New year blaw at freezing moody Loch Rannoch

The sun trying to break through as we headed for Kinloch Rannoch on the north side of the loch.

The sun made fleetingly rare appearances as we tandemed round the beautiful Loch Rannoch.

After a busy festive period, the “old git” and the “old gal” decided on a tandem ride to blow away the cobwebs – and decided on a New Year trip to the wilderness beauty spot of Loch Rannoch in Highland Perthshire. This is one of Team Matilda’s favourite places to tandem and the idea was to get some “brain food” to kick off the New Year and set the standards for some spectacular rides.

And for my dynamic duo, there was the added attraction of the ride allowing them to complete their prized “boxed set” of tandeming the loop around Loch Rannoch in four different seasons in a calendar year. You see we had already completed a tour in Spring,, Summer and Autumn. So just the winter circumnavigation to go!

But what the “old git” had perhaps overlooked in his natural unbridled enthusiasm to complete the challenge was that while Loch Rannoch is a stunning area and can provide an amazing backdrop – it can be cold in Winter! “That’s bleeping cold” the “old gal” has just clarified!

To be honest it was still officially freezing on the thermometer reading on Matilda Transport as we headed up the A9, turning off just after Pitlochry for Tummel Bridge. Given that is was January 2 we knew nothing would be open and had to drive past our normal coffee stop at the Queen’s View visitor centre – run by Forestry Commission Scotland as it was closed.

But my crew were able to fuel up on some coffee and home made shortbread – which the “old gal” had wisely decided to bring with us – when we parked in Kinloch Rannoch where we decided to start our loop from today, rather than our normal start point of Bridge of Gaur at the bottom of the loch.

With the thermometer just moving into positive territory – that’s 1C! – my dynamic crew pulled on their multiple layers of clothing, including thermals, fleeces, cycling jackets, winter weather gloves and even insulating skull caps for under their crash helmets!  Then we headed off on our usual clockwise direction, which saw us cross the bridge and tandem firstly down the quieter south side of the loch. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to get the full data and statistics! 

any-strava-l-rannoch

Lets just say that even with all that winter clothing – it was still extremely cold! In fact even the “old git conceded that it was pretty grim as we headed away from Kinloch Rannoch to be blasted by a fairly fierce wind blowing off the loch which never seems to be more than a couple of yards from the road.

With over 22 miles ahead, it did seem a tad adventurous, perhaps even a bit foolhardy – but a challenge is a challenge… and the “old git” reminded the “old gal” that they would soon reach the protection of the woodlands. It would need to be said that at this point relations between my dyanamic crew were somewhat frosty – a bit like the weather! And the “old git” didn’t really help things get any more convivial when he suggested to the “old gal” that she should be happy as she was getting the added treat of a free facial from the wind and the sleet as we tandemed along!

I felt mutiny in the air – or was it snow – but amazingly we all pedalled on and survived the bracing first mile or so before we got into our stride. The wilderness factor of the area is underlined as the narrow road – complete with passing places – winds its way into 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 moody Winter splendour. And today it had the added appeal of giving some protection from the elements.

After about 7 or 8 miles the forecast sun did make a fleeting appearance which lifted the spirits of my team somewhat. The “old gal” was so filled with enthusiasm that she even whipped her phone out to take “shadow” shots just to prove the sun did in fact decide to come out – albeit sporadically!

A moody "shadow" shot of Team Matilda - just to prove the sun did actually come out to say hello!

A moody “shadow” shot of Team Matilda – just to prove the sun did actually come out to say hello!

There was even time for a quick stop at a recognised viewpoint which gives a great vista all the way back up the loch – which combined with a much needed “wild” loo stop and the “old gal” singing the praises of her Shewee!

The "old git|" and the "old gal" forcing a smile to show they were having fun despite the cold!

The “old git|” and the “old gal” forcing a smile to show they were having fun despite the cold!

On we pedalled battling against the wind and that double hill towards the end of the south side stretch. Given the cold temperature it was perhaps no surprise my dynamic crew decided not to stop at the halfway point at the bottom of the loch for their planned alfresco cremant picnic at Bridge of Gaur – and instead we decided to head back up the north side back to Kinloch Rannoch.

The difference in tandeming conditions as we headed in the opposite direction was immediately noticeable – it was much calmer as any wind was now behind us … and the sun came out again, allowing more “shadow” fun with the camera!

