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HOME AT FIRST's

ADVENTURE

CENTRAL SCOTLAND

 

BIKING (OR WALKING) ALONG 27 Miles of mostly MAINTAINED, paved, dedicated cycleway
and some sections of tertiary one-lane rural roads and unpaved forest roads
Along a Remarkably scenic, low-grade route through Scotland's central highlands.

 

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN SPRING 2005.                       MOST RECENT UPDATE: 2014.

 
 

          Have you heard about Britain’s National Cycle Network? Since the mid-1990s a comprehensive system approaching 13,000 route miles has been identified, developed, signed and mapped across Britain and Northern Ireland. Most of the miles are on low-traffic byways and motor-traffic free bike paths, many of these reclaimed abandoned railways and improved towpaths tracing 19th century canals and other waterways that crisscross the UK with low profiles.
          With its low-profile, low-traffic route system keeping grades and congestion minimal, the National Cycle Network makes it possible for almost anyone to cycle short — and even long — distances through parts of Britain and Northern Ireland that were unfriendly to cyclists just a few years ago. With a support infrastructure for
information, meals, lodging, and equipment rental and repairs, the 10,000-mile-long National Cycle Network welcomes cyclists of all ages and abilities.

 
 

Easy to Moderate Cycling IN
Scotland's Central Highlands

 

 

HISTORY OF THE ROUTE:
          In the Highlands of Central Scotland, a rugged region of mountains and lochs, the few through roads must climb mountain passes and negotiate tight narrows. Weekend getaway traffic, trucks, farm equipment, and tourist buses add to the geographic challenge on these winding roads of the Central Highlands, discouraging all but serious touring cyclists from the main roads.
          The quasi-private
Sustrans organization — responsible for developing

The old Caledonian Railway's Glen Ogle Viaduct carries Route 7 across a most dramatic part of Central Scotland. Photo courtesy Greg Elwell.
The old Caledonian Railway's Glen Ogle
Viaduct carries Route 7 across a most
dramatic part of Central Scotland.

Photo courtesy Greg Elwell.

the National Cycle Network — created National

 

Route 7 as part of its "Lochs & Glens Cycle Route" from Glasgow to Inverness. One challenge was especially difficult: finding a low-grade, low-traffic route through the Trossachs and Highlands of Central Scotland. The key obstacle to crossing this daunting geography was getting through the narrows at the Pass of Leny where the

 

where the Highlands begin just north of Callander and then crossing the

Route 7 marker post north of Callander. Photo © Home At First.
Route 7 sign
post north
of Callander.
 Photo ©
Home At First

divide — the Glen Ogle Pass — between the east-west valleys of Loch Earn and Loch Tay. Today’s roadways through the region, the A84 and A85, trace the eastern sides of both the Falls of Leny narrows and the Glen Ogle Pass.
          Hugging the western sides of the narrows and the pass were the deteriorating remnants of the old
Callander & Oban Railway and Killin Railway lines from Callander to Loch Tay at Killin. A September, 1965, landslide in Glen Ogle ended rail service on the 100-year-old rail line from Callander north and west to Crianlarich, through the heart of Central Scotland’s Highlands. Over the next 30 years large portions of the railway disappeared into the surrounding vegetation, bridges were removed, and the major brick viaduct on Glen Ogle Pass began to crumble badly. The "disused" railway route of the old Callander & Oban and Killin Railways promised a low-level, low-traffic crossing of the region, but one that would require a costly rebuild. By July, 2000, the last major gap — the Kendrum Viaduct at Lochearnhead — was filled, and National Route 7 was essentially ready for bike traffic.

CLICK TO SEE MAP OF THE ROUTE.

 

SECTION 1: NATIONAL ROUTE 7  CALLANDER TO STRATHYRE

   9 MILES — MOSTLY TRAFFIC-FREE CYCLEWAY — FLAT, GRADUAL UPHILL
   
A BIKE RIDE PERFECT FOR FAMILY OUTINGS & PICNICS.

 

 

          Route 7 arrives in Callander from the southwest, having come across and through the Trossachs hills on its way north from Glasgow. It enters town on the A81 road bridge across the River Teith, then turns left on Main Street (route A84). Near the Dreadnought Hotel the cycle path turns southwest on the old railway right-of-way, now paved and signed for cyclists and walkers. Callander is a sizeable market town serving as the southeastern gateway to the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park. It has numerous restaurants, a fine grocery store, and, importantly, two fully-equipped bicycle shops that rent everything you might need for cycling in the region.
          The line leaves Callander by traversing a bridge and passing by a Roman camp along the

Looking northwest from the Teith River Bridge in Callander. The mountain is Ben Ledi, gatekeeper of Scotland's Central Highlands. Photo © Home At First.
Looking west from the Teith River Bridge in
Callander. The mountain is Ben Ledi, gate-
keeper of Scotland's Central Highlands.

Photo © Home At First

 

river, then crossing the A821 near the hamlet of

 

Kilmahog (its Lade Inn is the last-chance pub restaurant until Strathyre). After Kilmahog the river valley turns north and becomes quite narrow, as it is squeezed by substantial hills on both sides. Still, following a railway grade means the climbing is steady and mild and the corners not severe. This canyon is the Pass of Leny, the southwestern entrance into the Central Scotland Highlands. Below the cycleway, the river is a torrent of challenging rapids — very popular with accomplished kayakers — called the Falls of Leny. The canyon is less than a mile in length, but once on the other side, Scotland is very different than the broad farmlands and rolling hills of Callander and the south.

 

            After the Falls of Leny the route bends almost

Kayaker in the white water of the Pass of Leny above Kilmahog. Photo Mike Mullen © Home At First.
Kayaker in the white water of the
Pass of Leny above Kilmahog.

Photo Mike Mullen © Home At First.

due north with the river and the parallel A84 roadway mostly invisible (if not inaudible) on the opposite bank. Soon you pass a small car park with numerous marked trailheads leading west up the flanks of the first mountain of the Highlands, Ben Ledi. In another mile the river slows and broadens into placid Loch Lubnaig, "Loch Elbow" or "The Crooked Loch". Here, Route 7 is in the cool pine forest on a narrow shelf above Loch Lubnaig cut along the eastern side of Ben Ledi and its northern neighbor, Ben Vane. For the next three miles, occasional openings through the pines expose purple-blue Loch Lubnaig and the forested hills opposite with the high peak of Stuc a’ Chroin lording over the Highlands landscape to the northeast.
        At the north end of Loch Lubnaig the cycleway leaves the old railway grade and climbs to a woodsy lane. About one mile after passing the northern end of the 

 

loch, the trail emerges from the forest as a paved

tertiary road leading into the village of Strathyre. The main village, with a shop, a tea room and services, is on the east bank of the River Balvag, reachable by a road bridge. Strathyre, like all the towns and villages along the route, is an enthusiastic supporter of the cycle path, and welcomes riders with picnic tables, public conveniences, and a shop with everything needed to restock knapsacks and bike bottles.

 

NOTES:

FAMILIES looking for a pleasant day out on bikes on a traffic-free right-of-way with plenty of possibilities for picnics may wish to turn around at Strathyre and cycle back to Callander.

TOTAL SECTION LENGTH (round-trip): 18 miles and about 2-4 hours of essentially flat, traffic-free cycling.

 

SECTION 2
STRATHYRE - BALQUHIDDER

SECTION 3
BALQUHIDDER - LOCHEARNHEAD

SECTION 4
LOCHEARNHEAD - KILLIN

  

Learn how to plan your own journey of discovery to CENTRAL SCOTLAND

— HOME AT FIRST —