Mostly, this is random stories from my various trips as I collect them, but I've a wee backlog to get through too and those will pop up occasionally.

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Wednesday, 14 September 2011

C2C - Part 3


It's damp and cold as I set off back across the Spey to pick up the Glen Truim road, but I get a view of the still rather distant Cairngorms under a patchy blue sky.

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It's like the clouds are just above me and I speed up, trying to outrun them. Every time I look over my shoulder, I see a menacing dark grey mass chasing me down. I soon reach the track I'm looking for and head off-road again into the woods. The old road here is in pretty good nick, with occasional glimpses of the cobbled founds as a reminder of its provenance. I hang a left through a field down to Crubenbeg, realising half way down that I've left the forks on lock-up. Again.

The A9 comes as a bit of a shock, especially as it's currently being remodelled into a dual-carriageway. However, I know that the continuation of my route is on the other side somewhere. I zip down in a quiet interval and get some bemused looks from the various workmen as I enter the farm track to Etteridge. The track to Phones is well surfaced and smooth, but breaks up a bit after that and there's a long grassy section which is an absolute delight. Various turn-offs appear and one has me a bit flummoxed. I initially set off to the right, but soon realise it was the wrong option as it’s heading uphill. My annoyance is tempered as I come across the remains of some old sheilings. Quite substantial, it must have been a busy wee settlement in the distant past. 

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The track gradually leads back towards the A9, which I cross again, pick up some old singletrack road and then I'm at Ruthven Barracks. I'm elated. I've completed General Wades road all the way from Fort Augustus to Ruthven - at least as much as is possible today - and I wonder when was the last time someone made this claim. Nerdy? Obsessive? Maybe, but it's ideas like these which form the outline for some terrific riding.

Leaving Ruthven, I see the signs for the Badenoch Way and decide to follow them. This turns out to be a mistake as it soon becomes unrideable and I'm having to lift the bike over gates and fences. Eventually I reach the Tromie and a decision point. My original plan saw me heading directly over to Glen Feshie but I'm starting to think about lunch and there's nothing at all that way. Plus, having no GPS will make route finding somewhat testing in the complex of forest tracks. The simplest option is to stick to the Badenoch Way. This is signposted, runs past Loch Insh and I've ridden it before. It means a little tarmac just before the Loch Insh restaurant, but I'm willing to bend my principles for this one.

Lunch is devoured. It's gone 2.30 when I set off again, with some distance to go. Up to Feshie Bridge and back on more terrain I've ridden. The maze of forest tracks leads me to one of the finest pieces of singletrack anywhere. This takes me to Loch an Eilean and thence to Inverdruie, but not before I miss another turn off.

I'm beginning to severely miss the GPS and I realise it's actually a lot more useful as a cyclist than as a walker. The latter has the advantage of a slow pace. Route choices come up slowly with plenty of time to decide what's best. Wrong turnings are discovered before going too far off track and can be quickly corrected. The cyclist has both hands occupied, so can't be constantly looking at map and routing errors might only be noticed after a couple of km or more. This is so much worse if you've been firing downhill at speed and you have to retrace your wheeltracks uphill.

Aviemore appears and I use NCN7 to avoid heading into the High Street and then I'm on The Speyside Way - the final link in my cross-Scotland journey. Again, I'm on tracks I know and I zip along these at a decent pace. The tracks between Boat of Garten and Nethy Bridge are more great fun, if a bit slower. At Nethy Bridge, I see a sign for Grantown on Spey - 5 1/2 miles. This is actually a bit of a shock as I'd actually thought it was going to be further. Large Speyside Way information boards inform me that some sections of the Way are suitable for cycling, and some sections are unsuitable for cycling. However, that leaves around 50% of the Way in some sort of “might be suitable” no-mans land. I opt to largely ignore this advice, relying instead on my own sense of responsibility trying to avoid damaging tracks where possible.

The next section is an old railway bed which would be great if it wasn't for the fact that there's a gate every few yards. This is just getting completely frustrating. At each one I have a mutter to myself....

Eventually I reach the A95 crossing, pop through some lovely woodland and I see the suburbs of Grantown. A couple of junctions and I find my B&B for the night.