Another "shadow" shot on the way up the north side of the loch while we took in the scenic beauty of the area.

Another “shadow” shot on the north side of the loch while we took in the scenic beauty of the area.

The "old gal" basking in the sunshine - well freezing in the fleeting sunshine to be exact!

The “old gal” basking in the sunshine – well freezing in the fleeting sunshine to be exact!

We tandemed on – with my crew close to “hitting the wall” as they found themselves running on empty – after the decision to delay the picnic till our return to Matilda Transport. However a quick gorge on a couple of small “emergency” bars of chocolate was enough to refuel my crew to carry on!

The original plan was to have a quick halt at a regular stop off point on the north side – at a wild camping area about two-thirds of the way up the loch – which usually 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.

The only snag was that with the mist and snow which was falling on the mountains – as you will see from the photo below – Schiehallion had completely disappeared. Or as the “old gal” quipped: “Maybe it decided to go somewhere warm like the Canary Islands for a sunshine holiday … like we should have done!” And you know what … and yes I know you will find this difficult to believe … I don’t think she was joking! But I am sure they would take me along for some warm weather training!

Where's Schiehallion gone? No sign of the conical mountain top this time!

Where’s Schiehallion gone? No sign of the conical mountain top this time in the Winter mist!

It was the first time in the four different seasons of visits to Loch Rannoch that the mountain hadn’t dominated the skyline. So this “old lady” blogging tandem decided to look back at my previous Musings to remind my faithful readers what Schiehallion looked like in each of the other three seasons.

It's behind you! Despite the light Spring snow, the "old gal" had no problem seeing Schiehallion.

It’s behind you! Despite the light Spring snow, the “old gal” had no problem seeing Schiehallion.

Schiehallion showing its majesty in Summer with Team Bluebird on Le Tour de Perthshire.

Schiehallion showing its majesty in Summer – with Team Bluebird on Le Tour de Perthshire.

Schiehallion in bright Autum sunshine with Gillian and Craig

Bright Autumn sunshine to see Schiehallion – with solo cyclist friends Gillian and Craig.

Apart from the cold weather conditions, another big difference for our Winter loop was the height of the water in the loch. Looking back at the photos you will see a pebble beach – but this was completely under water for our trip this time! And amazingly the “old gal” didn’t jump at the chance when the “old git” joked: “Ok first in the water gets an extra big gin!” She did however mutter something under her breath – but this is a family blog and it can’t be repeated here!

The majesty of me - at the empty wild camping site! Imagine Schiehallion in the backdrop!

The majesty of me – at the empty wild camping site! Imagine Schiehallion in the backdrop!

The “old git” – who clearly isn’t wired up properly – asked the “old gal” why the wild camping site was totally empty only to be told in no uncertain terms this was because it was freezing! However it did allow me the opportunity of a picture to show off my majestic lines since Schiehallion was hiding!

Then it was time for the “old git’s” well thought out plan to record an “on location” New Year message – offering a cremant toast to offer best wishes for 2017 to readers of my blog and fellow tandemers everywhere. He had come up with a script and great ideas to use his new fancy phone with his new tripod device and Bluetooth gizmo to film an epic which would then be edited together into an Oscar winning film! But the fact that my dynamic crew were feeling less than dynamic and distinctly chilled meant that it was a one-take (less than) wonder! (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

It certainly wasn’t a Steven Spielberg production  – and it was so cold that the “old git” didn’t even have time to open the bottle of fizz! Job done my crew – fairly well chilled to the marrow by now – got back on the saddles and covered the last couple of  miles to Kinloch Rannoch in double quick time.

To defrost the “old gal” and the “old git” jumped in to the comfort of Matilda Transport – immediately switching on the heating system and enjoying a reviving cup of warm coffee. After a few minutes they were able to enjoy their picnic lunch – indoors not outdoors obviously! – while having a look at Strava which officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of  22.7 miles with a total moving time of  2 hours 27 minutes, at an average speed of 9.3 mph. And my dynamic crew showed they still had good fitness levels by recording no less than 7 Strava gongs – which given the freezing temperature was really quite an impressive performance from my crew!

