It would appear that summer has finally arrived, giving me the first weekend in ages where I haven’t bothered carrying, let alone wearing, waterproofs. This was followed by a fantastic day on Monday, which enticed me into cycling over the Duke’s Pass, round Loch Katrine and back to Aberfoyle along the south side of Loch Chon and Loch Ard.
Saturday and Sunday were a fairly relaxed affair, as I was out acting as assessor for four Bronze DofE groups from the High School of Glasgow. With the groups all using different routes through Achray forest and two different starting points in Kilmahog and Aberfoyle, I had a bit of driving to do to get round and introduce myself in the morning, before retreating to the depths of the forest to let them get on with enjoying their trek in the beautiful sunshine. Whether by happy accident or cunning design, the routes all converged on one particular crossroad in the forest roads at about the halfway stage, which gave me a good spot to meet up with each group to see how they were getting on. I caught up with the groups for a second time as they arrived at their campsites, taking the opportunity to see them set up their tents and get started on their evening meals, before heading off and leaving them to chill out for the night.
The next morning, I arrived just after the groups moved off, and had a look round what turned out to be an impressively tidy campsite before catching up with each group on their travels for another quick chat. A couple of the groups got an unintended bonus meeting with their assessor when I took the dogs for a walk down at the David Marshall Lodge and bumped into them as they made their way down to Aberfoyle! With their treks complete, we rendezvoused round at Braeval for a debrief, where I was happy to confirm each group’s success in meeting the DofE’s ’20 Conditions’ for their expedition. A very enjoyable weekend spent working with four very pleasant and positive groups of young people.
Monday’s adventure started off as a quick trip out to Aberfoyle for a couple of hours easy cycling round the trails, before an afternoon spent working on some admin back at the house. Somewhere in the mix of bacon and egg roll, dusty tracks and bright sunshine, I arrived at the top of the Duke’s Pass and decided that I fancied staying out a bit longer and, after looking at the map, hatched a plan to cycle along the side of Loch Katrine to Stronlachar, then back to Aberfoyle via the forest tracks south of Loch Chon and Loch Ard. The only potential snag was that because I hadn’t packed for an extended trip, I had no food with me, just a litre of water, and a £5 note “just in case”. I was also on a mountain bike shod with 2.35″ tyres with what the manufacturers term a ‘super tacky’ rubber compound, designed to maximise grip in loose wet conditions, but consequently giving horrendous tyre drag on anything remotely like a road!
The route along Loch Katrine is a pleasant ride on a fairly flat road, once you’ve negotiated your way past the rolling slaloms formed by multiple groups of pensioners who seemed largely unaware they were walking 4 or 5 abreast on a road. Interestingly, multiple road signs along the route place the onus on cyclists to get out of the way of both pedestrians and cars…
After Stronlachar, the route switches from tarmac onto forest tracks and roads, including a new section of track which leads to a viewpoint overlooking Loch Arklet, before offering a short, but sweet, little smooth single track descent down through a section of mature pine forest to a road crossing at the west end of Loch Chon. By now I was starting to feel like a man who hadn’t eaten anything for a long time and, as I approached the track down to Kinlochard, weighed up the pros and cons of carrying on the last 8km back to Aberfoyle, or diverting downhill to sample the delights of the Wee Blether Tearoom.
Spotting the entrance to the cheeky little rooty path that drops behind the houses down to Kinlochard finally sealed the deal in favour of the Wee Blether; after all, who can resist single track and a scone? After a quick refuelling stop, I cycled back up the hill and along to the lovely Lochain a Ghleannain before dropping down to Milton and the final short road section back to Aberfoyle and the car. All in, I’d covered just over 62km, with around 1600 metres of climbing, which is the biggest day out on the bike I’ve had for a while, and excellent prep for a couple of upcoming big hillwalking trips to the Five Sisters of Kintail and the South Glenshiel Ridge.