Monday, 10 October 2016

A Scottish Trip, 4 days, 4 mates, 4 bikes...

I was lucky enough to be invited on a 4 day road biking weekend this last week by a lad called Martyn who is a friend of a friend... The plan was to head up around the north coast of Scotland on a 1200 mile trip riding some of the best roads in the UK and taking the 'soft' option of using B+B's as the accommodation... Once asked, my reply was instant, 'I'm in... when do we go??'

1200 miles of bliss...

Thursday morning dawned bright and sunny, the bike topbox was loaded very quickly with a pair of jeans, some trainers and a spare set of socks and undies. The oil, fuel & tyre pressures were checked so I set off to meet some of the guys at Corbridge on the A69.

A great bacon butty at the ActivCycle cafe there set me up for the ride up to Edinburgh via Northumberland on the A68, some nice sweepy bends and great scenery in the very blue sky saw us arrive at a Premier Inn at North Queensferry, where we met up with Andy, so the team was now complete...

The bikes were 2 Triumph Tigers, 1 Suzuki TL1000 and a MV Brutale 800... a very eclectic mix of machines...

Indian curry, beer and some gossip rounded off the day before an early night as we knew we had a few miles to get done the next day heading upto Inverness via Braemar.

Once across the Forth Road Bridge, we headed up past the Knockhill circuit on the A823 to Crieff, where we took a little side trip out west by mistake along Loch Earn. Geoff caught the attention of the local Pohlice here, so they turned around and caught him back up for a chat...

Part of this chat helped with the navigation though, so we turned around and headed back to Crieff so we could pick up our planned route onto the A822 past Amulree and across to Dunkeld on the A923 over to Blairgowrie so we could head back north to the Spittal of Glenshee on the A93.

Our day finished in Inverness after passing Cock Bridge, which Andy and Martyn had to pose for a photo at!! This was to be the only day of the trip too that had a very light amount of drizzle as it turned out. Bonus!

We stayed at the Glen Mhor Hotel, which is 5 minutes from plenty of pubs and the centre of Inverness, so we headed out along the river hunting for some food, which took us into a couple of pubs where live music seemed to be the order of the evening... Some very good entertainment and of course some good beer rounded off a lovely day of riding...

This was the best of days, perfect blue skies, clean roads, virtually no traffic and stunning scenery.

We set off north across the Cromarty Bridge on the A9, following this road over the next estuary bridge, the Dornoch Forth Bridge before turning north west onto the A839 to Lairg. A good breakfast there set us up for the ride to the north coast via Tongue on the A836. Wow, what a set of great roads....

Then it was follow the coast road to Durness to reach our furthest point north on this trip...

White sandy beaches, glorious tarmac and stunning scenery met us on every hidden dip and bend, the sky was so clear you could see for miles, including out to sea where on the horizon would be the oil and gas platforms. Geoff and Martyn filled up with fuel at Durness and we all stopped for some sweets/cans of pop like proper tourists... After this though it was ever southwards back to to England!

The rest of the day just followed with more of the same, I've been wanting to come up here for years and so have ticked off a first for me, I'm pretty sure it won;t be my last visit though!


Our bed for the night was at the old Scottish house of the Corriness Guest House, a friendly welcome in the pretty village of Poolewe, which is perched on the edge of the beautiful Loch Ewe. As we arrived the light was dropping and the shadows just added to the place and the scenery.

We were all extremely happy that the sun had shone so much throughout the day and allowed us to see some of the views... a great place to be!

Sunday started out great and ended with a minor epic which ensured we arrived at our B+B in Largs after dark. All of the roads were so fast and flowing this day, it was like the road builder rode a bike and knew just how to make a camber work for them...


We passed through Kinlochewe, then out to Achnasheen before dropping south again to pick up fuel in Lochcarron. Once fuelled, we retraced our road back to Strathcarron before heading through Achmore down to Loch Alsh. That was a great road! On now to Shiel Bridge and Invergarry on more fantastic bendy heaven before dropping into Fort William for another top up and some tea.

Eilean Donan Castle

More tea!

Commando Monument outside Fort William

We changed the route a bit from here after a bit of discussion and decided to head down past Oban to near the bottom of the peninsula at Lochgilphead. Yet another great road, with hundreds of hidden bays where various sized yachts were moored up.

After Inverary is where my fun started, I got a little seperated from the guys and ended up following an old couple in a nice shiny new car, on a long straight I saw a Police car in a car park just as I was about to overtake the car, so I backed off. I checked again for the police car and the old couple decided to stop and turn right just at that point... bugger!! I stamped on all the brakes, but the Triumph is a heavy beast and so bang into the rear bumper went both the bike and me and down we both went, right in front of the 2 police officers!!

Both the people and the vehicles are fine really, I even got checked out in an ambulance by some paramedics to be sure...  my bike will need a fettle to make it look tidy again and we had to check over the suspension, brakes and steering to make sure it was ride able again before the police would let me go, fine and 3 points for careless driving in my pocket to be paid asap!! The couple in the car were fine and I'm sure a garage somewhere and the insurance will profit from the whole thing!

I gingerly set off again, the guys had come back to find me and so promptly started to take the pee as they should do! Then it was a run down to Dunoon to catch the ferry to get back across to the main part of the southern Scotland.

Oops, wrong ferry!

Aaah right ferry

I had planned to continue on from here, getting home really late so I could go to work on the Monday, but with the bike being bashed up, I felt it safer to stay in a group and do the ride in the daylight, so stayed over at the very welcoming B+B Martyn & Andy had used before.

So more beer and food finished the night, albeit it not as good as the previous nights, but hey any food will do when you're hungry enough!!

We set off for England and promptly got lost around Kilmarnock, ending up on the A76 which had loads of roadworks but took us to Dumfries, then eventually back to Carlisle via the old road along the coast as the A75 had some kind of blockage and was closed off.

So I've now got the bike back home, time to strip down the front end properly and have a look at it before trying anymore big miles, the boys peeled off and headed to Hawes on their various routes home... so that's it for now, another great bit of fun with a good bunch of mates and bikes!!

What's next??

Premier Inn £62.00 - Expensive and basic
Glen Mhor Hotel £54.00 - Medium price for convenience
Corriness Guest House £45.00 - Lovely and great breakfast
Whin Park B+B £45.00 - Really friendly and great breakfast

Fuel prices varied from £1.09 per litre to £1.17 per litre, (more expensive the further north you go)... My bike holds 22 litres and does 230 miles to that on a steady run. I spent around £100

Hunters Quay - Gourock Ferry:  
£8.50 per bike or £25 for a book of 6 tickets, which was cheaper so we bought the book!

We ate in local pubs/cafe's mostly, oh and an Indian restaurant, the food was pretty good on the whole minus the Wetherspoons where they still haven't figured out how to microwave frozen meals as yet... (still the food was the cheapest and it was nearly 8pm)!! Most nights were around £10 - £15 pounds then beer on top... We didn't really eat lunch but did have breakfast around 10 or 11am, these were around £5 - £7 including tea or coffee.

Total trip cost was around £400 all in...