I parked up in the car park at the south end of the Tay Bridge. A lovely sunny day with a slight westerly wind which would mean a helping hand on the way home.
Carol and I got the bikes unloaded and headed out on NCN 1 and across the Tay Road Bridge. This bridge is unusual in that the cycle and pedestrian way is raised in the middle rather than on the side. We headed north with traffic rushing by on both sides. At the north end we got in the lift and once at ground level headed for the silvery Tay. We were’nt alongside it for long however before being directed away from the river and into an industrial/commercial estate which leads into the docks. The cycle path goes straight through the docks and emerges at Stannergate.
Once more alongside the Tay travelling on a well surfaced path. You can see Broughty Castle in the distance.
NCN 1 takes you past the castle and along Broughty Ferry esplanade to Balmossie and Monifeith. After Monifeith you are on Barry Links, owned by the MOD and still in use today. As we approached we could see red flags flying and heard gunfire as live firing is conducted on ranges on the links. It wasn’t long and we were sitting in Franco’s cafe enjoying a light lunch before retracing our steps back.
A great wee ride of 26 miles with 500 feet of climb all on well surfaced cycle path.
This is the first in a series of posts about the areas that SBT tour in.
The Great Glen (GG) is a geological fault between Fort William and Inverness. At one end of the GG lies Loch Linnhe and the Atlantic Ocean and to the other the Moray Firth and the North Sea making it an ideal off road Coast to Coast (C2C).
The original fault was created about 380 million years ago then a mere 20,000 years ago during the Ice Age the fault as we know it was formed.
Traversing the GG way there is 22 miles of man made Caledonian Canal and 38 miles comprising 3 lochs that of Lochy, Oich and Ness. The Caledonian Canal was oened in 1822 almost 49 years after first being proposed.
There are ten hill forts along the GG testifying to it’s strategic importance. Torr Dhuin and Craig Phadrig are the most accessible from the GG Way and are worth visiting if only for the views. Craig Phadrig is thought to date from 350BC and be on the site that eventually became Inverness.
The GG runs through the three main types of habitat water side, woodland and moorland and you can expect to see oystercatchers, heron, kittiwakes and even ospreys. Landward red squirrels, pine marten and red deer.
The GG Way passes through Gairlochy, Laggan locks, Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit.
We shall take a look at some of these settlements as well as Fort William and Inverness in another post.
I had some business in Perth and decided to take Carol and our bikes up the A9 for a ride to Loch Tummel.
Carol had not done any riding since our return from France and I had not exercised since my L marathon on the preceding Sunday so it was with some trepidation that we got on our bikes and set off along the B8019 towards Queen’s View and our first stop.
We stopped for a cuppa and a home made scone, the day had dulled over but it was dry with very little wind and the odd glimpse of blue sky. We had been climbing for a while and now had a great wee descent followed again by another climb of course. But we were out in the fresh air on our bikes in Scotland in October with shorts on!! The sun had appeared again and gave us a chance to take some pics of Errochty Power Station a great looking building more like a Victorian workhouse or Asylum rather than a Power Station.
We continued past the power station to our turnaround point at Tummel Bridge a small village dominated by a large holiday park. After using the facilities we headed back the way we had come seeing the amazing views from the opposite direction.
The day had really brightened up now with a headwind to boot. The descents and ascents were now the opposite way but we knew what to expect and it was not long before we were turning into the car park.
Stats: 20.5 miles, 1500ft climbed in 2h 11m.
Bike Tour de Fer 20
The previous two days had been really good weather just great for biking in today was rather colder and duller almost everyone had at least one extra layer on.
As no one fancied the Travellodge’s version of a continental breakfast we headed into Musselburgh and the Burgh Cafe. All weekend I had been amazed at the amount of food this crew could down but they surpass themselves at breakfast with quite a few opting for a full Scottish I just can’t eat that much then jump on a bike!
After leaving Musselburgh we headed along Portobello Prom to be confronted with three police vehicles and a Bomb disposal van suffice to say the full Scottish delayed no one as we zipped Doon Porty Prom as fast as our wheels and good manners would permit.
Leaving Porty behind us we travelled through Leith and onto some of the Capital’s excellent cycle paths unfortunately they were full of kilted walkers doing the Kilt Walk and as we were headed in the same direction that meant we were constantly bell ringing or in some cases whistling to let people know we were approaching. However a few “want to hire a tandem” or “anyone needing a backy” cheered the walkers up. As you could imagine we got fairly well spaced out and the front group missed a crucial turning which meant we had to do a U turn and go back through the walkers. We soon got on the right path and headed out to Dalmeny and South Queensferry. South Queensferry is the traditional wheel dipping stop and the end of the C2C but as Dalgety Bay is the home of the group we headed across the bridge and onwards to Dalgety Bay for lunch and the wheel dipping ceremony.
