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1Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Mon May 27, 2019 5:31 pm

Born Again Eccentric

Born Again Eccentric
Life time member
Life time member
Warning...coming to a forum blog near you in the next week or so.

I've just got back from my Scotland tour and will be trying to put maps, photos and a "few" words into a post to describe my experiences. It will take a while (about 300Gbytes of video footage and many photos to sift through), but it likely to be a long one! Those that know me, will know that brevity is not my style!

I had 9 days on the road in Scotland, but actually the adventure started the weekend before when I took a ride the long way home on Sunday 12 May and found myself at Lands End (Southwesterly extreme of mainland UK). It was a cracking day and just seemed to make sense as, a week later I knew I would be at John O'Groats (claimed to be the North Easterly extreme of mainland UK - but it isn't really) and it was probably the only chance I would get to claim doing the "Lands End - John O'Groats" trip, albeit by a less than direct route.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Lejog10
There were some long days in the saddle - mileage (to be confirmed when I have deciphered the GPS log) ~ 4000 miles (including the Lands End outing) and Heidi never let me down once. 

To be continued...


__________________________________________________
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Uk-log10 Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Sco-lo15 Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Eu-log10
                              Paul  Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 905546712

"Heidi" K100LT 1991 (Grey) (VIN 0190172 Engine No. 104EB 2590 2213) - 5th owner. January 2014 (34,000 - 61,000 miles and counting....)
"Gretel" K100LT 1989 (Silver Grey) (VIN 0177324 Engine No. 104EA 2789 2211) - 4th+ owner. September 2015 (58,500miles and counting....). Cat C Insurance write-off rebuild Feb 17
"Donor" K100LT 1990 (Red)  (VIN 0178091 Engine No. 4489 2024) - 6th & final owner (crash write-off now donor bike).   June 2012 (73,000 miles) to November 2013 (89,500 miles)
    

2Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Grand Tour - Scotland May 2019 on Mon May 27, 2019 6:05 pm

Tom FKR

Tom FKR
Life time member
Life time member
Paul, bring it on. Always enjoy your travel blogs. Looking forward to it.
 Cheers
Tom


__________________________________________________
1993 K75 Slightly Modified
2010 BMW F650GS Twin
1992 R100R
    

3Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Out and about on Tue May 28, 2019 12:50 am

caveman

caveman
Silver member
Silver member
BAE Paul, 
If you could please don't do a great job on your write up and maybe I'll do a write up on my resend trip out to the western US.
No really let us know how it all went down for you!
Looking forward to reading about it.

    

4Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Tue May 28, 2019 11:16 am

td5

td5
Gold member
Gold member
looking forward to the blog, there are some fantastic roads in Scotland, and bugger all traffic.


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Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 K_engi10
1988 / K100RS
2013 / R1200GS
2015 / K1300R
    

5Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Tue May 28, 2019 6:04 pm

Stan

Stan
Life time member
Life time member
Bring it on Paul.


__________________________________________________
1983 K100 basic vin 0003960 colour red  GONE
1987 K100RT vin 0094685 colour, orange peel, sorry, pearl..GONE
F800R black
    

Born Again Eccentric

Born Again Eccentric
Life time member
Life time member
Time off from work booked and I was really looking forward to the upcoming adventure to Scotland. The camping and fishing gear had been dragged out from the darkest recesses of the garage and checked over. A quick visit to the local camping shop to buy some last minute essentials (light weight trousers, micro fibre bath towel, some instant meal packs and a folding shovel...well I was planning on wild camping and hotel facilities were certainly not guaranteed and I was limited on luggage space).  A trial loading of Heidi satisfied me that I remembered how I loaded her up last time I took her camping - crikey when was that - Ireland & the Wild Atlantic Way in Aug 15, I think. 

I had had a few mechanical issues with Heidi in the run up to the adventure (replaced front fork seals, replaced blown rear shock and replaced a broken clutch cable) and, as I hadn't been putting many miles on her recently (walking to work) I was keen to give her a decent run before the big trip, just to make sure that everything was good to go. As it happened, I was planning on attending a decommissioning dinner at the Submarine Escape Training Tank in Gosport on 11 May, so this gave me the perfect opportunity to take Heidi for the run rather than travelling there and back in the tin box. So this is where my adventure starts...
Day 1 minus 7: Saturday 11 May 2019: Bristol to Gosport (121 miles)
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 11may110
I set off from home, just after lunch on dry roads. Heidi was lightly loaded and having filled the tank at the local servo, she cruised effortlessly east along the M4 motorway, south down the A34 and east again on the M27. Traffic was moving steadily, the sun was shining and it felt real good to open the throttle and blow the cobwebs away. It was an easy 2 hour ride and I felt a small wave of nostalgia as I rode Heidi through the once very familiar streets of one of my old stomping grounds. Once a bustling operational submarine base, Fort Blockhouse over the years had all but become a ghost town. I parked up at the escape tank and went for a self guided tour of the facility where I used to work. Now a grade 2 listed building and a conspicuous part of the Gosport skyline, the 30m deep tank was streaked with rust, the water was cold to the touch and the whole place looked shabby and neglected. Feeling rather sad, I rode Heidi to the mess accommodation - reflecting that it was probably the last time I would ever stay there. I had a small room overlooking the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour. However, the dinner was well attended, the food was tasty and it was good to reminisce about the "good old days" with old colleagues.
Day 1 minus 6: Sunday 12 May 2019 Gosport to Bristol...the long way home via Lands End (475 miles)
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 12may110

My room had been so hot, I had had to leave my window wide open overnight and I was awoken early by the tumultuous throbbing of diesel engines and bellow of safety announcements over the ship's PA system from the cross channel ferries navigating the narrow harbour entrance. I opened my curtains and was welcomed by a glorious, windless day with the sun, rising over the Round Tower, sparkling on the calm green waters. Now, originally, I was simply going to go straight home, but weather like this was just too good to waste and I rapidly started planning a more interesting ride. I quickly decided that I would go to Swanage in Dorset for an ice-cream - what could be more perfect than a ride to the seaside on a sunny Sunday?  I would take the back roads there as I wasn't in any rush and they would be more enjoyable than slogging along the motorway and main A roads. Decision made, Heidi was soon loaded and I was on my way. I rode along the quiet early morning roads, hugging the coast as I swept through Alverstoke, Stokes Bay and Lee on Solent. I spent the first 18 years of my life in Lee on Solent - I noted that the town hadn't changed much, perhaps just sprawled a little more. I paused briefly outside my old family home, so many memories, but I rode on before the current owners could be worried about a weird biker checking out their home!

Sticking to the coastal road, I rode through Hillhead, Warsash, on to Southampton and then a blast along the A31 through the New Forest. Beautiful heathland stretched out on either side of the road as Heidi and I flew effortlessly along in the clear morning air. At Ringwood, I turned off towards Bournemouth and made my way along the sea front - breathing in the thick, salty smells of the sea and the patches of rotting seaweed on the sandy beach. Perhaps I even got a whiff of gin and formaldehyde - well, it is a popular retirement area after all. My route took me to the chain ferry at Sandbanks and across the entrance of Poole Harbour and on to my destination at Swanage, a few miles further west. 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Lands_10
Surprisingly, Swanage was fairly quiet and I rolled to a stop in the motorcycle parking bay - the hoards of day trippers and gangs of bikers would almost certainly be flocking there later, once they realised what a cracking day it was. I was glad of the peace and quiet though and enjoyed my ice cream as I looked out over the bay chuckling at the lunatics who thought it was warm enough to go for a swim in the sea.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_9619
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_9620Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_9622
Ice cream done and I was all set to head for home - only it was still quite early and I had the whole day ahead of me...and it was a great riding day. In a moment of madness, perhaps due to some mind bending chemical in the ice-cream, I thought "this time next week, I'll be in John O'Groats (reputed to be the furthest North East part of mainland UK)" and an idea germinated in my sun-baked brain. Ride on to Lands End, the furthest South West part of mainland UK. I convinced myself that it's not really that far from Swanage...only about 200 miles, I could be there in 4 hours, or less, and I had to be sure that Heidi was running well for the upcoming Scotland tour. Besides, I would be able to tick the ride from Lands End to John O'Groats off my bucket list. So that was it another decision made - this one of the great things about riding alone, there is nobody to disagree with!

I left the seaside behind and headed inland a little. I passed through the ancient town of Corfe Castle, with its majestic remains of a Saxon castle standing derelict in its once commanding hill top position. Built over a 1000 years ago, this mighty fortress stood firm though many conflicts until the English Civil war when, following the defeat of the Royalists, an act of parliament ordered it's destruction. It doesn't pay to pick the wrong side in a fight!
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Lands_11
 By now, the rest of the south coast population had woken up to the summer-like day and the roads were steadily getting busier. I started to wonder if heading into Cornwall was really such a good idea on such a nice day. Evenso, onward I rode, through towns and villages, through Honiton and Exeter and onto the A30. This road is a fast, mostly dual carriage way route that cuts through the heart of Devon & Cornwall, arcing to the North of Dartmoor, charging through the wilds of Bodmin Moor, chilling out past the surf capital of Newquay and on all the way down to Penzance. It was a fun ride and, save a few short sections, I wasn't unduly impeded by the other traffic. I finally rolled into the carpark at Lands End, near Sennan, at about 15:00 and wandered down to the touristy sign post photo booth. I asked if I could bring my bike down for a photo but was told that I would have to wait until 16:00 as vehicles were banned until that time due to the proximity of a children's play ground (an empty playground, as it happened, but rules are rules). There was nothing for it but to wait and how better to wait than to order a cream tea, with fresh baked scones, cornish clotted cream and thick strawberry jam from the local hotel and then sit outside in the warm sunshine and gaze out over the clear, shimmering blue sea. The Isles of Scilly were just visible to the naked eye, some 26 miles away to the South West
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_9623
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0011
Tea drunk, scones scoffed and a short (hot) walk later and it was time to roll Heidi down to the sign post for her photo shoot. It was a little warmer than the last time I was here on 6 Dec 2014 and Heidi has a few more miles on her clock.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0010
Cheesy photo complete and I was finally headed towards home, a mere 207 miles away (about twice the distance from home as I was at the start of the journey that morning!). The trip home was eventless, the traffic light and amenable and Heidi ate up the miles easily. It would have been nicer to take the north Devon coastal road back, but I think I had done enough detours and scenic routes for one day, besides it would be much slower and I would run out of day light before I was home. Instead, I took the reverse route along the A30 to Exeter and then plugged up the M5 back to Bristol and home. I arrived home about 20:30, having travelled 475 miles over a 12 hour period. It had been a grand day out, Heidi had performed superbly and I was so glad I had made the effort and had taken the long way home.
Day 1 minus 4: Tuesday 14 May 19: Bristol to Derby (136 mostly boring motorway miles)
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 14may110
What is it about work? Always seems to get in the way of great schemes and cunning plans, despite my best efforts to avoid it. In this case, it wasn't too inconvenient as the 3 days of meetings in Derby were sort of on my route. However, that meant I had to be even more careful about what I took. Fortunately, the light weight trousers and walking shoes i had recently bought from the camping shop (you can't live in bike boots for ever) where pseudo-smart casual, so would do for the meetings and avoid me having to take even more clobber with me. It did mean I needed to take an extra back pack though, which was not part of the load plan. As it turned out, it proved to a very convenient add on - especially once I started replacing food with bottles of whisky - more of that later.

The route deviation got me thinking again. Now that I was pausing in Derby during the week, I was effectively about 120 miles into my first leg of the journey, which in turn meant I could either leave 2 hours later on the Saturday morning or, more appealingly, take a more scenic route up to the borders. My original plan had been to hit the M5/M6 motorways from Bristol to Carlisle and then cut cross country on the "Borders Historic" route aka the A7 from Carlisle to Edinburgh. My newly devised route would now take me from Derby, through the Derbyshire Peak District, across the Yorkshire Dales and through the Northumberland National Park passing Kielder reservoir, crossing the Cheviot Hills and then pick up the Borders Historic Route at Langholm. Yes - a much more appealing route than a motorway slog. Waypoints were soon loaded and the reality hit - the new route would take much longer but I would still get to Inverness and the start point of the North Coast 500 before dark (fortunately, it gets darker later in those higher latitudes). It would be a long day in the saddle though, but what they hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained and I could always bale out on route, if needed.

I had loaded Heidi up the night before and only had the final bits and bobs to strap on. I had made a small modification to the left rear indicator to make carrying my telescopic beachcaster type fishing rod easier. A simple enough solution - drill a 8mm hole though the casing of the indicator, passing a stainless steel round head bolt through the hole, added a touch of silicon sealant to the bolt threads to ensure that the indicator housing remained weather tight and then secured in position with a stainless nut and washer. I also drilled an 8mm hole in the rubber cap on the butt of the fishing rod. It then only took a matter of seconds to slide the fishing rod onto the spigot and tuck the free end in the small recess by the left knee pad. Actually, the  fishing rod was about 15mm too long for a perfect fit - a hacksaw soon had the rod cut to size and the end cap was reaffixed with strong epoxy glue. Perfect - well they do say that necessity is the mother of invention! 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_9628
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_9626 
Clothes, sleeping bag and wash gear in one pannier; tackle box, camping odds & sods, chargers, shoes in the other; tent & camp chair (RIP) on pillion seat; camp table, stoves, spare gas, kitchenware and food sachets stored in the table bag on top; and compact sleep mat on top of the lot. Backpack on back. Final pre-ride checks were completed, tyres kicked, lights re-checked, helmet visor cleaned and I was ready for the off. I was carrying 2 litres of drinking water (along with water purification tablets, just in case) in my camelback. Obviously, I couldn't wear that as well as the backpack, so the camelback was sashed inside the back pack. 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_9629
I set off at 15:00 for the typical 2.5 - 3 hour trip. First though, a stop at the local servo to fill the tank for the first leg of the journey. Always nice to start with full tank. I quickly realised that the back pack was going to be a pain as it butted against the tent on the pillion seat. I could shuffle around a bit so that it sat on top of the tent/table bag but it wasn't particularly comfortable. Still, I only had about 136 miles to my destination, so suffered in silence and resolved to find a better arrangement before the next leg (including posting the surplus work related stuff home to myself, at the end of the week). The weather and roads were dry, the riding easy and the route well known to me. I stuck to the speed limits (of course) and made steady progress in the pre-rush hour traffic. By the time I was on the M42 skirting around the South East of Birmingham, the traffic had become heavy and very slow moving - absolutely typical for the time & place. The variable speed limits (camera controlled) dropped to 60 then 50 then 40mph. I slowed down to an appropriate speed and split lanes carefully, every wary of the denizens of the tin boxes making careless lane changes. Most drivers were courteous enough to leave a decent gap or move over to create a bigger gap and let me though. Others of course are less attentive or, occasionally, deliberately awkward. I treated them with the respect they deserved. Despite the load, Heidi was handling well. In a busy part of the country at a busy time of day, there was little pleasure in the ride (albeit always satisfying to be able to keep moving rather than be stuck in the nose to tail jam of cars, buses and trucks) but I made it though unscathed and soon rolled up to my hotel accommodation for the next few nights. Having checked in, I then had the rigmarole of unloading Heidi and putting all my stuff in my room. Luckily they had put me in the furthest room away from the carpark!!
Day 1 minus 3, 2 & 1: Wednesday 14 May 19 to Friday 17 May: In & around Derby (total of 27 daily commuting miles)
Work, work and more work. I used Heidi to commute between the hotel and the workplace. It was only a short ride each way but mostly in busy commuter traffic. The weather was glorious - I began to think I had picked the wrong week to go to Scotland. From my time working in Scotland, I knew from personal experience that the month of May is summer in Scotland (July & August are invariable doomed from a weather perspective) - the skill comes in knowing which day in May is actually summer. However, the long range forecast did not look promising - cloud, rain and more rain. Still, if you go to Scotland expecting Mediterranean weather, you will be disappointed. I'd far rather go, expecting rain, and be pleasantly surprised by the odd glimpse of sunshine than be disappointed by unreasonable expectations. During the week, I solved my backpack issue - a simple matter of redistributing stuff which gave me enough space to put the compact sleep mat in the backpack and then strap the backpack on top of the camp table bag where the sleep mat had been. I could then wear the camelback, which was much slimmer and more comfortable. On my last commute back to the hotel, I stopped off at a servo and filled the tank for the day ahead. On Friday night, I ate like a king - perhaps my last decent meal for the next 9 days and slept soundly in the king sized bed - perhaps my last comfortable night's sleep for a while too!
Day 1: Saturday 18 May 19: Derby to Inverness (574 scenic miles)
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 18may110
Part 1: Derby to Northumberland via Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, North Pennines
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 18may111
I was up early, too early for the hotel breakfast, especially with their weekend hours. I loaded up Heidi, it took several trips from my room to the carpark to accomplish the task, and then checked out. It was a grey, damp start to the day, a gentle drizzle was falling - enough to wet the roads and mist the visor, but nothing that I couldn't handle. At 05:46, I pressed the green starter button and Heidi immediately responded. I pulled out onto the empty, damp street a little wary of possibly slippery, greasy patches. I would not be good to drop the bike in her fully laden state! I followed the GPS northwards and was on my way, excited at the prospect of what lay ahead.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla10
I soon cleared Derby and trudged up the A6, though Matlock and into the Peak District. This was a part of the country that I was completely unfamiliar with. To one side lay the urban sprawl of Sheffield, to the other the mighty metropolis of Manchester and nestled conveniently in the middle was the Peak District. My route took me through the town of Bakewell, I'm rather partial to a Bakewell Tart, but sadly at 06:30 in the morning, there were no tarts to be seen on the quiet streets.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla13
Turning off the A6, I followed a muddle of roads until eventually emerging onto the A57 by the Ladybower reservoir. At some point in time, a series of dams had been built across the river Derwent and the valleys upstream had been allowed to flood. I wouldn't want to be living downstream of those dams, especially when you consider that the WW2 Dambusters used these reservoirs to practice their dambusting art before unleashing their havoc on the heart of industrial Germany. However, I wasn't here on a military history tour, I was here to ride the renown "Snake Pass" as it twists and turns its way North West up and  across "High Peak" and down into the town of Glossop. 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla14
I suppose the Snake Pass is one of the roads that need to be ridden, about 9 miles long, it is not especially challenging, but maybe sticking to the 50 mph speed limit, I wasn't going fast enough to be challenged by some of the corners. The presence of a few stray sheep at the roadside was enough of a deterrent to going faster - wasn't it hereabouts that Snodblatter rearended Becky (after she stopped suddenly for a sheep in the road and he didn't? Maybe that was somewhere else?). The cheerful "To Die for?" roadside warning signs, liberally scattered along the route also had some subliminal psychological effect! The combination of signs was interesting too. "Big Boobs - To Die For?" - Hell yes!! I didn't see any big boobs though and just hung onto the handlebars as I rode over the bumpy road surface. It reminded me of an ancient joke...two nuns riding down a cobble street. One turns to the other and says "I've never come this way before". 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla15
It was scenic stretch of hilly moorland road though, rising steadily to about 512m (1679 feet) above sea level, crossing the Pennie Way long distance footpath at the high point before dropping steeply into Glossop. The early morning drizzle had stopped (or been left miles behind), the road surface was mostly dry and there was even patches of blue sky and shafts of brilliant sunshine ahead.

