Spean Bridge to Tyndrum
Distance: 56.92 miles
Average speed: 10.8 mph
Total distance: 467.83 miles
Maximum speed: 29.1 mph
Originally, when booking accommodation for this trip, we’d hoped to stay in Spean Lodge, where we were very well looked after on our Land’s End to John O’Groats trip. It was, however, fully booked, so we booked into the Smiddy House instead. Now we’re really glad we did, everything about our stay was excellent. Robert brought us tea, coffee, home-made shortbread and whisky fruit cake on our arrival (not sure of the provenance of the whisky, sorry!) and made us very welcome. Our evening meal was spectacularly good, definitely the best of the trip so far. We strongly recommend a visit if you are ever passing through Spean Bridge.
Interestingly, on more than one evening of our trip we’ve worked out that the nearest distillery is Ben Nevis, but nobody ever seems to have any. This proved to be true last night as well – we’re beginning to wonder if it is really poor (surely not). On the recommendation of the serving staff we chose instead a Balvenie Doublewood – a Speyside whisky, reminiscent of a Macallan but with a spicy kick to it. It was delicious.
Our good experiences at the Smiddy House continued with an excellent breakfast this morning. We fuelled up, mindful of the twelve hundred foot climb we would be tackling up Glencoe. On stepping outside to load the panniers on to the tandem we noticed an unfamiliar golden orb in the sky – at last, a sunny day. We headed off in a westerly direction towards Fort William, on the busy A82 (in fact we spent the entire day on the busy A82, come to think of it). A few miles before Fort William we found a road-side cycle path, which made for slightly more relaxed cycling while it lasted. It delivered us past the Ben Nevis Distillery (which looked fine!) to Inverlochy and then Fort William. The traffic thinned out for a while thereafter as we kept up a decent pace in the direction of the Ballachulish Bridge. This crossed, we turned south towards Glencoe Village, again taking advantage of a cycle path for a few short miles.
We soon arrived at the foot of Glencoe and started to climb. The last time we were here the weather was dire and we were unable to see anything of our surroundings. Today’s sunshine was much more helpful.
The climb was long but shallow, though we kept having to stop to take photographs of the dramatic scenery. Some temporary traffic lights halfway up meant that for long periods we were cycling on empty roads. This was much quieter and more pleasant; we were able to enjoy looking around as we ascended.
Eventually the gradient slackened off and we were delivered to the edge of Rannoch Moor. Feeling hungry after thirty-five miles of hard pedalling we were glad to reach the King’s House Hotel. As we cycled down the driveway we noticed that the garden of the hotel was full of red deer – seven of them in fact, four adults and three juveniles. They were astonishingly tame and clearly happy to pose for photographs.
Lunch followed, washed down (at least for the Captain) with a couple of pints of refreshing pale ale. Afterwards we cycled past the deer (they ignored us completely) and back onto the main road, to climb the final two hundred feet or so to Rannoch Moor Summit, past the ski chairlift on our right, which was still clearly working in the summer months. Our arrival at the top was marked with the emergence of a strong head-wind, which curtailed our speed for the rest of the day (and made it much harder work). The traffic, too, was heavier now, with coaches and logging lorries making regular appearances.
A long descent (at remarkably slow speed, because of the headwind) brought us down from the top of the moor. Rannoch Moor which, on our previous visit, had looked spooky and moon-like in the mist and rain, looked much more benign in the sunshine. We continued to descend past Bridge of Orchy, knowing that another five hundred foot climb separated us from our destination. This climb was a long, long drag, made longer and draggier by the wind, and it seemed to take a long time before we were on a downward gradient for the last couple of miles into Tyndrum.
We stayed here too on our previous visit to the area, and, if recollections are correct, we don’t expect Michelin quality food this evening – it was something of a culinary desert. We’ve been told however that good fish and chips are obtainable, so here’s hoping.
Tomorrow we continue south through Inverary, finishing in Dunoon on the River Clyde.