Running the Lairig Ghru – part 3 (Iain)

Part 1 can be found here

The Laig Ghru route (not race) start in Linn of Dee and ends in Coylumbridge. As you can see on the map, the route doesn’t pass many shops. A shop is the most important thing I look for when doing a long run. I never know when I might want a Twix.

I packed a Twix in my backpack…and a second Twix just in case one wasn’t enough.

The first part of the run was relatively straightforward but there was one river crossing. The water was quite deep so I took my shoes off and waded it through it bare foot. I’d rather put wet feet into dry shoes than get my shoes and feet wet.

There was a bothy about half way along the route. I thought they were all closed due to CoVid but the door was wide open. I was wet and cold so I quite happily took the opportunity to dry off for 10 minutes and eat my Twix.

It was wet when I left but I was hopeful the sun would come out once we got to the Aviemore side.

I wish I could say the views in the valley are amazing but it was so wet and grey their wasn’t much to see.

Towards the top of the route I came to the boulder fields. This is a 1KM section of fallen rocks. It’s very easy to navigate. Just keep going straight along the valley. None of the boulders are big but you hurt yourself if you trip.

The sun came out as I reached the Aviemore side. It’s much easier to run this part. The paths is better and it’s all downhill.

I was told this part was the most beautiful section and it is… for a little while. I can only run through a beautiful forest for so long before I start thinking – will this forest ever end? I’d like to see something else other than trees!

The last section is along the road into Aviemore to the Police Station. Which is not the most scenic finish in the world. Unless you like 1980’s style office block.

The Finish line

That wasn’t the true finish. I then had to walk half a mile to get the car. When I reached it my watch said Id done 49.9KM. I was so tired I didn’t bother doing the extra .1 to get to 50K.

Running the Lairig Ghru – part 2 (Iain)

Part 1 can be found here

Due to lockdown restrictions I haven’t been to to a pub since March. Is there a better time to return to a bar than the night before a marathon? I didn’t think so the night before the run I treated myself to a couple of pints.

I enjoyed my drinks and ordered some food to go with it. The food was slow to arrive, it was overpriced but it was absolutely delicious! It was the first dinner I’ve had in six months which was not cooked by either myself or my wife. I could have been served cat food and I would still have found it delicious just because it was a change from what I’ve been having for months on end.

The forecast for the run was sunshine. Which meant it was unsurprisingly raining when I woke up.

The start of the run is the old police station in Braemar. I didn’t realise there was an old station so I started at the nice new modern one.

The “new” police station

The plan was to run the first 10K to Linn of Dee where I would meet some friends.

Normally I would run with two 500ml plastic water pouches but I’d forgotten to take them with me so I improvised and bough some capri-sun orange pouches. The pouches fitted easily into my backpack and I thought they would collapse to a small size once empty.

What I didn’t realize is that the straw in the pouch is very sharp. A pouch with a straw bounces around whilst running. A sharp straw easily punctures bouncing pouches. Within a couple of hundred metres I had orange juice pouring out my backpack. Oh well, the plan was good in theory!

The first 10K was relatively easy. It was initially on the road and then I cut through Mar Lodge estate.

Mar Lodge

The building is the third lodge on the estate. The first Mar Lodge was damaged in a flood. the second was was destroyed by fire and even the current one was damaged by a fire.

If that happened to my house. I’d take the hint and move somewhere else.

It was only once I got to Linn of Dee that the run started to get a bit harder…

In Praise of the DryRobe (Andrew)

The towel is not something we spend a lot of time thinking about. We mostly take them for granted – until we forget to bring one to the shower, or, worse, a loch after swimming outside.

There is nothing worse than coming out of a loch, looking in your bad and finding nothing to dry yourself except the t-shirt and jumper you were going to use to keep warm.

That’s why it’s important to dress right for swimming outdoors and there is no way you can go wrong if you wear a dryrobe.

Now some folk have fancy dryrobe’s with a waterproof outer shell and a nice soft inner lining to keep you dry and warm. I however have no time for such luxuries. If you want to wear a towel then wear a towel, like the one above.

It’s still a dry robe, for that all important branding when lochside, but it is nothing more than a towel stitched to another towel with an added hood and arm holes.

It’s brilliant. (And cheap).

