Day Nine

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Day Eight

Today has been our best average time for cycling yet, and the earliest we have arrived at the campsite!

We still did a good distance but it was mostly on tarmaced cycle path and most of it away from the road, too.

It was windy in the night and it also rained to everything was packed away wet. But as soon as they could, the boys were back to throwing stones into the river.

We had tried to leave a bit earlier, but that didn’t work so we got away about 1100. A short slog down the side of the A82, and then once back onto NCN78 the cycle paths started.

They either hugged the lochs well giving great views, if rose slightly above the road which also have great views. That, of course, meant some hills and some far too steep to cycle up, it was usually worth it. And the downhills were always smooth and fast!!

There was one section the map where route 78 just stops and there is a "!" symbol on the road. We were expecting to have to join the road and just bear with it, but the map must be old, or rather these paths very new. First there are about six switch-backs up and away from the road. All quite newly landscaped and smooth. Then the most delightful cycle through the "Highland Titles Nature Reserve".
Wonderful information boards about all the animals one might hope to see, if very fortunate. A hedgehog hospital and Scottish Wildcat enclosure. And a few miles of smooth paths through amazing Scots pine woodland.
Then finally some step descents and another 6 switch-backs before rejoining the path along the side of the road.

All this meant that L could cycle a lot of the way and lived every bit of it, apart from the odd whinge on a hill! Although there was one so steep we had to help each other push everything up!!

Then, just as Becca and Levi caught a slight downhill run and sped away, I caught a glimpse through the trees of the unmistakable sight of a white-tailed sea eagle flying towards us.
I shouted ahead but they were gone. I turned around to see it again but it was going fast so I whipped out my binoculars and watched it flying away. Only a brief glimpse but so wonderful!! L was not impressed that he hadn’t seen it. E was somewhat oblivious!

At the start of the day we were only 40miles from Oban, our new destination, so 20 miles would have been good. But the next campsite was 25 so we were heading that, hoping to spot one not marked on Google. We didn’t, so we put our heads down and slogged out another 5miles. Thankfully, the smooth, mostly away from the road, paths continued, although some have not been travelled on by a trailer recently and trimmed the overgrowth as we passed!!

Finally a short ride through some amazingly tall Douglas Firs and we found our campsite. We are the only tent, and we have bought the average age on the site down considerabley but everyone is very friendly and intrigued by what we are doing!!

Tonight we went for a twilight walk through the adjacent woodland with head-torches on!!!
Last full day cycling tomorrow!

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Day Seven

For some reason Day Seven draft has disappeared!?
I’ll have to write it again at some point!

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Day Six

Today has been another ‘rest day’. That is, rest after climbing the mountain and my thoughts definitely needed it. Also a chance to do a bit of washing, battery pack charging and get ready to set off cycling again tomorrow.

We had a good night. Unsurprisingly everyone was exhausted but we also tried a new bed set up which worked well.

This morning we were able to take advantage of the fact that our church still opens up a Zoom call for our church meeting (we just haven’t stopped since this was the normal way to meet during the pandemic). So we got to join with it church family, albeit from a distance. During the meeting the word ‘Omnipotent’ was explained, so that became our Bible word for the day. God’s complete power, which is such comfort for those in His team!!

The cloud has lifted today, which just means that we can now see, clearly, where we got up to on the mountain. Mocking us, constantly!!
The higher cloud has also meant that it is a lot cooler today. We have needed jumpers for the first the (at sea level at least!)

We did go out on the bikes today, briefly. Just a short circular from the campsite along the road and back down the river. One of the main reasons was to test out the new ‘seat’ for E on my crossbar. The sponge firmly attached, he declared it as ‘very comfortable’. I have also re-pumped tyres and lubed chains, so ready!

The boys spent a good 15mins chasing a family of pied wagtails around the camping field. We had a lovely meal and a campfire with marshmallows then headed to bed.

