Highland Perthshire Adventure: Glen Lyon, Ben Lawers and Loch Tay

Route – Aberfeldy to Dull to Fortingall to Bridge of Balgie to Killin to Kenmore to Aberfeldy. For route map click here.

See route on Strava.

  • Weather – very warm and sunny with light winds at first but quite a bit windier after lunchtime.
  • Bike type – road bike
  • Distance travelled – 57.08 miles
  • Riding time – 4 hours 35 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 31.5 mph
  • Average speed – 12.4 mph
  • Height climbed – 3751 feet

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that Dad and I spend most of our time cycling in the Scottish Borders. We really love the beautiful scenery and the fact that there are lots of very quiet roads to cycle on down there. It’s also easy to get to from our house in Midlothian. This week though, I decided that with the weather forecast looking good, it would be nice to travel a bit further afield and go for a ride through an even more spectacular part of the country – Highland Perthshire.

After a 100 minute car journey, listening to Sounds of the Sixties on the radio on the way up the M90 and the A9, we eventually arrived in the lovely Perthshire town of Aberfeldy. I’ve been here before when walking in the mountains but had never cycled in this area – until today. We parked near the river close to the play park and immediately cycled over an unusual looking bridge with traffic lights which took us onto the north side of the River Tay. Even at 9am it was already quite hot as we sped along the nice, flat road surface of the B846 past such interestingly named places as Weem and Dull. As we cycled

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along, the views started to get better and better and at one point we could see the impressive mountain Schiehallion in the distance (I climbed up it when I was only 5 believe it or not). After a few easy miles we turned left onto a minor road signposted for Glen Lyon. It was on this road that we spotted a sign warning of a cycle event but we saw no cyclists around so we continued on through the pleasant countryside on the mainly flat road. Soon we came to a village called Fortingall which had some strange old houses with thatched roofs and shortly after that we turned right at the signpost onto the narrow road that would take us through Glen Lyon.

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Dad had told me in the car on the way up that Glen Lyon was the most beautiful glen in Scotland, and I would have to say that he was not wrong. It has a bit of everything: lovely woodlands, narrow gorges, waterfalls and rivers at first and then a more open river valley with amazing mountains all around further down the glen. The road is great to cycle on too with little traffic. It is mainly slightly uphill in this direction but with lots of short ups and long downs and corners to keep things fun. We cycled right around the back side of Ben Lawers (the 5th highest mountain in Scotland I believe) which I climbed with Dad and my sister Isla last summer. Despite all the fine warm weather recently, there were still quite a few patches of snow high up in the hills. About halfway along

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Glen Lyon, we started to see groups of cyclists racing towards us. There were literally hundreds of people cycling east down the glen and we were the only ones heading west. As we found out later they were taking part in what must have been an amazing cycle event called the Tour of the Highlands, a 3 day event covering 300 miles and all the steepest hills (and all the ski centres) in Scotland and we appeared to be tackling about 30 miles of their Day 1 route – only in reverse! After about 10 miles of the most enjoyable cycling through the glen we came to a small village called Bridge of Balgie. Here we turned left, over a small bridge (strangely enough) and onto a very narrow road that would even closer to the mountain Ben Lawers…

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This road is another of the best cycling climbs in Scotland according to my current favourite book. It is about a 4.5 mile climb to the high point in the road at almost 600m, quite gradually uphill at first but then much steeper for a long long time as the road winds its way upwards into the mountains. It’s a really spectacular ride and the stunning views more than make up for the tired legs as you pedal ever upwards. The view of the

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Tarmachan ridge was amazing and looks so close to the road. Streams of cyclists were still passing us on this road, flying down the steep hill towards Glen Lyon. The road surface wasn’t the best, rather gravelly in places so I bet it was a bit of a tricky descent for them – much easier going up (well sort of…). There’s a reservoir just past the top of the pass and I waited here for about 3 minutes until Dad finally arrived! I thought it was quite an easy hill but he obviously found it much harder. He claims he kept stopping to take photos…

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On the way back down the other side of the hill the road surface is much smoother and although steeper and quite bendy, looked like a safer descent to me. The parking area for Ben Lawers was totally mobbed today because of the good weather and there were loads of cars parked on the grass verges too. We got some fine views of the mountains, including Beinn Ghlas which you climb on the way up to Ben Lawers, as we free-wheeled

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down the hill. We also got our first view of Loch Tay far down below. In a couple of minutes, we’d reached the bottom and turned right onto the A827 road, heading for Killin. Although a main road, this is fairly quiet, has a good surface for cycling and is fairly flat so we were able to go at a good speed. The view of the loch and the mountains in the distance was very nice too. A few miles later we’d left Perthshire and entered Stirlingshire and soon we arrived in the town of Killin (which was crowded with tourists). Here, after about 33 miles, we had our first stop of the day and ate our lunch (sausage rolls, crisps and grapes) sitting on a rock next to the lovely Falls of Dochart.

