Scotland has a long cycling history. I grew up on stories of the escapades of Glasgow’s Zenith Wheelers. My cousins have photos of the previous generation of McCarthys all with the stopwatches pinned to their shirts for the time trial race of back in the day. Cycling was part of our DNA.
I’m more of a tourer than I ever was a racer. So, when Maggie and I had the opportunity to cycle home along the National Cycle Network 7 route (NCN7) from Buchlyvie, near Stirling, to Pitlochry, we jumped at the chance. I have to fess up here and now that we have electric bikes (ebikes) these days. The old touring bikes have been passed on to our children and we are now more concerned about charging points at our overnight stops than we ever were before.
For any readers not in the know, the Scottish Government does an enticing interest free loan on ebikes in a bid to encourage more people to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing. Me and the ‘missus’ took advantage of the scheme last year and we are now fully fledged ‘ebikers’. It’s like being a member of punk rock band except we don’t move as fast as we once did.
Trip: Buchlyvie to Pitlochry
Day one of our trip home saw us leave Buchlyvie and head to Calendar. After devouring our lunch by the river, we joined the NCN7 route for the trip up Loch Lubnaig. The climb through Glen Ogle is spectacular and the views of the road amazing. Once you have reached the top you can sit there and cruise down to Killing. We overnighted here after a 39.7-mile day with 2,426 feet of ascent. There are great views of Loch Earn from the old railway viaduct that many admire from passing cars on the road far below.
Day two took us up the quiet side of Loch Tay with great views of the Ben Lawers range. After the relative wildness of the Loch side, you come to the more touristy Kenmore with the Scottish Crannog Centre and the watersports centre. Our ride was completed by peddling past Castle Menzies and Aberfeldy before turning left onto the river Tummel and the last six miles to Pitlochry. This was a 42.8-mile ride with 2,613 feet of ascent.
Completing our short tour was not like doing it on a pushbike. There is no doubt that the electric backup takes much of the pain out of the ride. The NCN7 still offers spectacular scenery and demands enough of you to give a great sense of achievement. It’s still nice to be out there doing a bit, and the hills don’t seem so daunting somehow.
The National Cycle network 7 is a great way to get started cycle touring. There are many miles that are traffic free, even where cyclists share the road with cars; it is generally quiet and most of the drivers know they are driving roads where cyclists and walkers have priority. Cycling is a great way to see Scotland. All you need is a road-worthy bike and some basic tools to repair a puncture if you should be unfortunate enough to pop a tire.
The NCN7 runs for 540 miles from Sunderland to Inverness. The cycle path is provided by Sustrans, the charity making it easier for us all to cycle and walk. As custodians of the National Cycle Network, they champion active travel as a long-term commitment in the UK. The UK has 12,500 miles of signed traffic-free paths and on-road routes for walking, cycling and wheeling. All we have to do is get out there and enjoy!
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