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Published: April 13th 2007
A lunch stop at the top.
A birthday treat to escape the muck of Leeds and go north to the fair hills of Perthshire! We were staying in Balnaguard, which is a long way from main bus routes, but on National Bike Route 7, so we took the bikes on the train. Not too difficult to book ahead (the staff at Leeds railway station's advance booking hall know their stuff) but I did end up with 35 tickets for us both for all the reservations - partly because of a freebie en route.
The journey up the East Coast Main Line was gloomy, as fairly dank air was still parked over England. But after Edinburgh things perked up as we rolled through the Fife countryside and charged into the Highlands north of Perth. We got off at Pitlochry, accompanied only by the annoying noisy brats that had entertained the carriage for the last two hours.
After a quick pick up of stamps and a bus timetable at the Tourist Information Centre (which we didn’t end up using because the bikes are so handy) we took National Bike Route 7 south to the Tay Valley and Balnaguard, a wonderfully quite
hamlet set above the Tay floodplain. Surrounded by arable fields, the landscape changes rapidly to woodland, pasture and open heather moor. But once along the Tay, Route 7 is relatively easy, no stiff gradients on quiet lanes. We spent the restof the afternoon chatting to our hosts, eating and putting the Sekt - bought on the Rhine valley trip
to good use.
Day 2 was our big day out - along the Tay past Strathtay, Weem and Keltneyburn before the pass over to the Tummel valley. It had been a frosty morning, so it felt nippy for the first few miles. The climb out of the Tay valley warmed us up and we had lunch by a limekiln close to the summit. Limestone is in short supply hereabouts, with most of the land underlain by acidic granite or metamorphic rock, so in days gone by, the limestone from this outcrop was burnt to create lime and used on farmland in the surrounding area.
There were fine views all the way, over to snow capped Ben Lawers and Schiehallion before a rapid descent to Loch Tummel. We took the narrow lane along its southern shore, and as the sun was out,
Old Railway, Balnaguard
view to Farragon Hill (783m) in the Tay valley.
nearly every spare patch of lakeside grass was utilised as a car park by visitors. We sped past, and stopped where they couldn’t - to snatch a picture. The eastern end of the Tummel valley, where it descends down to Pitlochry was tougher, a series of little hills before a sweeping descent down to the river. At which point we cut a corner, and found a back route up to Moulin which is a outlying village above Pitlochry. The best reason to go to Moulin is for a pint of Moulin ale, and the food and Braveheart Ale went down very well. The air, warm in the sunshine, was pretty chilly in the shade and I felt pretty cold after we had sat down for food. The descent back down and ride back with a breeze made me regret not taking a waterproof to keep the wind out.
Day 3 was a walk in the hills, up to Craig Lochie, a hill lying to the south of Balnaguard. At 520m, it’s nowt much, at least on the way up. True to its recommendation, the views are fabulous from the top - south to the hills of Fife, the Southern
Beware of Squirrels!
...which might drop on your head without warning.
Highlands, across to Ben Lawers, Schiehallion and the eastern Grampians. However, the view west was hampered by the smoke and haze created by moorland fires, the burning of the heater. It made me think there was a few tons of Carbon and particulates being released that day! We’d had a bit of heather yomping for the last bit up, and we had much more for our way back, and it was up and down too along the uneven ridge. So progress was much more slow, but we had all day, no bus to catch at the bottom!
We got back an after a rest we decided to pedal out to try the food on offer at Ballinluig. Ballinluig, which sits by the ‘orrible A9 (highway is a good description of this road) really has not got much charm about it. We parked at a car park behind a pub - the first time we saw broken glass since leaving Leeds. The pub looked pretty desultory and didn’t offer food that evening. So to next door, the grill. The place was full of A9ers, long distance motorists, and we instantly felt ill at ease at the place. There was an
view from near Aberfeldy
air of depression, the sun was shut out and a hurried unhappy atmosphere.
After fifteen minutes of not getting served, we made a rapid exit and jumped back on the bikes happy to get the hell out. We took the main road up the Tay and coasted up to Grandtully where the pub there was much more welcoming. So an extra 10 miles for food, but it was worth it.
The next day was our last half day, so we cycled up to Aberfeldy for a stroll up the Birks of Aberfeldy, a narrow gorge wooded gorge, which does indeed include birks - birch trees. There were more fine views from the top, and we had a fine cocoa at the café below in Abereldy before making our way back. We picked up our stuff at Balnaguard before returning to Pitlochry.
We made a stop over in Edinburgh, and called in at the Half Way Inn, close to Waverely Station for some fine Scottish and Tyneside ale. We had three hours to absorb the alcohol! Once again our bikes reached 125 mph, (courtesy of 7000 electric horsepower) and after a change in York we reached Leeds after
1 am, for a traffic free trundle back home.
Tot: 0.661s; Tpl: 0.049s; cc: 21; qc: 145; dbt: 0.0694s; 1; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.7mb