On returning to Scotland from the adventure of Le Tour de Loire Valley du Tandem, followed by a week in Normandy in northern France, the “old git” and the “old gal” – along with me – were really missing our long days in the fresh air as we tandemed along.
So after two weeks my dynamic crew could stand it no more and decided on an uplifting trip to the wilderness beauty spot of Loch Rannoch in Highland Perthshire.
The “old gal” invited good friends, and solo cyclists, Gillian and Craig along as they had heard all about our trips to Rannoch and Tummel and wanted to experience it for themselves.
After driving up the busy A9 my crew enjoyed the spectacular image that is the view from the bridge over the River Tummel – with the trees on its banks just starting to change colour.
We stopped at the Queen’s View visitor centre – run by Forestry Commission Scotland – and met up with Gillian and Craig for coffee and a chat, and a walk to the viewpoint.
With it being such a clear day the views were eye-catching to say the least. We then drove down to the bottom of Loch Rannoch and parked up just past Bridge of Gaur,
We quickly unpacked the cars – admiring Gillian and Craig’s shiny new white car as we did so – to ensure we got the best of the weather. Then, in perfect Autumn sunshine we off on our usual clockwise route. You can check out the details of our scenic route on the loop round Loch Rannoch on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full date and statistics!
Despite not having tandemed for nearly two weeks, I am pleased to report that Team Matilda had lost none of the fitness we had in France. We were soon rolling along at a good pace, and whisper it, but Gillian and Craig seemed to be struggling to keep up!
Maybe they were just drinking in the amazing views across the loch to the mountains, or just making my dynamic duo feel good – but they were definitely lagging behind!
The “old gal” decided a quick stop was required at the wild camping area about two-thirds of the way up the loch – which offers a perfect opportunity for pictures with the majesty of the perfectly conical shape of Schiehallion – one of Scotland’s most recognisable mountains – in the background.
This area provides easy access to rocky beach and the loch was looking beautiful reflecting the bright sunshine off its surface.
Tandeming on we soon arrived in the town of Kinloch Rannoch at our regular picnic spot – overlooking a waterfall and the surrounding trees just starting to change colour. Perfection!
This was time for Team Matilda to introduce Gillian and Craig into the delightful benefits of their (in)famous prosecco picnics – which in fact today was a Cremant picnic as the bottle was one of many the “old gal” brought back from France.
And I am delighted to report that my new very fancy red leather la bouclee wine bottle carrier accessory did its job perfectly – with the air flow created by our tandeming keeping the bottle cool!
After a most enjoyable picnic we set off down the quieter south side of the loch – which if anything is even more scenic than the north shore. The B-class single track road never seems to be more than a couple of yards from the loch itself.
The wilderness factor is underlined as it winds its way through the magical Black Wood of Rannoch – one of the largest areas of ancient pine forest left in Scotland.
It certainly lives up to its Forestry Commission billing as “a living growing monument with some trees thought to be about 400 years old, and is home to a wonderful variety of plants and wildlife, including deer, pine martens and red squirrel.” It is little wonder that it is designated a Special Area of Conservation and was looking magnificent in all its Autumn splendour.
We stopped again to bask in the warm sunshine by the side of the loch to take in more of the views – and for some more fun pictures.
The “old git” and the “old gal” were really in the zone today and we were pedalling along at an average of over 12 mph – a good bit above our usual which hovers around the 10 mph mark.
I was uber impressed with my dynamic duo, and none more so towards the end of the loop where there is a fairly steep double hill. But we sailed up it as if it wasn’t there! So much so that the “old gal” was heard to say: “Is that it?!”
After completing the circuit, and clocking up 25 miles, it was back to the cars and I was packed away before a short 6 mile drive to the end of the road and the wonderfully remote Rannoch railway station. The “old git” had got the timing right today and was delighted to report that the amazing Rannoch Station tearoom was still open – and my crew and Gillian and Craig piled in for some welcome coffee and cake.
The station is just one stop down the line from Corrour station – where parts of the new Trainspotting 2 movie were recently filmed.
The final stop for the day was to walk across the road from the station to be met by Scott and Steph, mine hosts at the oasis which is Moor of Rannoch Hotel.
It is hard to describe this hotel to fully justify what it offers but essentially it is probably best summed up in the four headline words they use on their website – Retreat, Relax, Unwind, Escape.
The hotel’s major selling point – apart from the gin bar (obviously!) is that there is no tv signal and no wifi. You are quite literally cut off from the modern world.
But that is a huge benefit, and the scenery provides the stimulating brain food as the hotel looks out over the wilderness of Rannoch Moor to the Glencoe mountains. And right on cue as we relaxed before dinner the friendly “stag party” arrived – a herd of deer who come off the hill for food from a local who leaves vegetables out every evening for them.
The “old git” and the “old gal” had worked up an appetite with their route round the loch in a record time of under 2 hours, so along with Gillian and Craig thoroughly enjoyed a superb meal – with the kitchen presenting Highland Perthshire’s larder at its very best!
Another gin as a night cap – along with the cheeseboard which is offered free after dinner – neatly rounded off the day! But not before hotel owner Scott asked if any guests wanted to go outside and see the stags as it was the middle of the rutting season.
My crew went out and Scott used a high powered torch to identify a couple of the magnificent ‘Monarchs of the Glen’ who he caught in his spotlight.
What an end to a truly memorable day in a fabulous wilderness area with good friends! What could be better?!
Next morning we awoke to an amazing vista from the window of the luxurious bedroom – with a view right across Rannoch Moor.
As the “old gal” said – it’s not a bad view to start the week! After a hearty breakfast we checked out of the hotel feeling fully refreshed.
And on the drive back to Matildas Rest we took in more amazing Autumn views – while identifying a potential new route for Team Matilda to try out … along the side of Loch Tummel.
As we headed back out of the Rannoch and Tummel area, my dynamic crew said it won’t be long before all three of us are back tandeming in one of our favourite wilderness areas.