Wednesday, 23 May 2018

5 days of Scottish Gravel



Well, it's been sometime hasn't it?! As regular visitors will know I've been out of it a bit for a long time due to knee issues stopping me having fun. Anyway, I've now been told I'll be getting a knee replacement around the end of June, so what better way to celebrate than to get away and make the most of it while I can?

In case you're wondering what some who needs a knee replacement is doing going for long bikes rides, it's about the only thing that doesn't seem to bother it too much. I can ride 100 miles, but a walk to the local shop isn't any fun.

So, a friend and I planned a trip in the Cairngorms of gravel riding. A fair distance each day, but not too rough a route, so that I can handle it. The weather Gods shined on us and we had a brilliant time!


After cycling to Lerwick for the overnight ferry day one took us 91km from Aberdeen to Ballater via back roads, the Durris Forest and the Deesside Way. 


Banchory riverside...


Bridge of Potarch...



 We were staying at the Ballater Hostel, but being early we decided to have a (32km) run up to Loch Muick until opening time. We headed up forest tracks on the west of the valley and sped back down the road on the east. I've been there once before years ago, it's a stunning place...



Day 2 saw us then ride an adventurous 105km through Balmoral, Braemar, Linn of Dee and Glen Feshie and around to stay at Badaguish Wigwams for 2 nights.


Glen Feshie was a toughie, particularly with my knee as there were some bits that couldn't be ridden, but the dry weather made it less tiresome. Still that was slow going with a number of fords to cross.

Queenie was busy with some wedding eslewhere...



Looking towards the Linn of Dee...


White Bridge...


The ruins of Geldie Lodge made a good lunch stop...


Impressive falls on the River Eidart...


Foot cooling moments!


We spent 2 nights at the wigwams and had a day doing an 80km loop around the area including a massive climb up 'The Burma Road'. We even saw Chris Boardman in the cafe in Aviemore at breakfast and got a nod 'Hello' from him!



Cairngorm Club Bridge...


Loch An Eilein...


The top of the Burma Road...


And down towards Carr Bridge..


Day 4 saw us cycling 83km via Tomintoul and Locg Builg back to Ballater and the hostel again...


An Lochan Uaine on the Ryvaon Pass...



Glen Avon is lovely and has some ace bridges...




The water shed is at Loch Builg and from there is was down hill (ish) to Ballater...




The final day of the trip was back to Aberdeen, but we took a longer way of 100km including a climb up the Cairn O Mount, why? Because it's there and I'm daft!


 The top of the Cairn O Mount. Also known as the Cairn O Vomit by some after they've cycled up there.


 And you can see it all in glorious hand held HD video below...


And here's links to my strava recordings of the rides...



Saturday, 3 March 2018

Nice day for icy photos!



As the rest of Britain has been at a stand still with snow and ice Shetland has just had a cold spell without much snow at all really. 

I've still not been up to much due to my knee. I tried to get up to some off road riding last weekend, but 400m from the car took at dive over the bars to land on rocks. Not only did I land on my knee, but onto my already bad knee. As you can imagine it didn't go well and a week later this is the majestic colour scheme of my still very swollen knee...


Despite the obvious after we'd dropped Beren off at orchestra -and had a sneaky breakfast at Fjara- Clare and I went for a walk to some falls on the Burn of the Glen of Quarff (HU410345) for some icy waterfall photos. It was too nice a day not to...


I love this little concrete bridge...


The scale of these hidden away falls is deceiving.



A nice, if not nippy, spot to sit...

 


Looking north from above the falls...


So, yes we've had snow and ice and it's very pretty, but not really caused any issues on Shetland itself.

Later I popped out again with a friend to look at the icy falls on the John Boyne's Burn (HU 430413) just off the Brig O Fitch.


Icicles of death!


We wandered up the burn, west across the hill and back down the Burn of Gills to the car.


Looking back across to the Burradale turbines reminded me that the whole of the hill top across to Lerwick is possibly going to be turbines one day if Mossy Hill wind farm happens. Not a nice thought.


 As you can imagine my knee hasn't thanked me for today! Hopefully it'll not be so long before I post again. 

Thanks for looking in!


Saturday, 16 December 2017


I'm still no nearer getting my knee sorted out despite a few false hopes, hence the lack of posting on here. I did get a cortisone injection in my knee last week, which helped a lot for a short while, but it's now loosing it's effect. The latest news is I should get seen by an orthopaedic consultant by the end of February. Here's hoping that I do and that I get a resolution to the pain.

Today was a beautiful day so I made a slow wander across from Hamnavoe to the Smuggler's Cave to play some didgeridoo near the Winter Solstice with the sunlight streaming in the cave mouth.


Cold, but nice with a golden light...


And I made a bit of a video when I was in the cave from clips from my phone and camera. The sound's not the best with the competing noise of the sea, but I had a nice time down there playing didge and bathing in the winter sun.


