Category Archives: Scotland 2013
The final day of the trip. Our last breakfast was spent at The Welly Stop in Tyndrum opposite Pine Trees Campsite. A cracking start to the day and no one could fault the tucker, it satiated the appetite, setting us up well for the 180 mile ride down from rural Scotland to civilisation in Cumbria. The ride got off to a scenic start although gradually the landscape became less interesting, flattening off to bland motorway.
By 3pm I was spent. Dog tired, smelling of bonfires and BO, I needed to step out of the saddle and give my derriere a good, long rest.
The remainder of the day I relaxed with Jay and Penny, chatting non-stop about the memorable events of the 1,537 mile trip. And what a trip!
Friday 30 August
What had taken us six days on the trip so far took us the best part of a day to virtually match in a southbound direction. Friday was a long, hard slog, the biggest riding stretch, which would pay dividends in avoiding two drawn out riding days.
Since leaving Scourie, we had a quick pitstop for breakfast at a ‘kiddie book corner’, encountered an innately grumpy old man, who asked us ‘Who felt their toast was burnt?’ upon bringing out fresh toast, which was comical. We then circumnavigated our way up to the top of Scotland to Durness, came back around and down along the almost never-ending A9 to Inverness. Past Inverness, we refuelled the bikes and our empty bodies with some nourishment, and pressed back on the road.
Hideous wind continuously pushed on the side of our front wheels, driving rain smacked against the visors and a damp cold in the air tried to chill our bones – our longest day proved testing and wearing on us all. Glencoe was the saving grace of the day; we rode through an incredible entrance into the village with intimidating mountains making us feel insignificant and small.
Gone 7.30pm, we finally made it to Tyndrum again. I was flooded with relief when the group opted for two wooden, heated cabins over a couple of grass pitches for the tents. Just prior to entering the campsite, I gently dropped Pearl when turning her around in a lay-by; lost my balance along with every last grain of strength in my body and down she went. I was cream crackered, tandrum-prone and some!
We celebrated this epic day in all weathers by treating ourselves to another tantalising fish supper and glass of chilled ale. A perfect end to a momentous trip.
It warmed my heart when the chaps all confirmed that I rode better in the difficult conditions that day than I had done all week – keeping the pace on the entire way. I smiled realising that Friday was the first day I had listened to my music, which had obviously relaxed my riding style giving me the extra confidence I needed to ‘get a wriggle on’
Thursday 29 August
Woke up to the sizzle of bacon and eggs; after a hearty breakfast and walk along the cliff edge, we rounded off what was a brilliant but surreal twenty-four hours. I could not have orchestrated or foreseen such a random chain of events, it was a unique pleasure to be invited over and got the impression we were the first group to have done so when Ian asked JK.
One of the day’s highlights had to be my victory up JK’s loose, steep and rocky driveway. At a 35 degree angle, I was chuffed that I rode Pearl all the way up without leaving a scratch or scuff on her. It felt good to turn down JK’s offer and manage to successfully deliver by myself…! With everyone’s eyes boring into me whilst stood on my foot pegs, apparently my expression was a picture – so serious in deep concentration, hah ha.
By the morning, I had clocked over 900 miles since leaving Nottingham. Thursday was a great ride for gaining a bit more confidence on the long, sweeping bends. I dipped ‘my big toe in’ again and found out that at 60mph, Pearl loves gliding around corners. We saw and rode past the Isle of Ewe and finally eneded up in Scourie, our northest point reached so far.
The landscape was levelling off a little, however, still notably impressive. Thursday gave us great riding conditions, it was fairly bright and I felt that the trip had not yet peaked at that point; namely, we were around twenty miles from the northest point we desired to achieve. Another mental note was made to visit Glen Brittle Forest.
The group dynamic was strong and mix of humour kept us in fits of laughter most of the time. It felt like I had established my place in the group, become ‘one of the boys’ and carved out my own little niche.
Once we had dined on another portion of tasty fish and chips, Ian swore it was the best batter he had ever tasted, courtesy of a local fishbar in Ullapool. We went onto a place called Ardveck to glimpse a set of ruins, the old remnants of a castle, which looked steeped in history.
