A bucket list item has now been ticked off by cycling the round trip between Callander and Killin along NCN7 and the Glen Ogle Viaduct.
From planning to inception our group size halved, but not thwarted Stewart and I parked up at the Meadows in Callander and set off on schedule by 10. The early start time was a wise move as by the time we returned at 3 the car park was full and the town heaving.
A dead Garmin nearly ensured that there was no proof of the ride happening but backup watch stepped up to the challenge. Quiet and smooth tracks got us out of Callander. Along the route the surface ranged from smooth tarmac, rough tarmac gravel mud and forest track. Not far from Callander the track cuts trough a car park for those heading to Ben Ledi, a considerate driver had parked their car over the path end making for a narrow squeeze with the bike between cars. Somebody before us had placed a parking cone in the car bonnet. When we passed through heading back the car was gone and the cone was marking the do not park here space.
When researching the route the track condition and maintenance due to lack of COVID induced activity was a concern and before Strathyre we found it. The Strathyre ZigZags, A narrow mud and gravel nippy climb through overgrown ferns and prickly bushes. We had a clear plod to the top with nobody descending. The group ahead of us were at the top heavy breathing and between breathes asked if we were using e-bikes to get up there. We surely didn’t look as puggled as them. Heading down the road into Strathyre we had to test our brakes as the bin lorry came belting up the hill and round the blind bend towards us. No issues thankfully. Through Strathyre and now onto a very smooth stretch of pristine path and towards Loch Earnhead. Here was another zig zag climb up this time all on smooth resin bond surface and up onto the old railway line. Most of this route is old an old rail route. Great views of Loch Earn from half way up to zig.
Next photo stop is the Glen Ogle Viaduct and more great views. Certainly glad we are up here and not cycling up the road particulate with the volume of traffic and the traffic lights due to a landslide.
At the top of the Glen you have to cross the A84 for the last 5 km through the forest to Killin. However you need to pass the pitch for a popular burger van. We didn’t stop to try but several had including the owner of a silver Audi who parked in a considerate manner across the path entrance such that Stewart didn’t spot the bollard and collided with it ending up in the deck in front of burger eaters and probably the Audi owner. We now had a nice smooth tarmac downhill with “Slow” painted on the surface and more bollards to narrow the track and reduce speed. We were passed by a solo rider not long after the burger van but now on the lower forest tracks we caught up with him puncture repairing. We stopped to ask if he was ok or needed a hand then had a chat discovering he was up from Motherwell to do the same as us C2K and back. Down to Killin and yet more cars across the track end. I’ll let this group off, slightly, as their occupants were across at the war memorial for VJ Day. C2K done now for coffee. Bacon and egg roll for Me and square sausage and tattle scone with brown sauce for Stewart. Track and Trace completed then it was photos at the Falls of Dochart before back on the track to Callander.
The climb up through the trees past several piles of old railway sleepers wasn’t too bad, but then it kicked up for the climb to the Glen summit and the burger van. Before we get there we passed again a memorial too an RAF Tornado crew who crashed and were killed near this spot in 1994.
The silver Audi is gone and replaced by a load of bikers. A shout and several bell rings were needed to get us through this throng.
The Granny in a group we passed made a comment about it being easier going down and she wasn’t wrong. Compared to the morning the track was much busier and our bells, an essential piece of kit, were used more often on this leg to get the walkers to clear and let us through. No stopping on the viaduct but we did on the Loch Earnhead zigzags for some more photos. On down to Strathyre and a decision made to come back with others and repeat this route but next time add in the Balquhidder loop. Through Strathyre and into the top of the narrow zigzags. These are much more interesting going down particularly as there were others walking up. They nicely move to the side as did the red faced cyclist pushing his bike up. Into the flat lower section and we pull over to let those coming towards us past. Unfortunately Stewart takes another tumble. He had unclipped one foot while coming down the zigs and thought it was still unclipped. It wasn’t and he tumbled over. He had a softish landing and avoided the nettles.
The Ben Ledi car park and Forest holiday chalets section were busier and more bell ringing was required to clear our way. By now my right foot which gave my grief last year was aching due to this being the furthest I’ve ridden on flat pedals and trainer type shoes and Stewarts calf was niggling. Only just over a mile to Callander now and after can day free of mechanical issues, my chain comes off. Oily gloves now but the meadows are in sight.
A cracking ride. A very mixed set of road surfaces which should really be more consistent for it being a National Cycle Route. Some sections would be no problem on a skinny tyre 100psi road bike but on others like the Strathyre zig zag no chance. and something with wider and more definite tread is required, we reckon on a 55/45 split on the good/rough surfaces. You really do need a bell to help clear the way and setting off early in the morning is best giving quieter tracks. We spotted a couple of fires at wild camps and met or passed several riders all panniered up for touring. Oh not forgetting the family groups out for a stroll of the more serious looking hikers including one with strapping on both knees. All of the route was away from the main road primarily on dedicated track or with an occasional small section on back road.
Definitely want to do it again and also explore other sections such as the one to Aberfoyle.