Our annual trip to mark the end of BST. It is renowned for being rather damp - no, not because anyone falls in - its the loch full of water that falls from the sky that's the problem. True to form the forecast was bad but when our leader had to withdraw from the trip at the last minute, immediatly the weather promised us a sunny morning!
We arrived at Aberfoyle and piled into the cafe for morning coffee. Four set off up the pass by road while the rest went by forest tracks. A further two joined us at the top of the hill for the ride down at speed. We all met up again at the Loch Katrine cafe. Here I discovered that the off-roaders had aquired an entirely new person!
We set off at our own pace around the loch pausing to admire the colours and views. At the end of the loch some of us were subjected to a short but very sharp shower. The group included the newly appointed co-ordinator - I think that was significant! Amazingly at Stronachlachar we found the tea room OPEN! Undeterred, we sat outside in the rain and drank our flasks of tea.
There was a clamour to stop at The Wee Blether at Kinlochard anyway so we shot off at a great pace and arrived as the propiretor was attempting to start closing. Most of us piled in and sat down to huge chunks of cake, which we neither needed nor deserved, but enjoyed nonetheless. Some overshot and ended up in Aberfoyle - in a cafe.
This ride is only 32 miles by road and 38 with the off-road section, but with that many stops you really cannot go much further!
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One sunny weekend in September 2010, Graham, Ross, Penny and I set out to cycle the Nat cycle route from Carlisle to Once Brewed.
We easily negotiated the cycle path out of Carlisle and not long after ate lunch at the Jacobites in Brampton ( a comfortable warm cafe with good simple food)
Stopped at Birdoswald to admire the remains of the Roman fort and for free whisky and jam tasting. A real find was the Slackhouse farm at Gilsland where you can watch cheese being made ( if you turn up at the right time and if not then there are always the scrumptious cakes). The remainder of the ride was beautiful but hilly and it was a glorious autumnal evening. We stayed at the Once Brewed hostel and ate at the Twice Brewed pub ( again great food and value for money). It was well worth the extra we had paid for the triple and twin rooms. The dormitory rooms were in serious need of an upgrade, as were the showers. An elastoplast mysteriously managed to find its way on to my foot and I can only deduce that it came from the rather murky shower( flip flops highly recommended).
On Sunday Graham mounted a minor mutiny. He decided against a reversal of the hilly route of the previous evening and opted for the straight roman road back. He tried to lure the others but was unsuccessful. The rest of us had a lovely morning ride back down the hills. Unfortunately turned up at Vindolanda fort before it opened! ( and not enough time to hang around until it did open) Morning coffee was at Greendykehead and then afternoon pub stop (toasties only available) at the cosy Black Lion Inn at Hethersgill. We then followed a route North West of Carlisle back in to the city to get the train back to Edinburgh.
All in all a lovely trip with gorgeous scenery and quiet roads. A suggestion for a future trip would be to stay at Greendykehead hostel and then do day trips which would enable to forts to be visited in the middle of the day and provide some wet weather options.
Jan UrquhartPhotos: Graham!
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Six of us took part in this. Four took train to Ardrossan, two drove to Wemyss Bay, left the car there and rode down to catch the same 12.30 ferry to Brodick.
Except that one of the train party - ahem! - succeeded in missing the ferry, by racing off to Asda to get some cheap (but turned out very good!) wine and got back to find the gates closed and entry barred, leaving him to wave forlornly to the others as the boat pulled out, and giving him nearly 3 hours to ruminate on his folly. Yes, this was our leader, Peter!
Just to show that not all in Mellow Velo are 'mellow' enough to have sense, and that our trips have the odd excitement - and will he ever live it down? Certainly there were spiked comments at the gates of all the subsequent ferries...
Lochranza hostel has been completely re-furbished and is scarce recognisable for those who knew it before - 4-bed en-suite dorms, new kitchen, new common room and dining area. For communal meal we had starters of home-made oatcakes with dip, cherry tomatoes and local Arran cheese, main course of pasta, and dessert of strawberries and cream and pain au raisin.
And 5 of us drank our way through 3 bottles of wine so it's a good thing our dining area was small and sound-proof otherwise we could have been thrown out for rowdy behaviour! Even the party of girl guides were outdone! Changed days from when alcohol not allowed in hostels, eh?
