Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Ride Guide: Lawers Dam and the Sma' Glen

Getting fed up with the usual A85 rides and all the traffic chaos that goes with it?  Looking for something a little more off piste?  Try this one, it has it all - fast sweeping A roads, technical and tricky single tracks, great scenery and relatively quite roads. 
Starting off in Callander head north on, in my opinion, the best part of the A85 as it snakes its way along the side of Loch Lubnaig.  Continue through Lochearnhead, stick to the 30mph limit as this is a favourite spot for the local police, and over Glen Ogle to Lix Toll.  Turning right for Killin and Loch Tay you ride over the impressive Falls of Dochart before turning left for the single track climb up to Lawers Dam and Lochan na Lairige.  From here to Bridge of Balgie the single track road dips and dives through fields as the livestock look on.  Keep a look out for stray sheep and gravel on the tight and technical bends.  After a quick stop for refreshments at the Bridge of Balgie Post Office and Tea Rooms the road heads east through small hamlets and farms, following the river Lyon.  The road then turns south before once again once again running along the side of Loch Tay for a fast and glorious 20 miles through Kenmore before you arrive at Aberfeldy.  Picking up the road for Crieff from Aberfeldy the now incredibly fast, sinuous, but most importantly empty road carves through Amulree and the Sma' Glen before you arrive at journeys end in Crieff.

Lawers Dam on Lochan na Lairige
Callander to Crieff    Image © Google Maps

Turn by turn:
  • Head north from Callander on the A85
  • After 31 miles turn right onto A827 at Lix Toll
  • After 7 miles turn left onto unnamed road signed for Bridge of Balgie
  • Continue on unnamed road for 6 miles and turn right after crossing the river Lyon
  • Continue east for 11.1 miles and then turn right
  • Continue for 1.9 miles and then turn left onto A827
  • Continue on the A827 for 9.7 miles through Kenmore to Aberfeldy
  • At the traffic lights turn right onto the A826
  • Continue on the A826 for 9.1 miles
  • Turn right onto A822
  • Continue for 12.2 miles before turning right for Crieff 
  • Total: 81 miles 

Starting out just north of Callander on the banks of Loch Lubnaig
The Falls of Dochart at Killin

Single track road climbing from Loch Tay to the Lawers dam
Beware the locals will try and steal your lunch at Bridge of Balgie!
The single track road that follow the river Lyon from Bridge of Balgie
The Sma' Glen
Lochan na Lairige

Visit Loch Tay:  Visit Loch Tay
Bridge of Balgie tea room:  Tea Room

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Monday, 13 January 2020

Ride Guide: Mainland Orkney

Orkney has something for everyone.  Ancient monuments and ruins, World War history, amazing scenery and of course some stunning roads.  Getting there with your bike, of course, requires a ferry.  The two options for getting to and from Orkney are Northlink Ferries or Pentland Ferries.  If you want to do a bit of island hopping while you are here the the inter island ferries are run by Orkney Ferries.
This route start by climbing up out of Stromness before heading west on single track roads passing the standing stones at the Ring of Brodgar and then onto the cliffs at Yesnaby.  Heading north on a mix of normal carriageway and single track roads the road sweeps back on forth from the coast passing Skara Brae, the Bay of Skaill and Marwick head before arriving at the north west point of the route at the Brough of Birsay.  Heading for Kirkwall the road now becomes fast and open, sweeping through Evie and Finstown before arriving at the Islands capital, Kirkwall.  A short single track detour from Kirkwall will take you to the spectacular beach at Inganess, along with a half beached wreck.  Heading south from Kirkwall the road opens up and the long lazy curves speed you to the beaches of Dingyshowe Bay.  The single track roads return, but this time with the added complication of a lot of wind blown sand, take care!  The road then meanders it's way to white sands of Newark bay and the scar hewn into the rocks by the sea that is The Gloup.  Retracing the road back to Dingyshowe Bay the road crosses the island with the expanse of Scapa Flow opening up in front of you.  Turning south the road once again becomes fast and inviting as you ride over the Churchill Barriers to the eventual end of the road at Burwick.  Once again there is only one way back to Kirkwall, but with a road this good who cares!  Getting another view of the barriers, their beaches and the islands is always worthwhile, plus you could stop off at the Italian Chapel on Lamb Home on the way back.  As you approach Kirkwall avoid the town and head for Scapa bay and ride along the sands of the bay before heading back to Stromness along the ridiculous fast and entertaining A964 with Scapa Flow on your left for company.

Scapa Bay

A loop around the Mainland of Orkney      Image (c) Google Maps

Turn by Turn:
  • Leave Stromness on the A965
  • After 4.6 miles turn left on B9055 passing the Ring of Brodger
  • Continue on B9055 for 4.4 miles and turn left onto A967
  • Continue on A967 for 1.2 miles and turn right B9056
  • Continue on B9056 for 0.3 miles and turn left onto Yesnaby road to arrive at Yesnaby in 1.8 mies
  • Head east on Yesnaby road for 1.8 miles and turn left onto B9056
  • Continue on B9056 past Skara Brae & Bay of Skaill for 6.2 miles
  • Turn left onto unnamed road to Marwick head RSPB
  • Return up unnamed road and then turn left onto B9056
  • After 2.2 miles turn left onto A967
  • After 0.8 miles turn left onto A966
  • After 1 mile arrive at Brough of Birsay
  • Leave Brough of Birsay on A966 heading for Finstown
  • After 18.1 miles turn left onto A965
  • Continue on A965 for 6.5 miles
  • At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto Pickaquoy Rd
  • At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Junction Rd
  • Turn left onto Union St
  • Continue onto Clay Loan
  • Turn right onto Bignold Park Rd/A960 
  • Turn left onto Inganess Rd
  • After 1.4 miles arrive at Inganess Bay
  • Return along Inganess Road and take the first then second left onto A960
  • Continue 7.2 miles to Dingyshowe Bay
  • Continue on A960 for half a mile and turn right onto Geo Road for Newark bay
  • Return along Geo Road and turn right onto B9050 for The Gloup
  • Retrace your route to Dingyshowe Bay
  • After 2 miles turn left on B9052
  • After 3.6 miles turn left onto A961
  • Continue on A961 for 13.4 miles to Burwick
  • Head north on A961
  • After 19.8 miles turn left onto Holm Branch Road
  • At the roundabout take the first exit to New Scapa Road
  • After 0.9miles turn right onto Old Scapa Road
  • Continue on Old Scapa Road and the turn left onto A964
  • After 14 miles turn left on A965
  • After 2.6 miles take the second exit and arrive back at Stromness 
  • Total: 125 miles, dependant on detours 

The cliffs at Yesnaby
Bay of Skaill
Bay of Skaill
Inganess Bay
Dingyshowe Beach
The Italian Chapel

Ferries to Orkney:  Northlink ferries  &  Pentland ferries 
Places I have stayed:  Stromness hotel  Polrudden guest house  The Ferry Inn
Orkney Council Campsites:  Council campsites
Other Info:  Orkney trip planning

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