In terms of iconic biking roads, I would rate it a fair to middling, but having experienced some fantastic roads in Ireland, Wales and NSW, perhaps I have been spoilt and am getting too critical? Heidi rolled through the corners and the odd car that got in my way, was easily passed as soon as the road allowed.

Making short work of the remainder of the Peak District, I skirted by the grey, industrial, northern towns of Huddersfield, Halifax and Skipton born out of the industrial revolution and the demand for cotton mills, but more recently spawning a more lucrative business of banks and building societies. The rain caught up with me in Huddersfield, but I was soon onto the Yorkshire Dales and the rain stopped again. I was off the A roads and onto more scenic B roads as they threaded their way though the valleys alongside the rivers and streams. I guess that's why they are called the "Dales"! Often hemmed in on one of both sides by miles of dry stone walls, the narrow road wended its way through the lush green undulating countryside with barely any traffic for company. What a difference a few miles make! Blue sky would be nicer though, the omnipresent grey clouds constantly threatened me with the prospect of more rain.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla16
It was approaching 10:30 when I reached the north of the Yorkshire Dales and decided that a tactical stop at Kirby Stephen, Cumbria, for a coffee and a bite to eat would be wise. I found somewhere to park on the town square where a bit of a town gathering was going on. After a quick visit to the local public conveniences, I ordered freshly made donuts and a strong cup of black coffee from a street vendor, stretched my legs and had a brief natter to a couple of police women doing their bit for comment relations while my coffee cooled. Suitably refreshed, I climbed back on the bike and whilst not very low on fuel, decided that it would be wise to refuel now rather than hope to find another garage in the next 50 miles. Fuelled up and it was onward, northwards, across the North Pennines. The landscape was very similar to the Yorkshire Dales, but the dry stone walls were gone and the ribribbon of black tarmac stretched out as far as I could see ahead across the imposing, desolate and barren moorland. I was now in Country Durham, the land of the prince bishops according to a roadside sign. I guess prince bishops were more concerned with tending their human flock than building stone walls to keep their sheep off the road.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla17
As I rode further north, the sky progressively darkened and as I emerged onto the busy A69, near Hexham, in Northumberland, the rain was upon me. I turned off the A69 and onto the A6079, passing through the unimaginatively named village of "Wall" and over the remains of Hadrians Wall. The Romans had decided that this was far enough for the empire to expand and, in a move that Donald Trump would be proud of, built a wall from Newcastle upon Tyne to Carlisle to keep the marauding Scots at bey. I was not so easily deterred. Crossing the North Tyne river, I was back onto B roads, but what a superb B road it was and it got even better after Bellingham when I turned off onto a C road towards Kielder! All but deserted it was a fast, sweeping ride, with the roads criss crossing the river and then followed the south west bank of the reservoir through the Kielder forest up to the village of Kielder at the head of the reservoir. Unfortunately, the rain kept pace with me, giving occasionally heavy showers along the way. Before I knew it, I was at the England Scotland border. A camper van was parked up at the side of the road - I was to see a lot of those wretched plastic boxes over the next week or so and come to loathe the sight of them! 

As borders between countries go, it was pretty insignificant. If the Scottish National Party ever get their way and gain independence from the rest of the UK, it'll be time to rebuild Hadrian's wall again. Not liking the outcome of the last referendum on the subject, where the Scottish electorate voted to remain, the good old SNP want another go - another fine example of arrogance versus democracy in action. Seems to be a common theme in UK politics at the moment.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla18
Hooray - at 13:45, after 8 hours on the road, I had just made it into Scotland! Trouble was, I was still only about half way to my destination and still had another 285 miles ride (another 7 hours) ahead of me! It had been a good detour route, but had cost me dearly in time. Maybe I should have planned this leg over two days, not one!

Day 1 Part 2: Scottish Borders to Blairgowrie via the Borders Historic Route to Edinburgh.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 18may112
I had planned quite a big dogleg into my route so that I could join the Borders Historic route (the A7) at Langholm and rode almost parallel to the border, bizarrely travelling away from my destination. As it turned out the historic route was not exactly impressive. If I hadn't read it on a map, then the historic nature of it would have been lost on me. Actually, it still is and I need to go an look in a history book to find out what was so special about it. The road was a standard A road and on a damp afternoon, was absolutely nothing to write home about. I made reasonable progress through the rain as the road wiggled past Hawick, Selkirk and Galashields. The bike camera stopped recording just past Selkirk, memory card full. I didn't bother pulling over to put a new memory card in as the rain and spray wee not making for video footage that I would want to keep. 

It wasn't a bad road and on a decent day could offer a spirited ride, but today wasn't that day. Maybe I had already had my fill of hilly, wind swept moorland? That didn't bode well - there would be an awful lot more of that scenery to come!! It took me about 2 hours to ride the 82 miles to the Forth bridge, bypassing Edinburgh on the ring road and I stopping for fuel at a convenient supermarket servo just to the south of the city. The weather was miserable and the traffic was building up as the rush hour commuters started heading for home. As I approached the bridge over the River Forth, the traffic was moving slowly, I think was just the volume rather than anything serious, but I was in no mood for being held up, so exercise my bikers right to split lanes. It used to be a toll bridge, but this looked like a new bridge and I didn't see any sign of toll booths (I hope it was free - and not one of those camera controlled ones where you are supposed to pay on line within 3 nanoseconds of crossing - well I haven't had a bill yet, if it was!). Once on the bridge, the traffic started moving again. maybe it was just tourists slowing down to try and see the iconic Forth rail bridge though the mist and murk - I just caught a glimpse of it, but my attention was on getting through the traffic and not gawping.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla19
I was then the turn of my GPS to get confused. I had put a waypoint in for the old Forth Road bridge and had just successfully crossed the river on the new bridge. As soon as I reached the other side, instead of keeping me on the M90 towards Perth, it turned me off. I thought it odd, but couldn't remember if I had planned a route away from the M90 motorway. Fortunately, I quickly realised that the GPS was trying to get me to the old river crossing waypoint still. I exercised my right to "skip next waypoint" and the GPS promptly re-routed me back onto the motorway, heading north again. I stayed on the M90 until reaching Perth where I headed off on the A93 towards Blairgowrie. 

Day 1 Pt 3: Blairgowrie to Inverness via Cairnie and Culloden Moor.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 18may113
If I had really wanted to get to Inverness quicker, I could have jumped on the A9 at Perth and ridden the final 112 miles via Aviemore (and lots of average speed cameras) but where would be the fun in that?  The route I had planned took me through the Cairngorms and into the heart of Aberdeenshire. I had a special reason for going that way - a visit to the place where my mothers ashes were scattered on her family plot.

Passing through Blairgowrie, and Braemar I turned onto the B976 at Balmoral. I thought briefly about the reception I might get if I decided to wild camp in the grounds of that Royal residence! Besides, I was not ready to stop quite yet. The ride through the Cairngorms was excellent, the road twisted and turned as it carved its way between the hills and mountains. It was still wet underfoot and overcast above, but I enjoyed the emptiness of the wilderness and the long, clear stretches of road snaking ahead. I encountered a little traffic, but most of it was easy to pass as I thundered along. After the jams and slog of the M90, this felt like freedom again and Heidi responded smoothly to every twist of the throttle and every (occasional) touch of the brake. It would be a tremendous ride on a clear day. 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla20
I arrived at Huntley, Aberdeenshire, at 1845 and it had finally stopped raining. This was the nearest town to the village of Cairnie and where my mother had been born. I quickly located a convenient supermarket for a quick stop for fuel, a visit to the loo and a place to buy a bunch of flowers for the grave stone. I wasn't hungry, but having not eaten anything all day, apart from the coffee and couple of donuts I had at Kirby Stephen, Cumbria, back at 10:30, I grabbed a snack to keep me going.

I rode on the few miles to Cairnie and parked the bike in front of the small village church. I carefully arranged the flowers at the headstone and kneeled in quiet remembrance for several minutes. It was nearly 17 years since my mother had died, so much had happened in that time - my daughters (her youngest grandchildren) were now grown up and at University - she would have been so proud of them, I know that I am. In that time I had also had discovered the K100 and met & made new friends all around the world through this forum - she would have liked that too!
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Cairni10
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Macphe10
 Next time I'm back, I must bring something to clean that stone!

About 19:30, I was back on the bike again and on the final leg to my intended campsite near Culloden Moor battlefield. Here I encountered my first camping issue. In Scotland, wild camping is permitted anywhere (within reason - obviously camping in someone's garden or on agricultural crops is not encouraged!), which is great if you are hiking over open moorland etc., but if you've got a heavy old bike, I discovered that it is not quite so easy to find somewhere with off road parking. It would have be nice to camp on Culloden Moor itself, but I thought that might be considered disrespectful and the place that I had identified on google maps as a possibility turned out to have a locked 5 bar gate across the entrance and was inaccessible. 

I had had a long day in the saddle and it was getting late in the day. The closer I got to Inverness, the less the opportunities for wild camping became. I then decided that finding a B&B or cheap hotel would actually be preferable to pitching camp for the night and set about finding somewhere using the miracle of the inter web (booking.com). Unsurprisingly, most hotels were ridiculously priced, but I did find a room in a house for £40. Salutary lesson time - don't believe all you read on line. The description sounded OK, with free parking and use of shared facilities (including kitchen) and reception manned 24h/day. I followed the GPS directions into the heart of a council-esque housing estate in a rather grotty part of Inverness. I located the house number, but thought it couldn't be the right place - a small 3 bed house in total darkness. After several attempts to contact the owner via email, I finally resorted to calling the telephone number. It turned out that I was in the right place but the owner didn't realise that I had even made a booking (the wonders of an automated system). He gave me the code to the key lockbox by the front door and I was in. Being a less than salubrious neighbourhood and only on street parking, I then had to decant all my stuff off the bike and into to my tiny single bedroom upstairs. I secured the bike with my heavy security chain and hoped for the best. As it turned out, the house had 3 individual bedrooms and was well equipped and clean and tidy - there was only me and another resident staying that night, but there was no sign of the other resident at that time. Tea & coffee, milk and cereals were provided in the kitchen, unfortunately the other resident had used up all the milk, so that was not so good. 

By now it was 22:00 and I was tired after my long day riding. It had been a great day, but I had been on the go for over 15 hours, had covered 574 (mostly) amazing miles and was in dire need of a decent rest. With hindsight, I really should have done that ride over 2 days. My room, fortunately, was at the front of the house and overlooked where the bike was parked. I opened my window so I could hear if any ne'r-do-wells were not passing as quickly as they should be on their way back home from the clubs, pubs and whisky dens. Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep that night as every sound jerked me awake. At 04:00, my fitful sleep was disturbed for the final time as a drunken sot, cussing and cursing took on the challenge of getting his key into the front door lock and navigating the steep stairs to his room. My fellow resident had returned! He continued to cuss and curse in his room, oblivious to the fact that anyone else may have been in the house or what time it was. That was the last straw for me. I dressed, humped all my stuff back down the stairs, unchained Heidi and loaded her up again and left the property, almost as tired as I was when I got there. By 04:35 I was on the road and continuing my adventure...

To be continued in "The Grand Tour: Scotland May 2019 - Part 2" - coming soon...


__________________________________________________
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Uk-log10 Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Sco-lo15 Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Eu-log10
                              Paul  Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 905546712

"Heidi" K100LT 1991 (Grey) (VIN 0190172 Engine No. 104EB 2590 2213) - 5th owner. January 2014 (34,000 - 61,000 miles and counting....)
"Gretel" K100LT 1989 (Silver Grey) (VIN 0177324 Engine No. 104EA 2789 2211) - 4th+ owner. September 2015 (58,500miles and counting....). Cat C Insurance write-off rebuild Feb 17
"Donor" K100LT 1990 (Red)  (VIN 0178091 Engine No. 4489 2024) - 6th & final owner (crash write-off now donor bike).   June 2012 (73,000 miles) to November 2013 (89,500 miles)
    

7Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Sat Jun 15, 2019 7:26 pm

Stan

Stan
Life time member
Life time member
What a start...weather ,dubious room for the night and the feeling that your bike may be taken. But all of this is certainly counter balanced by the trip and the various stops (including seeing mum). Looking forward to part 2.


__________________________________________________
1983 K100 basic vin 0003960 colour red  GONE
1987 K100RT vin 0094685 colour, orange peel, sorry, pearl..GONE
F800R black
    

8Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Sun Jun 16, 2019 7:38 am

Dai

Dai
Life time member
Life time member
Well that was a complete trip down memory lane!!! I knew all of those roads/towns/cities very well, right up to the point you crossed the highland line. Never been further north than St. Fillans in Perthshire.

Just FYI: if you ever have to go down to the Poole/Bournemouth area, don't take any of the obvious routes because they're unbelievably crowded these days. Go via Bradford-On-Avon. It looks further but it's faster.


__________________________________________________
'83 K100 upgraded to K100RS spec
Others...
'78 Moto Guzzi 850-T3, '79 Moto Guzzi 850-T3 California,'93 Moto Guzzi 1100ie California,
'03 Suzuki Blandit GSF600SK3 (NFS any more because wifey has claimed it)
    

9Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Sun Jun 16, 2019 5:58 pm

Snod Blatter

Snod Blatter
Life time member
Life time member
@Born Again Eccentric wrote:The presence of a few stray sheep at the roadside was enough of a deterrent to going faster - wasn't it hereabouts that Snodblatter rearended Becky (after she stopped suddenly for a sheep in the road and he didn't? Maybe that was somewhere else?).
Honestly, you crash one time and everyone remembers you for it.. Laughing That happened right here so not exactly nearby but many places are similar.

Land's End looks much nicer than when I was there, it was freezing and constantly raining back then.. Oh and I'd never attempt to get from Derby to Inverness in one go, the furthest I got was Morpeth and and I'd had more than enough by then!


__________________________________________________
1989 K100RS SE ABS 8v  VIN: 0149214
Others: 1.5 x Honda CBX250RS-E, '94 CB250, '95 TRX850, '16 Z250SL
http://justbikethings.blogspot.co.uk/
    

10Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Sun Jun 16, 2019 9:40 pm

Dai

Dai
Life time member
Life time member
@Snod Blatter wrote:Honestly, you crash one time and everyone remembers you for it.. Laughing That happened right here so not exactly nearby but many places are similar.
Right here is south and east of Lagos in Nigeria, in rather a lot of water...


__________________________________________________
'83 K100 upgraded to K100RS spec
Others...
'78 Moto Guzzi 850-T3, '79 Moto Guzzi 850-T3 California,'93 Moto Guzzi 1100ie California,
'03 Suzuki Blandit GSF600SK3 (NFS any more because wifey has claimed it)
    

11Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Mon Jun 17, 2019 4:04 pm

tinyspuds

tinyspuds
Silver member
Silver member
@Snod Blatter wrote:
@Born Again Eccentric wrote:The presence of a few stray sheep at the roadside was enough of a deterrent to going faster - wasn't it hereabouts that Snodblatter rearended Becky (after she stopped suddenly for a sheep in the road and he didn't? Maybe that was somewhere else?).
Honestly, you crash one time and everyone remembers you for it.. Laughing That happened right here so not exactly nearby but many places are similar.
Can only assume the sheep were swimming...?


__________________________________________________
1985 BMW K100RT + Hedingham HUB and LL’s.
2007 HD883 Sportster. Bobbed and bettered.
1954 Royal Enfield 350 Bullet. Original.
    

12Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Mon Jun 17, 2019 6:23 pm

Snod Blatter

Snod Blatter
Life time member
Life time member
@Dai wrote:
@Snod Blatter wrote:Honestly, you crash one time and everyone remembers you for it.. Laughing That happened right here so not exactly nearby but many places are similar.
Right here is south and east of Lagos in Nigeria, in rather a lot of water...
Ahh bugger, I even checked that the link worked before posting! It was just south of Newton-In-Bowland on the B6478, the forum software must've chopped off part of the link..

