Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Mountain biking adventures in Scotland - Rothiemurchus and Abernethy Forests

When I first thought of an MTB trip in Scotland, the original plan had been a 5-6 day tour round the Cairngorms on the bikes with trailers to carry the camping gear - based on the route in the Vertebrate Scotland Mountain Biking guide.  We'd bought a couple of trailers cheap on eBay at the back end of last year and even before the first ride, I had doubts about it's ability to stand the course.  My main concern was the rather dodgy quick release spindle with the trailer attachments, which seemed not so much a quick release but more of a randomly spontaneous one.

On returning from my Challenge debacle, I underwent some retail therapy in the form of a BoB Ibex trailer and did a few practice runs with it around the Peak District, loaded up with camping gear.

Practice run over Houndkirk Road to the office towing the Bob Ibex trailer

Hilary decided to stick with her eBay copy-BoB but bought a Bob quick release spindle, which sort of worked with some modification involving bolts and wingnuts.

By the time we set of for Scotland, we'd also moderated our original plan to something less ambitious in the light of a few unknowns including: the weather, which continued to be wet giving the liklihood of impossible stream crossings and our uncertainty about the ridability of some of the tracks coupled with our levels of fitness (the guys who wrote the guide looked like they had bigger legs than us and there's a limit to how much pushing we wanted to do.)  So the new plan was a couple of single days rides without the trailers (including the 'Well Ard'verikie ride previously blogged) followed by a two day trip with an overnight wild camp .  If that went ok we planned to fit in a second two day ride, though that never happened because of the weather.

By the time reached Coylumbridge and parked up at the campsite, we'd roughed out a route through Rothiemurchus with an overnight wild camp at or near Ryvoan Bothy, then through Abernethy Forest to Loch Garten and back down to Aviemore.  The chap who runs the campsite suggested a couple of useful variations, which included an overnight camp by the River Nethy on the track over to Bynack Mor and to come back down the Speyside Way from Boat of Garten, which runs by the railway line and avoids a lot of on road stuff.

It seemed to require a lot of faffing to pack up the trailers and get the bikes ready and it was midday before we set off.  I seemed to have woken with a headache, which I can only attribute to whisky fumes - the merest whiff does it.  Anyway we set out from the back of the campsite along well surfaced wide tracks through Rothiemurchus to the Cairngorm Club footbridge, where we had to  separate bikes and trailers and sherpa them across. 

The Lairig Ghru from Rothiemurchus

Then skirting the southern shore of Loch Morlich we had a stop for lunch by the road, with a brief siesta in the sun and then a whizz down the road to Glenmore Lodge, which I have to say looks considerably different from the one I first saw in 1961 on my first caravanning holiday in Scotland. 

The track above Glenmore Lodge towards Ryvoan Bothy

The only real climb of the day was from there up past the aptly named An Lochan Uaine or Green Loch in the direction of Ryvoan Bothy. 

The Green Loch

Before the final climb up to the bothy, we took a track on the right, which heads eastwards out past Bynack Mor to the Fords of Avon.  We were only going a short distance along it and made a wild camp by the bridge over the R Nethy, with magnificent views up Strath Nethy, over to the Bynacks and across to Abernethy Forest.  (I've since learnt, this is referred to as Bynack Stable by those in the know.  The stable was a wooden hut, which blew down in 2004.  It is no longer marked on OS maps)

View from the tent looking up Strath Nethy

It was three in the afternoon and whilst Hilary did her Duracell bunny bit and went for a walk round the Cairngorms, I dozed in the tent, listening to the music on the iPod. 

Wild camp at Bynack Stable

It takes a long time to get dark in the Scottish Highlands on midsummer's day and it didn't feel like I'd been asleep that long before I was woken by the sound of vehicles outside the tent and the banging of doors.  I checked the time.  It was 4am.  I'm a nervous wild camper.  I always expect some sort of bother but I had hoped we were far enough away from anything and anyone to escape it.  Whoever they were, they were soon gone, leaving the two Toyota trucks parked at rakish angles by our camping spot.  Well really! How inconsiderate.

