Lochs, Landslides, and Oysters

When choosing where we want to shoot our seasonal lookbooks our first instinct is generally to take inspiration from the colour palette of the collection. The autumnal colours of this season – bright reds and golds – instantly brought to mind the wild rolling landscape of Scotland. Add to that the fact that Scotland has some of the most epic riding in the UK and stunning backdrops and we were sold. A quick bit of location scouting using the wonder of Google maps and we were all getting excited about the prospect of spending a week tackling winding climbs flanked by breath-taking vistas, it wasn’t until a couple of people asked incredulously “Scotland? In October? And you’re expecting to get some dry photos?” that we realised things may not be as easy as we had initially thought.

After much scouting around and asking for recommendations – it turns out anyone who’s ridden in Scotland absolutely raves about it wherever they were, which makes narrowing down your choices extra hard – we settled on the small village of Lochgoilhead, located in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Just a short drive from Glasgow airport the park is one of the most stunning areas in the country with such a diverse feel to the landscape that every time you turn a bend you get a completely new and fresh perspective.

Lochgoilhead itself, as the name suggests, sits on the shores of Loch Goil in the west of the park. The area sits at the end of a 10 mile stretch of road that is topped by a viewpoint known as ‘Rest and be Thankful’, a stop that we would come to know well (and be thankful for) in the week ahead but not necessarily for the reasons we initially thought. Having successfully wrangled eight people along with bikes, camera equipment, luggage, a van and a car to Glasgow airport we made our way to Lochgoilhead greeted by the only slightly ominous and ironic sight of Motorway signs stating “Heavy Rain Forecast” obscured by the deluge that was already soaking us to the bone. We raised our spirits the only way we knew how, by making a promise that we would pack as many Loch-themed puns into the week as possible…un-Loch-ily none of us are that good at puns – it was going to be a long trip.

Armed with our determination that a bit of rain wasn’t going to spoil our riding fun we set out on what turned out to be some of the most enjoyable roads we’ve every ridden. Riding on everything from roads that were gently lapped by the loch as they meandered by, to gruelling climbs – made all the harder by one of our number being a hill climb specialist and setting a daunting pace, to epic descents accompanied by mist covered peaks cut through with mountain streams. The kit was certainly put to the test by the weather; driving rain that only lifted for one day out of five, and freezing temperatures, but it performed admirably keeping the stupid grins of enjoyment plastered on our rain battered faces. It was the kit and the sheer joy of the riding that kept us out on the roads all day, every day. Meaning we only headed back to the house we were staying in by the shore of Loch Goil late on the evenings to shower, cook, and toast each successful day with a well-earned beer.

Luckily for us it also transpired that we had chosen our location just one loch over from the famous Loch Fyne and its associated seafood restaurant. We decided to make an impromptu stop here early on and introduce some of the uninitiated to the joys (or otherwise) of Oysters. While the coffee stop may be a staple of cycling culture, the oyster stop has yet to catch on, but we have high hopes, at least for those riding near Loch Fyne.

 

The difficulty for us came on the second day when, due to the vast amount of water streaming down the mountainsides, a landslide hit the only direct road that joined the westernmost side of the park (where we were) to the rest of Scotland, effectively cutting us off from any new riding routes and our route home to Glasgow. Still as every cloud has a silver lining, every landslide has a silver…boulder? With the severity of the damage and with several massive boulders needing to be demolished and cleared, the authorities (who did an amazing job working through the conditions) brought in helicopters to assess the mountainside, allowing us to capture some incredible footage of us riding with the helicopters behind. All without blowing our budget on Hollywood effects. It also meant that with the roads now ‘access only’ we essentially had a 10 mile stretch of private closed road on which to ride and film. All this just went to prove that if your main aim is just to ride and have fun, then there’ll always be a way to make the best of any situation.