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Pennine Cycleway Northern Loop - Day 2 of 7

Day 2 Thornton in Lonsdale to Dufton

The day dawned cloudy and damp, but with no wet tents to worry about we were packed, loaded and on our way pretty quickly. The climb up Kingsdale starts almost immediately and peaks out at around 1500', so it's a bit of a grind, but the views from the summit back down Kingsdale and ahead down Deepdale were stunning, particularly as the weather had brightened. The descent down into Deepdale is very steep and on a narrow road, so again care is needed.

Almost at The Top

Once we'd descended into Deepdale, it was a relatively short ride into Dent where we stopped for coffee and scones at the Stone Close Tea Room.

Pennine Cycleway Northern Loop - Day 1 of 7

Introduction

This route came about after a friend wanted to do the Pennine Cycleway but the logistics of getting both of us and our bikes to the start and then home from the finish using trains, when we both live in completely different parts of the UK proved to be an absolute nightmare. So we decided to do part of the Pennine Cycleway starting it at Foulridge and following it up to Hadrian's Wall, where we would then turn South and do a route through the Northern Pennines and Dales back down to Keighley, this would allow us to start from our friend's farm in Newsholme just outside Keighley. 

The journey would be 285 miles and we planned to do it over 7 days, with 5 nights camping and one night in a bunkhouse. Because of Covid and various other issues, we weren't able to start the journey until the very end of September 2021.

My friend Suggy and I would complete the whole journey and our friend Mike would join us for the first 3 days up to Hadrian's Wall, he would then head to Carlisle and a train home, while we turned South to complete the route.

Day 1 Newsholme to Thornton In Lonsdale

On the day we set off from Newsholme the rain was falling heavily and there was a strong and gusty SW wind, so it was full foul weather gear and a very wet headwind for most of our ride over "The Herders" to Foulridge where we connected with Route 68.

After coffee and cake at The Wharf at Foulridge we headed off along a rather wet  Leeds and Liverpool canal towpath and then relatively flat minor roads to Gargrave, where we stopped for lunch at Suggy's mum's house.

Mike on Scosthrop Moor

Leaving Gargrave in the rain, we followed Route 68 and headed to Airton where we climbed over Scosthrop Moor and dropped down into Settle, the descent into Settle is very steep and narrow, so caution is needed, particularly if you are on a heavily laden bike. From Settle the route takes a minor road on the West side of the River Ribble climbing towards the hamlet of Little Stainforth and then heading over to the village of Austwick. From Austwick the route skirts the busy A65 on a separate cycle path before passing through Clapham and climbing steeply towards Newby Cote and onwards to Ingleton and ultimately to our campsite for the night - Meadow Falls Camping and Caravanning at Thornton in Lonsdale, where the owner took pity on 3 rather wet looking cyclists and offered us the use of a camping pod for a small additional fee, which we duly accepted.

A Dry Camping Pod

With no tents to put up, showers were taken, damp clothes replaced with dry and our evening meal of curry, rice and naan bread was prepared and eaten in quick time so we could manage a couple of pints in the nearby Marton Arms.

The Hydro-Electric Tour Day 4 of 4

Day 4

We could afford a leisurely start to our final day as our transport wasn't due to pick us up in Pitlochry until 14:00 and Pitlochry was only 17 miles away along NCN Route 7. So after allowing the tent and our wet weather gear to dry out thoroughly, we packed up and retraced our route back to Weem to rejoin Route 7.

Almost Ready 

Route 7 folows a quite "C" road along the North bank of the River Tay, just after the village of Strathtay it meets the A827 where it doubles back and crosses the Tay on a cycle path next to the main road. 

The River Tay

Once on the South side of the Tay Route 7 follows the B898 to Balnamuir, where it leaves the road to cross back over the Tay on the old Logierait Railway Bridge, which is now owned by the local community.

Will The Bridge Hold Us?

Logierait Bridge

Once we'd crossed the bridge and the A827, there was a short steep climb on Route 7 out of Logierait, the gradient then eased until the steep climb at Killichangie. After that it was a long descent into Pitlochry where Route 7 took us over a footbridge over the River Tummel, with fine views of our sixth power station (Pitlochry) and into the main street.

