Sunday May 3, 2015. Day 20

Blair Atholl to Aviemore:81km

Today was the most challenging day we have had cycling, only because of the cold! At the end of the day we were glad to find that our B&B was warm, had a fire in the lounge and also a drying room. We left out shoes there overnight! Even our foot coverings and water-resistant gloves are not sufficient for driving rain!

The ride was relatively easy with a climb along the River Tilt and then a 24km ascent of the Drumochter Pass, where we entered the Highlands. The sign on the bike path warned of bad weather, even in summer, and a lack of snow clearance! The NCN Route#7 was well signposted and mostly had a good surface on the old main road and newly surfaced trails. The volunteers of Sustrans should be congratulated.

It had started raining heavily in Blair Atholl, turned to snow up the pass and continued until we got to Dalwhinnie. We must have looked quite a sight entering the Toll House Cafe after about 4 hours on the road, water dripping everywhere, with numb fingers and toes and feeling slightly shell-shocked! Miraculously, there was a roaring fire in a stove and the servers had no problem with us drying our gloves (and socks!) draped over it! We left each with a change of socks, and slightly drier shoes and gloves. On passing the Dalwhinnie Distillery just past the cafe, we seriously considered abandoning the rest of the ride and spending the afternoon doing Scotch tasting (and catching a train to Aviemore 3 hours later). For some reason we decided against this?  We soldiered on in the rain to Kingussie, where we again found respite for frozen toes and fingers (and conveniently situated radiators for non-conspicous placing of socks and gloves) at the Duke of Gordon Hotel.  Finally, the rain let up and although we were still cold, the rest of the ride through Newtonmore and Kingussie was straightforward. The spikes on the temperature chart were our stops for lunch and tea!

On leaving the Winking Owl, after dinner, we got a stunning, clear view of the Cairngorms under a waxing full moon. We are looking for an improvement in the weather tomorrow.

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