DAY 4: Mountains and Gravel Path Madness: Lock Morlich to Lock Tay
A night spent on uneven ground and surrounded by midges might not sound the most appealing to most of us, but these things become minute when you are fully immersed in the nature around you. Other than our tent and each other we were near enough alone on the edge of the loch, an experience that the whole crew will cherish for a long time. As usual it was an early start, but Alex, Sal and Isaac all spared the time to have a dip in the freezing lake! It was a once in a lifetime location, so why not get a bit chilly to have the experience!
Before leaving, the cyclists made sure their bikes and wheels were prepared for the off-road and gravel tracks that the cross country route would take them on. Our cross country route was planned with the help of Marcus Stitz, adventurer and cyclist extraordinaire, so the team were in for a challenge. Look out for the upcoming Mind the Green Space podcast ft. Marcus Stitz to find out more about his adventures.
In the meantime, Alicia, support crew member and host of our podcast, stepped in to interview Ben Thorburn of Wilderness Scotland. Wilderness Scotland is a guided and self-guided tourism company that gets people out into nature and offers trips for adventure travel. Ben had a lot to say about ecotourism and how adventure tourism can be handled, especially when in a national park! The Cairngorms host around 1.92 million visitors each year. Given the abundance of mountains and lochs the national park is a hub for sporting adventurers, also meaning conservation is a primary concern for tourist businesses like Wilderness Scotland.
With a lot of upcoming off-road cycling, the team recruited Luke from Badger Productions to take some additional drone footage as they cycled through the mountains. His FPV drone allows for much better control allowing him to get some awesome shots of our team! Luke’s work is truly awesome so give his website and socials a view! The few times we did bump into the team on the road we were met by big grins and some minor wounds. Isaac described the fear of racing down the gravel paths but said it with a big smile, so it couldn’t have been that bad!
Where there is an abundance of green space, there is also an abundance of wildlife. On our travels through the Moorlands we saw signs for red squirrels, rare birds and wild reindeer (the only herd of wild, free-range reindeer in the UK!). Sadly we didn’t come across any on our travels but send us your pics so we can get jealous! The Moorlands is home to more than just these rare reindeer though, as wildlife such as Red and Black Grouse, Curlew, Lapwing, Golden Plovers, Snipes, Hen Harriers, Merlin or Golden Eagles (and of course red squirrels and deer) have all made the Moorlands their place of stay, no thanks to the vast landscape filled with heather, long-grass and berries! Highly valuable for the wildlife living here, the Moorlands are also highly valuable to us humans too – three quarters of the world’s resources are found in the UK, most of which comes from Scotland! It is such an important task therefore to look after, protect and preserve these moorland areas.Afterall, the moorlands cover over 38% of Scotland as a whole, which amounts to over 3 million hectares!!
After a morning of cycling across gravel paths… and some rivers, the team emerged from the mountains onto the banks of Loch Rannoch. They were now about halfway to our next campsite so it was time to sit down for lunch and enjoy the views. With only two days left in Scotland we want to make the most out of the fabulous green spaces it has to offer! The rest of the cycle would take the team though Ben Lawers, the highest mountain in the southern part of the Scottish highlands, covering some serious elevation in their final kilometres. Ben Lawers is so high in fact, that it is the 10th highest Munro (or easier to understand – mountain over 3,000ft/914m), standing at exactly 3,984ft tall! Most famous for its height, Ben Lawers is also celebrated for its collections of rare arctic-alpine and over 600 different types of lichen! With so many exciting things to see, and the surrounding wildlife including red deer, ptarmigans, ravens, ring ouzels, skylarks and black grouse, Ben Lawers is certainly one of the best cycling routes on this journey!
Tonight we camped on Loch Tay at the Loch Tay Highland Lodges and Glamping Park. The park kindly let us stay in some of their glamping pods, giving us the chance to fully recharge after our wild camp the night before. Our pods were just a few minutes walk away from the Loch and we could look over the water from where we were staying. Loch Tay is the largest loch in Perthshire and one the deepest in Scotland – stretching over 15 miles long and over 508ft deep, it is by far one of the most magnificent views around Scotland. Camping just moments away from Loch Tay also gave the team an insight into the loch’s vast history. There are eighteen crannogs across the loch, that were home to settlers who once inhabited the loch over 2,500 years ago – one crannog that you can still see (that hasn’t been submerged under water!) is near the northern shore at Kenmore and is the ancient burial place of Queen Sybilla, wife of Alexander King of Scots. WHat an incredible place to go camping, somewhere you can quite literally retrace the steps of Scottish royalty!
As a team we feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to experience these affluent green spaces and we owe a debt of gratitude to all of those who are supporting us on this journey! Tomorrow we will be leaving the highlands and entering the city, so it’s time to wave goodbye to the countryside for a day and dive deeper into how city spaces are tackling the introduction of urban green spaces.
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