When I’m travelling north to my beloved Scottish Highlands, there are two places on that journey that I feel mark a transition in both topography and atmosphere. It’s here that low-lying farmlands give way to wilder mountains and my anticipation starts to build ahead of the next outdoor adventure. Those two places are Callander and Dunkeld, and they stand on the very edge of the Highlands. Last weekend, I decided to join them up by bicycle and take a ride along the edge.
I was cycling not just along the edge of the Highlands but also along the edge of summer as it begins to give way to autumn, signalled by the clusters of red berries on the rowans. It must have been a good summer for berries as the trees and hedgerows are absolutely festooned with them.
On a back road above Callander the high mountains were tantalisingly close.
Loch Lubnaig is a real mountain loch, extending a long finger north of Callander into bigger hills.
The trail alongside the loch forms a beautiful green tunnel of trees. Note to self – must get back here in autumn to enjoy some “peak foliage”.
Much of my route followed the national cycle network and all over the network you come upon these marker posts of varying designs. I liked this one which, much like me, looked ruffled by the wind and rain.
North of Loch Lubnaig and beyond Balquidder, my route followed the old railway line that passes high above Lochearnhead and climbs up through Glen Ogle. For me, Glen Ogle has always had a slightly mystical atmosphere. Perhaps it’s the lingering aura of the old steam trains that once chugged through here.
I have a favourite secret spot for camping at the head of Glen Ogle. Each time I go, it becomes more secret as the trees grow and close in.
I’ve never been especially impressed by the Falls of Dochart at Killin but presumably many other people are as they are forever appearing in those Scottish calendars that hang in chip shops and takeaways.
The elements above Loch Tay have worn away the walls of this old ruin. It’s certainly opened up the view.
The single track road along the south side of Loch Tay is cycle heaven. Mind you, it’s not flat.
I was really charmed by the old cemetery at Ardtalnaig on the shores of Loch Tay with its lichened stones resting at jaunty angles.
Kenmore was sure looking pretty on a sunny Sunday morning.
There are beautiful trails to cycle in this part of Perthshire like this route alongside the River Tay that took me the final couple of miles into Dunkeld.
I’ve always liked Dunkeld for its pretty cottages and little alleys but I’m growing to love it now that the chip shop does gluten-free fish suppers.
Too many fish suppers can certainly lay on the pounds. If I ever get as round as my camp spot visitor, somebody please have a word with me!
Start: Bridge of Allan train station on the Stirling/Dunblane line.
Finish: Perth train station
Maps: OS Landranger 57, 51, 52
Maps: OS Landranger 57, 51, 52
Route: From the rail station in Bridge of Allan turn west on the main road then take the first left onto a farm road signed for Carse of Lecropt. Follow this delightful single track road which has some lovely views to the B824 and then into Doune. From there take the deserted B8032 to Callander. In Callander pick up National Cycle Route 7 beside the river. It travels north on a beautiful, mostly off-road route alongside Loch Lubnaig, through Glen Ogle and into Killin. Keep on route 7 as it travels along the south shore of Loch Tay and then on quiet roads beside the River Tay. There's so much to see along here - the river, castles, old bridges and pleasant villages. Route 7 junctions with Route 77 at Balnamuir beside Logierait – follow route 77 south to Dunkeld and onto Perth where it enters the city on a lovely riverside cycle path.
Tip: I’m mostly a wild camper but I’ve come to really like the campground at Inver beside Dunkeld. It’s on a wee farm with real charm and is right beside the River Braan, surrounded by trees. From the campground it’s a nice walk or cycle into Dunkeld for coffee and comestibles.