"Like the fingers of a hand stretching from low lying farmland of Strathmore deep into the southern ranges of the Cairngorms."
I found this description of the Angus Glens on a visitor information panel. It perfectly describes the journey into Glen Clova.
It begins in farmland, quite ordinary. Then the Cairngorm mountains appear on the horizon. Each pedal stroke brings you closer to them. You enter a landscape that was sculpted by melting glaciers. It's spectacular to travel through.
Getting to Glen Clova
You can follow these steps to reach Glen Clova:
1. Take a train to Arbroath. Then cycle 20 miles on quiet roads to visit Glamis Castle. I have a blog about this route.
2. Cycle 5 miles from Glamis Castle to Kirriemuir. This is on the A928. Although it's not the most exciting road it is flat and smooth. I found the traffic volume to be low.
3. Cycle 5 miles from Kirriemuir to Dykehead, the start of Glen Clova. The scenery starts to get interesting on this road. There are twists and turns ad forested sections. It feels like a road leading to something special.
4. It's then a 9.6 mile through Glen Clova to the Glen Clova Hotel.
Make sure to stop in Kirriemuir. It's the gateway town to the Angus Glens and has:
JM Barrie gifted a cricket pavilion with a camera obscura to the town. Kirriemuir's camera obscura is one of only 3 in Scotland.
Another famous person born here is Bon Scott, the lead singer of AC/DC. There's a statue of him on the Bellie's Brae Road.
Scotland's oldest sweet shop is right here in Kirriemuir. It opened in 1833. Name your sweet, they've got it. It's called the Star Rock Shop after their own, unique sweet. Star rock is made in the kitchen in the back of the shop. It's a hard sweet, flavoured with natural lemon oil. It's wrapped in paper that has a lovely, classic design featuring the Peter Pan statue.
Entering Glen Clova
Dykehead, with its pretty cottages, is 5 miles from Kirriemuir. This marks the start of the glen. After a few pedal strokes the mass of the Cairngorm mountain range appears on the horizon.
Around 3 miles later the road splits. It doesn't matter which path you choose as they both take you to the same place. This is the great thing about this road, it means you can do a loop and come a different way when you travel back out of the glen.
I took the right-hand road, where the sign points to 'Rottal Lodge'.
The sound of the River Esk, meandering through the valley, is a constant companion Sometimes you are looking down on it. Sometimes it is flowing right next to you.
Then there is the beauty of the plant life. It was the ferns that caught my attention. So common all over Scotland that they are easy to overlook, but in Glen Cova they seemed to have a prominence. They made the place rich, lush and smell amazing. I took a closer look at them, the beauty of the simple pattern of their leaves.
The glen is teeming with bird life. I heard lots of different songs and calls as I pedaled along. I saw lapwing and oystercatcher and many others that I didn't know the names of. There were rabbits everywhere, some dashing right in front of my front wheel. Sheep were slower moving than the rabbits and some stopped to stare at me.
There is a feeling of going deeper and deeper into nature, getting closer to the moutains and further from the towns and cities. And that brought a great sense of well-being, that cares and worries were being left behind. I loved being in this place.
Glen Clova Hotel
As I got closer to the hotel I imagined what it must be like. I pictured a spectacular and secluded location that would forever make me smile when I drifted into my memories. It turned out to be even better than that.
The hotel has an immaculate white exterior and is very well appointed. It's the perfect place to relax at the journey's end. There's a bar with a wood burning stove and a restaurant with a bay window overlooking the glen.
I had a heavenly crab salad for a starter, followed by the Clova Fish Box. This is fish n' chips, presented in a wooden box printed with the name of the hotel. The haddock is from Arbroath and potatoes from the nearby farm are used to make the chunky chips.
After dinner I took my pint of Clova Ale to the outside tables. I got bitten by swarms of midges, but I didn't care. I was in this wonderful place, listening to bird calls, baa-ing sheep and trickling water from the Corrie Burn.
There's always a 'moment' on a great bike trip where everything feels special and you are so glad that you made the journey. Sitting outside the Glen Clova Hotel was definitely the 'moment' of this trip.
I loved that it was still daylight at 9pm and I could keep on exploring. Clova Kirk is opposite the hotel. One of those simple church buildings that are found all over Scotland, but always complement their surroundings. It's made of sandstone and Aberdeenshire granite. It's no longer a parish church and is now mainly used for weddings.
The road goes beyond the hotel into Glen Doll. Each step that I took revealed somewhere that managed to be even more magical than Glen Clova. I was surrounded by rugged and majestic hillsides- the impact of the melting glacier was clearly on show. It was a tantalising glimpse of where I would cycle tomorrow.
After a breakfast of poached eggs I cycled into Glen Doll. Mist hung in the air, creating that mysterious and authentic Scottish glen atmosphere.
I passed rocky outcrops where some sheep had got themselves into precarious positions.
The road between Glen Clova and the Glen Doll Ranger Base is only 3.5 miles, but it is one of the most beautiful short cycle rides I have experienced.
Glen Doll is very popular for walking. I saw signs and boards with route maps. There is a lot to explore here and I made a note to return one day.
Where to next?