As predicted, we slept soundly and woke refreshed and ready for the challenges of the day. There was an eclectic quaintness to our B&B, not the sort of place for those seeking a pseudo-hotel experience, but if you want honest to goodness hospitality and a damn fine breakfast, then it fits the bill. Mr V had opted for the black pudding with his cooked breakfast, and after being informed that it was the renowned Stornoway black pudding, I had to pinch a piece. It deserves it’s reputation, and I regretted going for a healthier breakfast option.
Our journey today was to take us out of Killin and on to Pitlochary; the gateway to the Highlands. The forecast was for dry weather, though the skies were leaden and the wind rather chill, we donned our wind-cheater jackets and set off back over the Falls of Dochat and onward out of the town, seeking Loch Tay, whose length we were to follow. Our guide states that today’s leg of 40 miles is an easy ride. Perhaps some on lighter bikes would describe it as such, but for us the roller-coaster road was a wheeze/wheeee experience, though we did comment that on the whole travelling in this direction meant that the wheezing was on the whole of the short(ish) sharp variety with the payoff being longer on the wheeee, and the consequent further distance travelled by free-wheel. It certainly woke up our legs and broke out a sweat; we were glad of the hearty breakfast to fuel the hard work.
The mist was still hanging over the brooding mountains the other side of the Loch when we started out, but by the time we were about half way along, the sun was trying to burn its way through the cloud. Given the lack of consistency to our progress due to the peaks and troughs of the road we seemed to be taking longer than we had anticipated to reach the other end of the Loch, indeed some of the short but steep hills slowed us down so much, that we barely travelled faster than the Rob Royers who were walking up them.
Though hard work, we took the hills in our stride. The demanding work we put in during the arduous first week was now paying dividends, and we could admire the lovely scenery as we puffed along. However, we were glad of the cooling wind in our heated state, despite having divested ourselves of our wind-cheaters not long after we got on the roller-coaster.
We made it to the end of the Loch and the small village of Kenmore, passing the Scottish Crannog Centre just before the town. We settled on a bench with a glorious view down the length of the lake for our coffee, realising quickly that we would have to tog up again, so out came the wind-cheaters topped off with our heavier jackets so that we could sit and enjoy the break and spectacular surroundings. Our last couple of days have been short on the mileage front, so we have had time to linger. Today though we were doubling up on the distance of the previous two days, and knew that there were some challenging climbs to boot. So that knowledge, coupled with the wind chill factor had us moving on within the half hour.
Leaving Kenmore, we climbed a little, but then had a considerable distance travelling along a quiet road at the side of the River Tay. The stretch appeared to be somewhat ‘gentrified’; there was evidence of numerous country seats, some now exclusive hotels or tourist attractions; the countryside had a Capability Brown-ness about it of contrived natural landscaping. It was pleasant none the less, and the going was extremely good on this stretch of the route, so we were able to lick along at quite a pace, thus chasing away the chill of our break. And so off came the jackets again.
Hardly noticing, we passed through the town of Dull, Twinned with Boring, Oregon USA! So good to see someone has a self-deprecating sense of humour. We also commented on the numerous signs telling the ‘Red Squirrels’ to slow down – They must be jolly quick (and literate)!
Reaching Logierait, we were then on the home stretch to Pitlochary and making good time. The terrain of the last 5 miles though had the last laugh, we had to push our legs to carry us up some steep lung busing inclines, which tempered the joy of the freewheel, knowing that we were in a repeating loop seeing the undulations stretching before us. We do though self-congratulate when we get the timing just right where the momentum of the downhill coupled with hitting the peddles at the precise point to carry us over the summit with minimal effort. Simple pleasures when legs are tired.
We quickly found our lodgings, the Pitlochary Backpackers Hostel, which I admit I had low expectations of, but it was a reasonable price for a private en-suite room. I have though been proved wrong, what in the pictures looked like a rather dated establishment, is in fact a colourful hippie-esque establishment, housed in what was a Victorian hotel, and even has a rather whimsical turret. There is free tea and coffee, the rooms are clean and the staff and other residents helpful & friendly. A lady from California (who had never come across a kettle for boiling water until she travelled to the UK!!!) is here for a couple of weeks and makes sure that she includes this hostel in her annual visits; an affirming incitement if ever there was one.
Pitlochary itself is a medium sized town, the gateway to the Highlands and all that that implies by way of a high street heavy with outdoor equipment suppliers, coffee shops and purveyors of tourist must haves. We sallied forth to buy supper provisions but did not spend much time in the town, preferring to return to our lodgings to rest before tomorrow’s big push of 60 miles on to Aviemore. The derrière is complaining a little today after having a couple of soft days – let’s hope it has hardened up a bit by tomorrow!