It still seems I could do nothing right about that whole thing Rolling Eyes


__________________________________________________
1989 K100RS SE ABS 8v  VIN: 0149214
Others: 1.5 x Honda CBX250RS-E, '94 CB250, '95 TRX850, '16 Z250SL
http://justbikethings.blogspot.co.uk/
    

Born Again Eccentric

Born Again Eccentric
Life time member
Life time member
Day 2: Sunday 19 May 2019 - The North Coast 500 part 1, Inverness to Sheigra (264 miles)
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 19may111

So having abandoned my overnight accommodation, my delightful fellow resident and loaded Heidi (as described in "The Grand Tour: Scotland May 2019 - Part 1"), I was on the road at 04:35 and embarking on the first leg of the North Coast 500 route.
However, due to the lateness of my arrival the previous day, I had been too late to visit the Culloden battleground - being half Scot and half English, this place holds a special place in my heart, don't really know why, but it just does. For those of you with Scottish ancestry, you will doubtless know that Culloden moor was the site of the decisive battle on 16 Apr 1746, between the Scottish Jacobites and the British government forces which brought about the end of the Jacobite Rising and the attempt to restore the Stuart house to the British throne. Following the battle, which lasted less than an hour, the defeated clans were dispersed and persecuted and their leader, Bonny Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stewart), escaped into exile (immortalised by the "Skye boat" song - I always remember my mother singing this song at bath time when I was a wee bairn - I guess she was a Jacobite at heart). The 8000 government troops suffered 300 casualties while the 6000 Jacobites army losses were much higher (estimated at 1500 - 2000). I don't know whether any of my ancestors fought on either or both sides of the batle, it is very likely that the MacPhersons who were quite local to that area would have been Jacobite sympathisers and therefore would have been present. History lesson over.


As it was getting light, looked like the makings of a nice day and as I was setting out a lot earlier than I had originally planned, I decided to backtrack to Culloden Moor and go and pay my respects those that had fallen there during a brief but bloody period of British history. It was obviously going to be too early for the visitor centre to be open, but I would be able to walk on the moor and visit some of the key places. I parked Heidi up next to the locked barrier (with signs saying no overnight parking) and, in the crisp, stillness of the new day walked quietly and slowly through the dew soaked grass, amidst the burning yellow of the gorse bushes, following the paths around the battlefield and memorials. In the cool, slightly misty morning air filled with the heady aromas of gorse blossom and damp bog plants, just as the sun was rising behind some broken cloud, the place certainly felt mystical and legendary.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0013
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0012

Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0014
Back on the bike, I followed the GPS to the start of the NC500 in nearby Inverness and was soon headed north on the deserted A9, across the Beauty and Cromaty firths before taking a scenic detour via Bonar Bridge. 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla21
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla22
I paused at a view point along the way, looking east across the firth towards a weak and watery sunrise - it was clearly going to be a mixed weather day.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0016
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0015
I rejoined the A9, and continued North East, the road twisting and turning, rising and falling as it hugged the rugged contours of the coastal cliffs. The cold, grey North Sea, bleak and barren, lay uninvitingly off to my right. The earlier promise of possible sunshine, vanished into a misty gloom of sea fog. I slowed my pace, at times only able to see ten or so metres ahead up the damp, hard, grey road. Fortunately, the fog was quite patchy and eventually I broke free of it's all enveloping embrace, and opened the throttle again to cruising speed. By 08:25, I had made it to the small town of John O'Groats - at last I had completed the bucket list trip (Lands End to John O'Groats). It had been a glorious sunny day at Lands End; John O'Groats was miserable, grey, cold and shut (well it was still early on a Sunday morning). What a difference a week and 874 miles make (I had actually travelled 1104 miles between the places) as I didn't take the most direct route.
From Lands End on 12 May 2019...
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0018
...to John O'Groats on 19 May 2019
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0017
There was no happy smiling person to take my picture and relieve me of some hard earned cash at John O'Groats. There were actually two sign posts there - the old one (fenced off - maybe that's the money spinner, when they can be bothered to be there) and this one, gayly adored with colourful stickers from tourists around the world. I had to ride up a steep gravel slope to reach it and then had some nervous shuffling to and fro to get Heidi into position on the deep gravel for the picture, without dropping her. Just as I finished taking the picture, a tour bus arrived and decanted about 60 passengers - like a swarm of bees, with an angry buzz of camera shutters, they were upon me. I tried telling them that, if they gave me a minute, I would be out of their way, but to no avail and they continued to swarm and jostle around me and Heidi. Perplexed, I clambered on her and started to move her away from the signpost, carefully picking my way through the crowd. Getting down the short gravel slope was interesting - I lined her up and, hoping that nobody would force me to brake suddenly, pointed down hill and let her go. Any sudden braking would have been catastrophic and almost certainly resulted in a very public lie down. I was certainly glad to be back on damp tarmac again. 

Leaving the coach party safely behind, I rode the short detour to the true most North Easterly point of mainland UK - Duncasby Head. A narrow ribbon of single track road meandered its way towards the lighthouse and opened out into a disappointing view of a parking lot filled with camper vans and motor caravans. Clearly, they had all "wild camped" there overnight. For such a remote and desolate spot, it was mobbed. I parked up and took a quick stroll to the lighthouse and gazed out across the Pentland Firth towards the Orkneys. The firth was deceptively calm on that relatively windless morning, but evenso, I could see how the current made the water boil and churn along the rocky shore and I watched as the sea birds, wheeling and screeching, flew from their precarious rock face nests in search of food. I have been across that short, often rough, stretch of water several times by ferry, on my way to dive the wrecks of the scuttled WW1 German High Seas Fleet. I also recalled one time, taking a small ship through the channel when the gale force wind, fighting against a fierce current, threw up, enormous, steep sided green waves as soon as we left the shelter of the land. That was an exciting time - rolling dangerously more than 35 degrees and hanging on for dear life as everything that was not properly secured went crashing to the deck.  It was positively benign today and no excitement to behold. Even the dutiful whale watchers, sitting on the cliff edge in their camp chairs, clutching steaming cups of tea in their cold fingers and intently scanning the rippled surface of the sea, looking for the slightest sign of life, looked bored. Their scribbled on white boards told the whole story - no Orcas seen today. 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0021
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0020
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0019
As I prepare to ride on, I watched bemused as a large motor caravan drove up past me and then tried to turn in the narrowest part of the road. A sickening crunch and scream of tortured, breaking plastic heralded their folly as they reversed hard into a bank on the immovable grassy hillside behind them. Incredibly, they just smiled and waved as if everything was OK - the lack of concern matched by the lack of driving skills suggested that they had hired the vehicle and had probably taken out the full collision damage waiver insurance as a (wise) precaution. I was to encounter many of these eejits during my tour over the next few days!

I left the anticlimax of John O'Groats behind me and headed west along the northerly coastal road. After the passing through Thurso, this relatively quiet stretch of road has long straights and sweeping curves across the flat, treeless, countryside. The now decommissioned UK Atomic Energy Authority nuclear power development establishment, with its conspicuous white reactor containment building, and its neighbouring Naval Reactor Test Establishment (tested prototype submarine nuclear reactor power plants), dominated the otherwise featureless landscape until they too disappeared from view in my mirrors as I raced by. As I headed west, the weather was improving slowly and, despite a few spots of rain that persisted, the road was mostly dry. I was sharing the road with just a few cars and the odd coach, all of which I easily passed left far behind. In places, the heathland was charred and blackened by a recent fire, probably started by carelessly discarded cigarette butts, and wisps of smoke could still be seem emanating from the scorched remains of the roadside vegetation. The air was thick with the rich, woody smell of burnt peat - a heady, warm smell that evoked memories of cosy country pubs and golden malt whiskies. I made good progress and enjoyed the ride, but by the time I was approaching the village of Tongue, I was getting low on fuel. I found the nearest petrol station using my GPS and added it to my route only to discover when i got there that it had run out of fuel and all the pumps were closed. Bugger! The next petrol station was in Durness, about 30 long twisty miles ahead. I had just about enough fuel for that distance, but it would be tight with the extra load on the bike. Still, I had no choice unless I wanted to back track about 15 miles. I wasn't in the mood for back tracking, so on I went...well, the fuel light hadn't actually come on, so I was fairly confident that I would make it!

What a cracking bit of road lay ahead of me! The road narrowed to a single track with passing spaces as it snaked around Loch Eribol and was a beautiful ride. Unfortunately, it was spoilt to a degree by a succession of wretched motor caravans creeping along at 20mph and a few other drivers that clearly didn't know how to use passing places. Big blue signs clearly instructed slow traffic to use the passing places to allow faster traffic to pass them, I guess these eejits could neither read nor drive properly! It was quite frustrating at times, but I eventually managed to get the message across by sitting close on their tail with my headlight shining in their wing mirror. It's amazing how unobservant some drivers are. 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla24
...and for those with time on their hands (complete with dead fly stuck on lower left of lens)


Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla25
After a great ride, and with my fuel needle hovering on empty, I made it safely into Durness and to the petrol station and filled the tank. The road widened again and it's surface improved markedly, as did the weather, to allow me to enjoy a fast blast towards the turn off for my destination. I then followed some skinny single track roads past the small fishing port of Kinlochbervie and on towards Sheigra.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla26
However, just before the campsite, a herd of Highland cattle had escaped their field and were taking life easy, lolling on either side of the narrow road. Highland cows are seriously ginger, seriously hairy, seriously big and have seriously big horns. That just about sums up all I know about Highland cows. What I didn't know was how placid or otherwise they were and how they reacted to motorbikes! To add to the problem, a car was coming the other way, but fortunately, they sensibly held back at a passing place. I slowed Heidi down to a crawl and dropped into 1st gear, just allowing her to keep moving with the throttle at tick-over. I was keen not to spook the cows - I really did not want a close encounter with those long, pointy horns! Keeping to the centre of the road to maximise the distance, I crept past the cows without any incidence and breathed a big sign of relief as I accelerated steadily away to safety.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Highla10
My campsite, in the tiny hamlet of Sheigra, was about as far to the North West as you can drive on the Scottish mainland. It was a place that I had previously visited on family holidays as a child and the place where I caught my first fish, at the tender age of 6. As campsites go, it always was extremely basic and the years hadn't changed that. In fact it was even more basic now as the cold water tap and supply of fresh water to the site was no longer working. I was planning on camping there for 2 nights to allow me to ride the tangle of roads that spread their sparse web across the Highlands. By staying at the same place, it meant I would be riding light for one day, but would mean I would be repeating some sections of the Day 2 roads.

I arrived at the Sheigra campsite in the early afternoon in glorious sunshine and pitched my camp on a flat grassy area near the small burn. Only a few small motor caravans and camper vans were on the site - lazy drivers and lazy camping. I pitched my tent, unpacked the bike and made myself comfortable. What a tranquil campsite - no mod cons, no wifi or other data signal, no radios blaring and no road noise - just the bleating of sheet and their lambs, the distant call of a cuckoo and the gentle trickle of the water in the burn. After about half an hour though, it was time to go fishing and fill the long hours until supper time - hopefully, supplementing that supper with something freshly plucked from the sea. I wasn't to be. I caught nothing and could see nothing in the clear deep gullies and inlets. As I suspected, it was too early for mackerel and probably too late for codling. Either that or the fish stocks still hadn't recovered since I decimated them 50 years previously!
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0023
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0025
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0022

Day 3: Monday 20 May 2019 - the inner roads (380 miles)
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 20may110

Overnight it rained, it rained a lot. However, there is something quite relaxing about being dry and warm in a tent, just listening to the rain lashing down. When I crawled out of my sleeping bag, I half expected to find a bunch of lambs sheltering in the main part of the tent, but I guess they aren't intelligent enough for that. I heated up my breakfast and made a nice steaming cup of tea. It was exactly weather like this that had convinced me to bring my bigger tent rather than the smaller, more compact one. My big tent had a bedroom area and a "lounge/diner" with enough space for a table and chair to sit comfortably, and just about enough head room to nearly stand upright (so much easier for pulling on bike gear). The tent was designed for 2 people and a motorbike inside(!) so it is positively palatial for one person. Much as I love my bike(s), I find the garage space is far better used as a lounge/diner for me and the bike has to stay outside in the weather. If I was that bothered about her getting wet, I'd have brought her cover and have the best of both worlds - but I'm not that bothered for relatively short periods of time.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0026
A dismal, grey, misty day greeted me when I ventured out of the tent, but at least the rain had stopped. I was glad that I didn't need to pack up my camp. I would be riding light today with empty panniers and just my running spares, air compressor etc. in the little top box. My plan was to explore the majority of roads crisscrossing the central area of the NC500 route. I had worked out a route that covered most of them, although it unavoidably included sections of the NC500 which I had ridden the previous day and some of the roads I would ride in opposite directions (its amazing how different somewhere looks when viewed from a different angle). I was booted & spurred and ready to go by 07:15 and the campsite was still quietly sleeping as I rode slowly up the undulating, wet, grassy slope towards the soft sandy track that led out of the campsite and onto the narrow road.

Visibility wasn't great as I slowly climbed the steep, twisty road and I paused in a passing place to let a white van pass me. He had come up quickly behind me, probably a local and no doubt familiar with the road, and he thanked me as he dashed past and disappeared up the road into the murk. I continued on my way, pausing now and again to take pictures. That's the great thing about the Highlands, the weather is an essential part of the scenery. Views are transformed by changes in the weather, so the lack of sun and blue sky only added to the panorama.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0027  
The first leg of my trip took me down the A838 from Laxford towards Lairg. I pretty much had the road to myself and, despite the light intermittent rain, I enjoyed a pleasant ride along the valley, first following the wide, shallow, River Laxford and then riding along the tranquil shores of Lochs Stack, More, Merkland and Shin. The air was filled with the strong aroma of damp peaty earth and heather, the cucumber-like smell of fresh shoots of bracken and the powerful fragrance of the gorse flowers. 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0028
I stopped along the way near a bothy and out of curiosity walked across a crude, slippery wooden bridge that seemed to lead across the shallow river to nowhere. It did - there was nothing on the other side save a footpath along the bank, no doubt to allow fishermen access to some preferred fishing spot. 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0029
Within the palette of greys and greens and browns, the gorse in full bloom, burnt a bright, vivid yellow in dramatic contrast to the cloudy drabness of the surrounding land and sky. There wasn't a breath of wind and the deep loch waters were like a mirror on that gloomy, dank morning.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0030
Just before Lairg, I turned North on the A836 towards Altnaharra, the scenery changing to forestry land albeit largely reduced to an ugly scar of stumps and a litter of broken branches by recent logging operations. At Altnaharra I turned right onto B roads that followed the side of Loch Naver and thence along the bank of the River Naver to the hamlets of Syre and Kinbrace.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0031
At Kinbrace, I was momentarily held at a railway crossing as a train crossed my path. Typical - in the middle of nowhere, I get stopped by a train that probably runs only 2 or 3 times a day. I was back on an A road (A897) and as the road and railway track run alongside each other along the flat valley floor all the way to Forsinard, I was all set to race the train. However, he had more than a fair head start on me and his path was straighter than mine so I never really stood a chance and he soon disappeared around the bend ahead. Admitting defeat, I took the opportunity to pull over and replace the micro SD card in the Garmin camera. No point trying to win an epic battle K100 versus train, if it wasn't going to be recorded for posterity! It also dawned on me that generally the more digits that make up the A road number, the less like an A road it is going to be and the A897 was no exception to this rule. 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0033
 I followed the skinny single track A road north at a good pace for a short while until a particularly ignorant forestry worker pulled his huge brickshithouse of a wagon out onto the road just in front of me. I don't know whether he just didn't look or was truly an ignorant SofaB and subscribed to the might-is-right rule of the road rather than the highway code. He then ignored every passing place, every "allow faster traffic to pass in passing places" signs and sat irritatingly in front of me all the way to Forsinard. He knew I was there as I saw him adjusting his rear view mirror so that my (now full beam) headlight wasn't in his eyes, but he just would not pull over and let me pass - ass hole! When he finally turned off at his destination, I gave him the benefit of a long angry blast of Heidi's twin horns. I hope a tree falls on him, his wagon overturns on some rough terrain or he drowns in some smelly peat bog! 