Once you get out of your wetsuit you can use all of your new towel robe to dry every single bit of you just by rubbing yourself all over. It’s actually better than a towel because, while wearing it, you can feel it rub against all the bits you can’t normally reach if you had a towel. Between the shoulder blades? No problem. Just sit in your car with your towel robe on and rub your back against the back of the seat. It’s brilliant, and despised.

I will admit that it’s not the fashionable item. In fact it’s banned in my house as, when my wife sees it hanging up, she does threaten to burn it on the basis that it is a crime against fashion. But it’s not meant to be fashionable. Just look at the photo above. No one is going to go out on a Saturday night to a fancy restaurant in a towel robe. But it is practical and effective and I would recommend it to all budding open water swimmers… and to monks who want to keep warm.

However, despite my wife’s claim that it is not fashionable, I would beg to differ. Maybe it’s too fashionable?

Hear me out: perhaps the highest praise for the towel robe is the fact that it is so ingenious and forward thinking an item that it’s not even listed in Wikipedia as a form of towel. Check it out. Here’s the entry: Towel but, under types of towels, there is not one mention of it as an item of clothing. So, there you go, a towelrobe is so fashionable that it’s not even mentioned on the website which knows everything.

So, get ahead of the public, get ahead of the fashion pack, next time you’re at a loch, or being dined out at Gordon Ramsay michelin starred restaurants, why not wear a towel?

Rugged Ride: Tourist Sites Of The Western Isles (Andrew)

The Callanish Stones are the second most famous stones in the UK after the prehistoric Stonehenge and, of course, the far older stones of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

I was home for the weekend in Stornoway and and decided to see if there was now a tourist friendly route to cycle in Stornoway. Over the last few years the island has become more of a tourist attraction with cafes popping up in villages that previously only saw food when the weekly grocer’s van popper round.

I started the ride by heading north west in an anti-clockwise route but only because the wind was coming from the south west and I wanted it behind me when I finished. part from that the ride can be done in either direction.

First up (1), on the tourist trail is the Arnol blockhouse, a tradtional croft restored and rebuilt. But, ignore that and look in the field next door where you can find the local bus.

Next up (2), you have the Broch, an ancient stone keep/castle/no one is quite sure what it for. My dad always used to say there was a secret tunnel which led out of the Broch so the clans could escape. When we were young we would spend hours looking for the tunnel until, a few years later, when we were older, he admitted there was no tunnel because “why would they have a tunnel which the enemy could enter and bypass the walls?”. We said “what about Star Wars and the Death Star, that had a tunnel?” because, when you are 10, history and science fiction are exactly the same thing.

After the Broch, head to the Callanish Stones (3) and the 15% climb to get up to it. Thankfully the climb is less than 20 metres.

(The Callanish Stones are, of course, not as good as the Calla Stones because the Callanish Stones are only Callan-ish…)

The stones are fantastic and only ruined by the fact that they are completely pointless. No one knows what they are or what they do or why they are there. It’s a mystery and one that I have to say I SOLVED!

Yes, I know what the Callanish Stones are for because, earlier in the ride I passed another stone and it had a sign beside it.

And I can’t believe that no one has put two and two together and realised that if that one stone can be a scratching stone then the Callanish Stones must have been a pre-historic cat sanctuary and they needed lots of stones for cats to scratch. I will write to Tony Robinson and get Time Team on the case!

The final stretch (4) is the old road from Stornoway. Don’t carry onto the main road as it’s usually busy with people driving to town and there’s nothing particularly scenic to cut straight up. Instead the back road leads you up to the top of the moor and, in the summer, you’ll find people cutting peat.

Overall, there’s not many hills but it is a very choppy route. There’s some great views of both the Hebridean moor and the North Atlantic when you get to the west coast.

Running the Lairig Ghru – Part 1 (Iain)

The Lairig Ghru race route is 43 kilometres through the Cairngorms, from Braemar police station to Aviemore police station. The race has been held annually for over 40 years.

This year the race took place on Sunday 6th Septemeber. I ran it the day before, which confused one man, who was dues to race it, and when I told him I was running it on the Saturday he said:

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” I replied, “I’m definitely doing it on Saturday.”

“Oh God! I thought it was the Sunday. I’ve booked the wrong day!” He panicked.

He thought I was doing the race too. He was very relieved when I told him I was just running it for fun the day before the race.