Stats distance 27 miles with 1132 feet of climb in 2:38:11 an AV spd of 10.4 mph.
The trip from Annan to South Queensferry will be on Scottish Bike Tourings rides list for 2017.
Being split over two hotels did have certain logistical problems but taken in the whole picture 5 tandems, 10 riders 5 of whom are blind it really was a minor point! We were all sorted out and ready to pedal by 0945. Those of you who haven’t been on a tandem might not appreciate that even getting started poses a challenge with a coordinated clipping in of one pedal and a 321go to get upright and start pedalling ensuring that there is plenty gaps in traffic!
Today is what is known in cyclists parlance as slightly lumpy starting almost immediately with the Devils Beeftub! I was piloting for Louise and as this was my first time I was supposed to have a co pilot as well but due to call offs I ended up being Louise’s sole pilot quite a sobering thought. When piloting a tandem communication with your stoker is all important especially when the stoker is visually impaired you literally have to think aloud warning the stoker of bends, climbs, junctions gear changes everything that effects the forward motion of the tandem. After the climb of the Beeftub came the descent scary enough with sight but when you cant’t see positively terrifying!
With two pairs of legs propelling the tandem the force exerted on the drive chain is doubled another reason for good communication as sloppy communication with mistimed gear changes can result in this.
The route comprised of a fairly good mix of quite roads and cycle paths with the occasional foray onto A roads and busy main streets like our lunch break at Peebles. Mix an organised lunch break with a disorganised community cafe and you end up with some unhappy and grumpy tandemers after a longer break than planned we headed off towards our stop for the evening Musselburgh.
Up until now route marking had been easy to follow and obvious but as we progressed it became harder to follow the route as we changed from C2C to NCN1. We were booked into a Travelodge in a never quite made it retail park and 1 by 1 all the tandems turned up from every point of the compass.
We were collected by taxis for a trip to a nice Italian restaurant where stories of routes and damaged chain rings were exchanged!
Stats Distance 75 miles 35 ft of climbing in 5:51:33 av
One of the items on a cyclists tick list the coast to coast or C2C as it is generally known. It has many variations I was tackling one of the Scottish routes Annan and in our case to Dalgety bay the home of Talking Tandems for whom I was piloting. Talking Tandems is a charity that enables blind or partially sighted individuals to get out on a bike despite thier disability.
There was 5 tandems involved in the ride which was being staged over three days. The group met at Dalgety Bay and after loading bikes and luggage headed down to Annan via Gretna services for lunch. There was a couple of hiccups but the group was assembled ready for the off from Annan Harbour by about 14:30.
This first day we headed to Moffat following the clearly displayed C2C signs along quiet country roads till the final 4 miles when we had to take a busy A road. The group was booked into two hotels and once we had all gathered at The Star keys were given out and we dispersed to our hotels for a wash and change before dinner and convened in The Star for a pleasant evening meal.
Stats for the day Distance 31.4 miles 1282 feet climbed and a bike time of 2:34:49 AV spd 12.2
I had had a fitful nights sleep. The room was small, cramped and full. Even with the window open it was stifling. I rose at 0730 once I heard the breakfast table being set. I had elected to pay for a small continental type breakfast as I knew that after Drumnadrochit there was not much chance to get any food.
The first mile or so was on road I then left the road, near the information board detailing the failed water speed record attempt by John Webb in 1952 and followed forest tracks which began to rise gently then got steeper and steeper till it was time to hike a bike for approx a mile. Behind there were views of the loch and castle but no sign of Nessie!
After reaching the plaque to the Canadian lumberjacks I joined a road which although steep was manageable with the hard core underneath. Although still climbing the slope is not as steep and you soon reach the Abriachan plateau and the routes highest point 1250 feet marked by the standard blue pole.
After a few miles of gentle and sometimes not so gentle descent you come to an area developed by the Abriachan Forest Trust containing a toilet, forest school and a network of paths for runners and cyclists.
Continuing along the way you enter. A woodland with a well constructed although constricted path in the middle of which is the Abriachan Eco Cafe. You can’t miss it!
You now follow a road for a short spell with the first sight of Inverness coming into view. You are now descending get towards the city and although the castle isn’t yet in sight you soon come into contact with the Caledonian Canal once more but only for a short while as you head towards the Ness Islands and the castle.
Stats Distance 19.1 miles 1616 feet of climb in 2h 38 min.
I decided however that my day was not done and headed to the final fort on the GG fault. Fort George is still a working military base. And like Edinburgh Castle a tourist attraction.
I took a slight detour on my return journey and visited the Culloden Battlefield . This is the site of the last battle fought on British soil and was the final battle in Bonnie Prince Charles’s campaign.
Military meander stats:distance 28.4 miles with 922 feet of climb in 2h 30m.
If you have enjoyed reading about my GG trip why not book one with Scottish Bike Touring!!