With the road to myself again, I followed the Halladale River northwards towards the north coast at Melvich and enjoyed the ride. Even though it was still raining intermittently, it was so much better with a clear view of the road ahead. At Melvich, I hung a left and was back on the NC500 (A838) and headed west. It was late morning when I reached the village of Betty Hill and I was quite low on fuel. I hadn't planned on stopping there, but I had noticed that petrol stations had been few and far between (a couple that I had passed had been shut too) and I didn't want to be running out of fuel miles from anywhere. I pulled up at the local shop and petrol station on the right hand side of the road and immediately had a problem. The forecourt (such as it was) was a rough, broken piece of tarmac that sloped steeply away from the pumps on my right. There was no way I could put the bike on the side stand as the slope was too extreme and it was going to be tricky getting her on & off her centre stand. However, I was saved by the kindness of the village postman who had been just about to leave the shop. While I held the bike upright, he filled the tank for me and then went back in the shop to let them know that I was parking the bike across the road. A tricky situation averted, I paid for my fuel and bought some groceries (and local ales) while I was there. I was pretty hungry by this time having been on the go since the crack of dawn, so I asked for some recommendations for places to eat. The shop keeper suggested the Betty Hill hotel which was very close by and easily found on the roadside. Having loaded up my provisions and thanked them all for their help, I rode on to the hotel which proudly displayed a NC500 sign - it dawned on me later that this was only sign that I actually saw for the route the entire way around! Maybe, in a few years, they will signpost it better, a bit like the Irish have done with the Wild Atlantic Way or maybe they will decide that it was a bad idea to publicise it in the first place and quietly let the roads slip back into their former obscurity?
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0034
I pulled into the hotel carpark, parked up and went inside in search of food. The place was virtually deserted, apart from the staff but, when I asked for the menu I was told that the restaurant didn't open until 12:00. It was only 11:30, so I had to decide if I wanted to wait 30 minutes or try and find somewhere else to eat. As I had already made the stop, I decided to stay and, while they didn't serve hot food until 12:00 I was able to order a pot of tea, along with a scone, cream & strawberry jam to keep me going. It was a good scone too and the tea was exactly what I needed having been on the road for the last 4 hours. On the dot of noon, I ordered myself a nice plate of fish & chips and, with a great view out across the sand dunes and Torrisdale Bay beyond, I was soon tucking into a large piece of battered haddock - yum! I wasn't in a great rush, the weather was still quite damp and misty and it was good to have a break from riding.  
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0035
With both Heidi and I refuelled, we were back on the road again. At Tongue, I turned south off the NC500 route and headed down the A836 as it twisted down between the mountain of Ben Loyal on one side and Loch Loyal on the other. Just before Altnaharra, I turned hard left onto a C road that would take me on a scenic, if a little bumpy, route between Ben Hope and Loch Hope and back to the A838 and the NC500 route just before Loch Eribol. 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0036
What I could have done in about 10 miles, if I'd stayed on the main road at Tongue, I did in about 50 miles - definitely the long cut. I had ridden the quicker section the day before and today was all about taking the roads less ridden wherever I could. I continued on the A838 around Loch Eribol.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla27
The weather was starting to improve, which was good as although I was only 28 miles from my campsite, I still had a very long way to go to get there. I flew by the turn off to Kinlochbervie and Sheigra headed south west on a fast, well surfaced section of road. At Laxford Bridge, I continued past the turn that I had taken to Lairg earlier that day and onto the A894 to Scourie, through Unapool and then turned right onto the A837 along the side of Loch Assynt to the town of Lochinver where I stopped for a quick refuel. The further south west I went, the better the weather got.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla28
From Lochinver, I was back on a C road which must rate as one of the narrowest, twistiest and prettiest roads I had been on. It rose and fell steeply, turned sharply and unexpectedly - often on the brow of a hlll so I had no idea where the road was going until I crested the hill. All in all it was a challenging but hugely enjoyable ride and I was glad not to meet any on coming traffic. It did nobble my speed of advance though as it was hard to get over 35mph, but it was worth it. 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0038
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0039
[url=https://servimg.com/view/19963008/314]Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0037[/url]
I then confused myself. I was headed to my next waypoint (at Reiff)but as I came down the steep incline toward the sea I came to a road junction that confused me. The GPS said go right, but the sign said it was a no through road which didn't make sense. In actual fact it made perfect sense, I had just forgotten that I had set a waypoint at Reiff which lay at the end of the road. I turned left and my GPS rerouted itself. Only trouble was, rather than do the nagging "turn around when possible", it actually rerouted me back to Reiff via a 3.5 mile loop. I ended up back where I started, only this time I realised and, having wasted time going round in a large circle (even if it was a cracking view from the top), I hit the "skip next waypoint" button on the GPS and continued on my way.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0040
The road back, past Lochs Osgaig, Bad a Ghaill and Lurgainn and down to the A835 at Drumrunie and ontowards the A837 at Ledmore was a superb ride in the late afternoon. My route turned me away from the direction of my campsite for one final time and I turned right onto the A837 heading in the direction of Lairg again via Oykel Bridge. Why go just 49 miles when you can do 79? I must admit, I was getting a bit tired by this stage and by the time I got on the A838 headed north east towards Laxford (riding the long road along Loch Shin etc. in the opposite direction to that morning) I was just longing to get back to the campsite. The numerous gear changes throughout the day, with a heavy clutch had certainly taken its toll and the fatigue was starting to affect my riding. I pressed on into the blinding low early evening sun, not really enjoying the ride now, but steadily eating up the miles as Heidi, uncomplainingly, just kept growling along. 

It was some relief when I turned off the main road and was on the final 10 mile stretch back to the campsite. Finally, at 19:57, I rolled Heidi slowly across the short grass and parked her up by my tent. It was a beautiful evening and a great finish to a great days riding, having covered 380 miles of some excellent roads and stunning scenery. It had been another long day in the saddle - 12 hours 42 minutes and some mixed weather along the way, but all in all great day out. When I got my beer and groceries out of the pannier though, I was disappointed to find that one beer bottle had blown its top and was about 2/3 empty. I wasn't surprised, considering some of the insanely bumpy roads I had been on since picking up my shopping at Betty Hill that morning, but was glad that I had bought 3 bottles, so I still had enough left to enjoy. After the roar of the bike all day, the peace and quiet of the campsite was deeply relaxing - the bleating of the lambs and their watchful mothers, the shrill cry of the gulls and oyster catchers, the babble of the burn and the gentle swish of small waves washing up on the sand beach. I cooked my tea watching the silly antics of the lambs trying to jump over the burn - pity they grow up into such stupid adult sheep! Tea done, it was still light and I had just enough energy to walk to the top of the headland (with my beers) ready to watch the sunset. I sat on the smooth rocks, drinking the (local) beers just watching the timeless Atlantic Ocean swirl and break on the rocks below. Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0041
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0110 
In the far distance, from my high vantage point, I could just see the dark smudge of the Isle of Lewis on the horizon - nearly 40 miles away to the west. Many summers ago, I had camped there at the Butt of Lewis during a University diving expedition. Happy carefree days indeed! I was surprised that I could see that far and wasn't sure that it was Lewis at first, but checked the Ordnance Survey map on my iPad and confirmed that there was nothing but cold water in between me and the Isle of Lewis. I was even more surprised to see that I had a 4G signal - in the campsite below, there was not even a hint of a signal, but here, on this rocky outcrop on the edge of nowhere, I had a signal. Maybe that was coming from the Isle of Lewis too? As I sat, drank and watched, the sun dipped behind a grey bank of cloud that heralded the next weather front moving in and it started to get chilly. It clearly wasn't going to be a spectacular sunset, so I finished my beer and wandered back down to my tent for a good nights sleep.

Coming soon, The Grand Tour - Scotland, May 2019 Part 3. Completion of the NC500, Isle of Skye and off to the Inner Hebrides...


__________________________________________________
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Uk-log10 Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Sco-lo15 Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Eu-log10
                              Paul  Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 905546712

"Heidi" K100LT 1991 (Grey) (VIN 0190172 Engine No. 104EB 2590 2213) - 5th owner. January 2014 (34,000 - 61,000 miles and counting....)
"Gretel" K100LT 1989 (Silver Grey) (VIN 0177324 Engine No. 104EA 2789 2211) - 4th+ owner. September 2015 (58,500miles and counting....). Cat C Insurance write-off rebuild Feb 17
"Donor" K100LT 1990 (Red)  (VIN 0178091 Engine No. 4489 2024) - 6th & final owner (crash write-off now donor bike).   June 2012 (73,000 miles) to November 2013 (89,500 miles)
    

14Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Sun Jun 23, 2019 10:56 pm

Stan

Stan
Life time member
Life time member
Great write up Paul, but one thing was missing....the sun.


__________________________________________________
1983 K100 basic vin 0003960 colour red  GONE
1987 K100RT vin 0094685 colour, orange peel, sorry, pearl..GONE
F800R black
    

15Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Grand Tour - Scotland May 2019 on Mon Jun 24, 2019 7:44 pm

Tom FKR

Tom FKR
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Life time member
Fantastic and riveting write up Paul. Keep it going. Cheers Tom


__________________________________________________
1993 K75 Slightly Modified
2010 BMW F650GS Twin
1992 R100R
    

16Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Mon Jun 24, 2019 11:07 pm

Gaz

Gaz
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Life time member
Glad to see you enjoying the journey Paul. Looking forward to the next instalment.

Cheers


__________________________________________________
Gaz
1990 K75 6427509; 1987 R80G/S PD 6292136; 2010 G650GS ZW13381; 95 K1100LT 0232224
    

17Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Sun Jul 07, 2019 2:41 pm

slparry

slparry
active member
active member
I usually visit the Highlands at least once a year, absolutely love it up there. Fewer people, breathtaking scenery, fantastic roads and routes, then the cherry on top is stunning seafood and delightful single malts.

Last year a friend and I went from North Wales to Scotland but this time via a different route, we went via Dublin>Belfast>Stranraer then island hopped up the west coast. Ensuring we stopped at the distillery of my favourite malt, Lagavulin Smile



Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 File



Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 File

http://www.gwynfryn.co.uk
    

18Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Sun Jul 07, 2019 6:09 pm

Born Again Eccentric

Born Again Eccentric
Life time member
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Thanks for the positive comments to date - for those enjoying the read, here's part 3...and yes Siparry, Lagavulin is one of my favourite single malts too and the reason for my planned excursion to Islay towards the end of my ride (that'll be in part 4).


Day 4: Tuesday 21 May 2019 - completion of the NC500 and Loch Ness: Sheigra to Fort Augustus via Inverness (324 miles)
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 21may110

The day dawned cool and grey. and after wolfing down sausage and beans for breakfast, I struck camp and loaded up Heidi for the day ahead. At 0725 I was on my way and heading back onto the NC 500 route for the west coast leg and the ride back across to Inverness. The first section was down the now familiar fast stretch of the A838 towards Laxford Bridge and then onto the A894 through Scourie. The scenery flew by as Heidi effortlessly ate up the miles. After zigzagging through Kylesku, I hung a right onto the B869 for a twisty, narrow 7-8 mile ride that rise and fell sharply as it crossed the bleak, empty moorland.
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The grey started to adopted a bluer hue as the clouds slowly started to draw back. I pretty much had the road to myself again, and while not a fast ride, I enjoyed it as the scenery changed from heathland to loch side. By the time I reached the sea at Clashnessie Bay, the blue sky was winning.
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A few miles further on and it definitely had the makings of a lovely day...but the weather is funny in Scotland, it can change in moments and you need to make the most of the good spells. I paused briefly on the side of Lochan Sgeireach to take in the view.
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The rough B road snaked its way slowly back to the east before joining the A837 just north of Lochinver. Turning left, I then followed the A837 back along the banks of Loch Assynt (a section of road I had ridden the previous day). It had taken me 70 minutes to ride the 32 mile dogleg when I could have stayed on the A894 earlier and got to the same place in just 6 miles/10 minutes...but where's the fun in that (besides, I rode that short cut the day before)?! Once back on faster roads, I made good progress, briefly picking up a little traffic on the main road to Ullapool. After a brief pause as on coming traffic slogged past going up hill, I could see the road was clear ahead where it swept through a lazy S bend...I cranked open Heidi's throttle and sailed easily past the 6 or 7 car crocodile headed up by a camper van and the road was mine again.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla31
I was getting low on fuel, so looked at the GPS for the nearest petrol station on my route. Perfect, there was one a few miles ahead just as I entered Ullapool. I added it to my route. It was clearly a popular stop - I had to join a queue of sports cars and camper vans waiting for the next vacant pump. Fortunately for me, much of the queue was caused by a large Dutch camper van blocking off several pumps. I seized my chance and pushed past the waiting cars and vans and squeezed into the bike size gap along side the Dutchman. Well, the pump was free, it wasn't my fault that nobody else could get to it! Refuelled I left the jam of traffic behind me and headed out of Ullapool and down the side of Loch Broom. The A385 insulted me with a little more traffic, but I soon lost it again when turning right onto the A832 and heading along the coast road to Loch Ewe. This was a great section of road and the weather did it justice. On the banks of Loch Ewe are the Inverewe gardens, I remembered having visited those lush, semi tropical gardens many years before. The warm Atlantic gulf stream gives the place a micro-climate that supports growth that is very different to the rugged and desolate mountain moorlands that I had spent the morning crossing. I didn't stop though - I wasn't dressed for walking around fancy gardens.

From Loch Ewe, the A road cut inland again towards Kinlochewe before turning off and heading back to the west along the very narrow but stunning A896 to the sea loch, Loch Torridon. My next destination was Applecross and I hoped to be able to grab some lunch there. As the road from Shieldaig to Applecross was a particularly torturous little winding C road, I assumed that the NC500 traffic would remain on the A896 and Applecross would be a quiet little fishing village and a good place to stop. Well, it was a beautiful ride; I followed the southern shore line of Loch Shieldaig, full of tight twists and turns with some steep inclines and descents thrown in for good measure, and I wended my way along enjoying the ride. However, when I got to Applecross, it was anything but quiet with loads of cars, vans and some bikes parked up in the shorefront car park and along the road side. This was not what i had expected or wanted! I rode through the village, looking for somewhere to turn and park, but as it happened, I kept going south. By chance, I came to the small hamlet of Camustiel and spied the little post office store which had a sign outside advertising bacon rolls and sandwiches. I rolled into the quiet car parking area and parked up. What a great little place. I chatted to the postman-come-store keeper-come-emergency coast guard-come-paramedic and while his wife rustled up a good, wholesome, chunky cheese, tomato and pickle sandwich for me along with a bowl of delicious, hot vegetable soup - thick with plump soft grains of pearl barley. I sat outside on a picnic bench enjoying the local fare while still chatting away to the postman and throwing a ball for his ever eager border collie. What an absolute gem of a place - reasonably priced and just so friendly and welcoming. I was so glad that I hadn't stopped with the melee of other tourists back in Applecross and suffered lunch from a burger van or some such. My appetite sated, I bid the store keepers farewell and headed down the road in a loop that would take me back to Applecross and the NC500 route. I stopped to take in the view across the sound to the isles of Rona and Raathsay and beyond to the Isle of Skye. I would be there tomorrow...but was taking the long way round via Inverness. Again why ride 90 miles when you can do 390 to get to the same place?
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Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0115 
 The weather was looking particularly menacing on the Isle of Skye, a sign of things to come perhaps
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I rode back to Applecross and rejoined the route to the east. The road initially rose quickly to 600m above sea level and gave spectacular view back down the hill, towards the sea.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0117
I was soon at the top, but gave the official view point a miss as the small roadside parking space was crammed with cars and camper vans. With the clouds gathering around the mountain top, the weather had turned grey again with the odd drop of rain. As I started my descent down through a section of steep hairpins.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla35
I came up behind a small tour bus. This was a pity as the view ahead down the steep sided corrie to Loch Kishorn was incredible, but totally spoilt by the slow moving and impassable while slab of the tin box in front of me. I followed him down around the tight hairpin bends at an excruciatingly slow speed- cussing and cursing as he refused to allow me to pass.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla34
He eventually pulled over at a view point about halfway down the mountain and I uttered a few more profanities as I opened the throttle and got back up to a sensible road speed again. I was soon back on the main road and headed for Inverness.

The only reason I was going to Inverness was to complete the NC500 circuit. Quite honestly, it was a waste of time and fuel really. It wasn't a bad road, but it was just not particularly scenic and the traffic was quite heavy compared with many of the roads I had ridden over the last few days. Does the NC500 need to start and finish at the same place? I don't think so (unless you are one of the goons hiring a camper van from there) and think it would have been better to extend down around Skye, down towards Fort William and then (if you must) up across the Great Glen to Inverness. I guess that part of the western highlands is already firmly on the tourist trail and doesn't want to encourage more traffic? Anyway, having come so far, I couldn't not finish the route, so on I went in the afternoon traffic. I rolled into Inverness at 16:10 and immediately rolled straight out again.

My route now took me back west again towards the Isle of Skye and I had planned to wild camp by Loch Ness. I took the minor road down the southern bank of the Loch, hoping to find somewhere suitable off to the side of the road. Unfortunately, as I had previously discovered, finding a place to camp, where you can get your bike safely off the road, is harder than you think. I think I had a better chance of spotting the Loch Ness Monster! I stopped for a picture and recalled water skiing on Loch Ness one time. I remembered how I had wiped out during an aggressive turn on that glassy smooth expanse of water, just off the ruins of Urquhart Castle, and recalled the incredibly eerie feeling that I had felt as I floated on the surface with my legs dangling temptingly, into those dark, forbidding depths while I waited for the boat to come around and give me the tow rope again. 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0118
I looked in vain all the way along the loch side until eventually coming to Fort Augustus at the South East end of the loch. There I found a newly opened campsite, a short walk from the town centre. Arriving at 18:00,  found the site was fairly empty, which was great for me and the tent area soft and flat. The staff were extremely helpful and I was soon booked in, unloaded Heidi and got my tent up. The only negative was the amount of coarse gravel they had covered the tracks with - not good on a heavily laden K bike and I had to take it really easily to avoid any unwanted lie downs. Ever thoughtful though, the staff provided me with a slab of wood for my side stand (I already carry a plastic puck for soft ground, but thanked them for their help anyway).
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0119
OK, so not quite in the spirit of wild camping, but after a couple of days in the saddle in the wilds of the highlands, I certainly did enjoy being able to wash and shave and enjoy a long hot shower. Since I was being civilised for the night, I walked into town to find a local restaurant for supper. Fort Augustus is quite a busy place, but I was able to get a romantic table for one and tucked into a plateful of traditional Hagis with neeps and tatties (swede/turnip and potatoes) washed down with a local ale or two. After dinner, I wandered around the canal locks - the Caledonian canal runs from Corpach, near Fort William in the South east, to Inverness in the North East and provides a navigable route for small vessels from the west to east coasts. At Fort Augustus, a series of locks are necessary for boats to climb the bit in the middle.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0120
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0121
It's a pretty little spot...when the weather is being kind! Gawping done, I wandered back to my tent and enjoyed a good nights sleep.

