A couple of weeks ago I finally managed to coax my mates out of semi-retirement to head back up the road and take part in our formerly annual Scottish coast to coast ride. Having done four different routes in the past I had a nice four day route planned out from Oban to Nairn, rather than our usual week long jaunts and thought I'd share it with you chaps by overloading you with mediocre pictures!
Day 1 saw us dipping our fingers in the salty stuff and generally cursing the ridiculous turn in the weather since the end of a lovely March.
A sharp climb out of Oban saw us on the minor road through the hills en route to Taynuilt, with the weather still threatening.
As we neared the end of our road stint, we realised there was a bit more snow on the hills since yesterday.
We crossed the river at Inverawe and started to make our way up Loch Etive, with a fair few undulations to overcome.
And some offroad cat's eyes.
We stopped for lunch with the weather turning in our favour as the vista opened up ahead.
We turned East at Ardmaddy and made our way up Glen Kinglass bathed in sunlight. The good estate track made for easy progress.
We passed the lodge and things immediately began to get a bit more interesting, with stretches of slick rock and the odd river crossing.
Before long we were stopped for lunch 2, after a chat with a couple of nice chaps riding the other way who had had to unpack their bikes in order to navigate the partly ruined footbridge ahead. Unfortunately they hadn't realised there was a new bridge further downstream!
After a wee bit of bog and more Moab style rock riding, we approached the watershed and saw a slight change in weather in our future.
A lack of nearby bridge saw us down to our undies to cross the Allt ghabhar barefoot.
From here it was a dash down through the Clashgour estate to be met by pouring rain for the short road stretch to the bunkhouse on Bridge of Orchy station. A quick change saw us dry and well fed at the hotel bar.
The next morning dawned bright and cold as we set off South along the West Highland Way.
We quickly turned off from the hiker's motorway to climb along the Allt Kinglass towards Loch Lyon, with the track's sinuations forcing us in and out of the water frequently.
With the though of elevenses spurring us on, we got to the top without too much fuss and settled down for a snack near the man-made water channel.
Next up was a straightforward ride along the loch's north shore, plus an obligatory river crossing and lunch.
One last climb got us up above the dam with a gradual downhill along beautiful Glen Lyon to look forward to.
We hit Bridge of Balgie in no time and stocked up on cakes and tea while a heavy hailstorm passed overhead. Good timing and a good idea, as the day was by no means over. Next up was a long climb over the track through the Lairig Ghallabhaich to Loch Rannoch. Brian was beginning to suffer at this point, but soldiered on to enjoy the fast downhill through the forest to the loch.
Turns out one of our forum dwellers has a personal parking space here.
We filled Brian up with lunch 3 at Kinloch Rannoch and then spent the rest of the evening bullying him along the road all the way to Blair Atholl via the B road through Glen Errochty. As always he cheered up after food and a pint or two!
Next morning, it was decided to alter the route to try to give Brian some respite and also due to the likelihood of severe weather up high. Rather than going over the Minigaig as planned, we headed along the A9 cycle route to Dalnacardoch, aiming to take the Gaick Pass instead.
The nice easy climb through the trees soon had us out on the moors.
Where obviously we had to stop and eat.
With the weather threatening to do bad things to us, we scooted along to the abandoned Sronphadruig Lodge. The river's erosion is having a big effect, with lots of changes and bits of missing track since the last time I passed this way.
A quick carry up to the watershed had us squelching and bashing our way along the side of Loch an Duin, occasionally being battered by hail.
Crossing the burn at the far end was no problem and we got out into more open terrain at Loch Bhrodainn.
Yet another lunch, then we quickly passed Gaick Lodge and were at the end of Loch an t-Seilich before the weather decided to try and do us in, resulting in a pit stop under the trees.
Luckily it didn't last long and we reached the weir and some tarmac which would see us through the first part of pleasant Glen Tromie.
This gave way to gravel and eventually deposited us on the bike route which would take us all the way from Glen Tromie to Aviemore. Brian gamely dragged his sorry hide the whole way, but was really suffering again. Reluctantly we agreed to leave him behind the next day and pick him up in my car, which was waiting our finish in Nairn.
Next morning, the weather looked worse than ever with alternate heavy rain and hail, but the two of us dragged ourselves out of bed and left Aviemore on the Speyside way, heading for Boat of Garten.
The original plan had been to take tracks through the hills to the North of Carrbridge all the way to Cawdor, but we opted to do the rest of the day on road in order to minimise the time without our fallen comrade. This meant a straightforward ride over a B road, followed by minor roads and national bike route down to Nairn.
First sight of the North sea.
The finish line at Nairn beach.
On-ones in need of some chain lube.
Afterwards it was simply a case of packing the bikes into the car and picking up Brian, who was about 6 Guinness down for the afternoon and had come to the conclusion that a couple of laps round Cannock may not have been adequate preparation this time round!