Sunday 10th May sees Etape Caledonia return to the roads around Perthshire for its 9th year. This event has grown to become one of the biggest cycle sportives in the country with over 5,000 cyclists tackling the 81 mile course which starts and finishes in Pitlochry.
It is not difficult to see what the attraction is, the scenery around Loch Rannoch and Loch Tummel is stunning and participants will enjoy the rare pleasure of cycling on closed roads. Entries sold out this year in less than 72 hours but spaces are still available for charity fundraisers. Last year participants raised more than £350,000 for Marie Curie Cancer Care.
One of the upshots of the Etape is that it has served to highlight just how impressive a cycling destination Perthshire is. If you are coming up for the race then you will easily find enough quiet roads to keep you busy for a week. For those not coming up specifically for the Etape the route itself can still be ridden at any time of year, in addition there are numerous quiet roads, steep hills to test the super fit or off-road mountain bike trails suitable for all ages. Bike hire is available for those travelling light.
Traditionally the night before a big ride is spent largely filling up with as much carbs as possible, fortunately then the area has a multitude of top class restaurants to choose from.
Afterwards, due to the large number of competitors in the vicinity, Pitlochry takes on a festival atmosphere. You could retreat back to your holiday home for quiet recovery but if celebrating is on the agenda and your tired legs are up for it then the atmosphere in the town will be jovial and the party will go on late into the night.
With 5,000 riders descending on Pitlochry as well as associated TV crews marshals and spectators accommodation can be in short supply. LHH has availability at three luxury houses close to the route so you can relax in in comfort before the race and recover when you are finished.
Strathlyon Cottage is right on the Etape Route, the perfect spot for your family to cheer you on or hand you up refreshments on your way past. If you are visiting at any other time of year than you can do the Etape circuit starting and finishing at your front door. A bike shed will keep your pride and joy safe and secure.
Borenich is also on the route and comes with its very own lock up bike storage. It is right on Loch Tummel so if you feel the need to unleash your inner triathlete then you could easily run down to the shores and jump in to cool off after a long day on two wheels.
Dalnagairn is just 12 miles from the start and finish line in Pitlochry. Due to its location being slightly off the route it will not be affected by road closures on the day of the ride making it easier for support crew or family members to get around.
In addition to all the biking, this area is a Mecca for adventure sports enthusiasts with kayaking, rafting, canyoning and bungee jumping close by as well as the more traditional draws such as walking, golf and fishing. If you are visiting for just a weekend for the Etape or a week long family break then Perthshire has undoubtedly the best range of outdoor pursuits available in the country.
Photo Credit: Challenger World