Whilst we got ready for bed a new tent was set up near us. I say tent, but it is really a waterproof sleeping bag with a head cover. The guy is doing Land’s End to John O’Groats and is on Day 12, with two days to go!! Today be did, in reverse, what we had planned to do over the next four days. But we have decided that is too difficult so we have changed our plan!!!! Just imagine!!!

Our new plan for tomorrow is actually to follow the same route as planned before, but just not as far. Just over 20miles with two ferries, it should be good. In the morning we still need to go shopping and to the Post Office to send back the box of walking equipment (which we had sent her rather than carry all the way on the bikes.)

After three days off I am looking forward to being on the road again.

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Day Five

I guess by now it must be very clear that ‘travelling’ with two children has to be about so much more than just travelling!! I have had to learn this and come to terms with this and embrace this!!

The day started at 3am when the event we had dreaded and tried to mitigate against, happened. L wet the bed! Never a great thing to have to deal with in the middle of the night, but even worse in a tent.
L has been out of nappies, even at night, foE nearly two years or so, but for some reason the last few weeks has seen some accidents. E has been nappy free for 6 months but still has occasional accidents, especially when drinking a lot. We had decided that they would both have to wear pull-ups whilst touring, but L was mortified by the idea. He agreed for the first two nights as a test and we agreed that if the nappies was unused then we would reconsider.

Night three was fine. But night four…!
So a family trip across the field to the bathroom in the middle of the night, too clean everyone and everything up, was how the day stated!!

But then the real day stated a little later than planned and much more tired than planned.
We got up, got dressed, had breakfast and headed for Ben Nevis.
I think I will write a seperate post about this part, and that might not be till we are back!? It is late now and I am exhausted and aching!!

But here are the highlights.
We set off from the Youth Hostel path at 9:30ish. It is SO steep, right from the start. I was carrying E in a rucksack type carrier and L was walking. The boys did so well.
We set off for the lake but hoped we could get further. We did. But by 2pm we were still 45mins from summit and that would put us finishing as it was getting dark!! So we made it to the fifth zig-zag at about 1050m.
We were in cloud cover mostly from just before the Red Burn but spirits in the mountain were high!!
On the way back down, though, the cloud lifted just after the zig-zags and we got spectacular views so around.
We got back about 7pm. All worn out. L feel asleep before the bedtime story finished!!

I sit here now watching lights descend the mountain path. So glad that wasn’t us!

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Day Four

A rest day! And Becca’s legs certainly needed it!!
Not so much a lie in as the boys were up at usual time, but nice to have a chilled morning enjoying the campsite facilities; laundrette, shop, play park!!

An important purchase from the shop was bite-cream (Becca was keen that I record that she has at least 50 bites) and tick remover. Becca had one on her leg and E had one on his bum, which must have made a fine sight to see him bent over the picnic table whilst we removed it!! Either L and I website them or we just haven’t found them yet!?

The boys love a good play park and this is a good one. Things to climb on, swing on, slide down etc. They are loving camping in general, in fact. The only thing that would make it better is if we see a Golden Eagle! Sadly I think that is less likely the further south we go, although White-tailed Sea Eagles become more likely, maybe?

Our plan has changed. No longer are we cycling Inverness to Glasgow. We have decided to take things a bit easier to enjoy it more; slightly shorter distances any much less up!!

That does mean, though, that we can afford to wear ourselves out tomorrow by trying to climb Ben Nevis. We are packed up ready so all we need to do in they morning is get dressed and go! If you don’t hear from us again…

But back to today, after a lazy morning we then got the bus into Fort William with a few objectives.
First, we arrived in good time to wait on the train platform for The Jacobite to arrive, the local steam train. We did see it last time we were here two years ago, but L can’t remember it!! Both boys were thrilled to see it and now hope to ride on it, which is sadly not on the cards.
Second, post cards! Will you be lucky enough to get one?
Thirdly, we had a couple of cycling related things to get. Becca’s bike stand turned out to be inadequate for the fully loaded bike, but the bike shop did not have a better one!! I also needed to replace the passing on my cross-bar where E sits whilst L cycles. This was more successful; a sponge and gaffer tape was easily come by.
Forth was dinner, and thankfully we were quite early in the evening. The first place we tried was full but thankfully Ben Nevis, the pub, had space and we all enjoyed our main course although slightly disappointed with the desserts.
Fifthly, we needed food for the next couple of days; Morrisons had all we needed!

