On the Saturday of the 11th September (was it really that long ago) we were picked up from my parents house, yes really, door to door service! It helps that my parents live between Glasgow and Edinburgh about five minutes off the M8. The guys had already picked up Mac and Lori in Glasgow, an American couple with an amusing amount of luggage as they were coming over for more than just the week of riding.
A goodly amount of packing tetris with bags and bikes went on before we got in the van...(duct tape was employed) Due to the fact that we were heading off for a week of riding in Scotland where the weather could be doing anything and everything neither Jez or I could be accused of travelling light either with two very stuffed dead body bags.
Off to the centre of Edinburgh to pick up Mickey and Joy, another American couple who actually had perfected the art of travelling light, thankfully as the van was totally rammed. A long and tedious drive up to Aberdeen followed..as did the rain but then the sun came out as we neared the Granite City, thankfully as Aberdeen looks utterly miserable when it's overcast, all those grey buildings.
We parked up at the beach there then ensued a goodly amount of faff whilst bikes were built etc, then we set off for an easy 20 mile spin out towards Banchory. All that time faffing and this was the only photo I took around the auspicious start (totally crap I know)!
We had to ride through the city, mostly quiet roads and cycle paths but we did have to negotiate one very busy, narrow and congested road where I decided to get a puncture after not even one mile of riding. I had to pick the bit of road where there wasn't even a proper verge to move to, I had to carry the bike hanging onto a railing for a bit whilst inching along a kerb.
Wasn't long before we were out on some easy cycle paths and a nice 20 miles to Banchory were done. We arrived at the first B & B of the trip to find our bags had already been taken up to the rooms, yay! This was particularly welcome on some of the less easy days. A couple of beers and some great food rounded off a good day.
From Banchory the next destination was Braemar, via the Royal Lochnagar distillery. Unfortunately the Balmoral estate was closed to the public so there was a bit more road work than ideal. Normally this would be fast but day 2 was the first day of "the raging headwind from hell" 44 miles of it and it didn't seem to let up for the rest of the week. I know it's a risk when travelling west but jeez, one day without it would have been nice, at least the sun was still shining. It meant the day was suprisingly hard work. It's never, ever fun or fair having to pedal downhill to keep moving. The only picture I took all day but I really can't remember if it was before or after the distillery:
The distillery tour was very interesting, after the evil b*st*rd hill to get up to it, there was no real view of Lochanagar itself which was a bit disappointing but the whisky was actually ok, it's very light on peat so that's probably why I liked it. I'm glad it was pretty much downhill to Braemar from there as I had the usual problem of the alcohol going straight to my legs and turning them into wet noodles if I have any whilst riding. They did come back to me which is just at well as we were taking turns riding into the wind...downhill. By the time we rolled into Braemar I had a headache from the cold wind.
The hotel was large and overrun by elderly coach parties, as was Braemar in general. The food here was very cheap but probably the worst of the whole week though portions were generous and the showers were good and hot (always important). The entertainment was a little "old" for us and we escaped out of the dining room to the hotel bar when a weeble shaped man started playing guitar and singing.
We did think we were going to be crushed to death in a slow, white haired stampede though as codgers appeared from every direction and made their way there, particularly the ladies, of which there were lots, as always with the retired generation.
Two warm up days in, some proper offroad bog, heather and river crossings up next.