Day 2: Continues up NR7 using a disused railway line to a pass crossing the busy A85, followed by a Forest trail descent to the Falls of Dochart and Killin. The trail turns west here to follow the Strath to the remote and wild Pubil Pass to Glen Lyon, which then turns east to the Bridge of Balgie with its Post Office Cafe. A cake or two is a good idea for the Kirk Pass is the next challenge. This steep off-road pass is a serious climb which will bring you to Loch Rannoch. Another climb then follows skirting Rannoch Moor to Loch Ossian
The forecast had said the rain would stop at 8am so we stayed in the tent a while. Of course it didn’t stop and we were just uncomfortable and wasting time now so we quickly packed everything up wet and got a move on. The Alpkit sleeping pad had punctured at some point so we’d need to fix this one before next camp (Gorilla tape didn’t work but a Lezyne glue-less patch did the trick)
We start with some more climbing which is nice as it warms us up a bit. Then it’s up the Kenknock climb which is pretty hard work sans-breakfast. But there’s a rainbow and some motivational messages for ATM riders up there…
After the climb is 17k of wet, cold, ok, very cold descent to the Bridge of Balgie. This is when we both find our gloves not up to the task and start to question whether it’s sensible to push on or not, given our expectation of it getting colder as we head further north.
Thankfully the Glenlyon Post Office Cafe was open so we had a long break here – warming up, eating/drinking hot stuff, squeezing water out of wet kit, talking about road bail out options. Of course, while under cover, the rain stopped and the sun came out and this must have improved our mood as we decide to carried on.
The climb up Kirk Pass is quite steep in places and towards the top is very wet in places. Other than being a midfoot rider I’m wearing normal shoes (FiveTen Freeriders) and using flat pedals (Pedaling Innovations Catalyst) so it’s easy to jump off the bike and walk any steep bits. Flats are also useful for walking around big puddles that you can’t see the bottom of and don’t fancy losing a front wheel and face-planting in. Kirk Pass is a pretty decent slog and, of course, the rain comes back.
There was a nice forest descent off Kirk Pass down to Loch Rannoch and then some very pretty views while riding alongside the loch. We notice a couple of blokes with bikes stopped lochside and head on towards Rannoch Station where we hoped to have a proper feed at the cafe there. Alas, at the B846 turn west, there was a sign saying the cafe would be closed. “No soup for you!”. This was starting to get quite unfun – I was running on fumes and getting proper hangry but we pushed on up ‘The Road to the Isles’ into the Highlands. Somewhere along here I stopped to jam a pack of jelly snakes into my face and the two guys passed, saying hi and asking if all ok. A little later on one of the duo had stopped for a gate and we caught up and had a chat. They were doing a similar few days to us but then detouring for a fast ride to Inverness. They disappeared up the climb. The climb turned into a proper bastard, with loads of streams to cross, some of them very fast moving and requiring a bit of exploring up and down to find the safest crossing point. All the while it’s blowing a gale and tipping down with rain.
Eventually we crest the top and get to drop down fast to Loch Ossian. We ride straight into the YHA there, drop the bikes and wander around looking to see if we can shelter somewhere or ask someone if we can camp on the grounds. We already knew it was booked out but thought we could at least pitch next to a building out of the wind. We must have looked pretty trashed as Jan, the manager, immediately offers us the hostel’s shed. This is no ordinary shed – it already has a bed frame, electricity, lights, fridge, kettle, tables, etc. We look at each other and think we’ve won the lottery. She then proceeds to hammer some floor tiles onto the wall where there’s a bit of a leak while we move some bikes outside to make a bit more space. While all this is happening, Katherine, one of the hostel guests comes outside to move her bike. She asks if we’ve been double jabbed and when we tell her “yes” she asks if we want to come inside and get warm. It turns out, they’re a big group of walkers and cyclists doing their annual group trip. They had a couple of ‘no shows’ so offer us beds for the night. “What the?! Oh, yes please!”. So, we’ve gone from miserable and soaked to posh shed glamping to actually sleeping in a toasty warm hostel! We both shower and clean up and then they feed us a lovely meal (including my first ) and give us drinks and we have a great night chatting away with the group. Amazing! Thanks so much Jan, Katherine, Isobel, Dave, Saartje and the rest of the gang! They wouldn’t take our money either so instead I sent some money to the Mountain Bothies Association as it seemed appropriate given the “shelter” we’d received. We had planned to bail here, getting a train from nearby Corrour Station, but this huge uplift in mood changed that and turned out to be the catalyst to us finishing the An Turas Mor.