Prime cycling territory

With the Tour de France 2023 in full swing and promising to be a battle between Vingegaard and Pogacar it is time for amateur/sofa cyclists the world over to plan their route to glory for the next twelve months!

Scotland has such an amazing landscape for road cycling but I’ve been so busy with work and working on the house that opportunities for cycling have been far too fewDuncan Ban MacIntryre monument.

The terrain (and the weather) are not for the faint hearted but then the UK is known for its rolling cycling terrain rather than the steady gradients found in the Alps! In Scotland of course some of the hills are actually mountains!

That being the case it surprises me how few cyclists use this area as a training base to get those miles in before heading off to events like the Etape du Tour.  The major roads can be unpleasant but with a bit of planning quieter roads can be used and provide some absolutely stunning views.  For the reasonably fit the loop around Loch Awe provides a good 100km on mostly very quiet roads.  Check out number 5 on Komoot.  For those whose legs fancy a challenge there is also an amazing 7km hill sprint up to the Cruachan Dam from St.Conan’s Kirk.

As someone who has dropped from 200km per week to a very poor 30km per month I have to say the thought of getting properly back in the saddle is a daunting one but given the beauty of the area I am sure I will cope.

A poetic history – Wordsworth on Kilchurn

With thanks to a recent and very welcome guest (Rachel), we have belatedly discovered that the great poet (and poet laureate 1843-50) William Wordsworth wrote a fabulous poem about Kilchurn Castle which is reproduced below:


          CHILD of loud-throated War! the mountain Stream
          Roars in thy hearing; but thy hour of rest
          Is come, and thou art silent in thy age;
          Save when the wind sweeps by and sounds are caught
          Ambiguous, neither wholly thine nor theirs.
          Oh! there is life that breathes not; Powers there are
          That touch each other to the quick in modes
          Which the gross world no sense hath to perceive,
          No soul to dream of. What art Thou, from care
          Cast off--abandoned by thy rugged Sire,                     10
          Nor by soft Peace adopted; though, in place
          And in dimension, such that thou might'st seem
          But a mere footstool to yon sovereign Lord,
          Huge Cruachan, (a thing that meaner hills
          Might crush, nor know that it had suffered harm;)
          Yet he, not loth, in favour of thy claims
          To reverence, suspends his own; submitting
          All that the God of Nature hath conferred,
          All that he holds in common with the stars,
          To the memorial majesty of Time                             20
          Impersonated in thy calm decay!
          Take, then, thy seat, Vicegerent unreproved!
          Now, while a farewell gleam of evening light
          Is fondly lingering on thy shattered front,
          Do thou, in turn, be paramount; and rule
          Over the pomp and beauty of a scene
          Whose mountains, torrents, lake, and woods, unite
          To pay thee homage; and with these are joined,
          In willing admiration and respect,
          Two Hearts, which in thy presence might be called           30
          Youthful as Spring.--Shade of departed Power,
          Skeleton of unfleshed humanity,
          The chronicle were welcome that should call
          Into the compass of distinct regard
          The toils and struggles of thy infant years!
          Yon foaming flood seems motionless as ice;
          Its dizzy turbulence eludes the eye,
          Frozen by distance; so, majestic Pile,
          To the perception of this Age, appear
          Thy fierce beginnings, softened and subdued                 40
          And quieted in character--the strife,
          The pride, the fury uncontrollable,
          Lost on the aerial heights of the Crusades!

In August and September 1803 Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy and their mutual friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge (he of Rime of the Ancient Mariner fame) embarked on their own grand tour of Scotland – mirroring the lexicographer and essayist Samuel Johnson’s A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland, conducted some 27 years earlier.  Whilst William Wordsworth wrote the above poem, Dorothy kept an illuminating journal which was published 25 years after her death.  It is worth reading the entries from 31st August 1803 and 1st September 1803 for a little historical perspective on the experiences of being a tourist in the area!

Tower makes Airbnb list of ‘cool and quirky’ homes

Fabulous news! After a year of being an Airbnb host we have made their list of top ten ‘cool and quirky’ places to stay in the UK.  See this link in The Guardian newspaper.

To say that we are chuffed is an understatement! We keep making improvements and this year we have added more antique furniture and a nice decked area for people to relax and enjoy the view of the loch.

Our guests have been lovely and have continued to enjoy this wonderful part of Scotland.

The holiday let is truly up and running

It has been a while since we have posted an update on our blog – though we have refreshed the site to make it easier to learn more about the holiday let.

We have been up and running as a holiday let since August 2016 and the overwhelming experience has been positive – apart from the one occasion but even then everything was resolved nicely.

We have now had 30 sets of guests and they have all been entranced by the views from the Tower of Glenstrae.  We have had all types of visitors stay with us from families with small children to groups of friends touring the highlands.

That everyone is as enchanted as we are by the Tower is a real validation of our decision to move here in the first place.  Everyday the light changes and you see some new colours in the landscape around us.

Listen and watch closely and you can hear the owls and see the many species of small bird that feed in our garden.  M does not believe me but I have seen red squirrels scampering up the pine trees as well as a pine marten!  There was also a deer in the garden last winter during the snows – it left footprints so I had proof for M!

New projects planned for the year ahead include decking for the holiday let so we can bring the BBQ nearer the property – for those all too short summer months – and an outside area for storing logs nearer the house. Then maybe we will think about a games room and what about a workshop for cyclists….?

Sent to the Tower!

Moving to Scotland from North London was always on the cards but perhaps not in the way we had originally anticipated.  Sitting on the veranda of a cabana on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula in August 2014 I noticed a job advertised in a certain Scottish city.


M and I had talked often of the move north to live in a country whose values and lifestyle we appreciated.  So when I raised the prospect of this job with the sun shining on the white sands in the background we thought – why not apply and see what happens?  Well to cut a long story short I got the job and we started the arduous process of packing up a home where we’d brought up a daughter and shared many happy memories with good friends for the past 23 years.

This blog serves two purposes – first we are using it to capture the process of setting up a new home in the amazingly beautiful surroundings of Loch Awe and secondly at some point in 2016 we will be setting up a self catering holiday business in one ‘wing’ of the house!

M finally joined me after leaving the teaching profession in August 2015 and she now works part time in a local ballet school.  More on that I am sure in future blog posts…