The pleasant breeze deterred every local midgie and low level sunlight made for a very inviting place to pitch up for the night. We noted the gem of this location but headed to a campsite a little further down the road instead as shower and beer needs took a greater priority. Fair enough.
The feeling of contentment and satisfaction from a stunning day’s riding left me feeling happy and full. What more does anyone need at the end of a day?
Wednesday 28 August
It was refreshing to start the day with minimal midgies swarming around our faces. We packed up in relative harmony as the morning started to unfold, said our warm farewells to our new friends and set off smiling into the day ahead.
Randomly, Chris spotted a small BMW sign so we pulled in all wanting a rest stop and cuppa. We found The Bridge Inn pub at a place called Gairloch. No sooner had we ordered coffees, when Ian, Jay and I were offered some shortbread from the young lad serving us hot refreshments. Freshly baked, still warm from the oven and as buttery as they come, we all looked at other in total awe of the culinary delight we were simultaneously experiencing. Thee best shortbread biscuits we had ever tasted.
We set our stall out on the picnic bench outside, admiring the view and enjoying the sun on our faces when two bikers rocked up on a BMW 650 Sertao and KTM 990. One chap had plenty to say for himself and justified his presence in the area by making reference to a constant need to ‘get away from it all’. I established that he was a singer to which Chris probed a little further and asked if he was local. He told me his name was JK and revealed the name of his band: Jamiroquai…! Oh
my good God, the lead singer of Jamiroquai, an acid jazz, house band, Grammy award-winning artist worth $70 million was sat next to us. We all burst out laughing once the realisation had sunk in that this guy had made the big time; employing his mate Luke as an ‘automative collection manager’ to maintain his fleet of 87 classic cars, 18 motorbikes, 1 helicopter and two quadskis on order is testiment to that.
A little banter was exchanged and JK asked if we’d like to join him at his local pub for a bite to eat followed by pitching up in his back garden. Wow – our plan, which was ‘not to plan’ was coming into fruition in more ways than one. Fantastic turn of events.
We scooted over to what was called the ‘Carribean beach’ by the locals, also known as Mellon Udrigle where we stopped on top of a hill en route for a bite to eat. Jase had a play on the sand while I freshened up for the evening ahead. Jase did quite well until he dropped his bike, although was pleased that he made it as far as he did – riding on soft sand is no ‘walk in the park’…!
We pulled up at the Badachro Inn, where I enjoyed a pint and some worldclass scallops alongside JK. I was feeling decadent and what a time to indulge in some fantastic, freshly caught seafood. The day became more intriguing; we were being carried along by a sea of unexpected pleasures…the fun had only just begun
Fed and watered, we whizzed around the twisties for 5 miles to an undisclosed location that is JK’s holiday home on the west coast. Situated in a beautiful spot on top of a cliff, it was a feast for the eyes. There have been sightings of minke whales and sea eagles, although we got treated to black-backed gulls and shags.
Settled in on a cosy, plush leather sofa, I cuddled up to Kruger, JK’s massive German Shepherd that looked like half wolf, half ‘soft as putty’ dog. I met JK’s girlfriend Maria, a Russian blonde – sweet girl, which presented a chance to indulge in some female company for an evening. She was the perfect hostess. Some beers, wines and ciders later, we abandoned the coal burning fire indoors for a roaring bonfire outside. Although it was blowing an absolute Scottish hooley.
We had such a good time, it was spontaneous and a lot of fun; JK made us all feel very welcomed. He was a lovely, hyperactive and slightly wired guy in our company, who loved northern humour. It was a challenge to get a word in edgeways but the entertainment factor was second to none from this guy. JK, born as Jason was born in the same year as Jase, both have a love for bikes so they hit it off from the start. JK especially enjoyed the guys’ company as I would describe him as a real man’s man.
We finished off into the wee hours by watching a series of public safety announcements from the 1970s. Very random but amusing nevertheless. Warmed up to some hot nibbles, courtesy of Maria; by 2am, it was time to hit the sack. Really appreciated having the mezzanine spare bedroom with en suite – a night off from pitching the tent in the driving rain was wonderful. Slept like a log and forgot where I was!