Thanks for popping by.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Ultralight stove kit


I'm a big fan of alcohol stoves and rarely use anything else. Being bored I thought I'd do a short video of the ultralight weight brew kit I've been using for some time for solo camping trips. Stupidly easy to make, only 200g in weight (plus fuel) and very convenient. 

Obviously make sure you balance the pot carefully and use just enough meths, though an upturned cup over the stove will snuff it out if you have used too much and then the excess can be poured back into your bottle.

The stove itself is based on this one, but made with a small can from an energy drink.


Just add water! Well, OK, maybe some hot chocolate and dehydrated meals!

Saturday, 9 September 2017

A bike packing trip in Easter Ross and Sutherland



 This year's all gone a bit wrong with my plans to Faroe cancelled and now my knee issues, but my friend Tom got in touch to ask about a little bikepacking trip from near his some time in September. It sounded like a great idea- I don't like to do everything on my own- but he's been at sea for 3 months and my knee is bad with osteoarthritis. Never mind, a trip we'd have, just a sedate one on quiet roads and landrover tracks though.

After much to-ing and fro-ing we came up on this plan. It'd work out as 278km for me over 5 days; plenty for my current state of play despite having done a 204km day ride earlier in the year. 
 

I took the ferry to Aberdeen and train to Inverness and once I'd picked up some brake fluid for my friend I set off north over the very lovely Kessock Bridge for Cromarty...
 

 With a brief stop at Munlochy Co-op for a very nice steak pie... 


I was soon on the north coast of the Black Isle and headed for Cromarty.


Only stopping to watch a heron on the shore and then pick some brambles I'd noticed. Well it seemed rude not to try them.


 Once at Tom's it seemed the brake fluid was a little low, but not the issue. Contaminated pads and disk was, so with little option we used some blue sapphire gin to clean the disk and replaced the pads. Hey presto a fully functioning bike!

A quick trip to the allotment for veg to go with vension steak for tea and it was time for bed and an early start.


 First stop the seasonal  half hourly Cromarty to Nigg  ferry...





From Nigg we were heading up Strath Rusdale and into Alladale Estate for a 'fisherman's lodge' I'd heard about, but we had some way to go to get there via a mix of quiet roads and estate tracks.

A breather for lunch and raspberries...



Tom seemed to like stopping for a brew. It soon became apparent that the stops were more to rest his beaten bum than anything else though!Months at sea aren't good training for a bike ride and with a big rucksack on his back his back end was taking a battering. Still he soldiered on.



The riding was easy going on generally very good tracks and the views were great with many deer and buzzards seen.

 


 Long steady climbs were followed by long steady descents over water sheds and some relaxed fun riding.



 And the odd industrial action...


 Still we had a great time taking in the views...



Alladale Estate seems very welcoming and the lodge we were planning to stay at seemed to be listed as 'The Badger Hide' on their estate map.


And it's a very beautiful part of the world to visit...

 

The Badger Hide!


Great from the front...


Great from the back...


And great inside...


It's open, with a stove, benches and great views. Obviously not meant as overnight accommodation, but as a hide, we arrived early evening and left early morning and had no issues.


 The next day saw us heading for Croick Church and then the track from there towards Ullapool. Though due to time and a certain delicate derriere we weren't going to go through to Ullapool.
 

The famous window at Croick Church


And the start of the track to Ullapool only 30 miles away...

 


Craig Mhor Bothy...


Obviously a work in progress, but a good place to stop...



We saw lots of these, but only one in the bed of a truck and then getting butchered in the estate yard for someones tea.


The tracks are very good and very CX-able...


The school house bothy is ace. We planned to stay here, but arrived far too early to hang about...



So carried on down Strath Oykel...



If anyone tells you there's bothy accommodation at the Oykel Bridge Hotel, there isn't. We asked, got short shrift being told it's booked and £32 per person a night!


We happily spent our pennies in Ardgay at the cafe of a million sauces...


And camped in a dead end of a forestry plantation. See it was worth carrying a 2kg tent all the way!


View from the tent over the Kyle of Sutherland...


Sheltering from the rain on the way to Nigg...



Second breakfasts were in Tain at Harry Gow's where we seemed to be accused of going to steal their monument by some old ladies! Didn't they know we only had a leatherman between us?


 And the next scenic stop was at Balintore where a mermaid awaited us...


Lovely little village...

 

 And we had a quick look at the nearby Shandwick stone...


Before the ferry back to Cromarty.


The next day I was on my own again for a run back to Inverness via the south coast this time.

Chanory Point, but no dolphins for me...

  

And lunch in Munlochy...


Before one last time over the Kessock Bridge and train and ferry home...


And here's a little video of it for your viewing pleasure...


Thanks for popping by!