Well. I couldn’t just name the blog post “A cycle from Balloch to Callander, and then back again”. There’s not much to catch the imagination with a title like that, is there?
A wee bit if artistic license maybe, but the title is accurate in a sense. The cycle was a hike. And there were pies.
Here’s the route before we get into things…
Having driven to Balloch Country park, we parked up and cut diagonally through the park on our bikes to cross the A811 onto Auchincarroch road – a much quieter and more pleasant cycle than the fast and slightly dangerous main road. Take this route and you’ll see so much more though. The Easter Island hedge at Mavie Mill can’t fail to warm the hearts of even the coldest hardcore cyclist.
On reaching Drymen we stopped for a comfort break, which was just as well, because the route then climbs the Old Drymen road.
This military road takes the unassuming cyclist across a fairly desolate and wild-looking moor, and tries to break his, or her resolve. It tackles the terrain in the most straight forward of fashions, or rather straight up. Perhaps the lads who built it were running out of tarmacadam, or time, or both.
It’s a 2 mile climb, but a thrilling downhill section provides a fine reward.
You could stop in the nice wee village of Gartmore for a pitstop and a pint, but we pushed on instead towards the fork in the road which can take you to either Aberfoyle or Callander. Here, a decision must be made. Left or right.
Turn left and you will be at the mercy of the infamous Dukes Pass. Turn right towards Lake of Monteith for a more gradual slog.
We turned right. It’s slightly easier, but not half as pretty – the Dukes Pass takes you high enough to claim some wow-factor views. But the Lake of Montieth road is fine enough, especially in good weather.
With the sun on our backs, we began the gradual ascent towards the highest point at Torrie Forest. Once in the cooling shade of the forest, we tucked in our elbows for the second dramatic downhill sprint of the day. Blink and you are either in Callander, or in a plaster cast – it’s a steep descent.
The slingshot ride brought us into Callander in one piece, where we stopped to refuel. There is a place a hungry cyclist wants to visit on the main street – it is a bakery called Mhor Bread.
If you have the time to wait in the conga line of a queue, you will eventually be rewarded.
I have never seen scones of the like before. Towering meringues with peaks you could climb up and ski down. Cakes that fill you eyes with hope, and pies that… well, pies that would bring tears to the sturdiest of men and instantly transport him back to the first time his granny put a homemade steak pie down in front of him. Oh the pies. Good god, the pies!
We queued for so long, that we had to eat our pies the fly so as to get some speed up for the punishingly steep return trip. All I will say further on the subject is that I had a Steak & Black Pudding pie, and then a Pecan pie.
But no tears … just the wind in my eyes.