Finally, the boys experienced another first- a taxi ride! They were getting tired so were rather over excited, much to the delight of the driver.

So that is it, not so much a travel blog as an account of a relatively mundane day. But it is our holiday and we are loving it!!

Today’s Bible word was ‘Grace’ which means something given which is undeserved. Like, well, any blessing from God. In the Bible context it especially refers to the totally undeserved gift of forgiveness. A great word to have in my head as I had to bed before the big day tomorrow!!

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Day Three

Oh to be sat in the pitch black by Loch Oich again!! Instead I take the more position of my folding chair up against the wall in the wash up room with my phone charging!!

Those who have been cycle touring will understand why day three has been especially challenging for Becca!!

Waking up by the Loch was just as lovely as going to be there! The animal noises in the night were wonderful; multiple owls, as well as sounds I have no idea about. There was thunder in the night but the rain had cleared by the time we got up.

Just before my first cycle tour in 2010 a friend gave me a little spade for burying litter. At the time I thought it was a bit irresponsible to bury rubbish whilst camping, but then learned what she meant by ‘litter’. Well this morning it was used for the first time – both the boys are pretty regular!!

The walkers were off quickly and we waved off the canoers (canoeists?) just as we were about to go. L got to set off on his bike as we enjoyed the rest of Loch Oich. However, a couple of miles in we came to a gate. A big, tall iron gate, with a large gate within it for bikes to go through, but a bottom bar about 2ft off the ground. We are just about to unload everything so we could lift the trailers over when a couple of other cyclists appeared. Between the four of us we lifted each bike and trailer over, fully loaded!! At the second gate, two walkers were equally obliging, thankfully!

Back along the canal, but no towpath this time. Instead a wonderful woodland path. A damp, mossy woodland like in a fairytale. Even fly agarics along the path. If it wasn’t all up and down, which sore legs didn’t like, it would have been idyllic. By the end L was asking to go back in the trailer!

Then to Loch Lochy, but not before having to cross some lock gates at Laggan Locks The Great Glen Way is not designed for trailers!!

Again, the route along the western shore would have been lovely but the ups and downs got steeper!! And the surface was almost shale pieces in some places. At one point we had to wait while they felled a tree further up the hill, before being ushered past by a friendly worker.
It was this point that the rain started. Never torrential, but enough to soak is through!

We have passed many walkers today and they have all been very friendly. It does feel good that everyone is very impressed with is and our fully loaded bikes! One guy even asked to take a picture as we pulled into the campsite.

At Clunes, after lunch, we had a good, comfortable stretch on a well paved road all the way down to Gairlochy. The rain continued as we returned to the canal towpath. The boys had napped after lunch and were somewhat distressed to wake up damp! The trailer is pretty good at keeping the water out, but after a couple of hours of solid rain the drips had started. They coped well, though, and an ice cream at Banavie Locks also did!

It was not just the ice cream, though, that made Banavie so wonderful. Becca had been less willing to ‘litter’ the wild camp spot and these were the first toilets we found!!

Although things were still hurting, getting closer to Fort William seemed to be an energy boost. Having visited before we had an idea where to go and the rain started to ease a little.

We had a wet weather plan and so that kicked in. Becca took the boys for a walk whilst I got the tent up. So far we have managed to keep the inside of the tent dry!! There was a burger van at the Glen Nevis Campsite which provided a much anticipated evening meal (in exchange for money) and then the sun set!!