Day 5: Wednesday 22 May 2019: Fort Augustus to Glen Coe via the Isle of Skye (314 miles)
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 22may110

I don't know if it is a camping thing or just being conditioned by work to getting up early, but whatever it is, I was up early, breakfasted, washed (again - the sheer decadence of it) and packed up and ready to go by 07:37. It hadn't rained overnight, well not that I noticed, but the road west was damp. It was another cool grey morning, as I thundered down the A82 to Invergarry. Here, I turned onto the A87 and followed the River Garry and along the banks of Loch Garry and Loch Loyne. The road had recently been resurfaced - properly resurfaced, with a nice thick, smooth covering of bitumen (rather than a slap-dash sprinkle of loose gravel without enough hot tar to make it stick properly). It was a pleasant way to start the days ride. I bore left at a junction (remaining on the A87) and continued west. The road wiggled its way along, hugging the bank of Loch Cluanie and Loch Duice as it followed the contours of Glen Shiel towards the Kyle of Lochalsh. Unfortunately, as I headed west, I rode into worsening weather and it was soon raining steadily and refusing to get light as thick, black clouds hung heavy over the mountains. I had added Eilean Donan castle as a way point on my route - this is one of my favourite castles and has featured in several movies over the years as it looks the part (e.g. Highlander). I had hoped for a clear, calm morning to get a good picture the castle, but was out of luck on that score, although it had just about stopped raining by the time I got there and was looking suitably mood and mystical in the gloom.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0122 After my brief photo stop, I got to Kyle of Lochalsh at 09:10 and I rode over the Skye Bridge and onto the Isle of Skye with the "Skye Boat" song buzzing annoyingly around inside my head. There used to be a hefty toll for the bridge when it first opened back in the early '90s, but now it's free for all. What a difference to my earlier rides - a much greater volume of traffic was here and slowly trudging around the rain soaked roads. There aren't that many road on Skye and I was stuck with them, albeit having a few opportunities to blast past and then catch up with the next crawling slug of traffic. I rode north up the east side of the Isle, through the bustling town of Portree and up to Staffin. here my route was to take me up and over the little road and down to Uig on the other side. I had hoped the the traffic would stick to the coast road, but more than my fair share slogged up the steep, skinny C road that rose to 249m as it crossed the mountain ridge. Worse still, the cloud was down, it was raining again and visibility was generally poor.  To add insult to injury, the thin strip of road had been resurface badly and was covered in piles of loose grey gravel. I passed the "view point" at the top without stopping - there was no point and, besides it was crammed with cars and camper vans. I have no idea what they were looking at - visibility was down to a hundred metres or so - one cloud looks much the same as the next when you are inside it. Although I had lost my fellow tourists in the clouds at the top, i had to cut my speed to a very slow pace as I just couldn't see where I was going - the overall greyness of the road and the sky blended them together and the rain on my visor and screen (and camera) was making seeing clearly nearly impossible. Usually, speed helps keep the visor clear, but there were no prizes for going too fast and missing a bend altogether in the fog or skidding off the road on the loose gravel. On a clear day, I'm sure that this road would be worth doing - today was not that day. With some relief I got safely down into Uig and turned left onto the main road. At Carbost, I turned right onto the A850 to Dunvegan to effectively ride the western lobe of Skye. Sadly, it was riding for ridings sake and the weather did put a damper on things which was a shame. I could have stopped off at one of the Skye distilleries but I was saving that experience for later in the trip when I went to Islay. I stopped briefly in Broadford for fuel.

Rather than use the bridge to get back to the mainland, I had booked myself onto the Caledonian McBraine ferry from Armadale to Mallaig. I do like a ferry crossing to mix things up a bit. On the way to Armadale, I took a planned dogleg out to Tarskavaig - it actually felt good to be back on an empty, single track road again and any from the rest of the Skye traffic. At least it had stopped raining again and now, well below the cloud level, it almost seemed like it was brightening up a little. Maybe that was just wishful thinking on my part?
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla36
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla37
As I hadn't stopped much along the way, I arrived at Armadale far too early for my ferry even with the dogleg via Tarskavaig, however it was lunch time and I dialled up a suitable looking restaurant on my trusty GPS and added it to the route. Soon after, I pulled off the road into the (gravelly) car park at the Inn @ Aird a Bhasair. There were several cars in the car park, but the Inn was relatively quiet. Maybe the cars belonged to people staying at the inn and they were all out doing outdoorsy stuff. Most importantly, there was room for me to peel off my layers and enjoy a bite to eat and a pint of orange juice & lemonade. Suitably refreshed, I made my way back to the ferry port and took my place in my lane for the 14:30 ferry crossing. 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0123
I was soon joined by several more bikes (I had been the only bike booked for that crossing) - mostly Germans, from what I could tell. We got to board the ferry last and were strapped down on an open area of deck at the stern of the ship. The oaf of a deck hand who was helping strap down the bikes for the 25 minute crossing managed to knock my left mirror off as he barged through the gap between bikes and then he looked amused as if it had just fallen off all by itself. I scowled and picked the mirror pod up off the hard, steel deck. Fortunately, the drop hadn't done any damage and I was able to pop it back in place. the ferry departed on time. Next stop Mallaig.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0124
Having boarded last (despite being first in the queue), of course that meant I was last to disembark. However, I soon was on my way and passing the slow traffic ahead of me on the frequent fast, straighter sections of the road. The bright yellow of the gorse seen on the headland, gave way to the bright pinks of the rhododendrons that were flowering at the roadside. 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla39
The roads were dry and I made good progress to Fort William. My intention was to wild camp somewhere in Glen Coe, to the south of Fort William, but first I had to pay a visit to the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge to pay respects to the memory of my Nephew, David O'Connor of 40 Commando Royal Marines and all those who have fallen in action in the service of their country. The memorial commemorates the commandos of WW2, but has also become a shrine for those commandos lost in more recent conflicts. The small memorial "garden" is now filled with tributes to individuals like David, many of these plaques and photos and wreaths are weathered and worn and each time I visit, there are even more of them.
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Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Img_0127
After a while spent in quiet contemplation and remembrance, I headed back in the direction of Fort William and down the A82 towards Glen Coe. Glen Coe is another of those places immortalised in Scottish history - this place because of a massacre in 1692 of many members of the Clan MacDonald by the Clan Campbells who were siding with the British government forces at the time. I paused for fuel at Glen Coe village and then started the long twisty climb up the Glen. It was a familiar stretch of road that I have travelled many times on the way to dive out of Oban or to the Scottish ski centre at Aonach Mor (next to Britains highest mountain - Ben Nevis). It is a cracking stretch of road that allows the liberal use of the throttle as you fly through some stunning mountain scenery. Climbing steeply at first through a series of tight bends where the road was blasted through the rock face, it then straightens out past the Glen Coe ski centre and onto the boggy plateau at Rannoch Moor. I continued along the road looking for somewhere suitable to turn off and set my camp. However, the rough moorland didn't lend itself to pitching a tent, so I kept on riding. At Bridge of Orchy, I turned right onto the B8074. I had always planned to ride this road and every mile along it was a mile closer to the ferry port at Kennacraig and my crossing to Islay the next day. My ferry departed at 10:00 and I needed to be there at least 30 minutes prior, so wherever I camped the night, I had to be up early enough to get to the port in time. Naturally, I had planned an indirect and devious scenic route, but always had the option of baling out and taking a faster route, if necessary. 

The ride along the side of the River Orchy was beautiful. Beinn Bhreac-liath mountain (776m) and heathland lay to one side and the wide, shallow river and forest rising up the slope of Ben Inverveigh (639m) on the other. Even better, I came across a perfect place to camp - there was ample room to get the bike right off the road and a nice even grassy space to pitch my tent on the bank of the river Orchy. Better still, nobody else had grabbed it, although it clearly had been used by several campers before me as the remains of fires and (sadly) some litter bore witness to their inconsiderate stay. I never understand why people can't leave beautiful spots like this unspoilt - all they have to do is erase all evidence of their stay. It was just before 18:00 and I strategically parked the bike to deter any wandering camper vans from camping alongside me. Not that any passed me that evening.

As it was on the banks of a river, I was expecting to get swarmed by midges. Midges, for the uninitiated, are a microscopic, evil, blood sucking flying pest. The bite is intensely itchy and the critters are nothing if not persistent and numerous. I was pleasantly surprised to find very few midges at my camp, but doused myself liberally with Avon "Skin so soft" (recommended by Chris 846) and "Jungle Formula" midge repellent. It seemed to work as the critters left me alone. I pitched my tent and then set about tidying up the campsite and gathering some firewood.  I removed the traces of about 9 previous camp fires and collected a small amount of litter.
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Chores done, I lit my fire, cooked my dinner and sat and listened to the only noise around - the constant babble of the river and the distant call of a cuckoo as it slowly got dark. What a peaceful spot, fresh clean air with an occasional waft of wood smoke and proper wild camping at last! In a rash moment I did think about a dip in the river, but convinced myself that it was too shallow and that I would certainly become midge food the moment I exposed any untreated skin...apart from anything else, it would be freezing cold! I checked the distance to the ferry port - 88 miles - about a 3 hour ride on the back roads I had chosen. That meant I had to be away no later than 06:30 in the morning. I let my fire burn out and then carefully, with my folding travel spade, removed all traces of the fire, leaving just a small bare patch of earth where the fire had been - that would soon grass over again. Satisfied, I crawled into my sleeping bag and had a deep relaxing sleep. It had been a long day, not a huge milage covered, but  good day despite the weather on the Isle of Skye. Tomorrow, I was off to Islay and Jura for a few days of distillery touring.

Coming soon, The Grand Tour - Scotland, May 2019 Part 4 of 4. Whisky Galore - Inner Hebrides...Islay, Jura, Kintyre and Arran and home.



Last edited by Born Again Eccentric on Sun Jul 07, 2019 6:12 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : forgot day 5 map!)


__________________________________________________
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Uk-log10 Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Sco-lo15 Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Eu-log10
                              Paul  Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 905546712

"Heidi" K100LT 1991 (Grey) (VIN 0190172 Engine No. 104EB 2590 2213) - 5th owner. January 2014 (34,000 - 61,000 miles and counting....)
"Gretel" K100LT 1989 (Silver Grey) (VIN 0177324 Engine No. 104EA 2789 2211) - 4th+ owner. September 2015 (58,500miles and counting....). Cat C Insurance write-off rebuild Feb 17
"Donor" K100LT 1990 (Red)  (VIN 0178091 Engine No. 4489 2024) - 6th & final owner (crash write-off now donor bike).   June 2012 (73,000 miles) to November 2013 (89,500 miles)
    

19Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Sun Jul 07, 2019 8:08 pm

Woodie

Woodie
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"I sat on the smooth rocks, drinking the (local) beers just watching the timeless Atlantic Ocean swirl and break on the rocks below."  


One of my favourite bits so far Paul and just as enjoyable as the ride.  Thanks for putting such a great effort into sharing this with us!


__________________________________________________
1985 K100RT
52667
"Keep your stick on the ice.  We're all in this together."  Red Green
    

20Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Sun Jul 07, 2019 8:11 pm

Stan

Stan
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Keep at it Paul. Another wonderful travel installment of an area that few of us, from the south, have ventured through.


__________________________________________________
1983 K100 basic vin 0003960 colour red  GONE
1987 K100RT vin 0094685 colour, orange peel, sorry, pearl..GONE
F800R black
    

21Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Mon Jul 08, 2019 8:46 pm

88

88
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great report BAE - thanks


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Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Ir-log1188....May contain nuts!Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Ir-log11

"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." - St. Augustine from 1600 years ago & still true!

Bike: K100LT 1988. 0172363. AKA the Bullion Brick! Mods: k1100 screen and stands.
K1: 1990. 6374189. Custom Stealth Black paint.
    

22Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Mon Jul 08, 2019 9:40 pm

RicK G

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Great write up Paul I always enjoy others holidays.


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"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats."  from Mencken's 1919 Prejudices

Bikes 1993 K1100 LT, 1998 K1100 LT, 1993 K75 RT, 1996 K75RT, 1986 K75 GS, 1979 Z1300 Kawasaki X 2 for now
    

23Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Sun Jul 14, 2019 6:45 pm

Born Again Eccentric

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The Grand Tour - Scotland, May 2019 Part 4 of 4. Whisky Galore - Inner Hebrides...Islay, Jura, Kintyre and Arran and home.
Hopefully this is the last instalment of the epic road trip!

Day 6: Thursday 23 May 2019: Glen Coe to Islay & Jura (191 miles)
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Compared with previous days, this was just a short hop. It should have been even shorter, but the weather turned out so good, I had to advance the ride to Jura by a day so that I got the very best out of the day, but more of that later...I've got to get up first and get there.  So, after an incredibly peaceful and relaxed sleep, I woke early on a cool, dry, morning to the tranquil, relaxing sound of the river chuckling away to itself. I had pretty much evaded midges the previous evening, but was fully expecting to be on the menu for breakfast. They hadn't got into the inner sanctum of the tent, so that was a good start and the rest of the tent was clear too. Nevertheless, discretion always being the better part of valour, I decided that the first job was to douse any exposed flesh with a cocktail of Avon "Skin so Soft" and Jungle Formula. I immediately found a problem with that plan...the Skin so Soft had ceased to be liquid. It had been a cool night, with temperatures down to 7 or 8 deg C and the oily spray had morphed into a thick, unsprayable, waxy semi-solid gloop.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Elhr2f10

This is exactly the problem you can get with diesel fuel - if the "cloud point" of the product is too high, at low temperatures the waxes dissolved in the fuel come out of solution and block pipes and filters and coat tank surfaces. A good reason not to bunker with summer grade fuel and take your ship to the arctic or antarctic regions, in case any of you were just about to embark on such a voyage! Automotive diesel used to suffer the same issue and there have been numerous cases of stranded motorists/truckers who broke down during particularly cold snaps. Anyway, my spray bottles were useless with the waxy residue. Fortunately, I was able to remove the spray pump and use the pick up pipe as a brush to wipe the stuff on my hands. With a small amount of body heat (rubbing my hands together) the stuff became liquid again and I was able to smear it on my face, neck, scalp, ears, forearms and hands. A few squirts of Jungle formula on top and I was ready to face the world. Incidentally, as the temperature increased during the day, all the wax melted back into the solution again and the spray pump became fully functional again. 

I cooked and ate breakfast, swilled down with a steaming cup of Earl Grey tea. Don't know if I mentioned it before or not, but I like Earl Grey tea because you can drink it without milk - so much easier when camping without the luxury of a fridge to keep the milk from turning. I packed up my sleeping bag, mat and kitchen and pulled on my bike gear (apart from the jacket) before venturing out of the tent. It was a lovely, still dawn and the sun was still down behind the mountain range. Within a minute and a half, the air was filled with midges. Clearly, they had travelled all night and were camped out in the damp, dewy grass on the river bank just waiting for the first whiff of CO2 to herald the arrival of a warm blooded animal and their sumptuous breakfast. Apparently, the lady midges need to feed on blood in order to reproduce and I found myself in the midst of a veritable hen party of hormonal, sex crazed lady midges. The midge repellant seemed to work and deterred some of the midges from biting, but they were hungry and were still swarming around my head. I am a firm believer in a belt and braces approach, so rather than just relying on the chemical cocktail of skin so soft and jungle formula, I increased my defences by deploying my barbour hat covered in a anti-midge head net. This worked very well, the wide brim of the hat held the net away from my face and I was able to get on with striking my camp and loading Heidi without being feasted upon.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Fullsi10
The blurs on the pic show how fast these evil little critters fly. I soon was packed up and ready to go, but I had the problem of changing from hat to helmet without getting eaten and avoiding riding off with a helmet full of midges, trapped inside the visor and able to dine at their leisure. I soon worked out the solution. I reckoned that it took about a minute and a half for a dormant midge population to smell the exhaled CO2, wake up and get airborne from their damp grass resting place. Also, while they can fly fast when closing in for the kill, their normal speed is quite slow. So, like a lunatic, I grabbed my helmet and ran down the road, leaving the hungry and frustrated spinsters behind me. As soon as I was in clear air, I whipped off my hat and immediately donned my helmet and put the midge net over the top of it. I successfully completed this manoeuvre just in time before the new swarm of midges emerged from the roadside grass, intent on using my blood to help spawn the next generation of their annoying offspring. Sorry ladies! I was so glad that I had bought the anti-midge head net.
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I strolled, smugly back to my bike dressed from top to toe in my anti midge armour. I felt very pleased with myself - no new generation of midges would be born on my account! One last check that my campsite bore no traces of my overnight stay, I climbed onto Heidi, fired her up and at 0522 was on my way. In case you're wondering - yes, the anti midge head net stayed in place over my helmet and I rode for a couple of miles like that until briefly stopping, removing it and stuffing it into my jacket pocket. 

