Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Hardtailing in Inverness, Aviemore and Paisley

Another rather late blog entry this one. Significant time has passed since my last work visit to Scotland, so many of the fine details have been lost, but the photos are a great reminder and as always, the trip holds a lot of unforgettable memories. What a privilege to be able to take the hardtail on a work trip to the top of our little island.

It was a long ol' drive from home to Inverness, via a site in Edinburgh, so a gentle roll around the canals and cycleroutes of Inverness was a perfect way to end the day. 

I've been to Inverness a few times, but am still finding exciting new places hidden away.

It was a stormy evening, the distant mountains coming and going on the horizon as the rain traveled in.

The ride was mostly flat as a pancake, other than the climb over the Kessock Bridge. No dolphins or seals in the water, but certainly great views and a great roll back down again!

Inverness also has a lovely little series of islands, bridged by beautiful metalwork.

Even late in the evening, the islands are always busy with folk and they never feel unsafe. I like it there.

Obligatory 'here comes the train' picture.

The next day's surveying was over reasonably quickly and I had plenty of time to get to Aviemore and meet Colin for another tour of his fabulous area. It was looking particularly stunning with the carpets of flowering heather and sun dancing over the mountains.

We headed out via the forests of Rothiemurchus and up onto the higher land by unsurfaced access tracks. 

Always a great tour guide, Colin provided the facts (and Gaelic) to accompany the views.

There were numerous water crossings. Some small.......

Some assisted by bridges.....

And some requiring a whole lot of pedalpower and hope that the current wouldn't sweep us off. We both stayed on the bikes, but wet feet were unavoidable!

The Loch was beautiful, for about 30 seconds, until the clouds of midges smelt us out and descended. With no visible sheep in the area, we were the only blood target and thus got the full force of the swarms looking for an evening dinner.

I managed to get a snapshot of the beautiful harebells before we got moving again. Just 5 mph is all that's needed to keep the midges at bay!

We went much faster than that though, as it was pretty much steadily downhill all the way back to the forest

Thank goodness Colin was in front on this section, or I suspect I would have been tumbling down the cliff and into the river below. A corner arrives out of nowhere at the bottom of a relatively fast downhill, definitely one you'd want to know about. It was nice to stop just after, and take in the scenery, for you don't see much riding a hardtail down bouldery trails. Everything goes a little blurry!

We also stopped to raid the wild bilberries. So different to the blueberries you find in supermarkets. These are little intense packets of wonderfulness!

Just beautiful. We couldn't have asked for a better evening.

On the way back, Colin offered to show me some more of the forest trails and we rode some perfect singletrack. Swooshy, twisty and tree lined, it was so much fun.

Beautiful stonework in a memorial to something I can't remember.

It had been a fabulous tour and I am, as ever, grateful to my tour guide for the trip. So good to have company, and to churn out a fair few miles on a work day evening. I really do appreciate how lucky I am to have a job that allows me to travel the UK.

The next day I had nightwork in Paisley, and my afternoon plans to ride were truncated through traffic woes of work colleagues, leaving me to obtain keys. However, I did have a spare hour once I was at the city, and found a compact little country park on the outskirts.

Gleniffer Braes is a busy place, even on a weekday, with dog walkers, school-holidayers, and teenagers making the most of the escape from the urban central band of Scotland. It really is worth a visit if you are passing.

There was a real mix of paths, steps, technical rooty bits and bridges. It was nice to have one last ride before an evening's work and the very long drive home through the early hours.

I miss Scotland already. Roll on the next trip!