Sunday turned out a fine day if a little breezy. We all caught the 9.30 ferry to Claonaig, first of the day, and the wind blew us over the hill to Tarbert and we just missed the 11.15 ferry and had an hour for a leisurely coffee until the next.
Progress from Portavadie was equally leisurely and somehow the 4 miles to Tighnabruich took us nearly an hour. Choices for lunch were somewhat disappointing, so 3 of the party went along to the Hotel. When the other 3 of us were ready to set off, the hotel lot had only just ordered, so we agreed to meet up later. By this time it was well after 2pm and the chances of getting the 3.30 ferry (necessary to make the best of later connections) looked a bit unlikely.
At 3.30 we were only at Glendaruel and chances of getting the 4pm looked slim... Well we made it to the 4.30, as did the hotel party - the latter with 30 secs to spare - so Peter's not the only one to cut things fine!
Never mind, we thought, the 5.30 ferry from Rothesay connects with the same train as the 6.15 - we thought! So there was time for a last cupper etc in a Rothesay cafe, where the food turned out much better than the temper of the woman who served it.
The final irony hit us on arrival at Wemyss Bay, where the connection time, ferry to train, is 5 mins. The boat was 5 mins late - and yes you've guessed it, the train didn't wait, leaving us, and many other passengers, to wait a whole hour for the next. It's a conspiracy between the train drivers and the fish and chip shop, I swear!
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Our all female ensemble set off from Bridge of Allan taking a picturesque back road to Doune. There we had a quick look at the castle followed by filter coffee at the Woodside Hotel and a scenic detour via historic Deanston and its distillery (formerly a cotton mill).
We then headed for the Lake of Menteith hoping to get a trip to the island and priory but it was not to be. With winds over 28mph the ferry woman told us she was having difficulty in getting folk on and off the island so we abandoned that plan and after a picnic headed for Aberfoyle and more coffee. We watched some performing ducks and then headed up Duke’s pass for the first big climb of the tour. Our descent took us through the forest (NCN7) to the south shores of Loch Venachar and Callander.
We then passed a pleasant evening in Callander with good food, wine, company and excellent value B&B.
On Sunday we woke up to pouring rain but nevertheless headed off as planned. We took the main road to Thornhill then followed a little detour and my “short sharp” hill going into Kippen turned out to be not so short. It was worth it as we stumbled across a local café and had our first coffee stop of the day. From Kippen we headed south west but unfortunately the great view North was completely obliterated by rain cloud.
At Fintry we bypassed a number of hostelries and headed on in brightening skies towards the Carron Reservoir where we saw several fishing boats. Another treat awaited us as we caught sight of 2 ospreys taking off from the island. We had a picnic before heading off for our next stop at the Carronbridge Hotel (formerly a coaching drovers inn). After five cappuccinos/lattes in front of a roaring fire we didn’t feel like moving again!
We turned left to take a look at Colzium House and beautiful walled garden before heading for the last stretch along the Forth and Clyde canal to Falkirk with tail wind. The final treat came when the guard lifted our panniers up the steps at Haymarket! Guys – you missed a great weekend.
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Seven of us, two MV founders, Graham and Duncan plus 5 MV virgins, Livia, Andrew, Logan, Cathie and myself went to Cairngorm Lodge YH for a weekend when the all too accurate weather forecast was less than wonderful. Those who arrived in time enjoyed the hostel fish and chips with the added entertainment of resident red squirrels on the bird feeders – they seemed to appear on cue for every mealtime, unlike the kitchen microwave which was there on arrival but disappeared for Saturday breakfast, never to be seen again.
Cycling on the Saturday was thoroughly enjoyable with wonderful quiet roads and superb views in mainly brilliant sunshine with a couple of short heavy showers and an accompanying variable wind which we were mostly shielded from by being in the forest. The 28 miles circuit at an easy average of 8.7 mph moving with a total ascent of 1450 feet to a maximum height of 1365 feet was down the ski road to Coylumbridge round by Loch Garten with a halt to view the Osprey chicks then on through Abernethy Forest to Nethy Bridge for lunch before climbing to Ryvoan Bothy and descending via Locham Ulaine then back to Glenmore Lodge to discover we had arrived too early for opening time and a beer. Saturday dinner was a group prepared meal with everyone providing their own drink. The only mechanical was a bulging tyre sidewall discovered before setting off which was dealt with by a toothpaste tube liner which survived the route. The track is fairly rough in places but even with most bikes being hybrid or non suspension MTBs no-one pushed more than a couple of short sections.
