A quiet room, not really any snoring last night and the bunks were fine and the room temperature was alright. Maybe small things but things that can make a huge difference in hostels and bunkhouses. And this even with 7 people in our room.
Off to breakfast then, no porridge today, a change of pace. They had an entire refrigerator filled with milk and a huge stack of those mini boxes of cereal and then other food that can be heated in microwaves. Maybe not exactly what I wanted but I can adapt. But today is a banner cake day, so no worries then. While everybody packs and organizes and gets ready to go, we all take another look through the bike shop, seeing what sort of discount they can wring out of the owner. Everybody seems pretty happy with the results.
The dogs that were resident at the bunkhouse are quite cute and entertaining. Now I know Gary likes it when I write about him and all the funny things he does. Today he might have thought he was playing with the dog, but it was totally playing with him. Gary would throw a stick and the dog would look and wait until Gary went and fetched it and threw it again. Or it would pick it up and hide it under a car and then watch Gary try to retrieve it. This game went on for quite a while until it was time to leave and amused us all.
Gary being outsmarted by the dog.
We set off down the north side of Loch Venachar. The weather again is pretty nice. It is all a bit freaky. It is slightly cold in the mornings but the afternoons are fairly warm and still no rain in sight. It is pretty and not terribly hilly and we make good time. We note a new cafe just down the road, very wood panel-y, one Crispin hadn't known about before. Don't worry, we will be back, and the apple pies will be yummy. But the tea stop we were supposed to go to down the road (that new one was only a few miles past the start, no point in going there) so we have to keep going onto the next one, which is at the beginning of Loch Katrine.
Starting along Loch Venachar.
Just before there, I see the fabled Post Bus. In rural Scotland, where there isn't really a regular bus service, you can catch a ride with the post office. It makes frequent stops at every B&B and hotel along the way, a bit like a bee gathers pollen.
The Post Bus, past Brig o' Turk.
We arrive at Loch Katrine though a car park. Not the most scenic way to approach it. It is filled with coaches and lots of cars, lots of people who are there for the boat cruises of the loch. We are on the eastern side of the loch, famous for Sir Walter Scott, later today we will be on the western side, the Rob Roy end. Scott wrote Lady of the Lake set here, so basically everything we see for the next few minutes is completely about Scott, the cruise ship, the cafe is filled with stuff, signs, just everything.
Ahh, but the tea stop, food, finally. I get a bit greedy and order both a bacon roll and a salmon roll. Although I do save the salmon roll for later. It is a rough world out there, maybe there won't be a next tea stop for miles and miles. And lunch was possibly a picnic on the far side of the loch. The cafe is nice. Well, the food is ok but the deck outside is really nice. Perched up over the loch and has a nice view. The loch is surrounded by mountains and looks fantastic stuck in the middle of that. We also have a friendly chaffinch who sings songs for us.
Edge of Loch Katrine.
The road on the north side of the loch is a limited use road. There is a small amount of traffic on it but mostly only for local access to a few houses along the way. It is nice to be away from busy roads for a while, although at one point, just starting down a 15% grade section, I'm surprised by a large truck coming up pretty fast. But besides that one not so great incident, the rest of the way is quiet and nice. The loch is pretty amazing too, I can see how it inspired poems. It feels like a perfect mountain lake to me.
Heading along north side of Loch Katrine.
About half way around, we stop on a high ridge and enjoy the view and snack a bit before carrying on around the tip of the loch. I'm fascinated by the old dyke which has now flooded over. There are a line of trees growing across it, it feels a bit eerie, ghost town-ish.
Rest stop on a height.
Stronachlachar is just a short distance on and now we are deep in Rob Roy country. Factor's Island sits slightly off shore, a very small circular pointy island completely covered with trees. It is supposed to be the island where Rob Roy imprisoned the debt collector, one of the first incidents in his conflict with the Duke of Montrose, and propelling him into history as a thief/freedom fighter/hero or however you stand on the Rob Roy question. I saw the film years ago but still really don't have much of an opinion on the issue.
Coming around towards Stronachlachar past an old dyke.
We sit lined up on the pier (the destination for the boats cruising from the other side of the loch) and dig through our bags for lunch things, oat cakes, hummus (ok, I swap my plain hummus for a pesto hummus, since somebody else was so wild about the idea of pesto), some tinned mackerel, and other nice things. The weather has gotten fairly hot although is slightly windy by the loch. After lunch then, we move onto the cafe, just on the other side of the pier, and order tea and cake for desert. Well, you can't pass up good cake, you know.
Lunch stop in Stronachlachar.
