I was away this weekend past with Nicole and a bunch of friends to do some hillwalking and cycling. Based near Braemar in the Cairngorms National Park we had two excellent days, both of which involved longish cycles and then Munro-climbing at the end.
Our first day saw us tackle Carn Bhac, south of Braemar. It was a cycle of seventeen miles in total down a long track (see first photo), followed by a mercifully easy and short climb up the hill. The weather had been forecast to be miserable, with rain and even snow at height. In the end it was cold and a little breezy but not too much rain, and much better than we had been expecting.
On the Sunday, we headed north to Derry Cairngorm, which involved a long cycle out to the abandoned Derry Lodge on the Mar Estate (below), and then a long climb over a couple of peaks (see bottom photo) and several frustrating false horizons before eventually leading us to Derry Cairngorm itself.
The weather again exceeded expectation and forecast, with a brief snow shower at the peak of Derry Cairngorm, and mostly grey skies that occasionally gave way to bright sunshine and views for miles around.
This was a sparsely populated part of the country, with the major draw being mountains. From the peaks you could see nothing but hills and mountains all around, and it was great to have been able to get away for the weekend.
It was also something of a revelation in that it was my first time of combining hillwalking with cycling. It opens up so many doors, so to speak, in that you can reach much further into the wilderness on a bike. So many peaks are hard to reach without a car or overnight camping, so the bike was a mode of transport I’d love to try again in this context.
Plus, there was nothing more satisfying after a gruelling morning cycle and a hard day’s climb than freewheeling a few miles on a gentle downhill gradient, a cold beer awaiting you at the other end.