Cairngorms

Glenlivet

The Glenlivet Estate lies off the infamous ‘Tomintoul’ road between Braemar and Grantown-on-Spey –  Infamous for being the road in Scotland most often closed due to snow.

Basecamp in the Glenlivet Estate

From the village of Tomintoul itself you head North East up either the B9008 or the B9136 towards the village of Glenlivet. This is the upper Spey valley – a world of fertile valleys, upland heather moor and whisky distilleries, lots and lots of whisky distilleries (about 15 just within this small area).

Miles of estate tracks

There are also bike trails on the Glenlivet Estate. Apparently they are building some singletrack mountain bike trails there but for now it’s just waymarked loops on estate roads with small touches of singletrack path – the riding is not very exciting but it’s the best way of exploring the landscape (as the paths would be really dull to walk). We choose a 20km route which had a bit of climbing and the highest % of off-road.

Braes of Glenlivet distillery

Mid-way though the ride there was a ‘spur’ marked to the ‘Scalan Seminary’. We had no idea what that was but the weather was good and the riding easy so we went to explore.

Scalan Seminary

It was the strangest place. Totally off the road network, surrounded by grazing sheep, and not a person to be found, but a sign saying ‘Scalan College 1716-1799’ and ‘open’. We looked inside and found a whole little exhibition about the place with leaflets for sale… in the absolute middle of nowhere. You can read all about it here, it’s a fascinating place with an amazing history – what a hidden gem!

Catholic Church – Our Lady of Perpetual Succour

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Ride Like a Grrrl!

Another month, another wonderful weekend mountain biking in the Cairngorms! It’s pure coincidence that this month I was back in almost exactly the same part of Scotland as the last blog post I wrote.

This weekend I was at a wonderful event run by Petal Power Biking – a women’s only cross-country race/ride in the Cairngorms. Just in the last few weeks there have been discussions on Facebook groups about why more women don’t enter mainstream cross-country mountain bike races. I don’t really race, but I do enjoy a good mountain bike marathon (only half distance – 50k – so far) and I did enjoy the Glentress7 (mostly). I think the reason is that I just enjoy the experience of being out on the trails too much to want to bomb along at full pace 🙂

Stunning weather, stunning scenery!

Ride Like a Grrrl was ideal because although it was a race, and the girls at the front were racing, the event info also stressed that we could take all day if we wanted. There were two courses – Adventure at 25km and Epic at 35km. Epic included two more climbs and more tricky descents than the Adventure. With the Husband up in Fort William for the truly epic Tour De Ben Nevis (too hard for me), I persuaded a couple of grrrl friends to sign up to this event and head up to Lagganlia Outdoor Centre in Feshiebridge near Aviemore with nearly 100 other entrants.

The ride set off at 10am so we stayed the night before in the camper van. The overnight temperature went down to about 2deg but we were warm and toasty with lots of sleeping bags and blankets. In the morning it was bright but cold. Perfect riding weather.

I have had a bit of a cold and a nasty sore throat all week so didn’t feel great at the start and we rolled out quite slowly. After the first big climb and really big descent, one friend had gone ahead and the other was struggling behind with v-brakes not very useful in the mud. The weather was spectacularly good but it had been raining all week so the paths were very boggy in places. I decided to wait for my friend and ride with her, partly because of my cold, partly because she has previous form for getting lost on rides like this, and partly just because the weather, trails and scenery were so amazing I wanted to enjoy every minute.

Nearly finished… Still smiling but sad that it’s almost over!

As the ride went on I got stronger and felt better and better, I think that exercise endorphins generally suppress cold symptoms. So I had a lovely day out. We finished last, but only just, we were with a group of three girls just in front and in sight of another two in front of them. It would be interesting to know how many people I could have overtaken if I had ridden at my own pace rather than waiting up… but I was happy to pootle this time. The fact you could race it or just treat it as a ride is the only reason one of my friends was willing to sign up, and if it had been a ‘proper’ race I might not have started due to my cold/throat. I think that this format is a real winner for getting more women into racing.