I judge the posh-ness of a town by how many black Range Rovers are parked at the town’s supermarket. There was about 20 parked outside Braemar Co-Op but the drivers weren’t shoppers looking for a bargain. They were staying at the hotel next door – The Fife Arms ( One of Scotland’s most opulent hotels.

The cheapest room is £400 a night. They look nice though. Definitely a step up from a Travel Lodge

I didn’t stay there. I stayed at a local B+B It was great. The room was quiet and the owners were friendly. They served up a great breakfast.

A town must be posh when the answer to the question: “Have you had any covid cases here?” is “none in Braemar but there was one down the road in Balmoral – Prince Charles!”

At town is posh when your neighbours are the Royal Family.

Training for Celtman 2021: August 2020

Because we’re twins it’s easy to remember Iain Twinbikerun’s birthday. It’s the same as mine! Easy!

This year I gave him a gift like no other because no other face mask has ears – or a tongue. Or make him look like a rabid collie. And this gift is special because, despite all the rules and regulation about wearing a facemark to protect people from COVID-19, he has a mask that shops will beg him to take off when he tries to go in.

I had three goals this month: one was to ride to complete a circuit of the Western Isles west coast; to swim at least one 3K swim and to run a half marathon. At time of writing I’ve completed two of them – the bike and run – but not yet the third, the swim. Although I am hoping to complete it this weekend, weather permitting.

I’m still not following any training plan other than trying to ‘do something’ five to six days a week. As September approaches and the weather starts to turn I have thought whether my ‘do something’ should morph into ‘follow a plan’ but I still think I’m too early for that. Why follow a plan when I could just be following whatever I want to do that day? If legs feel heavy, then take an easy spin indoors on the bike while watching YouTube. Feeling good, go for a longer ride outdoors. In short, this August update is more about marking process than sharing anything useful. So, in an attempt to justify this blog then I will share one thing I have found useful over the last two months:

This simple and easy flapjack recipe. And my top tip – swap the golden syrup for maple syrup.

Twinbikerun? Nah, this month it’s twinbikerunfood.

Run Every Street: Day 25 (Andrew)

Back in May I started my challenge to try and run as many streets near my house in Glasgow in one month. You can find out how I got on here. But I didn’t stop when I got to the end of May. I loved finding new streets that I’d never seen despite being only a few minutes from my front door. And I loved that I was now getting a real sense of where I lived and how neighbourhoods changed even from one side of a street to the other. So, I carried on and this is what I’ve learned 25 runs later:

  • Glasgow may be the home of world famous architect Charles Rennie McKintosh but did you know that, before he became a famous painter, MC C Escher also designed Glasgow’s streets. It must be easy to run an American city with identical blocks making it easy to navigate and criss cross. Instead Glasgow resembles an Escher painting with streets that you run for miles and miles only to find yourself back at the start and running in the opposite direction. I swear that the film Inception was filmed in Glasgow and the famous scene of Leonardo Di Caprio showing Paris fold in on itself was actually filmed in Clarkston and required no special effects at all. If you’re thinking of running every streets then pick somewhere flat and straight and ideally somewhere that doesn’t require you to navigate a maze worth of a minotaur.
  • After 10 or so runs you’re starting perimeter will expand. You will need to run for five minutes just to get to an area you’ve not already covered. By 20 runs you’re probably running a mile to get to new streets. That means two miles of your run will be spent getting to and from the streets you’re ticking off. There is no way to stop this that doesn’t involve a car. I don’t know if using a car to get to places is within the spirit of running every street. It is called ‘running every street’, not ‘getting dropped off and then running every street’. I suspect by the 30th run I will be driving though as my runs will basically consist of running to a street, then, exhausted having got there, ticking it off and then running home.
  • You do run longer than if you went out for a non ‘running every street’ run. It does give you that thought in your mind to just run another street or block or area before coming home. If you want to train for a marathon then running every street is good practice. Perhaps not good practice for an ultra-marathon though as you’ll never be able to follow a trail for 50 miles without going paranoid about passing all the tracks leading off in other directions.
  • And, finally, having reached the milestone of day 25 and having run on average 10km every run I do intend to carry on. Not just because I’m still enjoying it but because I still haven’t completed the page of my Glasgow street map showing all the streets near me.

Gyms Were Bonkers (Andrew)

Saunas and steam rooms are crazy. I’ve mentioned that before. See blog here. But gyms are no better. When I look back I can’t help thinking why I thought any of this was acceptable.

