12th July 2011

Glencalvie Round Cycle

I left about 9:50am the sky being a bit overcast but a good day for cycling. There was a breeze, and it was only very light, coming from the North East. The Struie used to be the road that most people took when travelling North, but now most people take the A9, so it’s quiet. The road climbs gradually and at 11.5 miles and about 700 feet is the superb viewpoint looking out to Sutherland. I sent Anne a text to let her know my progress and to find out how Mairi had got on. She was sitting her driving test at 10.20 but Anne still hadn’t heard!!

So I cycled onto Ardgay. This is the last place there is for a mobile signal for the next 30 miles! There was still no news. I then headed west on the beautiful road up to Croick. I prefer the South road. I didn’t go as far as the historic church. On the East window of the church is etched in the glass people’s names. During the famous Highland clearances the people were cleared off their land and had to occupy the land round the church. Even though it was winter they would not use the church for shelter such was their respect for God.
I headed for Glencalvie passing Amat Lodge. Just beyond that I went down to the river and had my picnic. These are good times.

After a good break I moved on to Glencalvie Lodge and made a navigational error trying to find my way round the lodge. Even though the road says ‘Private’ you have to pass the lodge to get into Glencalvie. And now the climb begins. Just take it slowly and you get there.

And a wee bit further on looking back to Diebedale Lodge.

The track now branches sharp left and climbs without a break to 1500 feet.

Carn Chuinneag is ahead. I first came here, maybe 38 years ago, with my hillwalking pal and cousin Martin. His father, my Uncle Hector, would drive us anywhere. So he dropped us off at Croick one late afternoon. My memories are vague, but we did get to the top. I did it again many years later with Hamish Macdonald a church friend. We walked in by Loch Morie. And the last time was with my two sons when they were still at school. I tried to do the right dad thing and we packed tents and stoves and walked in, again from Loch Morie. We camped and were devoured by midgies. We had to sleep on a hot night with T-shirts over our heads, in fact Dave had boxers over his head. The next day we took tents and everything to the ridge and camped during the heat of the day. It was beautiful and above the midgies. We tried to pitch the tent further down but the midgies were in clouds. Hugh actually ran away. So we hastily packed and walked out to Dublin where we phoned Anne to come and rescue us. I think we walked about 16 miles that day over Carn Chuinneag (2753 feet) and carrying full packs. Needless to say the boys have never gone camping with me again!

Here are some scenes as the climb continues. It is stunning views.

And finally I got to the top, the reward is miles of downhill.

And its down to this gate. It must be the at the crossing into another estate.

And just a short bit on a last look back. Very faintly in the distance are the Western hills of Sutherland. Suilven is to the centre left, just to the right of the zigzag on the track.

And then on to Lochan a’ Chairn. This photo is of where a lodge once stood. Old Mrs Allison (92), in my church, remembers being able to drive in a car through here and remembers the lodge. It’s a sad place. The track, though its mostly dirt, has areas where you can still see tar! In one way its encouraging to know that nature can eventually degrade even tar.

And onto the end of Lochan a’ Chairn. As I stopped to take this photo I heard the strangest sound and it wasn’t a car. Round the corner came about 12 cyclist in matching clothes, with matching bikes, pulling matching traillers!

The downhill continued till I reached this obstruction. The bridge has been dynamited away and this impressive barrier constructed. All to stop poachers passing through!

I’ve now moved on a good way into the Kildermorie Estate. I had a wee bit to eat and just drank from a stream. Its climbing again though, but a piece of cake compared to the previous climb.

And then moved on to Loch Bad a’ Bathaich. It’s a bonny wee loch and there is a nice welcoming sign to walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

And down to Kildermorie. Kildermorie Lodge is a new build. When I first came here, maybe 28 years ago, there was an old Victorian lodge. To my mind it was much nicer. But it was flattened and this put in its place.

And the older Meall Mor Lodge. Meall Mor is the name of the hill across the water. It’s a nice climb which I’ve done several times.

And onto the head of Loch Morie. A beautiful, quiet place.

I was feeling good until now but the track down Loch Morie was just a bog and it took it right out of me. We’ve had so much rain this summer. It is a beautiful cycle but I had reached the stage of wanting to get back on tar!!! That’s bad.

I wonder what messages passed up and down the wires that were on these poles once upon a time.

And finally I got to the other end of the loch. I’m now just 7 miles from home and have often done this cycle in an evening. There are one or two climbs but mostly its down.

Here’s the Averon river which flows through Alness.

And then its home. A great day. I am just so blessed to live near such scenery. My legs are a bit stiff but after 52 miles of climbs who can blame them. And Mairi passed her driving test – first go – good one!!!