Saturday, 22 October 2016

Perthshire - The cusp of summer and autumn

Autumn is in full swing now but I'm a bit behind on my blogging so here's a selection of pics and words from an off-road cycle trip with bike buddy Graham from the tail end of summer. It's a wee tour I'd had my eye on for some time that we spread over two days with an overnight wild camp. The route makes a big northerly circle out of Pitlochry, cycling up the wonderful Glen Tilt then making a rough crossing through the hills to descend Gleann Fearnach. The route itself seemed to be on the cusp of summer and autumn as Glen Tilt was warm and green still, while Fearnach had a chillier feel and a more rusty palette. 

Our ride started with a short pedal north through the Pass of Killiecrankie to Blair Atholl and the start of the cycle up Glen Tilt. Glen Tilt is a long, long glen with a good dirt track most of the way. It has a wonderful mix of pasture and woodland, gorge and high mountain.

The track was lined by rowans covered with red berries. In the lush greenery and warm sunshine it felt still like high summer.

Beyond the last trees, the glen narrows and the slopes of the Beinn a'Ghlo massif tower above. There are three Munros up there that make for a great, if long, day out on the hills.

At the head of the glen, the track narrows and then becomes a footpath as the mountains start to close in.

The Falls of Tarff are crossed by the Bedford Bridge, in remembrance of Francis John Bedford who drowned at this spot in 1879. It's a lovely remote spot and I'm sure if it was less so, the falls would be hugely popular.

Beyond the falls, we pitched the tents on a grassy shelf above the river and sipped afternoon tea sitting outside until a few lingering summer midges chased us indoors.

Next morning, with the landscape bathed in golden early sunshine, we crossed the open moors on a narrow, rough path that had us pushing for most of it.

On the far side in Gleann Fearnach autumn seemed to be creeping in already and the rowans were scarlet.

The reward for the hard push through the hills was a long and fast descent on the excellent track down Gleann Fearnach. Wild and open in its upper reaches, it later drops down into pretty woodland and fields. The track wasn't the only reward for our efforts ... there was coffee and cake waiting in Pitlochry as well.

Fact File
Route: take bike route 7 north out of Pitlochry. At Killiecrankie cross the river on the bridge and turn right. This back road is more pleasant than the B road. It eventually passes under the A9 and becomes a riverside track into Blair Atholl. Turn right on the main road into Blair Atholl then left immediately after the bridge over the Tilt. This road soon swings left under a stone arch footbridge. The entrance to Glen Tilt is just after on the right. Cycle the full length of Glen Tilt. Where it narrows and the main track turns uphill to the left away from the river, the right hand split to stay alongside the river. Cross the bridge over the Tarff and follow the footpath beyond here. About 400m later a path leaves to the right to cross the river. Take that path and follow it steeply up the other side. I've passed here a couple of times and not had any difficulty crossing the river but it could be tricky in a spate. Follow the path to Fealar Lodge and then the main track that heads south all the way to Straloch. Take the A924 back to Pitlochry. Although an "A" road, it's pretty quite and a lovely ride.

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