A second-hand, single-speed push-bike, cannibalized from other old wrecks, proved well worth its £10 purchase price in the time and effort saved in accessing some of the remote Munros embedded in the eastern Highlands. Although starting points for ascents lie close to estate roads or farm tracks these are generally unsuitable for access by private car, either being too rough or barred with locked gates, but perfectly feasible by bicycle - not necessarily of the expensive and complex, multi-geared, mountain-type variety. Local hiring is an option - take a test spin, ensure the tyres are fully inflated and that the saddle is the correct height before setting off into the wilderness - a repair kit is a wise precaution.
The slight uphill gradients on the way in can be somewhat laborious, not to say uncomfortable, for an unaccustomed pedaller however this is more than compensated by extensive, exhilarating, albeit bone-shaking, free-wheeling stretches on the return downhill - strong wrists and good brakes are essential.
From the wooded Linn of Dee at the bend of the dog-leg road from Royal Braemar a lengthy, gently-rising track leads alongside the river to White Bridge at the confluence of the Dee and the Allt an t-Seilich. Turning off to the south to the Red House before resuming westwards it is possible to continue on two wheels to reach the ruins of Geldie Lodge for the start of the climb to An Sgarsoch deep in the heart of vast, desolate moorland. Descending from the neighbouring Carn an Fhidhleir ( also known as Carn Ealar ) I was relieved to find my bike undisturbed in its hiding place in the heather - it would have been a long and tedious 10 miles foot-slogging back to the roadhead.
On another outing I retraced the route to White Bridge but then headed on into Glen Dee to make a ski ascent of the isolated Beinn Bhrotain - one of several combined, bike-and-ski assaults on Munros enabling day trips to remote peaks even in the shorter days of the Scottish winter.
Further along the scenic road from Linn of Dee, towards Mar Lodge, a level pathway provides a fast cycle route to Derry Lodge ensconced at the foot of a high-level circuit of Derry Cairngorm, Ben Macdui and Carn a' Mhaim - a mere fraction of the great cairngorm massif fringed with rugged crags and corries.
Proceeding beyond Derry Lodge it is a harder, steeper ride to continue through the pine forests into Glen Derry to gain access to the twin-topped Beinn Bhreac - another of the many far flung summits amenable to ski ascents.
The finest and most picturesque of the plentiful runs in the area begins at the end of the road from Braemar to Linn of Quoich along the estate track meandering through the woods of Glen Quoich beside the tranquil Quoich Waters to reach the starting point for the grind up to the spacious plateau of Beinn a Bhuird and on to its nearby companion Ben Avon - a prolonged and strenuous outing.
Getting on my bike also contributed to the collection of my final set of Munros on a two day excursion from Dalwhinnie when the long estate road on the banks of Loch Ericht was used to attain the slopes of a superb chain of secluded peaks - Carn Dearg, Geal Charn, Aenoch Beag and Beinn Eibhinn. The effort of the protracted but gratifying traverse of the undulating crest was compounded by a heavy backpack of spare clothes, food and cooking gear - the only time in my round of the Munros this had been found necessary - to enable an overnight stay in the reputedly haunted Ben Alder Cottage - conveniently located as a base for my last two Munros.
Despite being the sole occupant I was thankfully undisturbed by any ghosts or strange noises and refreshed from a sound night's sleep it was easy going next morning to the bealach above the cottage and along the broad, rounded ridge to claim Beinn Bheoil and a spectacular view of Loch Ericht.
Retracing the route to the col I climbed the steep, broken escarpment above the deep void of Garbh Choire and the dark waters of Loch a' Bhealaich Bheithe to the trig point surmounting the stone-strewn summit-plateau of Ben Alder - one of Scotland's major peaks and, with its commanding outlooks over the magnificent, mountainous landscape, worth saving and savouring as a splendid culmination of my round of the Munros.
Exerting undue pressure on the pedals on an incline on the return to Dalwhinnie a cotter pin snapped and the bike became more of a liability than an asset - perversely there then seemed to be no downhill stretches. It was pressed back into service however on my tour of the Munros furth of Scotland in England, Wales and Ireland.
( The Commentator, The Glasgow HERALD, Saturday November 4, 2000 )
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