Total elapsed time was just 2 hours 50 minutes due to not hanging about during the photo and video shoot! Top speed was a not too shabby 27.5 mph and the elevation covered was 389 feet. Together we managed to burn up 1,211 calories to help wipe out some of the festive excesses, and produced an estimated average power output of 123 W.

Just one complaint to the local tourism people at Rannoch and Tummel – there were lots of people about as it was the day after New Year’s Day – but nowhere was open.  Not exactly offering tourists a warm welcome ….. surely it wouldn’t have been too difficult for somewhere to open for a few hours?

As we headed home to Matildas Rest – the exercise endorphins had fortunately started to kick in – with all three of us agreeing that – even allowing for the somewhat cold temperatures – that it had still been a worthwhile ride in a spectacular area. There was even time for some self congratulation of achieving the four loops in four different seasons. Even if the “old gal” was saying that the next time she wanted to do it in t-shirt weather!

So as a reminder of much warmer wilderness tandeming – here’s a picture from our warm summer loop of the toast that we had planned …. Cheers! And all the best for 2017!

Memories of Summer! Prosecco with an Irn-Bru chaser!

Warm memories – prosecco with an Irn-Bru chaser!

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10 thoughts on “New year blaw at freezing moody Loch Rannoch

  1. Despite the cold it must have been a very satisfactory ride, not only to complete the set, but to be able to be outside enjoying the winter scenery. Then of course you always feel chuffed that you didn’t wimp out. Well done all 3 of you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jane for your kind comments and support! I have to say that (after all 3 of us thawed out) it did feel really good that we persevered and completed the challenge! I just think we all prefer summer and autumn, although spring can be ok.

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  2. Hi there Matty. Just as well oil rarely freezes, eh Matty? Glad you had a good day sauntering round what looks for all the world like a prostrate dead body by the way !! Loch Rannoch I believe. I think the only reason the old dears take you out is for an excuse to consume more alcohol ! Irn Bru indeed. Do you get mercury in its place ? Can’t think of another fluid metal.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Are you sure its not you who has been on the sherry (again) Dot ?! And let me tell you there was no time for this sauntering as you smugly put it! All 3 of us would have frozen to the spot if we had sauntered! It was the tandeming equivalent of pedal to the metal all the way round as we ground out our fourth circuit in four seasons!

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  3. Happy new year and all that jazz.

    Looks like a great way to start the new year. It’s a shame that local businesses didn’t see fit to welcome visitors to the area. Even just for lunch time. Missed a trick there!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mel, very much so. If you want to attract people to the area …. you have to offer some kind of service. As I say it wouldn’t have been that difficult to organise a rota system where one place was always open! It’s a while since Team Matilda has met that kind of “you’ll have had your tea” mentality – but it clear still exists unfortunately! Shame because it is such a gorgeous area!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a wonderful blog, and by all accounts all great time was had by all. It’s always great to hear people enjoying our area. Every season is different and offers different experiences. It seems though you were well equipped to enjoy your day, given we are sandwiched between to truly wilderness areas.

    Comments about the lack of visitor amenities are not without some merit, but it might be worth remembering you came during a time of public holidays. Many of tourist amenities are staffed either by local people, or those who have to travel to get here . Travel at this time of year especially by public transport, as you can imagine, can be difficult. Bear in mind also that it is a holiday time for ‘locals’ too, and we like enjoy our time off at new year as much as the next person.

    Happy cycling, and happy new year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many thanks “Rannoch resident” for your comments – albeit quite a bit after my blog was posted. I do try and give an independent view of what I experience – and it is amazing how one mildly critical paragraph can be picked up!
      My blog does what it says on the tine – describes my adventures on the road focusing on tourism and food & drink experiences en route in Scotland and abroad!
      And I am therefore glad you agree that my “comments about the lack of visitor amenities are not without some merit” while I do take on board your comments about public holidays and transport. But tourism is a 365 day year service business. Amenities can’t just open when they want and when it suits the owners.
      As I said in the blog there were lots of people about – who were not exactly being offered a warm tourist welcome! How about considering a rota system so at least one place is always open for visitors for a few core hours a day.
      The blog is one of the biggest supporters of Scottish tourism – which can be truly wonderful experiences. But in my humble opinion, on this day just after New Year, the area let itself down by effectively hoisting a “closed” sign.
      It won’t deter us from coming back to one of our favourite wilderness spots in Scotland – let’s just hope it doesn’t deter others.

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