Tuesday 27 August
After such a heady previous day on the bike, we woke up to a textbook scene in Scotland; fine, drizzly rain, a heavy mist under thick cloud and more midgies than you could shake a shitty stick at! Go figure – we packed up in record time and buzzed off to the nearest breezy spot where I gently removed two dead midgies from Jason’s right eyeball.
We casually took the circuit around the north of Skye taking the roads along the mountain passes, high up wherever possible to get the best vantage point. The landscape was atmospheric and moody. We left Skye via the bridge to the mainland, which was a thrilling three minutes because the convex shape made it feel as though we were riding up towards the sky. A mental note made to find the rock pools next time.
We snaffled fish and chips in Portree, down a steep road by the waterfront. There we met Matt and his dad Steve Watkin on their heavily laden Honda C90s. They had travelled a long way already practically covered the length and breadth of Scotland at that point. Impressive trip. Nice guys.
Back on the mainland, we continued along the passes and wound our way through to Applecross. The pass leading to Applecross was spectacular. Especially as we were all getting a taste for the long sweeping bends at that point, and the odd hairpin thrown in for good measure was a thrill. At times, I felt like I was riding on a kid’s Scaletrix track. Superb fun. However, Applecross did see one mini-drama when Ian and I decided to follow Chris and Jase in turning our bikes around, through a ditch and up a steep grassy bank back onto the road. The three of us managed the manoeuvre successfully; unfortunately, Ian got caught out in his line back up and he and Daisy went down. One of his panniers took a beating although Ian was fine, albeit frustrated at himself. These things happen.
The late afternoon drew upon us and the sun was still shining. Tuesday was our first opportunity to wild camp on the beach. Applecross for us was stunning, a ‘must see’ in my eyes.
Pulling up to our desired spot, we got chatting to a group from Malawi, which was very unexpected to be greeted by such wonderful people from another continent. Fanny was ‘high-fiving’ me within seconds of clocking me. Later that evening, our biker group were treated to a song and dance from the Malawians whilst they were bringing their canoes back up the beach. Amazing to witness and be privvy to such warming sights.
We sipped red wine in between telling stories of our adventures and cultures over a roaring log fire on the beach. There was a peace and quiet that I hadn’t experienced in a long while – a settling calm was all around us. Despite the wretched midgies…
After leaving skies of soaring golden eagles above the buzzards, and red deer within the wilderness, I wondered if Skye would live up to Mull. It did. Faced with neck-craning mountains, Skye hit us in more dramatic ways than one.
Better roads, long sweeping twisties set against an impressive backdrop that you’d clock in any award-winning photograph, I was impressed with Skye from the minute my bike touched terra firma.
The excitement started when we were deep in campervan traffic, trailors and SUVs, all plodding around the bends at a steady speed. I watched Ivan take a clean gap and overtake so I bode my time until safely following suit became possible.
My timing wasn’t what you’d exactly call impeccable; I just about managed to squeeze past the mobile home before an oncoming car was zooming towards me. Restricted bike or no restricted bike, I wasn’t quite in the ‘power band’ so was left feeling a little wreckless and annoyed with myself. I guess it’s these poignant wake up calls from dipping more than just your big toe in, which have to be experienced so as to really learn from a close call.
Within the same morning, I found myself playing catch up to the group. This brought me within a hair’s breath to an orange coloured car, which was speeding ridiculously fast around the single track roads. The car almost took me out along with Pearl. Needless to say, I had just about enough drama that I could stomach for one day, that is, until Ivan pulled up on the side of the road. With a glint in his eye, he gestured to swop bikes. Oh well, when in Scotland! I had full access to take his Yamaha TDM 900 for a little spin on the straight. What the heck! She was smooth and purred like a pussy cat, despite an aggressive and impatient van driver towing a trailor on my tail.
I cruised on the TDM from 0-60mph in my own sweet time. No sooner had I mounted Ivan’s bike, he pulled over on Pearl and indicated for me to do the same. I laughed and carried on, knowing I hadn’t got a proper feel for her at that point. After five minutes, I had soon got my ‘fix’, pulled over and beamed at Ivan. Inside I felt a spike of adrenaline, which quickly turned into relief that I hadn’t dropped or damaged Ivan’s pride and joy. The group fell into hysterics at my ignoring Ivan, who was pretty incredulous that I’d decided to continue at pace. What fun!
