I had set the weekend aside for a bike adventure. I wasn’t sure what the plan would be but it would certainly involve a camp out in some shelter, ideally with a stove. Stu had planned a trip to the CTC hut and although laziness would stop me from riding straight from work on the Friday night I knew I would be able to piece together an exciting route of remote hills to fill the Saturday nicely. Having not yet visited, Thomas was also keen for a weekend pedalling and to get in on the hut experience.
With the hope of making it to the hut in good time we managed to leave Edinburgh promptly, making a B line for the bridge and the opportunities for some dirty detours that Fife offered. Alas, although excellently convenient, Thomas’ basket life wasn’t best thought through and his radially spoked wheel began complaining about the 40L dry bag bungeed to it. Apart from the odd noise it seemed fine and we carried on, avoiding rough stuff and generally seeing how far it would last before it might collapse, likely slamming Thomas face first into the road.
Non bumpy detours worked well and other than a confusing gate we made it to Kinross in time for baked goods to power us forward. Here the plan was to part ways. While Tom would take a country road, I would pedal my way over the hills and assuming no disasters, meet in Auchterarder for coffee and cakes at Synergy bike shop.
The pedal into the hills followed a steep climb and the road was soon lined by snow. Off the road and I followed the soggy gritty track into the trees. The forest road was soft from recent freezing and thawing so going was slow and draggy although brilliantly comfortable on any short descents.
I had been warned that that there would be an element of forest thrashing and sure enough the track ended and I dismounted to follow a faint walkers trail. Snow made the grass slippery and a couple of deep streams taunted me as I delicately crossed slippery rocks in my cycling shoes.
Back on track and although likely rideable on a better day I had to do some pushing as I was painfully out geared for the inclines. After a little on road section and the off road continued and switched between being very rocky and very deep in cow dung. Both surfaces required some finesse so as not to spin the wheels. On reaching an unfriendly looking farm I decided to avoid it and crossed a stream next to a dead sheep*.
This dropped me onto another track called Cadgers Yett. I am unsure what a cadger or a yett is but the track provided an excellent final blast down into Auchterarder. Tom had already arrived at Synergy and finished eating cake – our arrival time would have been similar had it not been for photo taking. My coffee and cake were eaten quickly and I carefully walked out so as to not deposit the large hunk of sheep poo that I had not noticed was stuck to my shoe when I walked in.
Riding to Comrie we followed the Braco Road North, a quiet road with a long gentle climb that plateaus and soon opens up to a ripping descent through picturesque countryside of snowy mountains and trees.
We powered on to reach St Fillians and the shop to buy snacks. Unfortunately we were 8 minutes late and it was closed. Luckily for us Stu was doing dinner so we wouldn’t starve and although low in moral, the promise of Spam madras spurred Tom on.
We reached the hut as the night really started to take grip and were enthusiastically greeted by Stuart**. Although not much more than a shed, the CTC hut has provided shelter to cyclists since its construction in 1933. Once a popular spot in the days before international holidaying it now sees very little traffic. The visitors book is evidence to this, started in 1993 yet still not half full, the dates of entries become spread further apart. But in that is its charm. It is a hark back to simpler times, almost as a liveable time capsule that feels mostly untouched. Consisting of a small single room, dry enough to tempt the mice in but not warm enough for them to stay, it contains all that you would need to welcome an overnight stay.
Under the gas mantle glow Stuart cooked on the camping stove while Thomas and myself filled him in on the days adventures. We ate our curry and drank rum and Tom hid in his sleeping bag because he was cold. If there was one improvement I would make to this humble shelter would be some sort of heat source however the cold brings with it character. That character manifested itself to me during the night in the form of very cold legs. I guess I could have layered up more or used the blankets that we now know, since leaving, are stored in the hut.
The next morning soggy socks and shoes were pulled back on, the hut locked up and we were off again. The morning hadn’t brought any warmth so it felt good to get the legs moving and the blood flowing. The route home was to be easy tarmac and we pedalled down the A84 which was broken up with a breakfast stop at the shop in Strathyre. This fairly unpleasant A road was soon replaced with B road that guided us onwards towards Bridge of Allan. A tailwind assured that we made good time and on reaching Kincardine we had the luxury of being able to sample a couple of Stu’s highlights of Fife, the Forth Coastal path and throwing stones in the silty gloop of the Firth of the Forth.
And before we knew it we were back in the city. Away from the serenity of pedalling quiet roads between snow dusted peaks, tucked away retreats and the satisfying splat of rocks in mud. The first overnighter of 2018 has now been ticked off, a great reminder of the simplistic joys of adventure and a motivational kick start to the year.
*This is likely a poor waymarker if you want to follow this route.
**Who may have been suffering from cabin fever.