The Wind, two days on the bike September 2021

The wind, it had been away for some time, i’d even missed it at times. However, it was back and i was keenly aware of it as i cycled through Ardverakie estate towards Dalwhinnie. As i headed towards Ben Alder Lodge it hit me side on. I glanced towards Ben Alder, it was concealed by cloud, rain bearing cloud, heading my way. The weather forecast had been vague, although the forecasters in their usual assured manner had predicted that east of the Great Glenn would be just fine, i had my doubts. The forest track alongside Loch Ericht was becoming a familiar route for me and i looked forward to tea at the cafe in Dalwhinnie arriving just in time to miss a shower. The new owners have a good menu and i had the venison burger. Was this too much food for the lunch time? i had already eaten two eccles cakes since starting from Luilea on the A86 where Ellie had dropped me off. No, this was a good decision, it meant i need not eat again today. As i set off, my intention was to head south, onto the Rob Roy Way and probably ending up at Loch Rannoch train station sometime the following day. However, the wind hit me and the Drumochter hills looked black and after a brief struggle towards Sustrans route 7 i had a change of mind. I looked north towards Aviemore, it looked a more attractive prospect, with the sky being lighter and the wind at my back, i turned 180 degrees. I decided to see if General Wades Road between Glentuim and Ruthven Barracks actually was a worthwhile cycling track and to my genuine delight, it worked.

General Wades Military Road Phones Lodge

Only a deep water stream crossing to halt me in my tracks, fortunately, a review of the online maps indicated a footbridge just upstream not shown on the OS maps, i avoided a swim. Now i felt some justification for my decision to change course. After following the Badenoch Way and as the light faded i called in at the Kincraig Watersports centre for a shandy and then found an overnight camping spot on the Glenn Feshie Glider Club. I had been mulling over route options, for there are many in Cairngorms, and on Tuesday morning decided to rejoin Sustrans route 7 to Aviemore, Boat of Garten and Carrbridge, using the off road sections when available.

Speyside Way heading towards Boat of Garten

Following General Wades road from Carrbridge to Slochd Summit, it became apparent that the wind was increasing, this gave me some concern, for when my direction of travel turned south west at Inverness onto the Great Glen Way, i was going to be in trouble.The wind has a way of finding you and can be very dispiriting. For the time being it i was feeling the benefits of a following wind and I cruised down from the summit on the old A9 road and arrived at Tomatin, which possesses a wonderful cafe/shop/community centre. The facilities are new, and, you can even have a shower. Lunch was taken and in a repeat of yesterday, not expecting such a treat, i had just eaten two eccles cakes. The descent towards Inverness whilst not involving much effort, the wind was now hitting me side on, and I was becoming increasingly stressed about the obvious reduction in progress once i turned direction. As expected, it was a fight, but i manged to get into Inverness city centre and even included a brief section of fire road through Culluden Wood which was a pleasant diversion.

Track approaching Carrbridge

A coffee in town reinforced me for the climb up onto the Great Glenn Way. I had in mind to see how far i could make it along the section to Drumnadrochit before stopping for the night. Ellie rang me as i started the forest section, and offered to collect me from Drumnadrochit as the forecast, for Wednesday morning looked miserable. Yes, was my answer, and i set off with renewed vigor. However, the wind had a different idea, i slowly ground my way along the this attractive section of trail onto the tarmac section being continuously hit face on by strong gusts. Then, it began to relent and as i made my way through the cycle trails at Abriachan i sensed the down hill was about to start. What a section. I thundered down into Drumnadrochit feeling very good. A good two day trip, which turned up some enjoyable biking sections. It may be the last, as the forecast looks unsettled, but, what do the weather people know.

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