Factor's Island where the tax collector was kept
At this point, we split into two groups. Those who want a shorter day head off back around the loch towards Aberfoyle, the rest of us head along Loch Arklet to visit Loch Lomond. It is a nice quiet road along the loch, fairly flat and has a lovely mountain range surrounding us. I do start to get slightly concerned when we head downhill a lot. And then get even more concerned when we go down a few rather steep hills. Don't get me wrong, I love going down hills, it is a great pleasure going down them, but these I know at the end we will turn around and come back up the exact same road. We might enjoy going down now but we will pay for it later on. But you have to do it despite the costs.
Heading along Loch Arklet towards Loch Lomond.
Ian taking up lots of road space.
The last really big hill into Loch Lomond was a few switchbacks and really steep coming into the little village. I was a little tempted to leave the bike towards the top and walk down but well too late now. It is a great loch down here though. It reminds me a lot of Lake Dillon in the Colorado mountains, a huge lake surrounded by mountains on all sides. This one has more of those water pipes heading up out of it. I think a lot of the water around here goes to Glasgow and is also used in various hydroelectric schemes.
At Loch Lomond.
We linger here for 10 minutes or so. There isn't much to do, take a few pictures, look at the loch and rest for a bit. But we have to head back up where we just came and I'm dreading it a little bit. It is funny how you can psych yourself out. It turns out to be not as bad as I thought. It was a few minutes of hard climbing but once we are past the last few hills, the rest of it is just a easy gradual uphill until we get back to the where we started in Stronachlachar. We even had the wind behind us pushing us up. The only real unpleasant part was the traffic jam on that first big hill, a bit of a conflict between a huge lorry coming down and a car going up and lots of backing up on very steep and tight corners.
Back up the hill away from Loch Lomond.
Along Lock Arklet again.
And then it happens, what I had been waiting for all week. I feel a little sprinkle of rain and figure this is it, I've been waiting all week to get soaked in Scotland, I mean it has to happen. I pick up the pace and hope to maybe outrun it or minimize the amount of time in the downpour. Judging by the clouds off in the distance and the wind direction, we have a few minutes. But that was it, that little sprinkle. I'm almost disappointed.
Threatening storm clouds
I do make up for it with the next section though. Dave is feeling speedy on his new bike and I'm still zipping along pretty well after the sprint from the rain. The road is fairly flat and fast, well, lots of small ups and downs and curves, but it is fantastic zooming along. I'm way out in front for a while and then Dave goes by and zooms along. What fun, roller coaster hills and great turns.
Zooming towards Kinlochard.
I nearly overrun the tea stop though. Kinlochard has a small post office and grocery store and then a cafe hidden behind it by the loch. The cake selection is amazing, a whole bookshelf on a wall full of different cakes. It is tough picking just one to have. I think mine has a bit of whiskey in it, it has a bit of a bite and is really yummy.
Tea stop in Kinlochard
Just a few miles on then to Aberfoyle. The motel was supposed to be the first big junction once we get into town. We head through town and second guess ourselves and head back a bit before we realize it is on the far side of town and that intersection there. So not really in the main part of town at all. It is a bit of an eye opening experience once we get there. First of all, it is a motel, yes motor-hotel, so a classic motel I'm so used to off of highways in the US. And it is the Rob Roy Motel, so trying hard to draw on that name. And the biggest surprise, we got there in the middle of a motorcycle rally, a hundred or so motorcycles around and all their supporting humans, most rather largish, the physique of somebody who spends a lot of time eating greasy food at motorcycle rallies and sitting on motorcycles.
We had totally outsmarted ourselves today. In giving Linda spare baggage, nobody had stuff they needed for the evening. We could check into our rooms, take showers and all that, but nobody really had clean clothes to change into. So mostly we sat in the somewhat grim bar of the motel and had mediocre beers and waited. I mentioned the Rob Roy part, right? The bar had lots of loud bagpipe music playing too to really add to the atmosphere.
We see Linda pull up and we all rush out to get our stuff and off to take showers and rest a bit before dinner. The motel restaurant looked a bit bleak so we decided on a restaurant in town, the Fourth Inn, I think. There was a back path to it along the river, Sustrans and everything, so we head out, lovely bluebells in the woods across the river. The restaurant was a bit tacky too, very kind of theme restaurant with large oak tables and lots of things on the wall so that it looks like an olde time banqueting hall, sword in the stone and all that. The food was nice but fairly expensive. Some nice beer though, a nice change after the bad stuff at the motel. We ride back to the motel in the dark (oh, actual rain now, so I guess that kind of counts as rain on the trip) and head to bed. 45 miles for me today.
Back to pictures Day 8