Since I was up so early (about 3 hours to ferry port where I needed to be no later that 0930), I was able to stick with my pre-planned road-less-travelled route. Initially this took me on the B8074 down the Glen of Orchy. I passed several camper vans and a couple of motorbikes and tents, still slumbering at the roadside. The river widened and and deepened and took on a dark, peaty, colour as it flowed slowly along. I wondered what salmon or brown trout lurked in those deep, dark pools. No time for fishing though - and no rod licence nor fly rod either. I couldn't imagine the Ghilles of the local Laird appreciating a sassenach like me using heavy sea fishing lures and feathers to poach their precious game fish. I rode on and soon joined the A85 towards Loch Awe at Dalmally. Staying to the north of the loch, the road followed the banks of the River Awe on a big dog leg up to Taymuir, where I doubled back on myself and headed back down on the B845 through a densely forested area back to Loch Awe again before taking the narrow C road on the north bank of Loch Awe all the way to the town of Ford at the South West end of the loch. When planning, I had thought that this would have been a more interesting route than the B840 that hugged the southern shore of the loch. With hindsight, I probably would have had a more scenic ride on the south bank as my C road mostly wiggled and twisted through view limiting woodlands, someway from the loch side. I couldn't see that level of detail on my Garmin Basecamp route planning software, but it is patently obvious when looking at a properly detailed Ordnance Survey map of the area on my iPad. Oh well, you win some and you lose some, but you never actually know what you are going to get until you are there. That said, it wasn't a bad ride and I did enjoy occasional glimpse across the loch now and again. From Ford, I joined the A816 and thundered south towards the town of Lochgliphead and Loch Fyne, famed for it's supply of exquisite seafood. In trying to avoid some of the more major roads, my route had missed out places like Inveraray with its fairytale-esque green castle and 19th century jail. It is claimed that an anonymous Jacobite prisoner at Inveraray Jail wrote the lyrics to the "Loch Lomond" song while awaiting his unpleasant end, but as with all myths and legends, the dates never quite match there being 50-100 years between the Jacobite rising and the building of the prison.  "Oh ye'll tak the high road, and I'll tak the low road and I'll be in Scotland a'fore ye, but me and my true love will never meet again on yon bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.."etc. etc. 

A Lochgliphead I continued south on the A83, the road skirting the west bank of Loch Fyne down to Tarbet and then onto the Mull of Kintyre towards the ferry port at Kennacraig. Solitude and memories play havoc with your mind. The Mull of Kintyre was immortalised by Paul McCartney & Wings way back in 1977 and the song lyrics echoed around inside my empty head as I rode along, occasionally bursting out of my mouth and into scraps of song. "Far have I travelled and much have I seen. Darkest of mountains with valleys of green. Vast painted deserts, the sunsets on fire as he carries me home to the Mull of Kintyre. Mull of Kintyre, oh mist rolling in from the sea, my desire, is always to be here, oh Mull of Kintyre" etc. etc.  Agggghhh you just can't shake it off, but luckily there was nobody in ear shot to hear me growling away inside my helmet and it made me smile. I was still very early for the ferry when I reached Kennacraig, so I decide to ride on further down the Mull of Kintyre to get some fuel - it was bound to be cheaper on the mainland than on the islands. The nearest garage was actually about 3 miles south of the ferry port, but I had plenty of time in hand and the singing continued as I opened the throttle and cruised down the wide, mostly straight section of highway. I turned into the empty servo forecourt and stopped by one of the vacant petrol pumps. I guess there was a slight slope on the smooth concrete, but whatever it was, it caught me out and as I went to put Heidi in her centre stand, I leaned her too far away from me and over she went! 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla40
Fortunately, she didn't go right down, but came to rest again the petrol pump and, luckily, the screen was just clear of the pump, so didn't break. I couldn't pull her back upright though, so went round to the other side of the bike so that I could lift & push her back upright. In her fully laden state, this was no mean feat. I am able to pick up a K100 from a full lie down by myself with a little effort (ahem - I may have had a little practice, now and again, over the years), but laden with camping gear is a different matter altogether. I braced myself for the lift but instead of Heidi returning to the upright, due to the increased weight at her back end, all I did was lift and skid the front of the bike away from the pump. This was a disaster as it left me trapped between the petrol pump and the bike, desperately trying to stop her falling further over but unable to get the purchase I needed to get her upright. As I was struggling, a bloke that was working at the servo came out, but ignored me and walked straight past to fiddle with something unimportant. I was running out of energy fast and called out to him to help. Bizarrely, he sauntered over and stood looking. I encouraged him to help, which almost begrudgingly he finally did. Between us, we heaved the old lump upright and gingerly I lowered her over onto her side stand and breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Apart from a scape on the right pannier, no damage was done to me or the bike. I guess, if he hadn't come along/helped, my only option would have been to let her lie down and unload her so that I could get her up again. That would have been easier said than done. Breathing hard and sweating from my efforts, left her on the side stand while I fuelled her - OK, so you don't get a full tank that way, but I really didn't fancy repeating the experience again for the sake of a litre or two of fuel.

I rode back to Kennacraig silently - the songs had gone right out of my head, for now! At 0836, I checking in and parked up in the queue. There was a lot of traffic going to Islay, but that was to be expected as today was the day before the start of the "Feis Isla" - a week long festival of whisky drinking, ceilidhs and all things of that ilk. It was just under an hour until boarding would commence, so I wandered into the small waiting room and bought a coffee from the vending machine and then sat, sipped and waited. When it came to boarding, I was ushered to the sidelines and waited patiently until all the cars, trucks, camper vans and everybody else had boarded. 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Pndqe310
Finally, I was allowed to board and I rode slowly through the gaping mouth of the bow doors and into gloomy guts of the ferry.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla41
We departed on time for the 2 hour 10 minute crossing to Port Ellen on Islay. Having secured the bike, I made my way to the lounge and found somewhere reasonably comfortable where I could sit and plug in my various electrical devices to recharge their batteries during the calm sea crossing. The cloud and grey of the mainland soon gave way to sunshine and blue sky as we crossed the Sound of Jura. I made my way onto the open upper decks to take in the view of the "Paps of Jura" and feel the cool wind on my face. 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 5pswn910
The whitewashed buildings of the whisky distilleries at Ardmore, Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig stood out starkly against the island landscape, their identity proudly displayed in big, bold black lettering, seemingly a throwback to the days when coasters, steamships and small boats would head into the bays to pick up barrels of the golden cargo.Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 R0f74410
We soon docked in Port Ellen and I needed to find myself a place to camp for the 3 nights that I would be there. My original plan had been to wild camp near the Lagavulin distillery, but the lack of true wildness did pose the problem of washing and other daily ablutions. There were a couple of camp sites on Islay, so I decided to look at them before picking my spot for the night. The weather had just got better and better, so rather than heading straight to a camp site, I decided to advance my route plan for Friday. As I have mentioned before, the weather in Scotland can change in a moment and go from glorious sunshine to dismal rain in the blink of an eye. It was perfect weather, right now, to head across to Jura - I knew that, if I didn't, and I woke up on Friday to be greeted by rain and cloud, I would kick myself for not seizing the opportunity. I didn't need much persuading and, afterall, it was a relatively short distance riding day.Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Hizzi610
I headed off across Islay, first passing the Port Ellen malting house - a former distillery in its own right, this is were nearly all the barley for all the Islay distilleries is malted and given its distinctive smoky peat flavour.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla42
Leaving the main road, I cut across country on the B8016 to Bridgend. This was a nearly straight, empty, single track ribbon of tarmac that ran all the way across the flat peat moor, undulating gently as it almost floated on the peat bog on which it was laid. A few sparse home steads broke the otherwise green landscape. I opened Heidi's throttle and let rip!
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla44
It was an easy ride and quite a contrast to the highland mountains, moorlands and glens. I rode fast, slowing only occasionally to allow an on coming motorist space to pass. At Bridgend, I rejoined the A846 and continued on to Port Askaig and the ferry to Jura. This council operated ferry runs every 15 minutes or so and is not bookable. You turn up, board when there is room and pay the ferry man - cash only. If there is no room on the next crossing, you wait a wee while and get the next one. It is all pretty stress free really. As it was, I joined a short queue of cars, vans and a building supply lorry, but there was just enough room for me to squeeze on behind the lorry. While waiting to be called forward, I watched in amusement as the little ferry dipped and dived as the heavy lorry drove up its ramp. It was then my turn to board and we were off on the 5 minute crossing to Jura.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Mq7dri11
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla45
We crossed the narrow stretch of water quickly and I held back as the builders lorry disembarked. I was right to do so, the little ferry bucked and twisted like a steer at a rodeo as the weight shifted forwards and then suddenly released. I rode carefully off the still swaying deck and onto terrafirma - with the emphasis on firmer. The A846 continued on the Jura side of the water. Proudly proclaimed as the narrowest, bumpiest A road in Britain, they certainly were't kidding. The lorry driver kindly waved me past. I was thankful for that, with a single track road from one end of the island to the other, it would have been purgatory to be stuck behind him for the 30 odd miles. The other traffic had already got a good start on me, so in effect, I had a clear open road ahead - perfect. What a top ride it was too, not fast (which is why I wasn't catching up with the vehicles ahead), not particularly twisty, but wild, remote and utterly beautiful. Riding with the Paps of Jura (785m at their highest) to my left and the Sound of Jura to the right and the sun beaming down on the sparkling water, it was just wonderful. It didn't take long to get to my first stopping point - the Jura distillery. 
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Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Vglxpf10
I arrived just at the end of a tour, but managed to get a couple of tasters of the whiskies on sale in their shop and bought a bottle of their limited edition 20 year old "One and All" single malt (51% proof). Whisky safely stashed in a (deliberately) empty space in a pannier, I was on my way again. Apparently, there are only 200 people living on Jura and over 5000 deer. I certainly saw more deer there than I had seen in the rest of the highlands! The rough road twisted and turned and got ropier and ropier. At Ardlussa (home of the Lussa Gin distillery) I think the road finally admitted the truth and officially ceased to be an A road and, unsurprisingly didn't improve in quality...yes it got even rougher, even thinner, more potholes , more grass down the centre and more loose shale and gravel on the bits in-between potholes and grass. I pressed on, determined to get to the supposed end of the road at Kinuachdrachd. I have no idea what was at the end of the road, I wimped out a few miles short of my destination. Poor old Heidi was being shaken to death and the final straw was, just after passing through a gate and crossing a cattle grid at Eagadale the road officially became an untarmaced track. The whole surface was compacted & loose shale, severely potholed and not the road to be riding on a heavily loaded K100LT. I didn't want another lie down on that unforgiving surface. I pulled off to the side of the road just ahead of a S bend in the road where the road dipped down into the bend and then rose sharply up again out of it. I walked ahead to survey the bend and decided that it was almost certain disaster to go any further. It had been an interesting and scenic 27 mile ride along Jura to this point, but enough was enough.
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I carefully turned the bike round, boots sliding and skidding on the loose stones. At one point Heidi lurched to one side and I felt the weight come on my leg as I struggled to get my footing and keep her upright. Cursing I regained control and completed the 50 point turn. I headed back the way I had come, at least every metre was a metre in the right direction.
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Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Am4oea10
The weather was changing, the grey clouds were gathering again and covering the blue sky. The disadvantage of a single, single track road, is that all traffic going one way, has to come back the other way. At one point, I came face to face with a convoy of 2 cars and a pick up with trailer. I stopped by a passing space to let them through, but this allowed a pick up and car behind me to catch up. So this is when driving stupidity is tested. For starters, driving on a single track road with passing spaces is best done with no more than 2 vehicles together - the passing spaces are barely big enough. So here we were, 3 vehicles coming one way and a bike and 2 vehicles the other. Instead of the vehicles behind me pulling over at the passing place before the one I was next to, they came right up behind me. I could go nowhere because the road ahead was blocked by the pick up & trailer. The on coming cars filled the passing space to my right and couldn't go any further because of the cars behind me. 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla48
Somehow, they managed to squeeze through and then, just as I was expecting the pick up and trailer to come forward into the passing space, inexplicably, the old woman in the pick up behind me overtook me and went bumper to bumper with the on coming vehicle. 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla46
After a short standoff, she then reversed into the passing space alongside me. I suppose it was something that she didn't reverse into me - her driving skills and eye sight were clearly as dubious as each other. I could go nowhere, I was on a down hill slope so couldn't reverse, there was inches of tarmac to my left and I was not putting my bike into the barrier. The on coming pick up, who had been stationary up to this point, then came forward and forced the old woman to reverse back further and off the side of the road. This gave me just enough room to squeeze through and continue on my way. I left the eejits to their standoff and didn't see them again! The rest of the ride was uneventful although sights like this were common - just where did the road go after the brow of the hill and was there another lunatic coming quickly the other way?Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla49
 I finally reached Feolin and parked up in the short queue to await the arrival of the ferry back to Islay.
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Back on the relatively big roads of Islay, I headed back to Bridgend where I turned right towards Port Charlotte. This was a great section of road, wide enough for 2 lanes but snakey enough to open the throttle and have some fun in the bends. I soon turned right again, onto the B8018, and took a looping road around Loch Gorm ending up at Machir Bay. 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla50
I parked Heidi on the short, firm grass in the beach car park and took a short walk through the dunes and onto the wide, flat, expanse of sand. I walked down to the waters edge, watching the Atlantic waves coming to the end of their journey and finally run out of energy as they rolled up onto the rippled and ridged wet sand. 
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The weather had cleared again and the horizon was sharp and focused -in the very distance I could see a dark smudge of land. A check of the iPad revealed that the smudge of land was Malin Head in County Donegal - the most northerly point of the island of Ireland some 40 miles to the southwest of Islay. Ironically, Malin Head is part of [Southern] Ireland, even though it is further north than Northern Ireland! I was hot after my stroll on the beach, especially after slogging back up through the sand dunes. Full bike gear (with fleece on under the jacket) is not the most ideal beach wear on a very warm Scottish day! I took a long swig of warm, plastic tasting water from my camelback, well it was better than suffering a raging thirst! I nursed Heidi back through the soft sand of the car park access road and back onto the security of hard tarmac. It was time to go and find somewhere to camp, so I completed my loop back to the main road and hung a right back towards Port Charlotte. 

Just after Port Charlotte there was a community operated campsite at Port Mor and I pulled into the car park to see if they had any space. What a fabulous place it was too - it was quite busy and cost about £9 a night, but had showers and power sockets and, as a real bonus, it had a community run bistro cafe. I booked myself in and set about finding a suitable pitch. Amazingly, I found a large space right on the seaward edge of the site, between a Dutchman's tent and a Swiss group's tents. It was quite windy, but I pitched my tent quickly and made the space my own. What a great spot - with cracking views across the bay to Bowmore...and the sun was shining again and the blue sky was back too. I suspect that a German camper van may have been parked there previously - judging by the miffed look when they got to the the site later in the evening! Well, there was nothing to suggest that it had been someone elses pitch and I was not moving! 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Atykes10
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Yzzued10
I enjoyed a nice hot shower and change of clothes and then went to the Bistro to have a look at the menu. It looked pretty good, so I took a table and was soon tucking into my dinner of chicken curry (actually very good) followed by pudding and washed down with a couple of pints of IPA. Yes - it had been a good day, and this was the proper way to finish a good day. I wandered back to my tent and spent sometime chatting to the Dutchman and his wife on the pitch next to me. I mentioned that I was surprised by the number and diversity of nationalities at the campsite - he reminded me though that it was Feis Isla and that many people came back year after year to sample and buy the latest whisky releases. It was his 12th year!! During Feis Isla, the Islay population triples from 3300 to over 9000 and accommodation (including camp site pitches can be hard to come by (hotels being booked up years in advance)! I retired to my tent and, as it slowly got dark, turned in for the night. Tomorrow, Friday, was another riding day, exploring the rest of Islay and maybe visiting a distillery or three!

Day 7: Friday 24 May 2019: In and around Islay (94 miles)
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 24may110

 The wind had dropped overnight and I had had a peaceful and midge free night. I was up early as usual and retrieved my now fully charged battery packs from the community centre and washed & shaved.After breakfast, I was ready to hit the road and explore some more of Islays roads. It already had the makings of a pleasant day weather wise and the route was preloaded in the GPS. At 0720, I hit the start button and (thankful for quiet pipes) eased my way up the grassy slope and out of the still sleeping campsite. I expected the roads to be getting busier from today onwards with the Feis Isla shenanigans, not only more cars but a high percentage of international drivers (sounds more polite than foreigners!) and a high probability that some drivers would have quaffed a whisky or two too many. Definitely a day to have my wits about me.

