Monday, 18 May 2009

Get your kicks on route 6

‘Should you ever plan to motor west’ well north actually, but I was staying at Wester Lix, just off the A85, before you get into Killin (Perthshire) and it was route 6 not 66, and I was on a bike, but hey, when you’re on holiday your allowed a bit of poetic licence.

Not long ago we had a few days in a cottage to dream of, one that comes complete with sauna, deer in the garden and red squirrels looking cute in the larches, but best of all it has almost immediate access to the Sustrans National Cycle Network, the bit that goes from Killin to Callander. That’s nearly thirty miles of traffic free cycling, mainly on old railway tracks across the highlands.

Now I’m a bit of a fair weather cyclist. I’ve got all the kit, the bike with myriad gears, cycling tights, jaunty red cycling helmet. All I’m lacking are the big strong calves and lungs like a pair of organ bellows, and you can’t buy them in Halfords, but whether you’re a rush at it, macho, keen mountain biker or a more sedate pedal plodder like me, the Sustrans Cyclway is brilliant. (The whole route goes from Inverness to Glasgow, but give a woman a break, I’m not quite up to that level yet.)

From the Wester Lix/Killin end we started off downhill into a chilly east wind; within a few miles we were whizzing through a beautiful fern draped railway cutting and then on to the most romantic old viaduct with spectacular views over Glen Ogle. On the return journey, that same breeze was to prove very helpful. Not having the time (or the legs) to go the whole way to Callander, a round trip of nearly sixty miles, I’d intended in doing about twelve miles before returning. Being downhill for most of the way to begin with is a bit disconcerting, and the faster you go downhill, the more alarming is the thought of the long haul back. Maybe it was an illusion but apart from the very steep bit coming into Lochearnhead, where on the return journey even the ‘Keen mountain biker’ I’m married to, was heard to gasp, “It’s bl**dy steep!’ it seemed to be downhill on the way there and almost as easy on the way back, but maybe my calves were getting used to the pain by then.

Fortunately there’s a convenient refueling stop at the Old Library Tea Room, in Balquhidder, so I made time for a huge slice of poppy seed cake and an Earl Grey tea by the open fire, before making a short detour to pay my respects at the grave of that old reprobate Rob Roy MacGregor, before an unhurried cycle back to our cottage. I know if I was a hard core cyclist I’d have gone all the way, but doing the ride in little bits does leave the remaining twelve or so miles as an excuse for another visit to the lovely holiday cottage, as if I needed one.

(We stayed in one of the lovely Wester Lix Cottages