Following rivers to the sea: part 1

17 04 2017

With a couple of days to spend riding, an overnighter long overdue and some mixed weather a route presented itself that would follow some of the most well known and beautiful rivers in the southern Cairngorm area.

The train delivered me to Pitlochry on Thursday afternoon and despite some anxiety regarding how much and what sort of precipitation I would encounter, I was happy to start pedaling alongside the River Tummel, past Loch Faskally and the gorgeous singletrack at Killiecrankie.

The sun still had some warmth as I turned north at Blair Atholl to follow the River Tilt and I enjoyed the light on the hills enclosing the ever deepening glen as I climbed towards the waterfall where the River Tarf joins the Tilt.

Unfortunately, my luck with the weather was beginning to erode and some very cold rain had me head down and shivering.

It soon passed and the sublime track through upper Glen Tilt, which has been improved to drain some of the peat bog and offer a clearer, more ridable line, was awesome as the sun began to dip towards the horizon.

I was still anxious about crossing the Geldie Burn, but had noted how low the Tilt was and I hoped that it would not offer a significant barrier. Past the ruin of Bynack Lodge, I found the fording of the smaller Bynack Burn to be rideable and on reaching the Geldie, was stoked to find it also rideable. I have crossed this river a number of times and I have never seen it as low – even in mid summer. Incredible.

With barely damp toes, my concern for a very cold night were lessened slightly. The rain was holding off and the forecast for possible snow seemed remote though the predicted overnight high winds were clearly beginning to drive cloud over the Cairngorm Plateau at a significant clip.

Fortune was with me and the wind offered a helping hand as I sped along side the River Dee, through Mar Lodge and then into the regenerated Caledonian pine forest just east of Braemar.

The sun finally dropped fully behind the mountains and with it the temperature plummeted. My tent and sleeping kit set up was swift, with me shivering in my puff jacket. A warm meal and a couple of beers saw me asleep with a great days ride behind me.

Tomorrow would be some known and some unknown as I aimed to reach the sea on the east coast.



5 09 2013

Deeside is the part of the Cairngorm I know least well. After a brief camping trip last week in Tarland, a route around Deeside was on my mind. When the opportunity arose, I decided on a loop around and over Lochnagar from Braemar to scratch the itch.

Heading east along the river Dee to the Old Brig o’ Dee, then into Balmoral, was a welcome start to the ride. The forest here is every bit as beautiful as Rothiemurchas. The long climb to the east of the famous Lochnagar cliffs (site of some of the trickier scottish winter and rock climbing) was easy going. Inevitably, some portage was on the menu. That time arrived after reaching the point where the steep, rough singletrack trail peeled up the bealach between Meikle Pap and Cuidhe Cròm. There was a trail of blood drops all the way up. Someone had clearly had an intimate encounter with one of the sharper rocks on the trail. The view down towards Loch Muick and the Angus Glens was spectacular.

The steep ascent took me into the path of the wind which was blowing a hoolie, but I climbed up the trig point anyway, might as well.

From here, the route circled along the top of the cliffs, before tracking over to Carn an t’ Sagairt mor and the excellent, steep and picky descent down to Loch Callater. Two fast jets flying low down the glen highlighted the glorious, blue sky, but the star of the show was the trail. Not overly difficult, but you have to stay focused and I would happily give up speed for the this type of thought provoking, rock-hopping trail, high above ground level.

With a wistful look back to the mountain top trail, I welcomed the strong tail wind that gave me a speedy return to Braemar. An excellent loop.


This loop appears in Scotland mountain biking: wild trails 2, ISBN 9781906148522. Well worth a look.