Updated: Oct 10
After a few weeks 'back at base' in Glasgow, we are again out on the road. Also, with an initial destination in mind, we turned left out of the driveway and headed toward Perth. After that, we went to Dunkeld for a coffee break before driving to our destination: the Lodge at Dalwhinnie. Unfortunately, the Lodge appears to be no more as it has changed names and seems to be undergoing a renovation. This turn of events meant a change of plan, so we headed south again to Pitlochry, some 35 minutes away, only to find the overnight car park 'rammed' with motor homes! And so we set off for Dunkeld again, another 20 minutes further south, having wasted almost two hours! Then, to top off what was rapidly becoming a disaster, we discovered that the usual car park no longer allows cooking or sleeping overnight! However, we were delighted to find that the second car park at the other end of the town still permits these activities, so Dunkeld it was for the first night of this trip.
The next day, the September Weekend Saturday, proved to be a busy one, and the car park was full by the time we awoke as hordes of day trippers had chosen to visit Dunkeld as well! So, after our usual 'cup o' Java', we readied the bikes for an 18-mile cycle around the surrounding area and set off at around midday. Our route took us through the village of Waterloo, where Nadia gave us a rendition of the ABBA song before we continued to Bankfoot, circled back, and headed on to Dunkeld for our second night. However, Lady Luck was to desert us again when five miles from Dunkeld, I suffered a rear wheel puncture. What had been a 15-minute journey suddenly became a one-and-a-half-hour one as we faced the prospect of having to push our bikes back to base! We sure did enjoy our first pint once we finally made it back to Dunkeld, almost two hours later than planned!
We were serenaded into Sunday morning by an extremely vocal owl in the trees around the van, which was a first, and rather soothing too!
Fortunately, there is a bike hire and repair shop in the town, but unfortunately, they were fully booked out on Sunday; our luck was deserting us for a third time in two days! So we phoned around and were able to find a bike shop to get the damage repaired, so we set off on a one hour and forty-minute journey to Ballater in Aberdeenshire. On our arrival in the highland village, we encountered the Square alive with activity as there was a fete in full swing, which was a joy to behold but impeded our journey to the bike repair shop, a minor gripe given some tribulations that had befallen us so far on this trip. And so, a couple of hours, lunch and £14.95 later, we were back on the road with eight good tyres between Iona and the bikes!
Our next overnight stop was in the hills above Ballater in Glen Muick near Loch Muick and Lochnagar, adjacent to a field with friendly 'heilan coos'!
The next day saw us heading northwest from Ballater to Boat of Garten, about an hour and ten minutes away. However, we encountered another 'hiccup' as the shortest route was closed due to road works, but we only discovered this when we reached the closed section after about a forty-five-minute drive. So we headed back to Ballater to take the diversion route, which was a one-hour and forty-five minutes trip which meant it took us about three hours and fifteen minutes rather than an hour and ten! Fortunately, the Boat Country Inn, our destination for the next two days, was a charming establishment that perfectly catered for our needs. (Unfortunately, however, we found that the establishment, like the other three companies in the 'chain', is contactless payment only, thus discriminating against those of us who prefer to use the traditional payment method. So, despite having had a wonderful time, we will not be back!
On leaving Boat of Garten, we visited the nearby Osprey Centre, where we had a stimulating hour-and-a-half walk through the adjacent woodland before heading west to Aviemore and the High Range Camping site for our next two nights' stopover. Later in the day, we set off on a 16-mile round trip on our bikes that took us back to Boat of Garten before circuiting back to Aviemore. Then on Thursday, we enjoyed a two-hour steam train journey from Aviemore to Broomhill and back, passing through Boat of Garten Station twice, another theme of this trip!
After Aviemore, we had a two-night stay in the Ravenscourt House in Granton-on-Spey, where we enjoyed a relaxing stopover presided over by our extremely competent and attentive hosts, Nick and Chris. We would never have guessed that our visit fell within their first month as new proprietors, and we highly recommend a night or two in their establishment. Whilst in town, we enjoyed two excellent meals in local restaurants on the high street, the No 7 Bistro and the Po Pia Thai restaurant. Both are well worth a visit. We also enjoyed a 25-mile cycle to the Osprey Centre (near Boat of Garten, again!) and back to Granton.
Our penultimate choice was an old favourite, the Woodland Campsite in Cannich, Glen Afric, where we booked in for two peaceful nights and were visited each day by a charming Robin Red Breast who didn't wait to be invited into Iona to inspect for crumbs in the carpet! We also had a surprisingly good meal in the Slaters Arms pub/restaurant (surprising as it was their last night serving food out with weekends for the winter months ahead), and we also stretched our legs on a walk up to the Tomich turn-off and back down to Cannich. This spot really is a peaceful haven in an excellent area for walking, rambling, cycling, hiking etc.
As our trip was rapidly drawing to a close, we headed back towards home to eat up a few miles before stopping for a night at the Fort William Premier Inn for some final TLC! Then on our last day, we had a leisurely jaunt south via the ever-majestic Glen Coe and Loch Lomond Side before joining the city traffic in Dumbarton.....
Please stop by again soon when we are sure to recount our next trip.