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Keeping everyone happy on a non-cycling family holiday in the Highlands or, come to think of it, anywhere else, is no longer a problem for Stephen Dyster.


All the family like cycling, but not quite as much as Dad. (You’ll understand, it could just as well be Mum or Son or Daughter, but I use my own case as an example.) So. for the whole family one of the big summer holiday questions is, how to keep the grumpy old man happy at the same time ensuring he’ll get involved in some different activities without becoming intolerably overcome by bicycle-withdrawal symptoms and everyone else gets to do some of the things they (for some unknown reason) enjoy.


To start with, we all take our bikes as we all want to cycle and some family cycling is built in.


Secondly, Dad is never forced to do water-based activities (other than having a shower) because he hates water. Even here there is an exception or two; he was gently tempted - ask yourself why -  into raft-building and a raft-race on a small Loch; indeed, he was the first into the water to launch the gallant vessel which only failed to win because his weight caused it to list to starboard and fore whilst trying to steer to port.

Next, Dad is allowed to disappear on his bike when the children want to play with the friends they have made and the other option is socialising. Even at his speed, he can get quite a long way in a couple of hours or so. Explain to the other folk who wish to sit around drinking tea and eating cake that, though he can be a miserable Old Devil, preference for a solitary ride over polite - or even impolite - chat is not to be taken personally.


Snatching a ride before everyone else awakes or in the evening makes the most of the day and often catches the best light. He will be back for breakfast or before the bar closes.


This way Dad, who dislikes heights as much as water, can be egged-on into climbing a telegraph pole and ascending on a pile of crates - even if he cannot understand why the character building benefits of these activities are of greater merit than pedalling up a mountain pass.


We’d booked onto a Real Family Holiday, based at the Field Studies Council site at Kindrogan in Perthshire. Frankly it was great. Basic but clean accommodation, plenty to fuel the legs (once we’d worked out that initial portions were small but requests for seconds or thirds were always gratified), a beautiful location, other children for the offspring to play with, a free activity each day, and lots of great opportunities for fun in the surrounding countryside.


We even booked onto another this year, down in Devon. Cunningly, Dad has encouraged the family to have a water-sports holiday. More expensive, but since he has a veto on participation in canoeing, kayaking, body-boarding, walking the plank (not sure of that one is really on the schedule) and other aquatics, that he will get even more time to pop-off on the bike into the South Hams and beyond! Nor will he be missed as the family paddle and splash and do the things they love. He is even looking forward to paying for it.


Family cycling from  Kindrogan was fine, but limited in the immediate locale. So, we headed off to Pitlochry and rode over to Blair Atholl and back - torrential rain and thunderstorm causing a lengthy stop in a hotel bar and a ride back in stunning sunshine that bejewelled the roadside trees and filled the nostrils with the sweet scent of pine. A second family ride circuited Loch Rannoch. This was great, surprisingly level cycling - much less hilly and noticeably quieter than the tourist-filled road by Loch Tummel and the Queen’s View. Yet, Loch Rannoch is remote and gives the whole family a sense of being out in the wilds. Perfect.


Then Dad rode off into the sunset or sunrise, whenever the opportunity was fairly presented; over to Glenshee and up to the Devil’s Elbow by the Cairnwell, one evening. Sadly dropping down to Braemar was out of the question at the time, but what a fine ride as the shadows of the hills closed in whilst the river sparkled in the evening glow. Then, with another couple of hours spare, to the bright lights of Blairgowrie, with a good old ascent back to base. A ride to Pitlochry. Yep, hard to find loops in this region - limited road network - but who cares when the scenery is great all around? And always in the knowledge that there were no resentful feelings back at the ranch. In fact, on one occasion - the the wife had ended up leading an informal river swimming session - they did not even realise I had gone.


So, keep Dad - or whoever the grumpy old cyclist is in your family - happy and you may just find he will stump up for an even better trip next year.





Ryton On Dunsmore

Coventry  CV8 3FH


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