Sunday, 31 May 2015

Rob Roy Way - Day 4 of 4 'Ardeonaig to Pitlochry'

Day 4 & the final day of the Rob Roy Way ...

After a night of howling wind & really heavy rain I was more than surprised to wake up to such a calm morning. I was dreading waking up to the last day being spoilt with wind & rain but sticking my head out of the tent I found that the air was cool & fresh after the nights rain & the sky looked promising with broken cloud with blue streaks poking through.

An early start this morning as I wasn't really in the mood for breakfast, so packing away the tent & gear I set off back down the steep hill & onto the single track road for my final day's cycling on the RRW. 

The route soon arrives at the small hamlet of Acharn where I leave the single track road & onto a more interesting rough track.

One thing I can say about the RRW is that there is no half measures when it comes to hills ! The hills along the route are all steep & all very long, but that all adds to the fun of the holiday.

Nearing the top of the hill is the 'Hermit's cave' which is an artificial stone-built cave, constructed in the 1760's (when such things were fashionable) by the 3rd Earl of Breadalbane to give the most dramatic introduction to the 'Falls of Acharn'. Visitors included Robert Burns & William Wordsworth. 

The Hermit's cave is entered to the left of the main path then once inside the cave which is quite dark, daylight can soon be seen & taking another left turn where the daylight is coming from you emerge out onto this amazing viewing platform allowing the best views of the Falls of Acharn & I'm sure you'll agree that it's a brilliant view with the waterfall falling over 20 metres.
Going back into the cave instead of turning right once inside, there is another turning to the left, following this tunnel it brought me back out onto the path again, so I had to walk back down the hill to get my bike.

Continuing up the rough track I came across another well trodden path off to the left, leaving my bike safely off the main track I ventured down this path to find this amazing cascade of waterfalls, each falling into another with natural bowls to collect the water from the waterfall before, then spilling over into the next bowl & so on & so on.
The bowls were very deep easily 10ft plus & it was tempting to jump in for a swim after the sweaty hill climb to get up here.

The route now opens up into some grazing land & follows a track called 'The Queen's Drive' named so after Queen Victoria who was inspired by the views from this pathway.
 The Queen's Drive follows a parallel line to the loch side road some 250 metres below.

The track slowly keeps climbing uphill, passing many curious sheep as I rode by.

Over a livestock bridge, opening & shutting both the gates only to notice that there was a ford next to the bridge I could of crossed with just the one gate...Doh !

It was easy to see why Queen Victoria favoured this road as the view along Loch Tay were braw.
 The pictures don't really give a true scale as to how big the loch actually is & it also stretches far around the corner.

Soaking up these majestic views I soon had my first sighting of the village Kenmore a small village at the head of Loch Tay & where the loch drains to form the mighty River Tay.

A better view of the idyllic village of Kenmore but not for long as I entered the woodlands of Bolfracks estate.
Taymouth Castle is situated north east of Kenmore. It stands on the site of the much older Balloch Castle (built in 1550), which was demolished to be rebuilt on a much larger scale in the early 19th century by the Campbells of Breadalbane.
Built in the neo-Gothic style on a lavish scale, no expense was spared on the castle's interior, which was decorated with extravagant sumptuousness incorporating carvings, plasterwork & murals. Panels of medieval stained glass & Renaissance woodwork were incorporated into the scheme. Much of this decor survives, though the castle lost most of it's original rich furnishings. It has been empty since 1979, although plans have been put forward for it's redevelopment as a luxury hotel.

The clouds were slowly breaking up & it was turning into a braw sunny day which was making this last day on the RRW all the more enjoyable.

The views along the valley below were utterly amazing & just before I went around a corner I had one final look back to Loch Tay for the last time.
All the gates along the route have been unlocked & easy to pass through apart from this one which was chained & padlocked, so I had to unload the bike & lift everything over to the other side then load up the bike again ready for the off.

Following a pylon road for a few hundred yards then the route turned left & into the Dunskiag plantation...

...which was being heavily harvested.
 Through the clearings I got a glimpse of the next town on my travels which is called Aberfeldy, but firstly there's a wee detour en route to Aberfeldy.

