Day 10 | 3rd July

Day 10

Having had a great snooze I get up, get well fed and get sent off on my way, packed with venison and garden greens sandwiches. For a while I judder along a gravel track, through Glen and Sawmill Wood, zoom past Pitmedden Forrest and headed for Perth.

Perth

erm.. Perth. nothing else to add

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So I’m in a good mood and it’s time to explore some more of the National Cycle Network. I find the signs for route 77, which runs from Dundee to Pitlochry via Perth, and head north. For a while I cycle along river Tay, but quite soon the signs take me away to to an old road, through various forests on top of the hills west of A9, and eventually into Birnam Forrest, Birnam itself and Dunkeld. Like a well behaved cyclist, I keep following the signs that eventually point me through and beyond these gates:

Dunkeld

An alternative route to Pitlochry

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I made my way through the gates. follow river Tay further north and very soon found myself on another great country road, stretching all the way to where River Tummel joins the stream.

On the way to Pitlochry

Going past Kingcragie on the way to Pitlochry

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Crossing River Tay

Old private farm bridge across Tay, near Logierait

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I keep following the NCN signs that take me uphill to a Logierait Wood which soon brings me to Pitlochry.

Pitlochry Lunch

Pitlochry Lunch

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Having swallowed the most expensive soup in Highlands at the Fisherman’s Bar, I cross the beautiful Pitlochry Suspension Bridge which, last March (2013), happened to become exactly 100 years old. It was built to replace Port Na Craig ferry, which used to cross the river since 12th century. At the time the construction of this bridge cost £850. – FACT

Crossing River Tummel in Pitlochry

Crossing River Tummel using Pitlochry Suspension Bridge

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So it gets interesting here.. Having been busy admiring scenery and enjoying the ride, I completely forgot to plan my accommodation. I look at the map and see that Cairngorms National Park is just a few miles away, and decided that the best plan is just to keep cycling till there’s an obvious place to stop, – whatever that may mean. I was happy be so close to Highlands, that everything just went kind of “Free Form and Organic”. I briefly followed A9 for a few miles..

A9

Looking out to the gates of Cairngorms

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Garry

Crossing Garry Robson’s private stream

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.. and soon after came across another cycle route 7 sign, which took me to one of my favourite and at the same time one of the most challenging stretches of road. This is a fantastic cycle track that in this region frequently uses the old A9 road, now converted primarily for cycle use.

Old A9 1

National Cycle Network Route 7

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As I approach Cairngorms, I make my way up beside River Garry, – a gorgeous stream with fantastic albino rocks cutting through it’s banks all the way along.

River Garry

River Garry

The river eventually turns away and heads west towards it’s origin, – Loch Garry..

Loch Garry

Loch Garry

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.. as I continue on up in Northerly direction.

Heading to Dalwhinnie

Entering Cairngorms

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Now although I’m surrounded by ever changing gorgeous scenery and very happy to be here, I begin to feel that my energy levels are are dropping fast. I don’t really get it though. I mean I know I’ve already done around 65 miles, but the road looks flat and should’t pose that much of an effort. None the less, ever since I left Pitlochry, I have rarely managed to peal in anything higher than my 3rd gear (out of 21). It’s only after a later research, I realised that for the past 20 miles I have been steadily climbing about 450 meters. The landscape of gentle gradients of many hills and streams, seemed to confuse the sense of elevation in this area.

Old A9 2

Old A9 carries me further up

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Needless to say I’m pretty tired by now. Having not perfected the art of knowing when one should stop and rest, I ended up cycling till no energy left and no campsite in sight. Granted I’m now in the region where you can camp just about anywhere, but as always I am stubbornly determined that I would like to have a hot shower at the end of this damn sweaty day, and decide that I will push on to the nearest town of Dalwhinnie, only 5 miles away. As the decision is made, I come across a sign that gives me this final boost:

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

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Now  for the last five miles my bike seems to fly, with almost no effort on my part. Of course in delirious state of mind I just assume that is my final day’s adrenaline kicking in, but soon learned out that I just rolled down the hill of 100m descent. As I approach Dalwhinnie I zoom past a sign in the opposite direction, that explains all of my efforts in the past 4 hours. I smile as I now I know that without realising it, I have climbed one of the highest summits on my journey.

Cycle Path Sign To Pitlochry

I think I missed that one on the other side of the summit

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Cycle Path Sign To Pitlochry

National Trust cutting corners on signage

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Approaching Dalwhinnie

Today’s digs and one of tomorrow’s destinations

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So tonight I’m staying in Dalwhinnie Bunkhouse, run by the loveliest elderly couple Ron and Mariyn.

Mariyn welcomes me in, and opens up the cafe (adjacent to the bunk house) after-hours to dig up a microwaveable curry meal, apples, juice and flapjacks to feed the tired bear. Ron’s due a hip replacement in a few weeks, but will be up tomorrow to open the cafe for breakfast. What a team. This is definitely a proper Highland service.

Having destroyed the curry in minutes and jumped in the shower, I fell into my bunk bed.

As I’m fading out, just like every other night on this trip, the last thought is of where I have started my day and just how far away in distance in time it seems. I cannot believe that I left the Fletchers farm just this morning…

Lights out.

River Garry

Daily Bear mugshot is from earlier in the day, during a pitstop on River Garry

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Next Day..

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