This is the third of four posts describing our Highland cycling tour in Scotland a few years ago. If you have not already done so, you can read the first and second posts before continuing with this section.
Day 2 of our Highland ride promised to be quite a challenge as we had to climb over a range of quite steep hills to get into the valley to our north. Unbeknown to me, it would also go down as one of my most memorable and most enjoyable cycling days of the whole UK tour. The rainy weather which we had encountered the previous day seemed to have cleared a bit, but unfortunately, more was predicted.
The first part of trip was easy, as we were going with the wind and the weather was quite unexpectedly pleasant. We were riding along the northern shore of Loch Tay going back the way we had travelled the day before – but on the opposite shore.
We had to make a few stops to check out KJ’s brakes which were misbehaving and making the most annoying noises (it took us a few days to work out what was actually wrong with them and get it repaired).
At the most easterly end of Loch Tay, we had to make a decision (based on how the weather looked) about whether to go directly back to Pitlochry or to tackle the climb over to Kinloch Rannoch. Finally, we decided to bite the bullet and take on the weather; turning the bikes to the south – up and over the range.
The weather seemed to sulk at our decision, it got gradually worse as the day went on, then as we climbed higher, seemed threw everything at us! It poured rain and then blew hard. Then it did both together and even sent down a shower of hail (which was fortunately only small hailstones!). The slopes were quite steep in places, with the longest, steepest section taking us up 300m to the top of the range. At the summit of the climb, the sun came out and the wind stopped blowing for a short while. We were in the heathland at this stage and it was rather surreal – like being on top of the world!
There were sheep grazing everywhere, quite unperturbed by us or the weather! Stone walls once separated the large grazing areas, but there are now no fences along the roads and gaps in the stone fences everywhere, so they obviously have fallen into disuse. But the most incredible thing was that the stone fences went right to the tops of very steep hills, some must have been built on almost vertical slopes. The people who built those fences must have been very tough!
Unfortunately, there were few opportunities to get photos, it was just not good weather for cameras.
Many times it was necessary to pedal hard going downhill, because the wind was so strong coming the other way! Every now and again, we got out of the wind and rain, and the sun came out as if to encourage us along! But the effort was worth it – the ride was curiously exhilarating rather than exhausting (probably because there were so many extreme changes in the weather that we did not get worn down by any one feature on its own!).
There was not much traffic on the narrow road – we came across a few hardy hikers setting out from their cars at one stage – they must have wondered at our sanity! But the lack of traffic added to the atmosphere – we felt as if we had the whole place to ourselves.
I did not get as wet as the day before when I had been wearing relatively light rain gear. This time I dug out my serious raincoat, and this kept me quite dry. My feet eventually got wet, but it took a long time, and I did not have to deal with the squelchy wet feet like the day before. I think this is why I got a lot more out of the ride. We also had shower caps over our helmets, which kept the cold out, and kept our heads dry.
I really enjoyed the day, and it will go down as a high achievement for me, because I was not sure how I was going to find the steep climbs. But I surprised myself by how easily it went, despite the elements!
The next stage of the Highlands Tour saw us return to Pitlochry via Blair Atholl Castle.
(Follow this link for details on the overall UK tour route).