We have been impressed so far on this trip in respect to the hospitality and facilities of the youth hostels that we have stayed in, indeed I have used YHA a couple of times for stopovers in London, the Kings Cross one being particularly handy for the Eurostar. Callander though is what is known as an affiliated hostel, so though semi-attached to the SYHA by way of being part of their website etc, they do not fully come under their umbrella and are reliant on donations and volunteers to supplement the running of the place. It was fine enough for a one night stopover, but was more of the ilk of the youth hostels of our actual youth; little Heath Robinson and a bit draughty and mismatched. That said it was clean and reasonably priced and the staff were helpful.
We were on the road before 08.30hrs; what had initially been a bright morning (heralded by the sunshine streaming through the uncurtained ceiling window), was now a little sullen and grey with a sharp cool wind. The forecast was dry though which is always a good thing. We headed out and picked up Route 7 again, which bypassed the main town and quickly took us out into the countryside alongside a rushing river that clamoured over rocks and around large boulders.
As the broadleaf trees that lined the banks of the river gave way to plantation evergreen, we reached Loch Lubnaig and peddled alongside for its entire length with the mountains rising up in their splendour on either side. On reaching the head of the Loch and climbing a little to where the cycle track meets the road, we were tantalised by a sign for the Broch Cafe, open 7 days a week, and having gone without our morning tea (we had got used to the available tea and coffee making facilities at previous hostels), we made the slight detour to score our fix. Bitter disappointment met us though as we had arrived half an hour before the opening time, and although the staff were there setting up, were not of an obliging nature. Grumbling to ourselves we remounted and peddled on hoping for a friendlier cafe in the town. Alas, the town itself was rather insubstantial and though a helpful dog walker said that the shop had a machine, we were not enticed.
Today was another relatively short day in terms of mileage, and so we knew that we would be likely to make our destination of Killin early in the afternoon so had plenty of time to seek out a good cuppa along the way. Or so we thought. Towns were in short supply on the route today and the next town Lochhearnhead was frustratingly out of reach of our route. Having just spent 15 mins struggling up a steep twist-back climb, we thought better of losing that hard won height, so Lochhearnhead was by-passed despite the need for tea. We consoled ourselves with our flask of coffee and as the sun had made an appearance sat on a pleasant bench with a magnificent view, until the chill of the wind could not be ignored and had us moving on.
Don’t go the udder way
We had spent the majority of the day peddling along on a very slight incline, which means that though you are putting in more effort than on the flat and cannot coast at all, it is not over taxing and over some distance you can make a fair bit of height. The route though needed to join up with a disused railway line which was on higher ground still and though we knew it was coming, the zig-zag up the side of the hill was a lung-buster. Half way up we stopped for a breather and looked back along Loch Earn.
When you see this, you know hard work is ahead!
Once we had puffed our way to the top of the climb, we then had an easy ride on level ground for some considerable distance, running high up along the contour of the mountain before then meeting the main road to cross over the other side of the Glen. We met a fellow cycle tourist at this point who had travelled up the main road to avoid the steep climb. Of the two options the shortish sharp effort of the climb was preferable to the long drag up the main road with the thundering traffic as a constant peril. Having travelled this route before he warned us that the tarmac cycleway merges with a logging track and that being on the decent he had come off his bike previously. We took heed of this as a tandem can be a tricky beast on a loose surface especially at speed.
He, being fleeter of tyre than us, headed off and was soon out of sight. We followed in his wake, initially climbing but before long we enjoyed the fruits of our labours by way of a long decent into Killin that must have been about 2 miles long. We had initially thought that the surface must have been improved since he had last travelled this way, but about a mile in we came to the loose grit of the loggers track and had to curtail our speed for fear of coming a cropper.
In what seemed almost no time we had arrived in Killin, passing the famous Falls of Dochart, giving them little more than a passing glance as our quarry was now distilled into a real craving for specifically; decent tea and cheese and onion toasted sandwiches. We screeched to a halt outside the first establishment that looked like it could deliver the goods. Parking up Twolula, we trooped in and didn’t even look at the menu, delighted at the affirmative response to their ability to fulfil our need. Sinking into two soft leather wing back chairs we luxuriated in our foodgasm, having seconds on the steaming pot of tea.
Our lodgings for the night turned out to be about 100 yds down the road from the Courie Inn where we loafed in our comfy seats and tea haze, it was still early yet but they confirmed that we could check in and stable Twolula. Our host Margaret is extremely sweet, our accommodation is cosy and furnished in the solid furniture that reminds me of childhood visits to my grandparents. One feels enveloped and protected and I know we shall sleep soundly tonight.
Having stowed our bags we thought we should have a wonder around and walked up to the Falls to have a proper look, they are impressive, though myself and another lady were rather more excited to spot a red squirrel!
To Pitlochary tomorrow, a 40 miler and another hostel, but for tonight I am lounging, wrapped in a large sweet smelling fluffy bath robe. Bliss.