The site is at the base of Ben Nevis, which has been cloaked in cloud all evening. We are not sure, yet, whether our plan to go up is realistic or not, with these sore legs!!!?

We are more certain that we won’t manage the planned route over Glen Coe, so tomorrow we will look at maps and make a new plan. After a lazy morning, of course!!

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Day Two

No Tonight is very new. We are wild camping; something I haven’t done before on my own, let alone with the family!

As I crawled into the tent last night to the chorus of everyone snoring, I lay there and felt so warm and fuzzy. We were all out on an adventure together, all happy and asleep!!

Everyone slept well so we weren’t up too early and after porridge for breakfast we were on our way!

The plan was to do 10 miles more than yesterday but also twice as much climbing. But we had all day to do it!!
The climbing started outside the campsite gate and I had to keep reminding Becca that this was the easier route! It was hard going but we kept on, undulating along the beautiful banks of Loch Ness. There weren’t too many logging trucks or your buses to ruin the views and the sunshine.

We were ready for lunch earlier than planned so we got to enjoy Loch Ness for a bit longer.

Invermoriston looked interesting but we were keen to get past the undulations and so pushed on to Fort Augustus. For Becca the 50p for the toilet was well worth it and we all enjoyed our ice creams. The sun was still blazing and we had forgotten suncream so a quick so at the garage and we were off.

The rest of the route promised to be off-road along the Caledonian Canal, basically The Great Glen Way from this point. So L got his first chance to cycle alongside us. We have his bike strapped to the back of the trailer for these occasions. As well as him loving it, it also made for a welcome change of pace. Although flat apart from around the odd lock, we needed a slow ride as legs were staying to give up!!

From the Bridge of Oich the route goes away from the roads, down the eastern shore of Loch Oich. Truly beautiful ancient woodland. So peaceful and calm, birds singing and the promise of otters rippling the water (but only the promise!).
I did see the first of the ‘Big Five’ though. An adorable red squirrel darted for a tree as we passed. I got to watch it briefly before it ascended too high to follow.

But the highlight of the day is tonights camp! I say ‘wild’ camp in that there is no reception and shower block. It is a somewhat established wild camp spot and there are three other groups here too. It is made available through an agreement between the land owner and the Great Glen Way authorities. It meant we have had to make sure we brought enough water and everything we would need, but I have payed to stay at campsite with less facilities; there are composting toilets (rather full) and a loch to wash in!!

But it is off grid and so wonderful to be here. The boys have loved running around, climbing the trees and stick fighting. Becca cooked a wonderful meal again. The stars are stunning!!

We have also heard what I think is another of the Big Five; a strange screeching noise which I think is red deer. There has also been what sounded like a red deer roar, are we getting into rutting season?
Hopefully the golden eagle will be sat on the gate post on the morning!!!

Talking of the morning, one of the other campers has said it is due to rain overnight and continue to lunchtime. So we set up for a wet pack away just in case.

I am going to look at these stars some more. Hardly any light pollution!!

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Day One

An early start and quick getaway from our hosts and 45mins into Glasgow. I have become an expert at building and packing the trailers since we had to do it once to get from the carpark to the station, then unload onto the train, then again on arrival at Inverness.

We have two trailers. One for the boys and one for the stuff. There is ongoing discussion between Becca and I about which is heaviest. At the moment she had the stuff, but that could change if she decides the boys are lighter!

Glasgow Queen Street was very good to us. Helpful staff have is plenty of time to load everything on. The bikes were booked on but the rest was luggage!! 3hrs later, after brief, whistlestop taster of the scenery Scotland has to offer, we made our way into Inverness.

Morrisons was the first stop and I can honestly say that I have never bought so much food on a bike tour – another big difference doing this as a family.