Well done to all the volunteers who organised this.

Finishers’ goodies. Podium and spot prizes were unbelievably awesome thanks to great sponsors.

Categories: Cairngorms, mountain biking, mountains, outdoors, Scotland | 3 Comments

A little piece of heaven

When I was a child we spent a week every summer holidays in our caravan near Aviemore. We’d hire canoes on Loch Insh and swim in the freezing water, visit the Landmark Centre, walk around Loch An Eilein, take a chairlift up Cairngorm Mountain and of course Santa Clause Land (RIP).

Glen Einich, Cairngorms

Ever since, the area around Aviemore, Rotheimurchus and Cairngorm Mountain has had a special place in my heart. The ancient pine forest and spectacular mountains never fail to take my breath away in snow or sun – and I have no stats to back this up but I’m convinced it has the best summer weather in the whole country.

Rothiemurchus

Last weekend the forecast looked good so we packed the mountain bikes and tent and headed north for two days riding and a night at my childhood campsite, Dalraddy.

On saturday’s drive up the A9, the weather was grey and uninspiring, until the moment we crested Drumochter pass – when suddenly the sky turned perfectly blue and the temperature hit 20-21C (perfect riding weather). We quickly pitched the tent jumped on our bikes. We rode up to Rothiemurchus and round Loch An Eilein, taking the path link towards Loch Morlich, stopping for a picnic lunch then turning south for a trip up Glen Einich.

Glen Einich

The path was interesting most of the route and dusty-dry and the scenery inspiring in the warm sunshine. The wind got up towards the head of the glen but even then it was more pleasant than chilly. The only slight downer on the day was when I fell off my bike on a ford crossing and really smashed my left kneecap. Thankfully no real damage was done except bad bruising but I was unable to get up for a good minute or two and sat in the river getting thoroughly soaked through – good job it was a warm day!

Head of Glen Einich

sore knee forgotten already

The descent back to the boundary between Rothiemurchus and Glenmore Forest was fun and pretty quick. We headed back to Loch An Eilein and continued round clockwise in the golden early evening sunshine taking a path towards Inshriach NNR which was really awesome! We popped out at Lagganlia near Feshiebridge and rode back towards Kincraig by a footpath through a sculpture park to the campsite where we enjoyed an evening bbq without any midges thanks to a warm breeze.

In Feshiebridge sculpture park

On Sunday we headed up to park by the edge of Loch Morlich for a ride along the great cycle path to Glenmore shop for provisions and then up by Glenmore Lodge to the beautiful Loch Uaine and through the Ryvoan pass to Nethy Bridge where we stopped for lunch before taking part of the Speyside Way through Abernethy Forest to the pass of An Sluggan back to Badaguish Outdoor Centre and then down to the car. Arrived back in Edinburgh feeling refreshed, relaxed and re-energised – success!

Towards Abernethy Forest

Saturday: 51km, 4hrs 50mins, 1350m ascent

Sunday: 38km, 4hrs, 1530m ascent

Categories: Cairngorms, mountain biking, mountains, outdoors, Scotland | 2 Comments

Glen Feshie – 1 May 2011

As we set off today for a ride in the rain near Peebles, Bill asked me if I thought all the bridges would be intact. This wasn’t as random a question as it sounds, nearly a year ago we had maybe the most fun and memorable mountain bike ride ever. Thanks to Will and Kate’s royal nuptuals we had a long long weekend and decided to celebrate Si and Derm’s 40th birthdays with a weekend in Aviemore which turned out to be the warmest, sunniest weekend of the year.

On the Sunday, a group of us headed up Glen Feshie on the mountain bike. Here’s the story in pictures…

Started out on gorgeous singletrack up the east side of the river Feshie

After riding for some time we reach the bridge that marks our halfway point and leads to the return on the other side of the river!

Fancy skills aren't going to help here

COLD feet!!!

It looks warm but note the snow on the hills in the background, that water was ice-cold melt-water

Survivors

Lunch

beautiful descending

Categories: Cairngorms, mountain biking, mountains, outdoors, Scotland | 1 Comment

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