Beam me up Scotland

So’ I’ve just pushed the button on a summer cycling holiday on my own as a treat because it’s my half century milestone birthday this year, or I’m 50 for short.

As we come out of the pandemic and try and get back to normal this is another break on top of the other two holidays planned this year. In March we do 10 days in Fuerteventura. Ironically, this is where we were last on holiday when the pandemic started in March 2020. We spent a week in a hotel room, locked down so this picks up where we left off I guess. I’ve hired an MTB again while I’m there so I can bang out a few rides along the coast and the barren inland trails. I’ve been before and ridden them and my gravel bike too. Great fun and I get to meet the chipmunks again

In June I now have my cycling holiday which I’ll talk about in a sec and in September we’re heading back to Canada for 15 days to stay with some friends in Calgary at the start and the end and do a bit of a tour via Edmonton, Jasper, Lake Louise and Banff in between. It’s going to be scenery overload again. It was so good we just had to go back!

Now onto my cycling holiday. Obviously I’ve known I’ve got a big birthday coming up for quite a while and a holiday away on my own cycling has been in the back of mind on and off since last summer. The last time I went away on my own properly was 2016 where I spent a week in Les Gets. That’s where this whole blog was born!

I’ve flirted with various ideas of where to go but never really committed because of the uncertainty around COVID.

Initially I wanted to go and do some mountains in Europe. The Dolomites have been on my bucket list for years but practically they’re not easy to get to. It’s a 4hr journey from Venice and whether you book a DIY holiday or a supported holiday and paid the single supplement, bike hire or the cost of flying my bike I was looking at a minimum of £2k for the week. It’s a treat but I’m not worth that much. Too much faff too.

So I sacked off the flying (only temporarily) and looked at driving onto the continent. I was in the Vosges at the end of November last year and that looked great but a tad too far to drive on my own in a day and it’s pretty remote too. Even if I flew to Basel again and hired a car I was 2.5hrs away. AirBnB’s are cheap and Euro Tunnel was £180 return. Doable but it was just the 10hr drive that put me off.

Then I came up with where I nearly ended up, the Ardennes. That lumpy, forested region on the French/Belgian border famous for the Ardennes classic races like Liege-Bastogne-Liege. My mate had been there on holiday and said what a great place it was. My only experience of it was seeing it on the TV watching the races. It appealed. I did some research, found some options for where to stay and looked at the riding too. Remote, quiet. I even considered stopping off on the way back to ride some Paris-Roubaix pave (cobbles for the non-cyclists). It was only a days driving (7-8hrs) too. Seemed like a plan so I put it on hold while COVID and the travel restrictions sorted themselves out.

The Ardennes looks stunning

Then randomly picking up the idea again over Xmas and New Year I suddenly had a brainwave to either book a package holiday, because they were cheap, or go to the same place and DIY it. I came up with Gran Canaria because it’s popular destination for cycling, I could hire a bike and the prices, if I did it DIY or package were not too dissimilar. So this was where I was definitely going now until I got cold feet a few days later. I thought it would be too hot in June. So back to the Ardennes idea it was

Gran Canaria – A cycling paradise. One day I’ll ride it.

Fast forward to this weekend I was lounging on the sofa yesterday casting some YouTube clips and I stumbled upon a Cycling Weekly video about gravel riding in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. They were asking, is it the ultimate Gravel destination?

Well after watching the video, it was certainly somewhere I wanted to go. Instantly going into my top 3 cycling destinations I needed to do before I die. An absolutely stunning place with 200kms of gravel trails criss-crossing the area. Quiet too, no crowds. I knew about the area and had seen some pics but I had no idea it was THAT good. I was sold. Take my money right now.

I slept on the idea, woke up with it still pacing around in my head so I looked up accommodation in Aberfoyle at the heart of the region and a great base. I expected the cost to be prohibitive or nothing to be available. To my surprise I found a 2 bed cottage to myself for a quarter of the price of the Dolomites trip. The right place, the right price and only 5.5hr drive. So fuck it, I did it. Scotland and Aberfoyle here I come.

A week in June exploring the gravel trails around Loch Lomond and The Trossachs beckon.

speaks for itself

PS. The cottage has a spare double/twin room. If you want it, get in touch. Be a shame to waste it.

2 thoughts on “Beam me up Scotland

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