“You can't come down here … there’s no access cos of the show” said the hi-viz security guard as he pulled over Bart’s van. We were on a dark, forest road trying to get to a nice, quiet van spot by Loch Faskally for a weekend of canoeing. Mr Security must then have clocked us as sporty, outdoor types and said “… unless you’re with the canoeists …”. I had no idea what he was talking about but said that we were indeed planning to take to the water in canoes. He shouted into his crackly walkie-talkie and let us go through. So it was that we made it to the loch and on the way got a free, sneaky view of the Enchanted Forest light show.
Next morning, the “canoeists” turned out to be rowers … hundreds of them! Rowers can be quite troublesome, especially on canals where they take up the entire width and can’t even see where they are going! We decided to abandon Faskally and instead drove around the corner to Loch Tummel. It was a really lucky move as we found an idyllic spot to park up for the weekend beside a quiet, sheltered bay with a spectacular panorama of autumn woods.
I like canoeing but my main reason for getting out on the water this weekend was to see what Bart looked like in a body-hugging wetsuit. Quite nice, actually! Dressed head-to-foot in tight, black neoprene he looked like the Milk Tray man. As I changed into my watersports gear, Bart might have hoped I would look like Pamela Anderson in an episode of Baywatch – sadly, he was disappointed. We pumped up the canoes and launched them onto the glass-like waters of the loch. There was not a breath of wind so that strands of mist lingered in the trees and on a grey, rainy, clagged-in day the place had a secretive, primeval atmosphere.
Next day, we were pedalling bicycles instead of paddling boats and set out along quiet, single-track roads that wound their way around lochs, through autumn woods and over the shoulder of mist-shrouded Schiehallion. On his visits to Scotland, I have been introducing Bart to an aspect of British culture that he finds quite bizarre and that is the coffee and cake stop when you’re out on a bike tour. Bart tells me that nobody does this in Belgium and if he suggested it to his bikey mates, they would think he had gone bonkers! Apparently in Belgium only old ladies and men of a more feminine disposition visit tearooms! This day we stopped on our bike ride at the tearoom in Kinloch Rannoch and ordered a huge wedge of carrot cake with two coffees. As you can see from the photo, Bart seems to be integrating well into this aspect of British culture!
As I didn’t have cake, I was really needing a sugar hit by the time we cycled the last few undulating miles back to the van. I hurriedly threw open the van door but I was disappointed - the Milk Tray man had not visited or left a chocolatey gift, and the only thing waiting on my side of the bed was a wet patch from the hole in the roof.
Start/finish: Loch Tummel. We were in the van this trip but you can get there by a short cycle or walk from Pitlochry which is well served by buses and trains.
Map: OS Landranger 52
Route: There are lots of spots along the road on the south shore of Loch Tummel (signed for Foss) where you can put canoes in. We chose the first spot after the dam beside a small bay - it was gorgeous. A little way along the loch from here there are small islands that you can paddle out to. For our bike ride we continued along the Foss road to Tummel Bridge then crossed the river to join the B846 to Kinloch Rannoch. From Kinloch Rannoch we took the road that climbs up to Braes of Foss then rejoined the B846 before turning off again for the road along the south side of Loch Tummel to return to our van spot.
Tip: In autumn, the Foss road on the south shore of Loch Tummel must be one of the most beautiful bike rides in Scotland. It was idyllic.