Apart from being an early riser by habit, the things I like most about getting out on the road early is that you pretty much have them to yourself, there tends to be more wildlife skulking about and often the weather/light is better for photography too. My first port of call, if you forgive the pun, was Port Wemyss on the most westerly tip of Islay. This was fairly close to the Port Mor campsite, and on a good road I arrived quickly. I headed down to the small pier and took a small wander along the craggy rocky shoreline. A harbour seal popped its head out of the glassy grey blue water but had no interest in me and was gone as quickly and quietly as it had appeared. Just over a short stretch of water was the islet of Orsay, dominated by its lighthouse.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Yb9sq010
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Tbzas210
I hopped back on the bike again and followed a minor road up round the high point of Ben Cladville and along the western edge of that rocky and grassy peninsular through the hamlet of Kilchiaran and back across country to the main road in Port Charlotte. A nice little circular route over the "Rinns of Islay". 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla53
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla52
I was intent on visiting a few distilleries today. I was already booked onto a bunch of tours at the Lagavulin distillery on Saturday, but was particularly keen to visit its next door neighbour at Laphroaig - famed for its peaty malts. As I followed the main road in the direction of Bowmore, a sporty blue BMW Z4 (car) pulled out behind me. At Bridgend, I turned right and the Z4 went left - I had ridden the B road to Port Ellen when I first arrived and wanted to stay on the main road (A846) for a little variety. This was a lovely, very straight undulating road which like its neighbouring B road, seemed to float on the peaty substrate, rising and falling smoothly as if riding on a low ocean swell. The A846 ran past the Islay airport and, as a flight had just landed the road was relatively busy with traffic. However, that traffic didn't impede my progress - the straight road allowing a clear view ahead and making for effortless overtaking. I opened the throttle and quickly left the little mobile traffic chicane in my wake. As I arrived in Port Ellen, there was the Blue Z4 in front of me. Clearly they had taken the shorter, but single track B road - a quicker route provided you didn't get stuck behind someone, which I guess they didn't. I followed the Z4 out of Port Ellen and into the turning for the Laphroaig distillery, where they disappeared into a staff car park. I parked Heidi in the still empty visitors parking area and set about exploring. It was only 0900 and the visitor centre didn't open for another 15 minutes.
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Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 F8vdad10
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Rsbjo210
At 0915, as soon as the doors opened, I was in like a shot! I enquired about a distillery tour but they were all fully booked, however, since I was so early, the staff made an exception and added me as the 16th person on the first tour of the day at 1000. Spotting the biking attire, the lady serving me asked if it was me that she had been following - it turned out that she was the Z4 driver. Clearly my spirited riding hadn't done anything to upset her - otherwise, I think I wouldn't have got on the tour as an extra! I happily handed over my money and, after sauntering around the museum, I settled down with a complimentary cup of coffee in the bar area. Just before 1000 another lady come in asking if I was "Stephen". I shook my head but said, I could be Stephen if she wanted me to be! We laughed - she was missing Stephen from the tasting tour that he was booked on. What a thoroughly friendly bunch!! My tour soon started - hosted by the Z4 driver and we were taking through the whole whisky making process. Laphroaig malt and smoke 20% of their own barley (the other Islay distilleries get 100% of theirs from the Port Ellen maltings), so that made the tour even more interesting.
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Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Ks77be10
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Sota9010
We had a quick nosey in one of the warehouses, where the tasting tour were getting stuck into sampling some fine vintages - Stephen had made it just in time and I told him that I had been prepared to take his place. 
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Of course, the highlight of my tour was the tasting of the finished product at the end! We had 3 tokens which could be exchanged for either 3 drams of the bottles on the left or one dram from the left and one dram from the more exclusive bottles on the right. 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Fullsi11
Sensibly, recognising that someone in every group would be driving (2 drams of the stronger stuff would put you over the Scottish drink driving limit), the distillery gave you the option of taking away your selected dram(s) in a sample bottle. I took a dram of the quarter cask (thanks to the tour, now understanding what quarter cask meant) and very nice it was too and took away a sample bottle of the 10yo Cask strength (58%ABV) for later. I bought myself a bottle of the cask strength 10yo (Jan 18) and a few other souvenirs to take home with me and, as a (newly joined) Friend of Laphroaig and now the virtual owner of 1 square foot of the Laphroaig peat bog, I asked for my "rent". The rent came in the form of a miniature bottle of Laphroaig 10yo.

By the time I emerged from the tour (I totally recommend this tour, if you ever happen to be on Islay), the sun was out, the grey clouds and taken on a more cheerful white fluffiness and I was feeling good. Maybe that was just the effect of the quarter cask sample - by photos don't lie (unless they have been photoshopped).
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Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Bkvttx10
My final task was to take a walk across the road to the peat bog (Laphroaig hand cut their own peat here to smoke the 20% malted barley that makes their product unique) and place my flags on my square foot of land. I don't think I got my coordinates right for my actual plot, but likewise I'm quite sure that nobody will mind and the paper flags won't last many Scottish downpours. 
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It was gone 1300 when I finished at Laphroaig, the 4 hours had passed very pleasantly indeed but it was time to do some more riding and more visiting. I headed east on the main road, past the Lagavulin distillery and onto Ardbeg. I was visiting Lagavulin the next day, but paused for some photos while the weather was good...just in case.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Sq0wq110
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Jppmwb10
From Ardbeg, the A road reduces to a narrow track, but it is a scenic little ride with some pretty white, sandy bays that contrast against the lush green of the adjacent countryside and the sparkling green/blue of the sea. It had turned into a cracking day weather-wise - so I would have been OK if I had left my Jura visit as originally planned, but you never know and this way, I was getting to see a lot more of Islay and enjoying another proper summer day out. I saw a sign to the Kildalton Cross - allegedly the oldest Celtic cross in Britain, so thought it worth a look.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Sgpryd10Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Oq4j0310
from Kildalton, I rejoined the track east, avoiding sheep and lambs along the way.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla54
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla55
It was a leisurely and slow paced ride, but I was in no hurry and I continued until my way was barred by a gate. I could have ridden on, but I I was pretty close to the end of the road, so executed another 50 point turn to get heidi pointing back the way I had come.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla56
Despite the rough surface, the ride was worth every minute...on a different day, with less agreeable weather, of course, it could have felt very different and been less enjoyable.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Py36yz10
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Urxeks10
I hadn't stopped at the Ardbeg distillery as I had passed earlier in the afternoon, but stuck my nose in for a quick look as I returned. Maybe another time?
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla58
It was too busy for my liking, and I wanted to do some more riding, so I rode on. By now I had completed my pre-planned route for the Friday, but it was too early to return to the campsite. Instead, I punched Port Askaig into the GPS (where I had previously got the ferry to Jura) as there were a couple of more remote distilleries out that way. I chose Caol Isla as my destination and enjoyed a fast ride across the island in the perfect weather conditions. I was too late for a tour (and actually once you have been briefed on the whisky making process, you don't really need the basic tour again) but managed to sneak into a tasting session in the gift shop! Perfect - and free! I sampled a small selection of the Caol Isla malts and duly bought myself a bottle of the 2018 Feis Isla special - a limited release bottling. I can't say I'm a collector - but the shop assistant seemed to value the fact that it was a low numbered bottle 142 of 2500. I'll probably drink it...that's kind of the point of whisky!
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 O08mq210
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Nrw9q810
Tasting and shopping done, I returned to my campsite at Port Mor. I had spotted a couple of tents wild camping at Lagavulin, but was glad that I had opted for the comparative luxury of a proper campsite with all facilities (and a bistro). I got back at 1540 after an excellent day out - only 94 miles ridden, but some fabulous views and mostly extremely quiet roads. I treated myself to another slap up tea in the bistro and another couple of ales - so much easier than cooking! I then retired to my tent for a noisy evening - a number of Glaswegian families had filled a section of the campsite and were being loud. I don't suppose they realised that they were being so loud, but their party went on until after midnight.

Day 8: Saturday 25 May 2019: Lagavulin distillery open day - non riding day!! (0 miles)
The day started extra early, but with a special reason in mind. I had set my alarm to 0115, 15 minutes before the krew down under were scheduled to raise a toast to Rosskko at his memorial overlooking the Bathurst race course. Having borrowed Rosskko's spare K100, ridden with him and met his family during my first visit to Oz, only weeks before his untimely passing, it seemed only right and proper that I remembered him too...and I had just the dram to toast him with...the sample bottle of 58% 10yo Laphroaig that I had got on Friday morning. I had remembered to take my blue brick shot "glass" with me on my travels. So, at the appointed time (having only just got to sleep), I half emerged from my sleeping bag, filled the shot glass and paid my respects in the proper way. I then crawled back into my cocoon and was soon back asleep again.

I woke early to the sound of rain lashing down. Apparently it hadn't rained in Islay for nearly 6 weeks and all the whisky distilleries were concerned by the falling water levels in their own special lochs and reservoirs nestling in the peaty bogland. Well to day it was making up for lost time and there were many casks full of the liquid that would eventually become the 2029 10yo malt whisky falling from the leaden sky that morning. At least it was a planned non-riding day. I splodged my way across the soggy grassland to the facilities building to have a wash and then beat a hasty retreat to my tent to have breakfast. I was getting a bus into Lagavulin and needed to ensure that I didn't miss it. 

The bus was crowded - this was the first full day of the Feis Isla and everybody was making a bee-line for Lagavulin. I was booked on a Lagavlin experience tour, a warehouse tour and a master class tasting session at 1000, 1100 and 1500 respectively. For something that had been planned for a long time, it was a little disorganised and lacked staff or signs telling you where to go for each event. I stood for half an hour in the wrong queue - with people only there to get their hands on the 2019 Feis Isla special release before realising and scuttling away to the place where the experience tour was taking place. Annoying, especially as that was half an hour queuing in the rain when I could have been waiting inside one of the store houses! However, the tour was very good and included many sampling opportunities from freshly distilled spirit to the finished, matured product. Lagavulin had just launched a new (travel exclusive) 10 yo single malt - probably to replace their current best seller (16yo) and rival Laphroaig's market leading 10yr. We were the first to get to sample the new product and it was very, very good indeed! We also got to sample the 2019 Feis Isla release which was also very good.
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Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Ovzrui10
The warehouse tour was not quite what I expected - I had (wrongly) assumed that it would be a tour deep into the warehouses amongst the hundreds of dusty casks ageing quietly away until the right moment came to bottle them. What I hadn't realised was that all Lagavulin spirit is taken by tanker to the mainland where it is put into casks and stored. So the malted barley is imported from the Port Ellen malting and the distilled spirit is exported to the mainland for the majority of its life - the only thing that Lagavulin do is add their own water and distill the stuff in the copper stills on site. However, the warehouse tour was entertaining nonetheless - about 40 of us sat around several barrels being entertained by the resident expert (Iain McArthur) and sampling a number of different Lagavulin whiskies that were drawn from the (reimported) casks.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 8xwlx610
Of course, the more we tasted, the more entertainable we became. I was sat next to 3 Americans who were to become my buddies for the rest of the day.
After the rather static warehouse tour, I had about 3 hours to kill until the master class tasting. The rain continued to chuck it down and I was glad that I had stopped to take a couple of photos the previous day. Such a shame that the beautiful weather of the previous 2 days hadn't lasted a little longer - maybe it was Rosskko having a laugh at my expense? At least the distillery were prepared for inclement weather and handed out branded green plastic capes to keep their punters dryish. It was pity that the shop only did paper bags though...
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Ug7kbw10
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Kbhzxq10
I filled my time easily between the marque with food, cakes etc. and the complimentary dram bar...mostly the latter, it has to be said. Having 2 tasting glasses on lanyards (care of the 2 tours that I had done), was perfect for the complimentary dram bar where you were allowed to take up to 2 drams at a time (but return as much as you liked). I made several returns - capitalising, in a sensible sort of way, on my non-riding day. There were some, imbibing freely and then having to explain themselves to the local constabulary who were loitering with intent on site when they returned to their cars. It was then time for the Master Class. A rather more upmarket affair, I found myself seated on a table with my new American buddies and we went through the tasting of another 5 varieties of the Lagavulin single malts. Unfortunately, there was a spare seat at our table, so we had to drink those drams (between us) too before they went off. At then end, we had a big build up by our host with the exciting "new release" - I rather burst his bubble when I told him that we had been the first to sample it on the 1000 tour, about 6 hours earlier and pointed out that it was being dished out freely in the complimentary dram bar!! Ooops - communication is king!

Another poor piece of planning was that the last bus back to Port Charlotte left half an hour before we finished. My American buddies offered to give me a lift back as far as Bowmore where they were staying, which was vey kind of them. I bought some souvenirs and a bottle of the 2019 Feis Isla release and a cask strength distillers edition bottle in the gift shop - bizarrely they weren't selling the travel exclusive (I have since picked up a bottle for £50 at Glasgow airport duty free). We returned to Bowmore where I was invited to join my American buddies for dinner in the hotel bar and so the evening continued, albeit buying very expensive drams from behind the bar, until it was time for me to ring a taxi and get back to my campsite. Despite the horrid weather, it had been a grand day out and the copious drams of malt whisky had kept my (pardon the pun) spirits up! I slept very well that night.

Day 9: Sunday 26 May 2019: Islay, Mull of Kintyre and the Isle of Arran (212 miles)
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 26may110
The rain continued all night, I was nice and dry in my tent, but when it came to strike camp, obviously I was packing up a very soggy tent. At least, dressed in my all weather bike gear, I was somewhat immune to the precipitation, but I would have rather been packing up in the dry. I also realised that I had a little problem - I had bought 5 bottles of whisky and only had space in the panniers for 2 of them. Well, I couldn't drink it and I certainly wasn't going to chuck it away. The solution was as obvious as it was brilliant - my trusty camp chair came in a nylon bag, so soon the chair was sacrificed to the great campsite skip and the nylon bag was filled with 3 of the bottles and loaded on the bike where the chair had previous been carried. Perfect! Suitably loaded up and I was off at 0729, headed to Port Askaig for the Cal Mac ferry to Kennacraig on the Mull of Kintyre. It was an uneventful ride to the ferry port and I was instructed to park up next to the crash barrier at the front of the queue and await boarding at about 0915 (making sure I got on the Kennacraig ferry and not the Jura one). 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 L71hcx10
Just before the ferry commenced boarding, the Jura ferry arrived filled with soggy, sweaty, lycra clad cyclists. They swarmed around me, jostling to be at the front of the queue to get on the ferry first. Ha! It was immense satisfaction when, they were brushed aside and I was called forward! Bloody well right too - it's about time these middleaged has beens learnt a little respect for serious mile munching K Bike proper two wheel riders. I was ushered forward right to the front of the ferry, but just to the port side. Once Heidi was suitably secured and strapped down, I made my way up to the coffee lounge. Of course, the soggy sweaty lycra brigade soon made it up their too and filled the place with their unpleasant odour and boring talk (mostly complete bollox - like going 60 mph up hill). I suffered in silence, drank my coffee and studied the next part of my route. A tedious 2 hours later, interrupted only by the ferry conducting a man overboard exercise and launching/recovering it's rescue boat, we had the call back to out vehicle as prepared to disembark. I unstrapped Heidi and, noticing that I was about to get a whole lane of traffic in front of me, I sneaked across lanes and followed the lead camper van off the ferry. 

I was headed to the seasonal ferry slipway at Claonaig and the ferry across to Lochranza on the Isle of Arran, but rather than taking the B8001 straight across the top of the Mull of Kintyre, my plan was to ride all the way down the western coastline on the A83, cut across to Campletown and then ride all the way back up the eastern coastline on the B842. This was definitely the long way around - 60 miles rather than the direct 5 miles, but these were not a roads that I had ridden before and they simply had to be done. Besides, I wasn't in a hurry - the Isle of Arran is not that big  (about 20 miles long by 10 miles wide)and I would have ample time to ride just about every road there later in the afternoon. So, down the Mull of Kintyre I went, singing the blooming annoying song over and over again. The weather was not particularly pleasant - dull low grey clouds scudding across the grey rain filled sky, wet roads under my tyres all the way and intermittent, squally, rain showers. Pity, it could have been quite a pretty and scenic ride with the rhododendrons in full bloom at the roadside. As it was I slogged down, slogged across and slogged back up again, but at least it had stopped raining by the time I reached the ferry queue at Claonaig.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Ir0umr10
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Goyruv10
The ferry was another of those first come first served services, but it was quiet and I only had 3 vehicles in front of me, so no drama getting on and I boarded the ferry for the 1350 crossing to Lochranza. Since it was just a 30 minute crossing, I remained with Heidi; it's quite an interesting experience trying to keep a heavy bike upright on a small ferry that it rocking a rolling through a bumpy seaway. However, no ill fate befell me and we soon docked in the shelter of Loch Ranza. I left the ferry and hung a left at the road junction ahead as I would be riding around Arran in a figure of eight in clockwise direction. Starting on the A814, once I had cleared the ferry traffic, it was a lovely ride around to Brodick, passing the Arran distillery (very busy looking - I didn't stop as I really had no more space for any more bottles) and skirting to the east of the 874m mountain, Goatfell.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla59 
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla62[url=https://servimg.com/view/19963008/431]Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla63[/url]
Just before Brodick, I turned right onto the B880 "The String" a scenic road (better than many A roads I had been on) that cut across Arran from east to west coast. I was to ride the string several more times before I was done for the day! Riding west, the road rises steeply, through some fast bends, to the high point and then drops steadily down the other side to Blackwaterfoot. The weather was, as ever decidedly changeable - blue sky and sunshine one minute and grey and menacing the next. I had a few spits of rain as I rode, but mostly it held off and the roads dried out quickly.

Maintaining my figure 8 circuit, I dropped down the west coast and around the bottom of Arran following a minor road that offered some great views down to the small islet of Pladda, standing proud just of the south coast. Heading back up the east coast, through the towns of Whiting Bay and Lamlash, I had great views of Holy Island lying in the Firth of Clyde to my east. I had had an interesting experience diving on wreck of a WW1 Admiralty Hired trawler (HMT Trygon)
that had sunk off Holy Island following a collision in 1919 many years ago. It was a deep wreck - 60 m to the deck, but on the memorable occasion, we missed the wreck and ended up on the muddy seabed at 65m. I vividly remembered seeing my bubbles going down and thinking "that's a bad sign, bubbles are not supposed to go down"! In actual fact, due to the effect of nitrogen narcosis, I had become disorientated and was lying on the seabed looking up, but thinking I was looking down. I was seriously lucky to survive and make it back to the surface without injury, a little wiser for the experience!

