We change planes in Iceland, marvel at the unique architecture of
the Iceland terminal, then fly into Glasgow, where
we are met by the BikeVermont leaders, Lisa and Saunie.
The 19 adventurers pile aboard two
vans and head toward our first hotel, Auchterarder House.
A few pictures as we roll along: the BV support van passes us on the highway, Stirling Castle on a hilltop, and we pass through a small village, where we noted that everyone drove on the wrong side of the road.
First stop: Drummond Castle Gardens. Along the walk up to the castle, I saw a shrub with bright yellow flowers that grew along most all the roads; it wasn't gorse, but I never did identify it. Many other familiar wild flowers were along the walkway, including rhododendron and columbine.
The castle gardens are magnificent and immaculate! The central pattern consists of two intersecting thistle and crown designs. Some of the hedges date from 1630 when the gardens were created. Cooper beeches in the background were planted by Queen Victoria. In the castle courtyard some of the bikers get acquainted with each other.
Our final stop: the grand Auchterarder House Hotel. We climb out of the vans and file through the light and airy "fountain room," and into the formal dining room, where we are treated to a mid-afternoon snack of asparagus soup and delicious triangle sandwiches. The waiters take our orders for dinner. Then it's a short walk down to the "bike barn," where we are introduced to our bikes. A few of us get our feet tangled up in the flag poles when mounting or dismounting. Some of us do that several times before we learn. Then we're off on our first bike ride -- a 14.5-mile figure-8 loop to the village of Muthill and back to Auchterarder House.
We start in several clumps, but quickly become strung out along the bike route. Directions are very clear, so the fact that there are no other bikers in sight is not a cause for alarm. The Roman-built Kinkell Bridge over the River Earn is our first major sight. We arrive in Muthill, where we meet our support van for the first time. We are quickly conditioned to the welcome sight of the van since it carries water bottle refills, fruit, cookies, and other locally available goodies, and is a chance to regroup and tell war stories. The Scottish Episcopal Church is directly across from where the support van stops. A short distance down the main street are the ruins of an old church. The sun finally breaks through and we have beautiful blue sky.
Back on our bikes for the return ride to Auchterarder House. BikeVermont tricks us with this first ride -- we never see terrain this flat again! The route takes us through sunny pasture lands and down quiet shady lanes. A really great day and a great first ride!
Total bicycle mileage: 14.5