As I looked out of the window at the little station of Blair Atholl it started to rain. This was the last thing we needed for our ride over the Drumochter Pass. Fortunately, by the time we’d had breakfast and loaded up, it had stopped. This helped cool the air but it was still quite humid as we set off.
Our first stretch was along the B road to Calvine. Ahead I could see a pair of cyclists on loaded solos. As we came to the village the road climbed – I labelled it the Calvine Climb. Boom boom. Not far after we left the village we turned onto the old road, now a dedicated cycle path. At first the road switch backed a little over the contours but as we headed further up the valley and into the hills, it ran to a steady climb across open land for a while. The following wind helped make it easier still. As we crossed a little burn the two riders I’d seen earlier sat on the parapet having a smoke. We exchanged hello’s as we passed. A little further on we stopped to drink and take on some chocolate and we re-taken by the other pair.
For a long stretch the cycle path ran right by the road – presumably the old road was buried under the newer one. This stretch was not quite so easy as the path dropped and rose in a series of switchbacks. The overcast sky had cleared a while back and left just the big clouds with large patches of blue. It was so nice feeling the warm sun on my back as we rode along in the little strip between road and railway/river. The big hills either side provided a spectacular back drop, their size emphasised by seeing the distant trucks on the A9 dwarfed by the landscape.
At the high point, over 1,500 feet there was a layby with a snack wagon. Very convenient! Tea for both of us and a loan sausage roll for Kaz and chips with curry sauce for me. Our biking buddies were there too, just collecting their orders as we placed ours. They were heading for Avimore and they left as we were busy refuelling. We didn’t see them again. Karon had been chatting with a car full of ‘Barlows’. Granny at a sprightly 90 last week was being shown around Scotland from her home in Glasgow. Just before they left, they gave us a fiver to put in the kitty!
We left to continue our passage between the A9 and the rail line – at this point, the highest network rail line in the country. Gradually we started to head down after the watershed and a while later, in the distance, we saw the unmistakable shape of the Dalwhinnie Distillery. We pulled in and parked up right by the door and having covered the seat, she’d gloves, helmets and other cycling accessories went inside to take the tour. You pay for the tour plus the number of tasters. The tour includes one – a Dalwhinnie. We settled for four in total 🙂
Tour over we sat and sampled the other three: a Glenkinchie, Oban and Talisker. Each accompanied by a chocolate truffle to complement the flavours. We drank a few glasses of water too, in an attempt to reduce the effects of the spirit.
When we left to head down the road the nine miles or so to Newtonmore, the wind has swung and strengthened. It was against us and on the exposed road, it was hard going, requiring pedalling downhill sometimes. A few miles from our destination we came across a cafe, obviously popular as a coach stop and full of Dutch when we arrived. More refuelling: coffee for Kaz and large drinking chocolate for me both with a large choccy biccy. It made the rest of the ride that little bit easier and the Glen Hotel was one of the first we came to. Up to the room just in time to watch the bulk of the Murray semi-final.