The first section, today, from Inverness to Drumnadrochit, is actually familiar. If you look back at the final day of my last tour (JOGLE1) you will see that it is the same. Well, kind of.
Back in 2017 Becca was in the car and I was just pulling a 9 month old in the trailer. Today, we are all on wheels and son number two has joined us.

Since we weren’t going to leave Inverness till after lunch the plan was for this to be our shortest day cycle. It has also served as a good easing in for Becca, which she found tough but kept going!
I really do have an amazing wife. It is true for many reasons but today’s is that she has been willing to do this with me, having done nothing like it before. She knows it is going to be tough but she still came and has done Day One!!

The start of the ride was lovely. Along a sunlit river being greeted by those out for a stroll. At one point we passed a group of five tricycles which I assume was a trio from a care-home. All with two elderly folk in the front, wrapped in blankets and loving it!

Then along the Caledonian Canal down to Loch Ness. We have chosen to take the western shore than the cycle route along the eastern shore. The downside is that it means going along the rather busy A82 down most of the Loch. The upside, ironically, is that the climbing is significantly less. We can’t avoid Glen Coe later in the trip but at least then we will have warned up. A big climb tomorrow would have been too much, so at the end if the canal we joined the huge log trucks, the camper vans and tourist coaches on the road.
It was actually not too bad. The vehicles were all considerate and it wasn’t as busy as I hear it can be.

A highlight was the boys waking up from their afternoon nap to views over Loch Ness. Nessie has very much sparked their imagination so as well as looking out for Golden Eagles they were scouring the surface of the lake for signs of the monster!!

We have not paid too much attention to the weather forecasts because they are so often useless. We were, however, expecting at least drizzle this afternoon and evening. Instead it has been blue skies and glorious sunshine.
We arrived at the campsite about 5pm. Pitched the tent. Explored the site, chatting to other campers (no other cyclists yet), and Becca served up a delicious Spinach and Paneer Curry; without a doubt the best meal I have ever had on a tour!!

The boys settled well in the tent after the reasonable excitement and the distraction of a real owl hitting close by. The stars are now puttong on a spectacular show as I sit providing food for the local midges. It is so good to be out camping again.

We are doing Daily Dippers for our family Bible time, so each day we pick a lollypop stick from the pack and each one has a bible word to think about. Tonight it was Redemption : Good setting us free from it sin- Ephesians 1:7
I go to bed so thankful for all The Lord blessing s and His perfect, costly redemption!!

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Day 0

I been cycle touring before. I have been camping with my family before. I have been on bike rides with my family before. I think the slight apprehension the night before this one is that I have never combined all those things before!!

Over the past 30hrs we have driven up to Scotland with the car fully loaded and three bikes strapped to the car. We all (bikes included) stayed in a travelodge last night and tonight with friends close to Glasgow ready to be up early for our train in the morning.

A slight detour was worth it to revisit a place at first visited 5 yrs ago. Loch Doon has a delightful Roundhouse Cafe within view of an osprey nest. The ospreys have already migrated but the views are still stunning.

As well as a little, reasonable I think, apprehension I am also excited. I am looking forward to being out camping again, in such a beautiful place. I am looking forward to being outdoors, riding my bike all day again and I am looking forward to sharing all of that with Becca and the boys.

Becca doesn’t know what is to come. This is her first bike tour; so first time cycling this far and first time camping in different places on consecutive nights. Neither of us have done the training we had hoped to go, but at least I know what I have let myself in for!

The boys are excited. E was asleep, but L was pumping his arms and cheering as we crossed into Scotland!! They have no concept of the challenge this will be for us physically and mentally. They just know it is our bike-packing holiday and so they are expecting to have a great time. I think they will.

Quite a bit of the journey was L asking about The Loch Ness Monster, so I am sure that will come up again tomorrow. L it’s hoping to see an eagle, as am I. E is hoping to have porridge for breakfast, which is a bit more likely!!

But for this evening, we have paddled in the sea and enjoyed a lovely meal with friends. Good start.

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