I was just finishing breakfast, which was a truely meagre affair, when the owners of the vehicles returned.   It turned out they were from the RSBP, doing a survey of nesting birds in the area and culling the odd deer that they came across, which accounted for what I thought earlier had been a gun shot.

The Bynack Stable car park!

We packed up and retraced our tyre tracks for a couple of kms, then hung a right towards Ryvoan Bothy, perched up on the skyline.

Ryvoan Bothy

View from Ryvoan back towards Glenmore and Rothiemurchus

From the bothy it was just a seemingly endless, fast downhill through Abernethy Forest.  I wove the bike and trailer around puddles just for the fun of it and noticed how much more Hilary's trailer bounced around compared to the BoB, justifying to myself that the extra money I'd spent on a BoB with a spring was worth it (no, no, I really do think it is.)

We'd planned to call in at Loch Garten to see the Ospreys.  Hilary was already an RSPB member and the attractive young girl behind the desk convinced me that I should join as well, with a vague promise of seeing her tits (the Crested ones that visit the bird feeders opposite her cabin) though I never did get a sighting.  I've waited 50 years to see a Crested Tit and it looks like I will have to wait a bit longer.  We did see the Osprey, through some binoculars, along with some Greater Spotted Woodpeckers and Red Squirrels.  We just missed seeing a Capercaille.

From Loch Garten we did a bit of road work before cutting through a some more forest to the Boat of Garten, where we called in at the shop for something to eat.  I seemed to have a lot of trouble convincing everyone around me that I wanted BOTH of pies on display in the cabinet and I wanted them right away and I didn't care if they were hot or cold and that they could be filled with bits from a scabby cat (any variety including Scottish wild ones would do), it really didn't matter.  I JUST NEEDED TO EAT!  And breathe...

After lunch, we set off up the road opposite the shop along the Speyside Way and passed under the railway and I stopped to hold a gate open for Hilary and was about to take a drink from my CamelBack when I realised it wasn't there.  My daysack was in fact on the table, outside the shop, back down the road.  So I unhooked the trailer and raced the mile or so back the way we'd come and collected it and raced, more slowly, back again. 

"Now we're even", said Hilary, alluding to the time  a few months earlier, when she had left her daysack in the car park in Linacre Woods on a Sunday ride.  "At least you didn't have your money in it"

"Well, actually I did.  And my credit card.  And the keys to the campervan.  But I wasn't too worried because I knew you'd have the spare set with you"

"Err, actually I left them in the van"


Anyway, we continued along the SpeysideWay as it turned south over open moor, running alongside the railway line towards Aviemore and we entered the town round the back of the golf course and through a housing estate and got spat out onto the main street and it started to rain.  I hate Aviemore.  I won't even begin to describe my dislike of the place, in case I offend anyone.  We mused over whether we should find a cafe to sit out the rain and decided on balance that we'd be just as well heading back to the campsite and a bottle of beer, which is exactly what we did.  And the rain stopped and we washed the bikes and opened the beer and felt both smug over such a splendid trip and at the same time, slightly subdued that it had ended all to quickly and wondered if we should have gone for plan A and the bigger adventure.  But that is waiting for another time.

Distance: 11.5 miles on first day and 26 miles on second day.  I never did measure the height change

About a BoB

The Bob Ibex weighs 8 kg, so with 11-12 kg of camping gear and bike spares, the whole thing comes in at around 20 kg. On the flat you hardly notice it's there (until you cycle without it). On steeper hills that require a get of and push, the pushing can be quite an effort. Gates with springs can be a real pain. BoB also make a trailer without suspension, called the Yak. Although the Ibex is more expensive, I think the suspension is worth the extra money. We noticed that the wheel on the unsuspended trailer had a tendency to leave the ground a lot on bumpy terrain, whilst that on the Ibex just flowed along. It's a nicely engineered bit of kit.

1 comment:

The Camping Trail said...

Damn! That is amazing ride. Hope you didn’t get lost on the trip? Keep safe and hope you stay fit. Lots of respect to you, man.