Sunday, 18 September 2016

Snarra Ness, West Burrafirth

Feeling tired after a fair bit of cycling activity lately I decided to have a short wander out and around Snarra Ness near West Burrafirth. A place I was long over due to visit...


Driving out west, take the West Burrafirth turn off and carry on to the end of the road where there's a turning area with space around it before you drop down to the ness.


I've passed Snarra Ness many times on the Papa Stour ferry and been meaning to pop out there as it looked like an interesting headland. Looking out into West Burra Firth...


Looking across to Bousta...


Again, Bousta from a sheltered look out...


And towards The Isle of West Burrafirth...


There's a pretty little lochan sheltered between the humps and bumps on the end of the ness...


It's only a small headland and it was high tide, so I didn't go down and around the shore. Also I had to be back for my dinner!

I saw a good few seals and I wouldn't be surprised if there's the chance of an otter on better tides as I've seen them at West Burrafirth and there are some low banks. I'll certainly pop back another day when I've more time to sit and wander the shore.

Looking back from Snarra Ness to where I parked just past that cream coloured house on the hill...



Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Bikepacking: a highland glen odyssey from Perth to Aberdeen


Well, I'm just back from my bikepacking trip in the highlands. After the overnight ferry to Aberdeen I caught a train to Perth where my bicycling adventure began.

Over the course of four days it was to be 333km or 208 miles of quiet road, estate track, trail, single track and a few sections of bog.


Outside Perth train station and ready for the road. My bike is a bog standard charge cooker 3 and the bike bags are all alpkit with the addition of a wildcat handlebar harness...


After initially following the NC7 out of Perth I followed quiet roads to the entrance to Glen Almond. Myth has it that this is the longest section of 'gravel road riding' in Scotland...


It's certainly very pretty even in a headwind and drizzle...


There is a short section of distinctly non-gravel road in the middle, but you can't have it all!



And then it was back to a nice track down to Loch Tay...


And after a wet ride along the road to Killin, some hot pub grub.


Though this resident was a little disturbing she didn't put me off my dinner...



 Pretty place is Killin...


From Killin I headed up Glen Lochay.


Just one more lovely glen...


And over a service road that leads to Glen Lyon...


The ride down in to Glen Lyon was smooth and fast, the glen itself was just lovely...



 Evening sun over the glen, where else would you want to be?


I carried on down the valley to Innerwick and the Kirk Path that leads over to Loch Rannoch. I was too tired to go over there that night, so camped a little off the track ready for a strenuous start in the morning...


It was a bit of a slog up in the morning, but the track was in good condition...


And got a bit more rustic later on...


But the decent into Rannock forest and along the forest trails was ace with red deer and red squirrels along the way to the forestry car park at Carie.



 The bridge and picnic area are pretty cool with a covered picnic area that could be a good bivy spot.


At Kinloch Rannock the shop was open and the lady at the counter was slightly bemused by the vast array of 'crap' that I bought and rapidly tucked in my jersey and devoured outside the shop.


Next was a long track up and over to Duinish Bothy. There's a lot of Scottish Water work going on over the moors so the track had been 'improved' though the amount of plant and 4x4s using it left it pretty sloppy in places.


Duinish Bothy...


Just after the bothy I left any obvious track to head down Loch Garry to eventually join the A9/NC7 to Blair Atholl. The route was pretty indistinct and pretty boggy too...



Once I reached the old shielings the track return to lead me down Loch Garry. Nice and fast. The only issue was some way along I realised I'd left my bumbag with my money and cards in a couple of miles back across the bog! I cycled back up to the shielings, left my bike and walked back across the boggy area to reclaim my bumbag before walking a 3rd time across the boggy area to resume my speed down Loch Garry.


Looking back up Loch Garry from the NC7 cycleway that follows the A9...


Blair Atholl was heaving and I wasn't feeling up to being in a busy place so I had a quick and yummy pizza at 'Food in the Park' before carrying on up into Glen Tilt.


A good way up Glen Tilt is very good track accompanied by more than very good scenery...


The showery weather even provided a lovely rainbow low over the glen...


Once past the houses the track became less polished...



And just before the Falls of Tarf some nice single track emerged...


The falls of Tarf and my campsite for the night...


A nice spot to spend the night, all along, other than millions of annoying midgies!


Morning saw me escaping my midgie hell as swiftly as possibly to carry on along the single track towards Breamar. And nice single track it is, but with my laden bike, wet ground and 2 long days in my legs I had to push lots of it rather than risk and accident after I came off a few times in a row.

Soon the single track became wider track again and a flew down past Bynack Lodge crossing a couple of fords...




Wasn't me who squashed the adder in the path...


Heading down towards White Bridge and the Linn of Dee...


Life got a little more aero...


My forks collapsed as I stood to accelerator up a small rise past one of the dozens of groups of walkers I'd passed. I managed to keep the bags off the wheel, the crud catcher only caught if I turned and I managed to move the brake hose to stop it binding. Other than that it still rode fine, but put a lot of pressure on my hands.

Still I was going to be on road pretty much the rest of my trip so it should get by.

Linn of Dee...


I stopped a short while to re-adjust things, but then the midgies attached again so I moved on towards Braemar.



It seemed everywhere was still shut in Braemar when I got there, so a quick snack in the bus stop and I was on my way to Ballater.


 In Ballater Highland Bikes announced my forks goosed and that I should just get new ones, I wasn't surprised. I was tired out, sick of midgies and decided to treat myself to a proper bed and a shower.

Sadly nearly everywhere was full, and one hotel was certainly full when I tramped in and asked. Thankfully the Glenaden Hotel or Barrel Lounge had a space for me. £30 B&B, I'll have that!


I even had a chandelier...



And splashed out on a pint of shandy and some classy grub...


 Nice little village is Ballater...


After a cooked breakfast in the morning I was on known ground and heading east towards Aberdeen on the Deeside Way. Stopping to mourn the damage to the Campus O May bridge...



 And in no time I was back in Aberdeen in Duthie Park...


With just the city centre traffic to negotiate to get back to the Northlink ferry terminal for another overnight ferry back to Shetland...


And that was that. 4 days of fantastic scenery and mixed cycling in some places I'd never have got to without the bike. I took away some great memories and sadly a very very sore backside!

Taking my tent instead of a tarp and bivy (that I'd considered) was a life saver with the midgie issue. Smidge was great to stop them biting, but I wish I'd remembered my head net. We have 3 at home and even a midge suit!

I had serious saddle sore by day 2. A combination of wet and sweat along with rumbly bumpy tracks, but the main issue was my bib-shorts I think. I'd taken older ones rather than risking spoiling my new ones. I've lost a good bit of weight since I'd bought those shorts, so combining the above conditions with a slightly loose fit meant chafe-age and eventually an actual sore on one side. And very sore it is! Riding the road home helped, but really I had to do a lot of pedalling standing and freewheeling where I could.

Any way, here's a video of my trip...




This is a GPX of the route I planned for the trip My actual route varied slightly in detail and can be found here in day by day sections which can be downloaded:

Day 1 Perth to Innerwick
Day 2 Innerwick to Falls of Tarf
Day 3 Falls of Tarf to Ballater
Day 4 Ballater to Aberdeen

I had intended to do more short off-road section from Braemar to Aberdeen, but due to worry over my forks and my seriously sore backside I decided to stick to quiet smooth roads. What ever the reason for it, it wasn't a bad move as there was some very relaxed scenic riding along the south Dee.

So, what's next? I'm not sure, but I do really want to do a variation on the North Coast 500 next year...