Unfortunately the weather on Sunday morning was as atrocious as forecast with an RAF rescue helicopter having to put down at Glenmore Lodge late afternoon as it was too windy to fly and four of the group abandoned for home. The weather cleared quite soon to better than expected and Logan who had a late train booking stayed around and enjoyed some cycling in light showers plus a trip on the Strathspey steam railway and a visit to the superb Mountain Café in Aviemore (thanks for the cake and coffee). Cathie and I were staying till Monday and enjoyed a pleasant 25 miles of almost entirely off road cycling in Rothiemurchus forest whilst managing to dodge indoors for most of the showers to visit Lochan Eilein, a pottery and the wonderful Inshriach Alpine nursery and coffee shop with birds, red squirrel and red deer to watch.
Link to Google maps of Saturday route is HERE
Thank you to those who turned out to make it a very enjoyable and entertaining weekend, I fully intend to do this again next year as urged by Graham and look forward to seeing some of you there!
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Our departure from Peebles was a little unenthusiastic due to drizzling rain and none too warm temperatures. Our first unscheduled stop came about a mile later, as we donned waterproof trousers. Pausing at Traquair we debated whether to go home, but someone said the forecast was to brighten later on.
As we headed up the Paddy Slacks, the rain did stop which was encouraging but started again as we continued on towards St Mary’s Loch. So the welcome warmth of the Glen Cafe greeted us like a big hug. Inside, we dried out, warmed up and filled our bellies as only cyclists can. Then our faith in the weather forecasters paid off as the sun appeared.
Our afternoon ride continued in warm sunshine as we climbed up to the top of the Meggat Dam. Soon after, the tough section started as we left the ease of the tarmac and made our way up the drove road. The story goes that this route was used to bring vehicles over from the Manor Valley for the construction of the Meggat Dam. Now it’s a hard push for a bike – a few stretches can be pedalled but mostly it’s on two feet, with a very uneven gravelly or rocky surface and some steep gradients.
At the watershed, we modelled the latest in waterproof footwear (courtesy of Tesco and Sainsbury – see photo), not very fetching but we made it through the bog with dry feet. After even more pushing uphill, and some exhilarating or nerve wracking descents (depending on your attitude) we made it safely into the Manor Valley and back to tarmac. It may be only four miles as the crow flies, from tarmac to tarmac but we weren’t flying so it felt like an awful lot longer!
At the top of the Manor Valley we met two other cycling pals who ridden out from Peebles to meet us. The return home was blissfully smooth and we ended what felt like an epic ride with tea and chocolate cake in the leaders’ sunny back garden.
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We met at Stirling station café. Simon arrived by car, slightly frazzled by Scotrail’s finest refusing to allow his bike on to the train. We decided to change to a circular route to allow Simon to return to his car.
The weather was glorious - sunny, warm, and windless. After a day cycling along quiet roads past Doune, we enjoyed fine views of the Trossachs as we approached Callander. We bypassed that town (N.B. second coffee shop skipped - this was a serious bike ride) and stopped at the Wheels hostel to allow Simon to visit the cycle shop there. I was persuaded to try one of their new electric bikes. Simon took a photograph of me on it and is threatening to blackmail me.
After following the route along the south side of Loch Venachar, we stopped for a pleasant lunch in Brig o’ Turk before heading up Glen Finglas enjoying the Loch, hills and trees and reaching the furthest extent of our tour.
Enough fortitude had been displayed in the early part of the ride so we resolved to let no good coffee shop go by. True to our resolution we stopped for coffee and cakes at loch side restaurant enjoying the evening sun sparkling on the water and the hills deep in shadow.