Only in a gym would you see a girl and boy swap places on a weights machine and kiss each time they stopped while shouting “Smash it, babe!”. Not just once, not just twice, but three times, which means six times as they were each doing three sets. Smash it, babe. Smooch. Smash it, babe. Smooch. Smash it…. Stop it. This is a gym, not a kissing booth.

Only in the gym would you see someone taking a selfie in the changing rooms while flexing a bicep. I don’t care how big your bicep is and how keen you are to show it to the world, can you not show them my bare bum in the background too?

Only in the gym do you pull your hood over your head even though your running on a treadmill and it keeps bouncing off your bonce every twenty seconds. Why are you even wearing a hoodie anyway? Uisean Bolt didn’t wear a hoodie to run the 100 metres. Mo Farah doesn’t shop in George for Asda for his running gear? Why are you even wearing a hoodie? And why does it have no sleeves??!?

Only in the gym is it acceptable to have an entourage. Anywhere else and it would be a group or a gang or a gathering. In the gym, the five of you hanging out at the weights rack can only be described as an entourage, which is French for wallys because all of them are wearing trackie bottoms, a sleeveless hoodie – and a cap. Which leads me to…

Only in the gym will you see someone with superglue on their head. Yes, superglue. Because it can only be superglue keeping that cap on their heads because it stays on their head even when they lie back on a bench and press 200 pounds. Why does the cap not fall off? Does working out make you immune to the universal laws of gravity?

Only in the gym can someone have an orgasm louder than Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally and no one bats an eyelid. Who knew that lowering a bar would lead to so much joy you have to scream: “Oooooooohhhh Aaaaaaaahhhhhh Ooooooooohh” like Nick The Headless Horseman at an orgy.

And, of course, there’s only one thing worse that you can see at the gym. The one thing I’m glad I can no longer see while gyms remain in lockdown – yourself in the mirror. There’s no worst sight than catching yourself halway through a rep with a face that suggests you’ve just had a stroke while being slapped red raw with an extra big kipper.

Gyms should remain shut. Or at least all mirrors should be removed from gyms before they’re allowed to re-open.

Outdoor Swim Review: Butt Of Lewis (Iain)

Is there a minimum distance I have to swim before I can say I went for a swim?

Usain Bolt does 100m and I bet he says he went for a run.

The olympics has a 50M freestyle event so I will declare that the minimum distance required. In that case, I can say I went for a swim at Port Stoth Beach. It is the most northerly beach in the Western Isles.

And the day I visited it was also the beach the beach with most Jellyfish! There was hundreds of them. I don’t know much about jellyfish other than what Andrew wrote here

But I do know not to mess with things I don’t know about so as soon as I spotted them I turned around and I swam back to the beach.


Ease of Access:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Ness is 45 minutes from Stornoway. There is a parking spot beside the beach. It is a 2 minute walk from there to the sea.

Water quality:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The water quality is crustal clear and perfect for swimming (if there was no jelly fish)

Swim Quality:

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Hard to tell. I didn’t swim for long enough.

Other People:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Not a soul

Would I go back: Yes. I’d like to try swimming further than 50m

Rugged Run – Carron Valley

Meikle Bin is a popular hill for runners and walkers. Understandably so because of the great views you get from the top. But its popularity means a lot of people don’t explore the other routes nearby. So, instead of following the crowds, try Cairnoch Hill.

Cairnoch Hill is a couple of miles down the road from Meikle Bin. I park here and there is a gate and enough room for three cars to park.

I parked here because it’s next to the reservoir. I went for a swim straight after the run. If you do not want to swim then drive further along. There is parking at the start of the trail.

The video below will show you what the route is like. There was one off road section but it wasn’t very long. Although it was pretty wet underfoot!




Rating: 4 out of 5.

Quiet, good surfaces and easy to navigate.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

Three car parking spaces next to carron valley reservoir. If you do not want to swim then you can park at the start of the trail.


Rating: 0.5 out of 5.


Nearest cafe

Rating: 3 out of 5.

There is nothing close but there’s two good options a short drive away. The Fintry Inn is great for beer and hot food and on the outskirts of Fintry the Cafe in the Courtyard is great for for soup and treats.

Run Surface

95% fire road. 5% off road (through trees)

Dog Friendly

Yes – no sheep or animals spotted on route.


338M of elevation.