I rode The String again and this time turned right just before Blackwaterfoot and headed up the west coast and back to Lochranza to complete my figure eight circuit. Just before Lochranza, a red squirrel darted across the road in front of me. Luckily I had more road sense and better brakes than him and just avoided running him over. Red squirrels are an endangered species in the UK, their population having been decimated by disease and completion created by the American grey squirrel that some loon brought back to the UK. I would have felt really bad if I had squashed the critter, but with road sense like that, I suspect the introduction of the grey squirrel isn't the only reason behind their scarcity. From Lochranza, it was a case of riding the A814 again around Goatfell to Brodick and then back over to the west coast again via The String. The reason for this repartition was because I was planning to wild camp somewhere off The String or use the campsite that was just before dropping down to Blackwaterfoot. However, I couldn't find anywhere suitable to wild camp (usual problem of getting the bike safely off the road). I then thought about the soggy tent that I had put away on Islay that morning. I had an early ferry back to the mainland the next day and I wondered if I really wanted to have the hassle of camping again. I stopped in Blackwaterfoot and looked for alternative accommodation on my iPad and found a really nice Bed & Breakfast that was reasonably priced close by. In moments I was booked in and on my way to a comfortable night - I hoped it wouldn't be a repeat of my first night in Inverness a week before! I needed have worried, it was one of those places where every little detail has been thought of and nothing was too much trouble. Accommodation sorted, my next issue was finding somewhere to eat. The B&B owner suggested the big hotel on the sea front, but they claimed that they were fully booked. There was no where else in town to eat, so it was back on the bike again and I rode The String in the opposite direction back to Brodick. Wow, what a difference going the other way makes - as you come over the top going east, you get stunning views down the Glen and across the Firth of Clyde. Apart from food, I also needed fuel so planned to stop of at a convenient petrol station somewhere on route.
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Scotla65
I had punched a couple of restaurant options into my GPS, but someone, somewhere was having a laugh - I followed the directions, but there was absolutely nothing where the restaurants were supposed to be! I could find anywhere suitable in Brodick, so ended up riding back to Lamlash where I found a busy little pub. They were fully booked, but said that they could squeeze me if, if I was going to be done by 1900. I had no problem with that (as long as they served me promptly). I enjoyed one of the choices off the specials board then watched in amusement as, one by one, the specials were rubbed off - I wondered what the people who booked the table for later were going to eat? Still not my problem, I was long gone before they arrived! Rather than ride The String yet again - it's a nice biking road, but sometimes, you can kick the pants out of something, I plotted a route that took me a little south of Lamlash and then over to the west coast on a single track, minor road called The Ross. What a gem of a road The Ross was. Largely neglected by the flow of traffic that used The String, this rough little road twisted and turned, climbed steeply and dropped quickly and was scenic as any I had ridden over the previous week. A perfect end to an interesting day. I got back to my B&B and parked my bike off the road on a concrete area of hardstanding at the back of the property where the B&B owner had suggested I park rather than the rather public loose stone parking area at the side of the property. This was great as it meant I could safely leave everything on the bike overnight and just take my backpack inside with me. The only problem was that I hadn't found a petrol station that was open and Heidi was very low on fuel - it could be an interesting ride to the ferry the next day!

Agggh post too long to post...part 4 will have to have an epilogue!


__________________________________________________
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Uk-log10 Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Sco-lo15 Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Eu-log10
                              Paul  Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 905546712

"Heidi" K100LT 1991 (Grey) (VIN 0190172 Engine No. 104EB 2590 2213) - 5th owner. January 2014 (34,000 - 61,000 miles and counting....)
"Gretel" K100LT 1989 (Silver Grey) (VIN 0177324 Engine No. 104EA 2789 2211) - 4th+ owner. September 2015 (58,500miles and counting....). Cat C Insurance write-off rebuild Feb 17
"Donor" K100LT 1990 (Red)  (VIN 0178091 Engine No. 4489 2024) - 6th & final owner (crash write-off now donor bike).   June 2012 (73,000 miles) to November 2013 (89,500 miles)
    

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Epilogue (post was too long to include the final day)

Day 10: Monday 27 May 2019:  Isle of Arran to home via Dumfries and Galloway (462miles)
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 27may111

I was booked on the 0820 Cal Mac ferry from Brodick to Ardrossan on the mainland and needed to be there no later than 0750. I had had a good nights sleep and was refreshed and ready for the long ride home. It had been a good choice to opt for a B&B for my final night. I was going to be away before breakfast officially started in the B&B, but the owner had kindly left out milk, juice and cereals for me. Breakfast done, I quietly left the property and (again, thankful for quiet pipes) manoeuvred Heidi onto the road. At 0638 I was on my way to Brodick - another trip on the now very familiar String. It was a bank holiday Monday, so the roads were even quieter that they would have been on a work day and I made good time across to Brodick and parked up at the end of the empty traffic lanes. I could see the first ferry of the day (0700 departure) only a mile or so out at sea. If I had been a little earlier, I probably could have caught that one. Still, no worries, I was certainly in good time for the ferry that I had been booked on. I had been nervously watching my fuel gauge on the ride across and it was now firmly in the red. I used the time to look for the nearest petrol station in Ardrossan - fortunately there was a ASDA supermarket petrol station within a quarter of a mile of the ferry port. I reckoned that I had just about enough fuel left to make it, or at least get off the ferry and push Heidi there. Reassured, I went into the Cal Mac waiting room and bought a cup of coffee from the vending machine. Cars, trucks and another motor bike all rolled up while I was waiting, so I strolled back down to Heidi to await the arrival of the ferry from Ardrossan. I chatted to the other biker, an old guy who was taking his bike to the mainland to get its MoT (annual inspection) and then followed him onto the ferry. I was directed to one side of the ship and he to the other, both at the bow. I started to manoeuvre between the tie down points but the deck hand shook his head and got me to park close to to the bulkhead. I asked him about strapping the bike down but in his infinite wisdom said that there was no need as it was only a short crossing (just under and hour). Instead he just tied a rope lashing to the frame. I wasn't convinced that that was at all adequate and when he had gone, made Heidi more secure. I made my way to the lounge and bought a proper breakfast. Cereal had been enough to get me going, but was unlikely to ge me all the way home.

We docked in Ardrossan on time (Heidi was none the worse for the crossing) and gingerly I rode down the ramp, expecting the engine to cough and splutter in protest as soon as I started heading off. I could see the super market petrol station from the ferry...just a few more metres. Phew, I made it but must have been on vapours judging my the amount of fuel it took to fill the tank. My route home was initially via the coast road, the A77, past Stranraer and then the A75 to Dumfries and on to the M6 motorway just north of Carlisle. It wasn't the shortest route, but took in a large swath of Scotland that I wouldn't have otherwise got to see. To start with, it was a perfect biking road (apart form the speed cameras), but traffic got heavier and heavier between Dumfries and the motorway until it was virtually at a standstill. Proper bank holiday traffic jams - this was the downside of travelling home on a bank holiday, especially one at the start of the school half term holiday. Fortunately, being on a bike though did allow me to get past much of the standing traffic and, while it did reduce my average speed, at least I was still moving at a reasonable rate which is more than can be said for the tin boxes.

I joined the M6 motorway, pointed Heidi southwards and opened the throttle to cruising speed. The motorway traffic was mostly OK, slowing to 50mph for a few sections of roadworks and the dreaded "average speed cameras". The section through the Lake District is almost pleasant, but thereafter it is just one big, busy commuter road and not particularly enjoyable on a motor bike. It was means to an end though - I was due back to work the next day and I really didn't have the time to take a meandering route home the way that I had on my journey north. I made good time, with a couple of stops for fuel and a leg stretch and rolled up to my home at 1650. It had taken me just over 10 hours to get home (including an hour on the ferry).

Heidi had performed faultlessly throughout the 10 day trip. Together we had covered 2978 miles from leaving home (3574 miles if you include the shakedown excursion to Lands End, via Gosport, the week before) and all she needed was fuel. I was glad that I had had to change the shock absorber before the trip - a pain at the time, but there was no way the failing one would have survived those roads. The only temporary issues I had suffered were stiff knees and left hand fatigue from operating Heidi's heavy clutch when riding for many hours.  After I got back, while helping out a friend locally with his K75 cafe racer and investigating his claim of a stiff clutch, I looked at Heidi's (which has always been stiff to operate) and decided to reroute her clutch cable down the left side of the frame (to match Gretel's). What an amazing difference that made - I just wish I had done that before I went to Scotland.

All in all my North Coast 500 plus adventure had been everything I had hoped that it would be. I had been reasonably lucky with the weather; some rain some sunshine too. It is a long way to go though and next time I head up that way, I will definitely break my journey around the borders region. Now I am looking forward to my next adventure, I just don't know where it will be to or when it will be! 

Fini 
(phew - thank goodness for that - writing down my account was a slog in its own right, but it gave me a chance to relive the experiences all over again).


__________________________________________________
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Uk-log10 Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Sco-lo15 Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Eu-log10
                              Paul  Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 905546712

"Heidi" K100LT 1991 (Grey) (VIN 0190172 Engine No. 104EB 2590 2213) - 5th owner. January 2014 (34,000 - 61,000 miles and counting....)
"Gretel" K100LT 1989 (Silver Grey) (VIN 0177324 Engine No. 104EA 2789 2211) - 4th+ owner. September 2015 (58,500miles and counting....). Cat C Insurance write-off rebuild Feb 17
"Donor" K100LT 1990 (Red)  (VIN 0178091 Engine No. 4489 2024) - 6th & final owner (crash write-off now donor bike).   June 2012 (73,000 miles) to November 2013 (89,500 miles)
    

25Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Sun Jul 14, 2019 9:29 pm

Stan

Stan
Life time member
Life time member
Once again a magnificent account of a slice of your life and travels. I bet no whisky was damaged along the way and you remained sober at all times. Thank you for sharing your life with us.


__________________________________________________
1983 K100 basic vin 0003960 colour red  GONE
1987 K100RT vin 0094685 colour, orange peel, sorry, pearl..GONE
F800R black
    

26Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Sun Jul 14, 2019 10:19 pm

caveman

caveman
Silver member
Silver member
BAE Paul,
Thanks for taking the time to share this trip. Being an ex sea fairing fellow " The whitewashed buildings of the whisky distilleries at Ardmore, Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig"  
whould have been a beacon to my vessel. I like the way you go about your planning. I have no problem getting an early start but it just lets me get lost earlier (strangely I never had trouble navigating at sea) so most times I never make it to where I thought I was going?

If you get back this way (when it isn't snowing) I would be glad to take you (I've got spare bikes) around the hills here.

    

27Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Mon Jul 15, 2019 12:23 pm

Born Again Eccentric

Born Again Eccentric
Life time member
Life time member
@caveman wrote:If you get back this way (when it isn't snowing) I would be glad to take you (I've got spare bikes) around the hills here.
You’re on Greg - I just need my work to bring me over at a warmer time of year...or plan a proper visit on my own. The offer of the use of a spare bike is much appreciated.

I rely heavily (but not exclusively) on my GPS for not getting lost, but am always ready to ad lib on the route if something catches my eye. The Scotland ride would have been hard work without a GPS and it is useful for knowing how far you have to go and time of arrival, in case I need to modify my route on the hoof (especially when going for a ferry sailing etc.). I had an old fashioned paper map with me too, just in case but didn’t need to use it.


__________________________________________________
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Uk-log10 Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Sco-lo15 Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Eu-log10
                              Paul  Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 905546712

"Heidi" K100LT 1991 (Grey) (VIN 0190172 Engine No. 104EB 2590 2213) - 5th owner. January 2014 (34,000 - 61,000 miles and counting....)
"Gretel" K100LT 1989 (Silver Grey) (VIN 0177324 Engine No. 104EA 2789 2211) - 4th+ owner. September 2015 (58,500miles and counting....). Cat C Insurance write-off rebuild Feb 17
"Donor" K100LT 1990 (Red)  (VIN 0178091 Engine No. 4489 2024) - 6th & final owner (crash write-off now donor bike).   June 2012 (73,000 miles) to November 2013 (89,500 miles)
    

28Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Mon Jul 15, 2019 6:48 pm

Snod Blatter

Snod Blatter
Life time member
Life time member
Really enjoyed this, it brought back a lot of memories of going right round back in 2014 on the ol' CB250. When it's back on the road I think a trip like this will definitely be on the cards, a proper shakedown! The road around the east lobe of Skye is phenomenal in clear weather when there's little traffic (When I went in April 2017 it was much quieter) but I do hear that Skye is busy through the summer which ruins it.

The smaller islands look fantastic too, I've not been to any of them but will do at some point!


__________________________________________________
1989 K100RS SE ABS 8v  VIN: 0149214
Others: 1.5 x Honda CBX250RS-E, '94 CB250, '95 TRX850, '16 Z250SL
http://justbikethings.blogspot.co.uk/
    

29Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Tue Jul 16, 2019 6:26 pm

Born Again Eccentric

Born Again Eccentric
Life time member
Life time member
@Snod Blatter wrote:Really enjoyed this, it brought back a lot of memories of going right round back in 2014 on the ol' CB250. When it's back on the road I think a trip like this will definitely be on the cards, a proper shakedown! The road around the east lobe of Skye is phenomenal in clear weather when there's little traffic (When I went in April 2017 it was much quieter) but I do hear that Skye is busy through the summer which ruins it.

The smaller islands look fantastic too, I've not been to any of them but will do at some point!
Thanks Snodders.
Proper “shake down’ - on some of those roads, you sure get a good shaking. Yeah, I was disappointed with Skye and that was all down to the weathering the day I was there. Traffic is an issue but only in comparison with all the virtually deserted roads I had the pleasure of. On a good day, it would be amazing. Islands are good and not too expensive on the ferrys either, but takes a bit of pre-planning.


__________________________________________________
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Uk-log10 Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Sco-lo15 Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Eu-log10
                              Paul  Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 905546712

"Heidi" K100LT 1991 (Grey) (VIN 0190172 Engine No. 104EB 2590 2213) - 5th owner. January 2014 (34,000 - 61,000 miles and counting....)
"Gretel" K100LT 1989 (Silver Grey) (VIN 0177324 Engine No. 104EA 2789 2211) - 4th+ owner. September 2015 (58,500miles and counting....). Cat C Insurance write-off rebuild Feb 17
"Donor" K100LT 1990 (Red)  (VIN 0178091 Engine No. 4489 2024) - 6th & final owner (crash write-off now donor bike).   June 2012 (73,000 miles) to November 2013 (89,500 miles)
    

30Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Tue Jul 16, 2019 6:32 pm

Born Again Eccentric

Born Again Eccentric
Life time member
Life time member
@Stan wrote:Once again a magnificent account of a slice of your life and travels. I bet no whisky was damaged along the way and you remained sober at all times. Thank you for sharing your life with us.
Thanks Stan.
 I can assure you that the 5 bottles of whiskey all safely made it home. As for remaining sober at all times...hmmm, I did make the most of my non riding day, but in a sensible, steady, drinking yourself sober sort of way.


__________________________________________________
Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Uk-log10 Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Sco-lo15 Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Eu-log10
                              Paul  Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 905546712

"Heidi" K100LT 1991 (Grey) (VIN 0190172 Engine No. 104EB 2590 2213) - 5th owner. January 2014 (34,000 - 61,000 miles and counting....)
"Gretel" K100LT 1989 (Silver Grey) (VIN 0177324 Engine No. 104EA 2789 2211) - 4th+ owner. September 2015 (58,500miles and counting....). Cat C Insurance write-off rebuild Feb 17
"Donor" K100LT 1990 (Red)  (VIN 0178091 Engine No. 4489 2024) - 6th & final owner (crash write-off now donor bike).   June 2012 (73,000 miles) to November 2013 (89,500 miles)
    

31Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Tue Jul 16, 2019 9:14 pm

Gaz

Gaz
Life time member
Life time member
I have finally had time to take in the last couple of chapters of your adventure Paul. Great trip.

Apart from the midges it sounds like a great area to visit.

Cheers


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Gaz
1990 K75 6427509; 1987 R80G/S PD 6292136; 2010 G650GS ZW13381; 95 K1100LT 0232224
    

32Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Grand Tour - Scotland May 2019 on Tue Jul 16, 2019 10:34 pm

Tom FKR

Tom FKR
Life time member
Life time member
Fantastic write up and pictures Paul. Thank you for sharing this trip with us. I wonder if your Midges are related to our or NZ sandflies??

Cheers Tom


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1993 K75 Slightly Modified
2010 BMW F650GS Twin
1992 R100R
    

33Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Wed Jul 17, 2019 8:54 am

moriarti

moriarti
Silver member
Silver member
What a great story so well written i could feel the midges myself.My first Honeymoon(don't ask)  was
 spent around Loch Lomond and Fort William on a velocet,your story brought back many happy memories of times gone by.Without knowing it you have touched places i had forgotten,for this a 
a very genuine ThankYou. Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 212902


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1984 k100 rs red/black VIN  0004449
    

34Back to top Go down   Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 Empty Re: Grand tour - Scotland May 2019 on Thu Jul 18, 2019 2:56 pm

Dai

Dai
Life time member
Life time member
Thanks Paul. I'm not fond of the heavily-peated Jura whiskies and much prefer the lighter whiskies from Isla. The Kilchoman distillery on Isla even managed to achieve something really remarkable; on finishing a bottle of Machair I found myself thinking 'hmm - I'd like another bottle of that'!


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'83 K100 upgraded to K100RS spec
Others...
'78 Moto Guzzi 850-T3, '79 Moto Guzzi 850-T3 California,'93 Moto Guzzi 1100ie California,
'03 Suzuki Blandit GSF600SK3 (NFS any more because wifey has claimed it)
    

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