Weekender: Cateran country
Route name: Cateran Gran Fondo.
Start/finish: Alyth, Market Square, PH11 8AB (NO 24612 48519).
Maps: OS Landrangers 43, 53, 54.
Bike: Road bike, tourer.
Ride level: Beginner in two days, regular rider in one.
Stretching from the Valley of Strathmore into the southern edge of the Cairngorms National Park, the Cateran Ecomuseum is one of Scotland’s lesser-travelled destinations. It has quiet roads and beautiful scenery.
All of the museum’s sites are free and outside, and are described in detail on the museum’s website. This road bike loop, just a few kilometres short of the official Cateran Gran Fondo distance, takes you past some of the area’s key points of interest and through breathtaking Highland and Lowland scenery.
I cycled the route in a day on my singlespeed Claud Butler, joined by cycling journalist Trevor Ward. With many sights and picturesque villages along the way, the ride can easily be split into two days.
There’s no train station in Alyth; Dunkeld (29km/18 miles) is the best option for travelling to the start by train. Ember, Scotland’s first electric bus service, also takes bikes for free and unboxed from Edinburgh to Dundee. Meigle, a good alternative start and finish, is about 16km (10 miles) away from the bus stop in the west of Dundee.
For centuries Alyth was an important market town: farmers brought sheep and cattle in on drove roads. Alyth’s Pack Bridge is one of the oldest masonry bridges in Scotland, and the Den o’ Alyth, a wooded gorge lying on either side of the Alyth Burn, is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest.
2 Park Neuk stone circle
Just a short walk off the route, this small stone circle is set on the shoulder of a low hill. In a nearby wood a collection of larger stones was once thought to be the remains of another circle. It’s now believed to be simply field clearance.
3 Reekie Linn
Another walk takes you to a spectacular waterfall. At the base is a dark cave called Black Dub, where legend has it that an outlaw once hid – until the devil appeared before him as a giant black dog. He turned himself in the next day.
4 Lintrathen Wildlife Reserve
Stop at the Wee Bear Café and enjoy this beautiful loch. During the summer the area is home to breeding songbirds. In winter large numbers of wintering birds, particularly greylag geese, visit the reserve. There are two hides on the banks of the loch, which can be accessed by separate paths.
5 Balintore Castle
Commissioned as a shooting lodge in the late 1800s by David Lyon, a slave owner and parliamentarian, the castle features an abundance of towers and gables. After being abandoned in the 1960s, it is now being restored privately.
6 Meigle Sculptured Stone Museum
This magnificent collection of carved stones dates back to the late 700s. All found in Meigle, mostly in the churchyard or built into the church, they are all that survives of a centre of Pictish wealth and patronage.