Killin to Culloden
I am very pleased to say that the Killin to Culloden cycle has been completed without any trouble. Although many people complete far harder and much longer trips (and I am in awe of many of them) this was my first solo multi-day cycle and although I had some issues with my blood sugar my diabetes stayed under control as well as I could have wished.
Day 1 (39.25 miles) was from Killin to Pitlochry and it was a quiet ride that allowed me to get used to spending so many hours in the saddle.
For most of this trip I followed the exact path of Sustrans Route 7 and only occasionally varied from this. This meant that I started from Killin by the more difficult but quieter south Loch Tay road, through Kenmore which is always horribly busy with cars parked everywhere, and then on to the quieter B road past House of Menzies and Castle Menzies.
I made the mistake of joining the A road for a few miles before Logierait and discovered just how busy the roads are during the school holidays, I was delighted to leave the A road and head off up a minor road towards Pitlochry and rest.
On the way into Pitlochry I passed the Dunfallandy Pictish stone and took the opportunity to go and see it but unfortunately there were a lot of steps to negotiate before I could get a glimpse of the stone itself – not the best for an exhausted cyclist!
Finally at 4 p.m. I reached the hostel at Pitlochry – unfortunately I slept badly due to one of the people in the dorm constantly getting up and going to the loo and also coughing all night, however, I woke happy to be getting on the road again.
Day 2 (44.58 miles) was the day I had been most trepiditious about as it included Drumochter Pass – a long uphill section with a cycle path in less than great condition. The day started out well with a quiet cycle out of Pitlochry and through Killiecrankie and Blair Atholl, most of this section was onroad but because I had begun early I missed the trucks and tour buses.
After Calvine the route became much more pleasant as I was on the old A9 road and had it to myself for much of the time. The views were spectacular and other than an annoying headwind the weather was excellent. The condition of the cycle path wasn’t too good as I approached Drumochter Pass but it was much better than cycling on the horrendous A9 main road which was only a few feet away at times, a very noisy and smelly experience!
After reaching the summit I had a long easy cycle down quiet roads to the town of Newtonmore where I was staying at the hostel. After I arrived I had my only bad hypo (very low blood sugar in type 1 diabetics) of the whole trip, I stopped at a hotel and asked for any sugary drink – they did give me a can of Fanta but insisted on charging me the ridiculous price of £1.80! So much for Highland hospitality.
Day 3 (30.70 miles) began as planned with a cycle along a quiet cycle path to Kingussie. Route 7 takes a right turn in Kingussie that could be easy to miss and then joins the very quiet B970, where I passed the famous Ruthven Barracks that were burned down by the Jacobites in the 18th century.
After the barracks I had an very easy ride until I realised that I had completely missed the turn off for Aviemore where I was booked into the hostel. As I was practically at Boat of Garten I decided to enquire at the big hotel there whether they had any rooms available, they didn’t but the very helpful receptionist called around and found me a room at a small hotel in Carrbridge. I left Boat of Garten and cycled to Carrbridge making it an extra 12 miles for the day, this actually worked out for the best as it left me with a much easier last day. I was now suffering quite badly with chafing as I had mistakenly taken new trousers with me on the trip.
Day 4 (23.55 miles) As I left Carrbridge I realised I was going to suffer, the chafing was now agonising but as there was nothing I could do about it I tried to put it out of my mind. I had read in Mark Beaumont’s excellent account of his round the world cycle, The Man Who Cycled the World, that after a few hours the nerves stopped reporting pain back to the brain. I really hoped this advice was true and after a few hours I realised it was!
The next obstacle was the Slochd Summit a 400 metre climb that was extremely tough as every turn of the pedals hurt badly, in fact it was around here that I gave in and took my first painkillers of the day – but I did keep to my vow to never get off and push. After the summit the cycle path ran alongside the A9 for long stretches unfortunately and then it turned down the Moy road, at this point I thought things would get easier but I hadn’t bargained on going down the road at the same time as a huge queue of traffic going to an ‘outdoor sports’ fair – absolutely horrible cycling.
As I carried on towards Inverness I realised I was actually going to make it to the end and I had very mixed feelings, I was inordinately proud of what I had achieved but I really didn’t want it to end! Another fantastic part of Scotland’s past approached though and I stopped briefly to admire the Clava Cairns, prehistoric stone monuments that have survived amazingly well.
The last hill appeared just after the Clava Cairns and then I had a leisurely last couple of miles to Culloden (where I nearly missed the left turn to the visitor centre!). It was over and I had completed the journey on my own but was now happy to give Dawn and Lesley big hugs!