Displaying great strength of character we next stopped at very serious ice cream shop in Callander before going over to Thornhill and enjoying the views from the hill above it. I checked the times of the trains and Simon and I decided to form a peloton to make sure that Anna caught her train. Lance Armstrong would have proud of us, a fast finish to a very good ride.Neil
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A select group!? of 4 (Tiana, John, Ross and myself) met at Brodick in clear weather, and after food shopping tackled the String Road, up and over to Blackwaterfoot. Arran looked as beautiful as ever with views of Goatfell and the mountains to the north.
Ross led us to the Blackwaterfoot Golf Club, with outside dining terrace, and views of the sea and beyond to the south; and an excellent crayfish sandwich etc!
We then headed north towards Machrie, and a detour walk to the impressive Machrie Stone Circle, (although I confess I hung around the Machrie Tearoom and read my paper this time instead!!!)
We continued north to Lochranza and the newly refurbished Hostel, which is looking really good now – although the new kitchen was rather busy and short of space, as 2 other groups were cooking – one lot a full roast dinner!!
We saw some of the Lochranza red deer reclining at the back of the hostel in the morning!
On Sunday we set off anti-clockwise hoping to circumvent the island back to Brodick; but after battling a horrendous head wind and rain as far as Machrie, we discussed our options over a hot cuppa, and made a mutual decision to head for Brodick over the String!
We reached the junction before Brodick to discover we were too late to enter the Arran 10km run! – but a friendly race marshal directed us to the nice wee café at the Arran Heritage Museum where we had a delicious “Soup’n’Sandwich Surprise”!!
We caught an earlier ferry to Ardrossan, and I waved Goodbye at Kilwinning as I headed to Troon for the Irish ferry that evening!! The others stayed on the train all the way to Glasgow (and Edinburgh!)
Better luck with the weather next time!!
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I had sent out some background information and two routes so everyone could ‘mix and match’ from chambered cairns to cheesecake at Ettrick Bay, from castles and chapels to soup and scones at Kingarth Hotel.
On Saturday, everyone headed towards Kilmichael – some crossing the muddy farmyard to find St Michael’s Grave. Later, most people travelled south to Straad, taking the coastal path, and some walked out to St Ninians Chapel. All day we had excellent views of Arran, the Kyles of Bute and Inchmarnock. (Total: 20 miles approx.)
We stayed at Bute Backpackers, a pleasant building half a mile west along the promenade from the pier. Our communal meal was a great success everyone exchanging stories of the delights and discoveries of the day.
On Sunday, we visited Rothesay castle and/or took the coast road east to Kerrycroy Bay and the magnificent Mount Stuart House (open from May). Good views of the Cumbraes to the east. After taking the glorious unclassified road to Kingarth, we climbed to Dunagoil to visit the Celtic monastery of St Blane where there’s also a 12 th century chapel. We returned to Bute either along the Great Highland Fault past Loch Fad or by cycling further west. Some people visited Scalpsie Bay en route seeing seals on the rocks. (Total: 25 miles approx.)
Quiet roads, sunshine and blue skies, mountain and sea views, excellent camaraderie and lots of history combined to give us a memorable weekend.Barbara
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Well, we got our ride in, in the nick of time; between two weathers one might say. The cold but calm and bright winter had finished a week or so before and now it was building up to a fierce spring storm. Ten of us met at the Burgh café already remarking that the early hour seemed very cold! We set off down the Esk cycle path and onto the Pencaitland one where we waited briefly for number 11, who had taken the train to Wallyford, to catch us up. She’d cycled up the hill near Falside Castle which put us to shame somewhat. The two paths are still in reasonably good nick since the major repairs of a couple of years ago. Small subsidence holes are appearing though...
We arrived at the Goblin Ha’ bang on 1 o’clock where a warm welcome awaited us. After enjoying the food and the conversation we left as the rain came on. Four folk decided to go back the way we came while the rest opted for a more sheltered route than originally planned, going through the Colstoun estate to Haddington then the railway path to Longniddry and the coast road/NCN76 back into Musselburgh where we tumbled into Lucas for shelter (and coffee). No one had ice cream!
Five cycled back to Edinburgh thereby completing 50 miles! An excellent start to the Mellow Velo tour D’Alba 2010. Next stage is in Bute on April 10th!
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