Land's End to John O'Groats 2012
Dunfermline to Pitlochry - Saturday, 4th August 2012
We gathered for breakfast in the dining room before packing up the stuff and making ready for the next stage to Pitlochry. James arrived to cycle with us as our guest rider for the day. Stewart led us all in a warm-up using long foam rolls which helped to stretch and (painfully) massage tired muscles. It was an odd scene as we rolled around in the car park on white block foam tubes, all this witnessed by some of the wedding party who later had pictures taken with the torches.
We left sunny Dunfermline on Halbeath Road and into the countryside up Whitefield Road. The climb to Kingseat was really pleasant with long distance views back across the Forth. We joined the B996 Great North Road at Kelty, running alongside the M90 to Kinross and diverted off to find Loch Leven on James's recommendation. It was really lovely scenery in the sunshine with blue water surrounded by rolling hills and we took lots of photographs. I spoke to a German couple who were on a circular tour around Scotland.
photograph by Stewart McKinnon - at Loch Leven
As we were leaving the car park, Gav decided to ride up against the curb and lost balance with no permanent damage done.
The A922 took us north to Milnathort where the climb started up to Middleton and Newhill before the descent into Glenfarg. The B996 then followed alongside the M90 before passing underneath and heading down through a wooded valley to meet the A912. This glorious descent continued down the valley where it levelled out at Aberargie. In the sunshine, we crossed the flat River Tay flood plain to reach Bridge of Earn, passing once more beneath the M90.
We'd arranged to meet Gav's family just past Bridge of Earn at Brig Farm Shop, which we found on the left. There was a decked veranda at the back of the shop with picnic tables and the lovely shop lady very kindly allowed us to sit at the tables to eat our own food. Gav's wife Christine unloaded the bags and set up a magnificent banquet which we scoffed whilst sitting in glorious sunshine and picturesque surroundings. The lovely shop lady and staff had their pictures taken with the torches. Carol kindly bought us £40 worth of cake.
Christine's friends had connections with Clydesdale Bank which was exhibiting at the Perth Show that weekend. Somehow through this connection, we'd been offered a place on their stand. We cycled along the A912 up to the motorway intersection at Craigend and down into Perth. Sure enough, the 150th Annual Perth Show was in full swing in South Inch Park by the river.
We waited by one of the gates whilst permission to enter was sought from the jauntily dressed marshall. No amount of bribery, cajoling or pleading had any effect although he did appear to have some sympathy for our cause and kindly let Gav in to find the Clydesdale stand. We waited quite a while. Alex managed to locate us in Perth Prison in his Facebook 'check-in'. Haydn took the opportunity to have a lie down on the grass.
Alex turned the van round and parked in front of us. As 4x4s pulling livestock trailers queued to exit the showground, Alex started to wave them out when there was nothing in his rear view mirror. I watched as a motorbike approached from behind and started to overtake the van whilst Alex falsely gave the all-clear to the next vehicle, my heart was in my mouth as I imagined the impending collision. Fortunately, the driver saw the motorbike and stopped, unfortunately the next vehicle in the queue was a policeman on a motorbike. The policeman gave Alex a ticking off but was great, Alex jumped out for a chat and we made another friend.
Haydn's kids arrived and then his wife Jo turned up with show passes. All this had been a slight mystery to me so nothing at this stage was a surprise. The marshall let us in and kindly showed Alex where to park just inside the gate. It was packed. We pushed the bikes past horses, cattle, the showground arena, pigs and agricultural equipment of all kinds. The Clydesdale Bank stand was a tent with tables and chairs set out in front with a red McCormick Farmall tractor as a showpiece. I propped my bike up against the tractor and helped with the torches in glorious hot sunshine. The Clydesdale's Irn Bru was very welcome.
The unexpected and slightly surreal nature of this experience was not lost on us. The Bank people had their photos taken with the torches and everyone seemed very happy. Show rules prevented us from touting for sponsorship but donations were allowed, needless to say, we did ok on the fundraising front.
Eventually we said good-bye to our hosts and retraced our steps back to the van. We followed Alex on a tour of Perth before crossing the Tay on the A85. A road sign pointed to the A93, Blairgowrie, Glenshee and Braemar which sounded decidedly hilly. Alex and Stewart hastily consulted the map and we turned round towards to the A9. Back across the Tay, we left Perth on the A912 and rejoined the A9 at a roundabout and started our journey into the Highlands.
We followed the Tay until the ascent started at Luncarty, we climbed through woodland and reached the summit at Kingswood. The road then descended back down to the Tay and crossed over the railway line. Just before Dunkeld, a train, 'The Northern Belle' was held up on the track and passengers waved at us through the trees as we cycled by. There was a 100 feet climb and descent as the A9 cut through the valley side, followed by five or six miles of very pleasant undulating road as the River Tay gently gained height to meet the mountains.
During the dual carriageway stretches we were protected by Carol in the bus behind us. At one point near Dowally, James was looking decidedly peaky and in clear need of sustenance. The other three were ahead with the van so didn't notice when we stopped. I offered James the last of my energy chew which he consumed manically. I had full sympathy but the scene was really comical when James woofed down Carol's slimfast, I had to laugh. We caught the others up in lay-by 23 and had a more prolonged session eating food from the van. Colour returned to James's cheeks.
We stopped again just before the right turn to our hotel, in order to gather and plan the manoeuvre across the A9 safely. The turn took us onto General Wades Military Road and with just a mile to run, Haydn had a puncture. It seemed stupid to start repairs so close to our destination and Haydn quite rightly refused to accept a lift. After a certain amount of faffing, Haydn decided to ride Jen's bike to the hotel.
Dalshian House was down a little lane to the left set in lovely gardens. The owner met us on the steps and allocated rooms. He was very helpful and booked us a restaurant in Pitlochry for an evening meal. Stewart made us all protein shakes to the usual recipe.
After a hot shower, we all gathered and travelled into town in the bus for our meal at The Auld Smiddy Inn. Haydn ordered Guinness with a flake which arrived with a chocolate straw instead, through which he proceeded to drink the Guinness. We had a lovely meal and a good laugh. We all had team hoodies printed on the back with tour destinations, unfortunately Pitlochry was spelt wrong so none of us were keen to wear them!