took the road signmarked Glen Quaich which started with a nice, gentle climb. It's official name is the Glen Quaich Road.



Loch Freuchie on the Glen Quaich Road, 1 km out of Amulree

The Glen Quaich Road was pretty gentle up to and then alongside farmfields and then Loch Freuchie itself. I was trying to save my energy for the vertical climbs ahead.



Loch Freuchie with Amulree in the background

At the end of the road, I noticed a bridge. I also noticed a good place to fill up my water bottles just before the bridge. I filled up the water bottles and cycled up to the bridge. The climb up to the top of the mountain was vertical and I was very happy to stop and rest at both the grass verges and the fences.



Loch Freuchie from the vertical climb up Glen Quaich Road




Looking south from the climb up Glen Quaich Road

This vertical climb was very brutal and one of the steepest roads I have ever been on in Scotland. After 120 km in the saddle on a hot day, it was a very brutal climb. But it started to become more agreeable when it left the valley and entered the moor. After a flat several hundred meters long bit, s final vertical climb followed before I reached the top of this mountain. I was very pleased with myself when reaching the top.



On the top of Glen Quaich Road at 515 meters above sea level, looking south




On the top of Glen Quaich Road, looking north towards the mountains above Loch Tay

A short descent took me down to the small loch I had planned as my campsite for the night. A wise choice indeed and one of the better (wild) campsites I have ever had. I pitched up my tent at 2100 that night and turned in for the night after checking that the tent was OK.



My tent and campsite at Glen Quaich Road



D A Y 2


My neighbours, various grouse and ducks, entertained me that night with making a heck of a lot noise and making sleeping a bit difficult. But I woke up at around 0500 and broke camp pretty quickly. I set off down the hill at 0600 again.



Going down Glen Quaich Road towards Loch Tay (hidden below)




Kenmore and Loch Tay from Glen Quaich Road

The descent down to Kenmore was very hairy and I understand those who claims this is one of the hardest hillclimbs in Scotland. It was a hard descent and the brakes was hurting. So was my fingers too. But I reached Kenmore both alive and well. I stopped there to take this photo from the eastern side of Loch Tay.



Loch Tay from Kenmore

There are two roads alongside Loch Tay. The A827 on the north side of the loch and the minor southside road. I had done the A827 in a car back in 1998 and did not fancy it. So it was the southside road then. A road which started gently and was gentle for the first five kilometers. Then it showed it's true face by becoming very undulating throughout. The mountain on the north side of the loch; Ben Lawers witnessed my struggles on this road.



Loch Tay looking west from 5 km just outside Kenmore on the south side road




Ben Lawers on the north side of Loch Tay




Looking back towards Kenmore from the big bend on Loch Tay




Looking towards Killin from the big bend on Loch Tay

The unrelenting hard bikeriding was not made easier by the numeroud red deer and pheasants who crossed the road in the front of me. I was also starting to get tired by now and I was very happy when I reached Killin after this two hours long ride alongside and mostly high above this loch. A very enjoyable ride though and this road is highly recommended. Just before I reached Killin, I crossed the bridge over the waterfalls called Falls Of Dochart. One of the most photographed sceneries in Scotland and I had to add my own photo too of it.



Falls Of Dochart in Killin

I had a good long break in this village before I cracked on with the ride again. I had noted a small road going out of Killin up Glen Dochart towards Crianlarich. It seemed a lot better than the mainroad. The road, which started at the local smiddy, proved me right and it was a revelation.



On the small road outside Killin towards Ben More and the well hidden Crianlarich

The sun was very warm though and I was having a sweat-fest on this undulating single track road. But the scenery was still great.



Looking down Glen Dochart towards Killin

After crossing the bridge over the river, I was back on the busy A85 road. A road not loved by myself. But I really liked it this time and I made good progress up towards Crianlarich.



Looking down Glen Dochart from just outside Crianlarich

I was a bit pleasant surprised when I got the 1 miles to the village pub sign though. The village being Crianlarich. I must have set a new personal best up that road. I stocked up with some drink in the local shop before I took the road down Loch Lomond. The descent was OK down to Loch Lomond and I stopped in Ardlui to change water bottles. When I started to pedal again, something in the rear wheel broke and I was left with a very wobbly bike. I decided to continue down to Tarbet and the train station there. The problem became worse past Glenuglas and I was very happy when I reached Tarbet and it's train station as I doubted I would reach Balloch with this problem before the wheel completely broke down. A view later confirmed by the cycle repair shop.



At the train station in Tarbet

One hour wait followed and I got the train from Mallaig to Glasgow and then Paisley again. The only thing that hurt was the cycle repair bill (the chain and the rear wheel axle was replaced) and the train ticket.


Conclusion



Despite of missing the final 50 km of the bikeride due to the rear wheel breaking down, this bikeride was excellent and will surely be repeated by myself in the years to come. The highlights... well, all of it. But the road from Crieff to Loch Tay and then the road to Killin was brilliant. This bikeride is highly recommended.