Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The "Tour de Tay"!

Anyone who lives in Perth, Dundee (or intervening points), who owns a bike should have a go at this! The "Tour de Tay", is a well known circuit to local cyclists, who have been recommending it to me for years. Today I finally had a crack at it, and it really is a splendid ride.

This ride is a circuit of the tidal Tay estuary, a loop with the Tay Road Bridge in Dundee at one end, and The Queen's Bridge over the Tay in Perth at the other. The two cities are connected by a series of marked cycle routes for the entire length of the Northern leg through Perthshire and Dundee City, and for about half the Southern leg through Fife.

I had a dilemma about whether to do the circuit clockwise or anti-clockwise. I was starting and ending the route in Perth and knew that (i) the hardest climb on the route was around Kinnoull Hill near Perth on the southern leg; (ii) a strong Westerly wind was blowing all day; (iii) the Southern leg was more undulating and forested, whereas the Northern route was very wind exposed. Putting all this together I elected to go anti-clockwise.

Attacking the Tour de Tay anticlockwise from Perth necessitates a big climb to start proceedings. Coming from the East of the city, I worked my way up steep Manse road, through the new housing, before joining the official cycle route over the Jubilee, past Balthayock and down to Glencarse. Here the A90 is crossed and the 'B' road to Dundee via Errol picked up. I was blown along this road at a rate of knots by a delicious tail wind that would become a menacing headwind on the return journey.

The massive redevelopment of Dundee's waterfront, means that the cycle route to the Tay Bridge is a bit convoluted, but it is reasonably well marked, Bizarrely, cyclists are required to take a lift up onto the Tay Bridge, where they are greeted with a very strange surface to cycle on. It seems to be a series of wooden boards coated with tar, which creak and rattle as you cycle over them!

Once off the bridge, I turned to face the wind, and realised that getting back to Perth would take some concerted effort. While in terms of raw speed, this was obviously bad - there is a plus side. Last week I was informed that I am overweight, and that my cholesterol is too high. Coupled with my family history of cardiac related issues, I was told it was time to take some action. A headwind then is my friend - akin to turning up the resistance on an exercise bike! I tried to tell myself this, but of course in truth I was dreading the thought of the ascents in Fife being into the wind! The worst of this was on the hard climb from the delightfully named Bottomcraig up to Hazelton Walls, after which the terrain became much easier. Cholesterol issues or not, such effort required some chocolate!

The cycle routes are all well marked on this ride, and take the rider from Dundee all the way to Newburgh, where the waymarked route dives South towards Auchtermuchty. Along the South side of the Tay the views beyond Perth to the snow-capped high mountains are stunning. Ben Vorlich to the west and Bheinn a Ghlo to the North were especially impressive. Road-wise, the route back to Perth from here is pretty grim, its fast, busy roads with little scope for admiring the lovely views. The Baiglie Straight, leads into Bridge of Earn, which in turn leads into Perth over a final climb, before dropping into the town via the Edinburgh Road.

54 miles in 4hrs isn't a fast run - but it's a lovely route!

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