2009 Summer Tour – Day 9 (Aviemore – Birnam)
We spent just about all of today on Cycle Route 7. We had a few light showers between Aviemore and Kingussie, but really the day was dry with many sunny spells.
Setting out from Aviemore, we chose not to ride initally on route 7, as this would have added 4 or 5 miles – instead we chose a more direct B road. Kingussie looks more like a “real Scottish town than does Aviemore – it has a main street lined with older stone-built properties. Route 7 works pretty well as far as Dalwhinnie (notable mostly it seems to me for an elegant distillery building – and presumably the distillery within!).
From Dalwhinnie, the A9 rises to the Drumochter Pass, and I guess that there’s just not much room for a major cycle route. For most of the rest of the route as far as Calvine, route 7 consists of sections of old road (presumably older versions of the A9), linked by sections of purpose-built cycle path. Both are variable in quality, and it remains to be seen how well they are maintained in future years. The cycle path sections can be quite narrow at times. Overall, I’d say it wouldn’t be a good idea to try route 7 here on a lightweight set of road tyres – our tandem was shod with invulnerable (touch wood) 32mm Schwalbe Marathon Plus touring tyres – and a bike with suspension would certainly ease neck and back ache!
The route moves pretty definitively onto regular B roads at Calvine – a short while later, we reached the House of Bruar old person’s emporium. here we stopped for lunch in the form of excellent mushroom soup. And bought some presents for people. Then it was off through the interestingly laid out Blair Atholl, which looks very much like a planned estate, then on through wooded countryside (we saw no red squirrels, alas) to Pitlochry. By this stage, we’d pretty much decided to press on to Dunkeld.
As seems quite usual for cycle routes, it was rather difficult to spot sign for the continuation of route 7 in town. Eventually, we did find one, a sign pointing us in the direction of Logierait (which lies between Ballinluig and Aberfeldy, and through which we’d cycled on day 1). We took this road, which proved to be the most delightful section of road all day. It took us up and down hills, past fields, woods and meadows, all the way down to the main road to Ballinluig.
From Ballinluig, it was back to the roadside cyclepath along the A9, ducking low hanging branches, until the route once again assumes a proper road, climbing up a fairly steep hill to descend once more into Dunkeld. We didn’t see much in the way of B & B accommodation in Dunkeld, so we nipped over the bridge over the river Tay (designed by Thomas Telford) to Birnam, where we found a very pleasant B & B. Once showered, we popped over to Dunkeld for dinner at the Atholl Arms Hotel. Despite it’s slightly shabby appearance, our meal was top notch, and thus fortified, we went on to explore Dunkeld.
In all the years I cycled around Dundee, I never looked around Dunkeld. It turns out to have many interesting places to explore, from the cathedral by the river, to the restored housing around it. The cathedral is still partly used as a church, and while we were their a bunch of trainee bell-ringers were getting their first try at real bell-ringing – most of the time they seemed pretty good, to my untutored ears at least. Back over in Birnam, we went to look at the Birnam Oak, reputedly the last tree remaining from the original Birnam Forest, made famous by Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It’s an impressively big tree, although it’s so old it’s held up by a variety of props (see picture to right).
It was with some relief however to finally hit the sack today, as my back and shoulders had really taken a bit of a pummelling steering the loaded tandem down route 7. Still, from Birnam it would be a relatively short day’s cycling to return to Tayport and bring our tour to a close.
72.19 miles; 10.8 mph ave; 33.5 mph max; 6:38:39; total distance 487.69 miles