Day 2: 201 Km, Total: 417 Km
Day 2 started out with Lochness cloaked in ominous clouds that promised to make the start of the day anything but pleasant, helped on by the slightly sore head from one too many whiskeys the night before in my attempt to turn Bruce into a hardened malt drinker. Thailand waits for no man however and so we loaded the bikes and rode off into the drizzle, managing to take a ‘detour’ almost immediately upon leaving Lochness for the back country and found ourselves completely accidentally in a nature reserve. Which in Scotland means 2 deer and thousands of sheep, not quite up to south african standards but still very pretty. Gnarled ancient trees surrounded glassy lochs giving a glimpse into an older Scotland, a Scotland before forestry and the swathes of pine you see today.
From there it was off to Speyside, the heart of Scotland’s whiskey industry. Unfortunately for me we had grander plans than a day of whiskey tasting. The A93 was calling, described as being one of Scotland’s most scenic roads it also holds the title of being the UK’s highest public road, passing through the snow capped Grampian mountains. I’d worn 3 pairs of socks specially for the occasion. My toes were toasty and rearing to go.
It seems Scotland was looking to impress as once we hit the A939, the warm up to the A93, that gorgeous ball of fire fondly referred to as the sun reared its beautiful head. Suffice it to say me and my toes were extremely excited. So with sunshine at our backs and beautiful snow capped mountains ahead off we went. Its a road that can only be described as designed for riding, great sweeping curves that slowly climb the mountain side allowed us to let the bikes free and relish in the great weather and spectacular scenery. It couldn’t really get much better, until of course we came across the Royal Lochnagar distillery that is. Perched next to Balmoral castle in an area that’s obviously good enough for royalty this little gem of a distillery retains much of the ancient whiskey making art with a traditional open mashtun and the ability to still fill the casks on site. So it would have been rude not to do a distillery tour and have a wee little taste just to fire up the bellies before the next leg of the pass.
It was a great hour or 2 of riding after that up the pass. Reaching 670m above sea level and then slowly meandering back down heading towards the Scottish midlands, passing through some lovely country side and ending up at the historic Bridge of Cally hotel, where it just so happened to be about time for a pint in a comfy leather chair overlooking the river. The rest of this trip is most probably not going to end in such comfort so we might as well make the most of it now..