The Callander Tour

July 2006

This is in my view a classic bike ride in the central belt of Scotland. It has everything. Big mountains, small hills and some flat parts. It also have some brilliant scenery. Most of all; it is very varied and very hard. The hardest bits is at the end of this 140 km/80 miles long tour.

I took the first train in the morning from Paisley to Glasgow and then the connecting train to Milngavie. The tour on this sunny morning started with a vertical climb up a hill and then a dropped vertically down to Strathblane and the valley floor at Glengoyne Distillery. Those first miles certainly woke me up ! Good fun. There was a steady, but almost not noticeable climb up past Killearn towards the crossroads at Balfron Station. I passed straight trough this big crossroad and over the plains towards Aberfoyle today's first big mountain; The Duke's.

Heading to Aberfoyle and today's first big mountain; The Duke's Pass

I was both pacing and enjoying myself over this flat plain, knowing the Duke's Pass too well after some previous bruising encounters with this mountain. I soon arrived at the buzzing tourist centre Aberfoyle. This is one of the gateways to the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. The climb up to this well over 250 meters high Duke's Pass started on the corner of the local news agent. It is very steep for two miles before it flattens out for a mile to a small lake. Then it climbs from this lake up to the top of the pass. I paced myself and took some photos. The sun was also out and the thick forest and the steep climb made me sweat like I was in a sauna. The Duke's Pass deserve respect !

Looking back towards the south and Aberfoyle

Looking down towards Callander and the road ahead

The vertical drop down to the forest and lakes on the other side of The Duke's Pass had some tricky corners which demanded my full attention. At the bottom of the pass, the cycling became very technical along lakes, past castles and through the forest . This road is very technical, undulating and demanded my full devotion. A lot of time can be lost on this road to Callander. This scenic big village soon came into view. Callander is a firm favorite of mine and a super example of an inland Scottish village/town. Nice, stylish and functional. It has tonnes of soul and class. I love it. I therefore took a break, preparing myself for the hardest part of the tour; the return leg. Thankfully, I did not know HOW hard it would be......
The leg started with crossing a river and then cycling headlong into a small climb who then turned into a medium hard climb on a small road.

Looking over to Callander

On the top of the hill, looking down towards Callander

The drop down to Thornhill was pretty hairy on a bad road. Thornhill was quite a funny village with some twisty streets. I went straight through it and down to the valley floor. The road over the valley floor was flat as a pancake. The climb at the end of the pancake towards Kippen was very steep, though. I soon came to Kippen where I stocked up on some water and food. From the valley floor, I had noticed some worringly steep mountains in the direction of where I was heading. This in additon to the baking hot sun. I therefore wisely took a break in the country park outside Kippen. The views towards the Trossachs was fantastic.

Looking back again towards Thornhill and the Trossachs mountains over Callander

It was time again to start the climb over to Fintry. This was a much harder climb than anticipated. It was in fact a big mountain. In the baking hot sun, it was a climb that finished me off. I was in deep trouble here with cramps in both legs. I was soon at the top of this mountain and had some superb views towards the Campsie Fells and Fintry.

At the top of the mountain with superb views towards the Campsie Fells and Fintry

The road dropped down from the mountain to a river and then a small climb took me up to Fintry. This is a small village with a pub/hotel, a couple of shops and a post office. The very steep climb up to the top of the Campsie Fells started half a mile up the valley from Fintry. This climb was very steep. The sun was baking hot and felt like a sauna. I had bad cramps in both legs. I was in fact a living dead and totally finished. I was in high spirit though because it may seems strange, but I love situations like this. Enjoyable cycling, steep climbs and very painful cramps in my legs. I felt truly alive.

Looking down the steep road towards Fintry and the Trossachs mountains

The climb up to the top was very steep for the first two miles and then became almost flat through a gully. The top of the 333 meters high mountain was at the end of the gully.

The gully leading down towards the drop to Lennoxtown

Lennoxtown and Glasgow from the top of the mountain

The road fell vertically down the mountain side to Lennoxtown. I got cramps in one of my fingers halfway down the hill. A close encounter with death followed before I managed to reach the brake with another finger. I was pretty badly shaken up when reaching safe ground at this village. A frantic scramble over the fields towards the train at Bearsden followed. I reached the train station, totally wiped out with cramps and dehydration. This was a very hard tour. I loved every second of it.

This is a tour I highly recommend.