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After our tasty lunch we followed the sign for Cycle Route no.7 which is just opposite the Falls. This is a minor road which basically follows along the side of Loch Tay for 17 miles to the town of Kenmore. This road has a 40 mph speed limit to encourage walkers and cyclists and you would think that a road following a loch would be a nice easy flat ride (which would also encourage cyclists you would imagine). Well, don’t be fooled. This road is a hard cycle as there are virtually no flat sections and it is all short ups and

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downs (with a few longer, steeper ups and downs as well). After our efforts of cycling over the Ben Lawers road we found this road to be the hardest part of the day strangely enough and we made slow progress. It was a very nice road though and after a few miles cycling in the trees, eventually the views of the loch and the high mountains on the other side of the water come in to view. In fact some of the best views of the day were of the five mountains of the Ben Lawers ridge about halfway along this road so it’s well worth stopping for a photo (and a rest!).

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When we got to Kenmore (by now back in Perthsire again by the way), there were loads of people paddling in the loch, playing on the beach and sun bathing. We decided not to join them though and after a bit of decision making, decided to take the shortest route back to Aberfeldy, 6 miles along the A827. The first mile or so was rather steep (about 7.5% gradient) but after that it was all downhill and then flat along the side of the River Tay all the way back to the car. As usual, we decided to seek out an ice cream shop and within seconds, we found one. “Cones” in Aberfeldy is highly recommended as the amount of ice cream they gave us in a 2 scoop tub or cone was about as much as 4 scoops at any other ice cream shop! It was the perfect end to one of the best days ever. It was my first time cycling in Highland Perthshire and it certainly won’t be my last.

Loch Leven Loop

Route Out – Vane Farm to Kinross to Loch Leven’s Larder. Starting point is here. Then follow the cycle path round the loch in clockwise direction (path not shown on Google Maps but it’s impossible to get lost…).

Route Back – Loch Leven’s Larder to Vane Farm.

  • Weather – mostly cloudy, some sunny intervals, very warm and quite windy.
  • Distance travelled – 13.67 miles
  • Riding time – 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 19.0 mph
  • Average speed 10.2 mph

Last Sunday (31st July) I went for a nice short cycle around Loch Leven in Perth and Kinross with Dad and two special guests, my sister Isla and my Mum. The route is all off road, not too far and almost all flat so was easy enough for Mum to come too. She is not a very experienced cyclist and doesn’t like going on proper roads (she thinks roads are very dangerous), so this was perfect for her. Actually, most of the roads we cycle on have hardly any traffic so are quite safe I think. In many ways, cycle paths like the one at Loch Leven are more dangerous because they are so busy (especially at the weekend) and have many more hazzards to watch out for: young children learning to ride their bikes, dogs, pedestrians, push chairs and worst of all, stupid cyclists who think it’s OK to ride on the right hand side of the path and refuse to move across to the left to let you passed. Also, although the path is a really good surface most of the way, it is quite narrow in places and very overgrown at the sides with nettles, thistles and wild raspberries so you have to take care not to go too near the edge.

We got lots of nice views of the loch as well as the Fife and Perthshire hills today. We also spent a lot of time foraging for raspberries and really stuffed our faces. However, by midday we were still hungry so decided to take a slight detour off the main path and stopped for lunch at Loch Leven’s Larder. I had a smoked haddock quiche which was very tasty. We sat outside for lunch and noticed there were loads of annoying wasps flying around. Luckily for us, they weren’t at all interested in quiche, but did seem to be enjoying the fizzy drinks that the people at every other table were drinking…

One thing to note about this route is that if you park at Vane Farm like we did, you have to go down and then back up some steep steps to go under the underpass which takes you to the start of the path on the other side of the B9097 road. This wasn’t very easy with bikes so parking at the waterside in Kinross might be a better starting point, especially if you have small children. There’s also a nice play park there to keep the kids amused whilst you load the bikes off and on the car.