Sunday, 22 January 2012
Drymen.Gartmore.Port Of Menteith.Kippen Muir.Balfron Station.
I had cycled a variation of this tour once before many years ago and knew it was a cracker with exceptional views and empty roads.It mainly uses minor and B roads with two short sections of A road from Aberfoyle to Lake of Menteith then near the end from Balfron Station To Gartness.
A fine Sunday dawned at last.The hills were bare of snow again after days of mild weather and constant rain.Now it was Sunny and cold,lots of early morning ice on the roads.For this reason I left it til after 9.0 clock am to set off,arriving in Drymen car park around 10 o clock am. Although the days were short at this time of year I thought I could be back by 4 o clock pm and avoid cycling in the dark.Even with lights on the bike I consider night cycling on busy roads an easy invitation to the delights of hospital food so they stay in the cupboard normally.I used to cycle to work in the dark every day long ago and the memory of frequent near misses and the occasional direct hit still haunts me.I once slid 20 feet on my knees then on my back along the road at Bearsden Cross when a Morton,s roll van kindly separated me from my bike.Luckily I had thick trousers and waterproofs on due to the downpour of rain at the time and both helped to save me from major damage.Its always an adventure on a bike.
I wouldn,t make a good racing cyclist as I stop for photographs all the time or curiosity gets the better of me if I pass anything of interest.That,s the whole point of any journey for me though.Finding out about things.
Gartmore is a quiet village only a kilometre away from the busy A81 leading to tourist hot spots Callander and Aberfoyle.As its higher than this road and largely hidden from sight most car drivers are unaware it even exists.Its not got the draw of these bigger destinations being a sleepy wee place but it does have its quieter,less obvious surprises.
His amazing life story here.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Bontine_Cunninghame_Graham. ( Be aware though I have found a couple of minor discrepancies in this otherwise excellent biography when compared to other articles.Wikipedia is not always 100 percent accurate in its research yet but it does update when it receives new facts on a subject so its getting there. More like 98 percent.)
As the A81 looked fairly quiet I biked along this.There is a traffic free cycle track here along a dismantled railway to Aberfoyle but these things tend to be slower and below road level for much of the time,limiting the views of the surrounding countryside.The turn off away from Aberfoyle was soon reached and I was off along the rolling section of the A81 to Lake of Menteith.Here a much quieter road was taken, the B8034 hugging the shores of this famous fishing and curling Lake with its island Priory (Don Roberto,s last resting place) and ruined castle,before passing Nick Nairn,s cook school then Arnprior sitting pretty on its ridge.
Dew - The wind in my wheels.Travel guide books to a certain place are different.You need them to know what,s out there and where the best places are if you are setting off there Travel writers however can sometimes tend to be of the variety.... I went there ...I visited here.Bill Bryson and Josie Dew for me stand apart as they can be enjoyed by anyone.Creative,funny and informative, even if you never intend to go to any of the places they are descibing .Multi country adventures in uplifting,always funny and unique insights into different lands.She and her game but unsuspecting boyfriends,s /girl companions abroad take the kicking so I don,t have to.I,ve enough lumps and bent bones from cycling in Scotland thanks..She is completely different class though. A Rare individual who didn,t just dream to going somewhere exotic and far away but made it happen and slogged it out on the ground inch by inch on a bike..A modern day Don Roberta on a metal horse.You will not be disappointed.Like a couple of forces of nature I,ve met in my life though Its far safer to enjoy her from a distance on the page than be involved in one of her adventures methinks:)
What views though.This is looking towards Stuc a Chroin and Ben Vorlich from the minor road near Jennywoodston,a new road tick for me and a belter of a bike run.
I was fairly pleased with my level of fitness given my age.There,s an old saying though" What,s for you will not go by you".How true! Little did I know what was in store for me just around the corner.After a month of cabin fever, shuffling about the house or limping round the shops for messages my hard won fitness is gubbed.Ah well .... Life is an unpredictable game of up the ladder and down the snake at times.Back to square one again.At least I,m still here to reclimb that ladder.That,s the main thing.