And that's the 'Birks of Aberfeldy'

 Entering into the birks I soon realised that this was no place for a bike let alone a bike full of luggage !
The 'Birks of Aberfeldy' is a circular walk through mixed woodland.
Originally called the 'Dens of Moness' the birks (from the Scots for beech trees) overlook the Falls of Moness & lines the slopes of the Moness gorge.
The Birks of Aberfeldy were named after a poem of the same name by Scotland's national bard Robert Burns, who penned 'The Birks o' Aberfeldie'

But it was worth the hassle, this place is absolutely stunning.

Many of the wooden walkways were narrower than my bikes handlebars which made getting the bike across a bit of a challenge without stripping everything off the rear rack.

If I ever come back here again there is no way that I'll be on two wheels ! So near to the end of the journey & in some ways it was harder manouvering my rear end heavy bike through these walkways than pushing up some of the steep hills that I'd endured throughout the trip.

Finally near the bottom I bumped into the bard, Robert Burns who was deep in thought & unaware of my presence, so a quick photo & I was on my way leaving him to his thoughts.

Leaving the birks behind it was into Aberfeldy for something for dinner & I found a superb little high street bakers which sold the most delicious scotch pies & bridies.  After stuffing my face & re-filling the bike bottles onwards I went the finish line was very close.

Passing Dewar's Aberfeldy distillery on the way out of town.

Just outside Aberfeldy the RRW route leaves the roadside & follows along the banks of the River Tay & it was just like riding alongside the river Tyne back home it was very similar.

Leaving the riverside track & merging onto the last of the old railway tracks of my journey & heading into Grandtully.

Crossing the bridge which spans the river Tay I noticed lots of wires crossing the river with poles hanging from them, they were obstacles for a kayaking coarse.

Leaving Grantully behind & the RRW had a real sting in the tail a final big climb uphill before the descent down into Pitlochry, plenty to see on the climb up, from old dry stone dykes, oak woods with a carpet of bluebells, birch woods & higher up the hill a forest of gorse bushes.

It was a struggle cycling through the gorse bushes the track through them was barely wide enough to walk let alone with the panniers on my bike it made the job all the more difficult. 

Eventually the big hill rolled out into a gentle plateau, I stopped here for ten minutes or so to admire the valley below which the River Tay cuts through & the rolling hills beyond.

Leaving those stunning scenic views behind me I then entered into the Fonab forest & through the Ballechin Wood.

And then through the Clunie Wood, which you needed your wits about you going down through this track as there were lots of obstacles to avoid from fallen trees, roots & ruts hidden by the undergrowth & what seemed like malicious sticks placed strategically to go through your spokes.

The forest soon clears onto a forestry track then onto a farm track & I could see Pitlochry straight in front of me.

After playing a game of chicken trying to cross the busy A9 road I then crossed the suspension footbridge which spans the River Tummel.
The bridge had loads of padlocks locked onto it & I've since read that they are called lovers locks which couples engrave or write their names onto the padlocks then lock them onto the bridge before throwing the key over into the River Tummel !
I wanted to get a photo of all the padlocks & more from the bridge but this is such a narrow bridge & people had to wait for me to cross before they could get onto the bridge due to my wide load.

Game over & job done !

The end of the Rob Roy Way at the memorial gardens in Pitlochry, delighted & chuffed to bits that my bike & I made it without any major dramas, but ever so slightly disappointed that again there is no official plaque or statue marking the RRW route :-/

Reflecting on the entire journey, I would recommend this route to anyone, superb views along the way from lochs, mountains, forests, wildlife, bridges, viaducts & waterfalls it really does have it all & the part I liked the most was the shear solitude of being on my own other than when going into villages & towns to load up with supplies seeing any other people was rare. The wild camping was awesome from the gentle swing in the hammock to the howling wind & rain battering the tent. And unusual for Scotland the weather was good to me through the daytime when it mattered the most. The highlights of the trip for me had to be spotting the osprey, being on the Glen Ogle viaduct watching the motorbikes & the wild camping, but in a whole I enjoyed every single minute even when huffing & puffing up some of the relentless hill climbs.

So that's that then, I hope you enjoyed the four day journey along  the Rob Roy Way.
Now to plan the next adventure :-)

Thanks for taking the time to read...
...cheers the now.