By the time we reached the campsite, I couldn’t wait to set up camp, wash away the trials and tribulations of the day under a scolding hot shower and reflect on the most eventful day of the trip so far. Still on a steep learning curve but then hasn’t every rider felt like this? Adds layers to the trip, that’s for sure although grateful to tell the tale at the end of each day.
Sunday 25 August
Waking up to a warm sun in an almost cloudless sky on day two was immensely pleasing to us all. Packing up one’s tent in midgy-free, dry conditions is a joy and something we never took for granted in those parts.
In the pub on the night previous, Ivan and I were chatting about my riding and unbeknown to me, I discovered that Ivan is an advanced instructor for ROSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) – a Godsend..! I was grateful that he offered to accompany me on a twenty mile 1:1 ride over to Oban to practice some overtaking. Six weeks of training condensed into a twenty minute brief. I arrived in Oban feeling more confident when overtaking vehicles at speed, ‘big ass’ coaches included.
Midday saw us board and ride onto the first of three ferries in order to start our island-hopping. First port of call was Mull. There was a good buzz about our trip already and that was down to a combination of being on bikes, the natural beauty of Scotland and a bunch of like-minded blokes.
The island of Mull was fairly remote, full of mountainous terrain and a gravelly single track meandering around countless lakes and undulating hillside. It was panoramically scenic on a big scale.
We stopped for lunch high up on a hill overlooking a glistening body of inviting water; one minute we’re chewing on beef jerky and the next I watch two of our bikes go down, dominoes style! No serious damage but it had to mark the first of the mandatory blips every trip has as part of the adventure.
The best part of the day was spent gliding up and down hills, around sweeping bends, over cambers and negotiating a few hairpins. It was a tad hairy in parts but nothing that got the better of us. Well, albeit from a small visit in a ditch where Ian gets deposited but Daisy, his bike stays put on the bend. Ian was laughing his socks off as he went down..!
Gone 6.30pm we find a quiet campsite tucked away after a hundred miles of pleasurable riding, sixty of which were reserved for exploring the marvels of Mull. We felt pretty weary but it was a happy fatigue. Cracked open the carton of red wine and all was well again
Saturday 24 August
We are spending a week touring the west coast of scotland with some friends, which is great for a pre trip, trip, it will help decide what to take next year to the americas. I’ll give a review of what worked and what didn’t, what to take and what to leave at home.
Convening at our friends (Penny & Jay’s) house in Penrith on the Friday evening worked a charm because the group were able to rest and unwind the night before the ‘big off’. Treated to unbeatable tucker, the five of us were fed and watered to a culinary standard that Nigella would’ve remarked ‘Collect £200 and pass go’.
Up fairly early on day one, we were joined by Ivan, the sixth member of our biker posse and it was a good job we had plenty of time to spare, as we spent the best part of the morning getting breakfasted, tinkering with our bikes, tightening up straps and generally faffing to the ‘nth’ degree..!
Kitted up, keys in the ignition and big smiles plastered across our faces, we unexpectedly became local celebrities when Freda – a nearby neighbour just a month from turning 90 – popped outside to take some snaps. She told me that seeing us about to set off on our big adventure took her back a few scores and ten when she used to revel as pillion on her boyfriend’s bike. When Freda turned teary eyed, I nearly joined her as I took a moment to appreciate what we were about to emabark upon, mindfully.
You may keep your nights out on the town, sleeping in until the late afternoon with a hangover you could sell to science and writing off your weekend whilst recovering, I don’t think I’d have rather been anywhere else than there. Full of nervous energy and excitement, I knew I was where I was supposed to be.
Our first day’s riding, once we’d finally got our affairs in order went without a hitch. It was a cruisey day in the saddle on tarmac for the most part. We rocked up to Three Lochs Forest Drive, where we were able to give our derrieres a rest, stand up on the foot pegs and sample some of Scotland’s scenic off-roading.
It left me wanting more; the countryside was increasingly dramatic and full of contrast. One minute it felt like I was in the heart of Switzerland, there were big similarities to New Zealand and once again, I’m flung back into the Scottish wilds of purple heather and foreboding hills set against mirror-calm lakes. It’s beautiful on a bonny scale. I’ve just taken the first bite of the apple. And it’s delicious