Around Big Ben

Slept better last night but woke early and treated to myself to a cooked breakfast out on the patio. All I could hear were the birds. Very tranquil apart from the midges finally found me. Sally had given me some moisturising oil which is sold as a moisturiser but gets rave reviews as an insect repellant too. I gave myself a spray or two and I have to say it did seem to work. The midges were around but not jumping on me

a big brekky for a big day

I had to let the breakfast go down so I was in no rush to leave. I pottered about a bit looking at the map and I put my washing out. The forecast was warm again but a bit cloudier than the weekend.

I set off just after 11am. There was chill in the air but I was climbing straight out the gate so I left the gilet off. Just down the road it was a left and I climbed into the forest along a wide forest road. A perfect start but then I missed a turn, garmin complaining I turned round and took a track over the river and then swung by a beautiful, small lake called Lochan Spling which had a sculpture of a fish just off the shore.

I climbed into a car park and saw a sign for a Sculpture Trail walk which made sense of the fish and an eagle I saw too. The forest road meandered on gradually climbing before the juicy stuff started

I rode out of the forest and then an incredible valley view opened up in front of me, I descended to a gate where there were two houses either side of the valley. I can only assume the residents get to them the way I came which was about 10 miles from Aberfoyle via series of gates. Awesome but a pain to go shopping. I wonder if they ever forgot the milk?

This is where the real climbing started. A really loose, tricky 25% climb put me in first gear before the surface and gradient eased. For the next 30 mins I climbed the valley alongside Ben Lomond which eventually topped out with an awesome view over Loch Lomond.

Now the descent to the shore I knew was going to be steep. I did some research but jesus, it was fucking insane. I took it easy as I could but some of it were big rocks on a 30% gradient. Too close to stupid for me. On an MTB maybe but I didn’t need an off and I had nothing to prove so I hiked a chunk of it. I met a couple of guys walking up the other way near the bottom and told them it was relentless. They asked me where I was going and we exchanged pleasantries and parted. I got back on the bike when it was safer and then picked up the West Highland Way.

easily 1 in 3 so no thanks

The shores of Loch Lomond were stunning. The West Highland Way was a bit hike-a-bike occasionally. A walkers path not really meant for bikes but I did enjoy the shade from the sun which was baking hot again.

I passed a couple of walkers while I was carrying my bike up a steep slope and she mentioned it wasn’t too far to the main path where I could ride again properly. I got there and found my Garmin had stopped navigating so I had to reload my route where the path split. Typical then, my route took me up a long climb. At the foot of the descent I stumbled upon the most extraordinary honesty box. It had everything. Soft drinks, cakes, dog treats. You paid by dropping the money into a mailbox or you could pay by card via QR code. Awesome. I’m in Scotland so I treated myself to some liquid girders.

After what seemed like hours offroad I was grateful to see some tarmac but I was back offroad again within 300m. This section was a 5km twisty path that was up and down like a rollercoaster. Some of it great, some hike-a-bike up and down steps. To be honest, in hindsight, I would have preferred the road I think.

I wish it was all like this

The shores were busy with tourists. Plenty of camp sites. As I rode into Balmaha I decided to stop for a drink top up and an ice cream. The village store and coffee shop next door were doing a great trade

big gob

I needed the stop. I was feeling a bit cooked in the sun. I didn’t stay too long and cracked on and picked up a gravel road up and through Garadhban Forest looking back over Loch Lomond before picking up the arrow straight road that is Rob Roy Way which took me back to Aberfoyle. I was about 8 miles from home now. The descent was awesome.

Eventually the route back into Aberfoyle picked up a two mile traffic-free route which was an awesome way to finish the ride. I popped out round the back of the local bike shop and cafe. Saw the owner and said the tyres were great. I had a coffee there then headed home.

That was more of an epic day out than I expected.

2 thoughts on “Around Big Ben

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