Conclusion

Although this tour took us 4 days, both day 1 and day 4 were only half days to allow us to travel to and from Pitlochry. The total length of the tour is 121 miles with 7,700' of climbing, so some low gears were required. The upper reaches of Glen Lyon are remote and the road/track over to Glen Lochay is high and very exposed, so you need to be properly prepared, particularly if you're planning to wild camp, like we did. We decided to call it the Hydro-Electric tour because of all the Hydro-Electric infrastructure we passed along the route, 6 power stations, 5 dams and various pipelines and aqueducts.

The Hydro-Electric Tour Day 3 of 4

Day 3

Despite a pretty rough night of very strong winds and heavy rain, Mike's new tent held up well and we remained warm and dry. However, breakfast and packing up was quite a breezy and damp affair, as showers continued to sweep in on the strong South Westerly wind.

A Damp Breakfast

After re-negotiating the rough track and locked gate, we climbed up the unclassified road to the high point of the day and the highest point of the tour, the Learg nan Lunn at an altitude of 1660' (505m). The climbing was accompanied by rain and a swirling wind, so pretty unpleasant, however not long after cresting the summit the wind changed direction and was at our backs on the long descent (900') into Glen Lochay.

Learg nan Lunn

The final part of the descent was very steep with 4 hairpins and the condition of the road was poor, it had deep potholes and lots of loose gravel, so extreme caution was required; there were also two large deer gates complete with cattle grids which proved quite tricky to negotiate. Once into the valley bottom, we descended quickly down the Glen on a relatively smooth road; just after the road crossed over a large pipeline, we took the right hand fork which lead us past our fifth power station (Lochay) and on to meet the A827 just outside Killin. The Falls of Dochart were in full flow as we crossed the Bridge and we treated ourselves to a pleasant lunch in The Falls of Dochart Inn.

Falls of Dochart

After meeting up with NCN Route 7, right next to the pub! we followed it all the way along the Southern shores of Loch Tay to Kenmore; the route is fairly undulating with a couple of stiff and fairly long climbs. From Kenmore we continued along Route 7 and followed it all the way to Weem, where we parted company and followed the B846 into Aberfeldy and our campsite for the night at Aberfeldy Caravan Park. This is a big and popular site with level pitches and good facilities so expect it to be busy during the peak season and weekends, but as we arrived late on a Sunday in mid September it was relatively quiet - so no queues for the hot showers or the pot washing sinks.

The Hydro-Electric Tour Day 2 of 4

Day 2

We retraced our route back along the South side of Loch Rannoch, towards Kinloch Rannoch, where we followed the "C" class road which runs along the South side of Dunalastair Reservoir and the Northern flanks of Schiehallion up to meet the B846 at the top of the pass at the watershed between the River Tummel to the North and the River Tay to the South. The route was fairly flat for the first 5 miles, then we climbed fairly constantly for the next 2 miles, including some fairly steep sections, the remaining 5 miles to the summit were a bit undulating. 

Schiehallion 

After a brief stop for an early lunch at the summit, we commenced the long descent down the B846 towards Keltneyburn, where we turned left to head towards Fortingall and Glen Lyon. The descent is long and quite steep and bendy in places, so caution is required, particularly if fully loaded. The Fortingall Yew, reputed to be the oldest tree in Scotland, is located in the Churchyard at Fortingall and is definitely worth a visit.

Fortingall Yew

Just after Fortingall, we took a right turn and entered Glen Lyon proper, we would be climbing constantly for the next 25 miles. Glen Lyon is a very picturesque Glen, which is hemmed in on both sides by high mountains, at the bottom end it is very narrow, almost gorge like, whereas at the upper end near Lubreoch, it opens out into quite a broad Strath. The Old Post Office at Bridge of Balgie, is a great cafe selling no nonsense tea and coffee and wonderful home made cakes, it also sells some basic provisions, it's a popular stop for visitors to the Glen. So after fueling up on coffee and cake and getting our water bottles filled we headed towards upper Glen Lyon.

Coffee & Cake at Bridge of Balgie

From Bridge of Balgie the road up the Glen became much quieter and the Glen gradually became wilder. We passed our third power station (Cashlie) on the banks of Stronuich Reservoir.

 Upper Glen Lyon

Lubreoch Dam

When we reached the dam at Lubreoch and our fourth power station (Lubreoch), we took a track along the South side of the dam to a wild camping site on the shores of Loch Lyon (GR446,417), we had to negotiate a locked gate, the track was a bit rough and the campsite was a bit exposed, but the ground was level and well drained.

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