A lot of debate on dates conspired to give us the only two wet and cold weekends in a blistering hot and dry summer for the Cairngorm Loop. Myself, Iain and George set off on the Outer loop in August, on a Friday, aiming for a one night strategy – the (correct) forecast for Sunday was torrential. We also opted not to take cooking equipment as there was plenty of opportunity to buy food en route.
Firstly the familiar wild horse gallop of the Thieves Pass then cross country to Tomintoul. Breakfast in a cafe full of Thunder in the Glen bikers. Wot, no motor. Pissed it down as we left so a rather forlorn wait in a bus shelter for twenty minutes.
From Tomintoul the route along Strath Avon proved a treat. Highlights being a close viewing of a Sea Eagle, good tracks, enjoyable views over Lochnagar and long satisfying gravelly descents.
Braemar provided a welcome chippy, then a road section to the awe inspiring rocky chutes of the Linn of Dee.
Deciding to stop for the night near the confluence of the Geldie burn and the River Dee, whisky kept our moods up despite the mizzle of drizzle and clouds of midges. Whisky, ahh, saviour. One funny highlight was Iain and myself watching a barn owl for a good time before realising it to be a saucepan.
George in his bivvy enjoyed the best nights sleep, Iain and I discovered our lightweight one season bags in our tents a little too thin for comfort, Summer!
After iced coffee for breakfast! The first hurdle to cross was the Geldie burn. A little deliberation as to which rocks looked the most promising before just wading through. There followed an epic single track along a steep sided gully heading into easy riding down Glen Tilt. A fabulous bridge crossing at the Falls of Tarl.
Glen Tilt rather pleasingly ate the miles in one long gentle, wide-tracked descent to Blair Atholl. The Watermill restaurant provided a perfect pit stop, the sun even showed up.
The next section of tarmac up to Drumochter though a little too roadie was again good for the miles and our mantra became ‘Get to the OBI’.
The Gaick Pass and Glen Tromie offered a fantastic, predominantly downhill spin in a wide open landscape almost all of the way to Aviemore. We suffered our only mechanical: a missing cleat screw. Fixed by borrowing from a bike. Tired, very tired at this point, I could have very easily curled up trackside, the mantra was a motivating one though.
We opted for the quicker, easier tarmac last few miles into Aviemore and, yes, we’re here, the OBI. Two of the best pints ever.
Rejuvenated, the ride home was easy, just shy of 80 miles for the day.
A great big, fun adventure with Iain and George, cheers guys.
Word and photos – Chris