Cycling Aberfoyle (Braeval)


“Difficult to get lost from here” as I read out our very sparse instructions for today’s cycle. “Ha, the writer clearly has not met us” as L confirms my exact thought. Here we were, having cycled up another big ass hill only to find it was a dead end. With all the practise outdoors, you’d think we had this in the bag by now, but oh no…. Navigation skills are optional right? How else would we have been able to spot Stirling Castle and the Scot’s Monument in the far distance if we had not cycled up the ‘wrong’ hill? And also have a wonderful view of the only lake in Scotland, Lake Menteith. To everyone else not Scots, in Scotland we have Lochs, not Lakes. The difference is that a Loch is deep, and does not have to contain fresh water, as opposed to a Lake which is fresh and not necessary deep. Why Menteith is called a Lake I have no idea. Until that is I just Googled it and one, the body of water used to be called Loch until the early 19th Century, why it changed no one knows. Two, which I’m going to choose to ignore once I have written this, is that Lake Menteith, though widely believed to be the only body of water in Scotland called a Lake, it’s not actually, there are several. Thanks Googie!  Create a mystery only to ruin another myth, and with my original question still remaining!
Since I’ve chosen to ignore two, I’m gonna make up my own theory on Menteith…. King George the IV visited Scotland, the first monarch in over two centuries to do so after having quit Scotland for England, comes back via Menteith to Stirling Castle, which at the time was the capital and primary residential castle for Monarchy due to the political positioning of it. Confirmed by the fact that we were currently on top of a hill at least 20miles away and could still see the Castle in the distance gives you a clue at how good a military positioning that thing is! Now how the Monarch got his row row boat onto the Loch without it being attached to any open sea or ocean channels, I’m going to say Nessie (Loch Ness) and Yeti and you can use your imagination. Anyway I digress from my digression, Georgie here kept calling the Loch Lake, you know, cause he’s English now and so to avoid embarrassment, the Lords and entourage around him then referred to the Loch as the Lake for the remainder of his visit. Which was too long, cause by the time olde Georgie left, eveyone had got used to calling the Loch Lake Menteith, and thus our legacy today. Ta-daa, you’re welcome, mystery solved.
So anyway, back to cycling…. I thought I was doing so well this morning! Got up before the alarm, even got packed (my bag of food, spare clothes and equipment) and even out the door in plenty of time to pack my bike into the car boot and still meet the others five minutes early…. ‘DOH!’ And so I head home again.
Forty minutes later than planned, and reconvening with the others at the start point in the car park, “missing the ‘bi’ in cycle were ya?” As I was teased, doh. Shin and elbow pads, check. Helmet, check. Cycling shoes, check. Spare tyre tube, hand held pump, plastic levers (to help remove tyre from wheel if need to replace a puncture), and allen keys, check. Food, check. Water, check. Wheels…. I had one!…
In my defence, because I pack my bike in the back of my car boot, and the car isn’t long enough, I need to take off the front wheel to get the bike in. I have never forgotten this wheel before, but this morning I was way too relaxed, clearly! I guess it was lucky I didn’t get to the destination car park and then found out I had forgotten the wheel. How else then would I have had the chance to witness, after collecting my wheel from home and driving out again, a car having turned up the wrong slip road and was driving into on coming cars coming off the motorway. Talk about hairy (scary)! We all had our issues that day, that driver’s issue clearly much worse than mine!
So OK, it turned out to be a beautiful day today, especially more surprising as the weather forecast said it would be cloudy all day after 8am. What we got was high teen figures and the sun was out scorching folk. I drank so much water from dehydration I had to refill in a stream, and lucky in Scotland we have plenty of fresh water about.
So from the car park we headed along this trail, and OH. MY. GOD………. Talk about steep, knocked the wind out of me and ended up pushing the bike up a particularly steep part coming out of the forest. Following our wonderful instructions, I took the left at the junction then right at the next, as written. What we didn’t know was, the trail we started off on from the car park was wrong, so DOH! We were off in the wrong direction from the get go!

As we approached the end of our first wrong hill, and that knocked the second wind out of me! L’s bike decided to act up, so we had a team building exercise flipping the bike upside down and playing with the gears trying to fix it. One person turning the pedals so we could switch the gears and adjust the levers, one person on one side to switch one of the two sets of gears the last one person was on the opposite side switching the gears from their side. Sound complicated? It felt it! We didn’t get the bike completely fixed, but at least enough so L could have access to her lowest gear again, handy seeing we made her cycle up so many hills! It was on this hill we spotted the Stirling Castle and monument.

So then we scream down this hill again. With an up, there’s a down! And down is so much more fun! And tried again. Up another hill, and…… This one was worse. Even had a sign indicating steep hill! We finally reach the top, another dead end, but what a beautiful view of the Menteith hills and surrounding forest from here. Also lunch, that’s always a bright side! And with an up, there’s a down, weeeeeeee ~~~~~
Starting again, literally, from the car park, we finally found the right track. First it was a mile of rocks to cycle on, ouch. Then it was muddy and soggy tracks through the forest, accompanied abundantly by roots and boulders, ouch. Then it was open grasslands, littered with boulders, rocks, small tracks and stream crossings, ouch. I think we made it a couple more miles at most before both my bicep muscles in my thighs started to seize. Game over. Lucky they didn’t cramp otherwise I wouldn’t have made it back to the car.
But, the technical ride through the forest, and then the open grasslands was fun. Would have been much more had we not decided to go a detour via three big ass steep hills first!!! But hey ho, I had a fun day, the sun was out and I got some great views, some fresh air and good company to share a coffee and cake with afterwards.
Next time…. Who am I kidding, it’s not the first time we’ve gotten lost going somewhere and it won’t be the last. It’s also not the first time we had ‘team building’ projects during our ‘adventure’ days out. So, bring on the next challenge. Or even, when are we going back to do this one?!

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