Our expectation for the day was set. 65 miles with a long uphill stint following the A9 through the Pass of Drumochter didn’t sound like the easiest of days. It came as a pleasant surprise that we managed to cover almost 50 miles with almost half of the day remaining!
The day started with the sun promising to pay us a visit. Looking at the route for today there appeared to be a long stretch of riding with little chance of purchasing food. So after a quick stop at the shop in Aviemore to stock up on sandwiches and pasta and we were away.
The ride out of Aviemore followed NCN route 7 to Kingussie and Newtownmore taking us through rolling countryside with a magnificent backdrop of the Scottish Highlands. A stop in Newtownmore for a warm drink and slice of fruitcake then had us diverting away from NCN 7 to follow the River Spey towards Cluny Castle and Laggan. For a main A-road, the A86 is a little on the narrow and quiet side.
Eventually we said goodbye to the Spey and joined the A889 for the climb out of the valley and onto the ‘tops where we were introduced to that which most cyclists hate, a vicious head wind. There was absolutely nowhere to hide from the wind and it certainly made the next couple of miles pretty tough. Fortunately after a while a feint smell of fermenting grain wafted across our noses signalling that we were not too far from the Dalwhinnie Distillery. Rather than join the hordes of tourists taking the distillery tour (I prefer to drink the whiskey rather than to see how it’s made), we cycled into the village of Dalwhinnie for a warm drink and some cake.
Leaving Dalwhinnie we rejoined NCN 7. At this point the cycle route joins the path of the A9 to weave it’s way to the top of the Pass of Drumochter. As with many NCN routes, the condition of the path varied from excellent to appalling. Indeed, the extremes of weather in this area had really damaged the surface of the path in places. I certainly wouldn’t like to ride the length of this path on a lightweight road bike with skinny tyres. Given that this path is one of the major LEJOG routes, I’d have expected it to have been better maintained.
The scenery surrounding the pass was stunning though it was a shame that there can be lots of noise from the main A9 just metres away. The climb to the summit was straightforward. There were no steep gradients to contend with and before we knew it, we had reached the highest point on the path. After a few photos we started the ride down into Calvine. The shallow gradient on the descent meant that we had a very long exertion free ride. Apart from concentrating on where the path went, there was little to do than soak in the stunning views. After 50 miles we forced ourselves to stop and eat the lunch we’d bought earlier in the morning. I think we stopped for no more than 15 minutes but in that time we’d both been savaged by the dreaded Scottish midges. Apparently the midge forecast this year was good – all I can report is that they were irritating little buggers.
The ride continued down the cycle path until we hit Calvine where we rejoined the minor roads. By now the sun had come out and we were treated to a lovely, though sometimes testing, undulating ride to Blair Atoll and on to Pitlochry.
Both Madeline and I agreed that we’ll likely never cycle such an easy and beautiful 65 miles again.
Planned distance: 65 miles
Actual distance: 65.5 miles
Ascent: 2264 ft
Flickr: 2010 Cycle Tour Photo Set