Sat 1st June
My first motorbike trip since Clive died. A friend suggested this trip and it appealed as the dates suited. Trip round the north of Scotland. I did not really think about the weather just that the dates suited. Running the orchard by myself this is the only time I could have a little time off…Today I set off at lunchtime to go by Stewart’s house before we both headed up to Scotch corner for the night. Stewart had heard about the trip and decided that he would give this tour a go. Having ridden bikes all his life he had , nevertheless, never done a tour. This is just going to be a simple round Scotland trip. We set off in lovely weather and reached our Travel lodge in good time. Basic rooms but nice meal in nice pub in Middleton Tyas.
Sunday June 2nd
Stewart wants me to lead. We head over to the east on the A66 and then up north to Glasgow. We are to meet up and start the tour from Balloch on Loch Lomand. Stewart seemed reluctant to go down ordinary roads as opposed to motorway. We did well and reached our hotel. We called in at Appleby as the fair is going to begin in a few days but they had not started to arrive yet…they being the travellers with their horses.Supper with everyone. We are 5 plus our leader . I am on a tour called the Highlander. 5 guys and me. Four BMWs, two Hondas and one Triumph motorcycles.
Mon 3rd June
Off we go , up Glencoe. The weather is not good. Raining, cold and windy. Really pretty nasty for motorbiking. Not that pleasurable! Stewart is not enjoying it, he starts going pretty slowly and dropping behind. There is quite a lot of traffic. But things improve as we head down again to Loch Ness. Still on and off wet but we get our boat ride on the Loch which is pleasant and then head off up and round the otherside to an hotel in Whitebridge. Stewart chats on the boat and tells us he suffers from vertigo and is not enjoying the rolling and bendy roads. My white Honda is admired by some young in the boat carpark much to John the leaders disgust as he is proud of his BMW!!
We have a good meal in the hotel at Whitebridge chatting to Stewart about his biking and vertigo problems. We hope he will give it another day at least. I have been having thoughts about Clive…we have been here…
Tues June 4th
Off we all go. Persuaded Stewart to give it another day… we set off on this lovely road. Stewart is ahead of me and is we top a lovely rise with Loch Ness below me I realise that Stewart will not manage. The day is good, the weather is good and the view is wonderful but Stewart cannot handle it. He is suffering from vertigo that will not go away. You can see from his bike speed and handling. He does keep going for a while and then suddenly pulls aside in a lay by. I stop, the rest carry on. He is going to pull out. It is for the best and I do not try and stop him. We depart in opposite ways. I catch up and on we go. Stewart heads for home and gets there on Wednesday evening.We head for Eilean Donon. Quick trip round there and then on to the Isle of Skye which we circle pretty well and definitely the north bit till we catch a ferry to Raasay for out evenings hotel stop at the Raasay Distillary. It’s very modern and has very comfortable beds. We eat next door in a separate spot. The motorbiking dynamics have changed in the group since Stewart’s departure. Enjoyed the half an hour ferry out and back…..
Wed June 5th
Up promptly to make sure we caught the ferry back at 8.55am Weather so so and in the next hour or two it spat. Not warm either. We head north but via Applecross. Plenty of people there. So many more than when Clive and I came a few years ago. Road seems better but perhaps I am more used to funny little roads. The guys have been anxious about this little road over the mountain…could they make the 3 hairpin bends?! On we go after lunch, in the cafe and not the Inn, along with plenty of other motorcyclists. The road along the coast to Ullapool is very pretty. Wide in places, narrow in others we do a lot of weaving along. Not busy but enough cars to have to think about the passing places in the narrow sections. Many memories of Clive flood in as I think of us coming on this road. We went in the opposite direction.The weather is plain cold…about 9c. It does not really rain but I have all the gear on. Shame not sunny or warmer. We reach Ullapool and the Ferryboat Inn. Intended to have a walk but not time before eating also it rained a bit. Basic place but lively in the bar and later a lady came and played the fiddle and various guys sang very well. I chatted to a couple from Ireland who owned 22 horses!!
Thurs June 6th
John is the tour leader. He is a serving armed response officer with the Cornish Constabulary. Then we have Paul, who I have met before, a long time ago, on a BMW tour. He is a man of leisure…retired. Joe, who is a carpenter, not tall of stature and riding a Triumph and then there is Phil, who has been with John before and is an airline pilot flying with Flybe. He has a BMW . And me!Off we go. It’s cold and cloudy, with the odd spot of rain. Have a wander round a ruined castle and ride some lovely little roads with passing places clinging to the coast. Very scenic. We have a quick look at Smoo cave. See very little wildlife but plenty of sheep and their lambs. We make tea/coffee stops in funny little cafes. Finally after 170 miles we reach Bettyhills where we stay the night. Busy hotel bar and a good meal. I play pool badly and even worse darts.
Fri 7th June
Wake up to blue skies…wow. We have an easy day riding down the coast after visiting both Dunnets head and John O Groats. Neither place was too busy and we got some nice photos of the group. Usual kind of tourist thing by the John O Groats sign post. Main road was not too busy till we neared Inverness. We went on down to Grantown on Spey for the night in The Grant’s Arms. A splendid old style hotel. Each night John gives us penalty points for minor misdemeanors like stalling because the side stand is down when you engage first gear. Such excitement!! We have a bug sticker on the front of the bike to see who will get the highest score of big hits. All will be revealed on our last night.
Sat 8th June
Our last day as we head off to Edinburgh. Again, lovely road until it rained as we hit the motorway. Several of us were also pretty low on petrol and first Joe stopped off in a motorway services as the rest of us went on and then Paul got fed up with filtering and stopped to fill up. I plugged on realising I should just get there and Phil and John had huge tanks on their GSA’s. Not knowing Edinburgh I do not know where this hotel is but it has a Bollywood film crew here and is called Braids Hill.After we have settled in, we all get in a taxi and head off to the Golden Mile to go to the Whisky Distillery Experience. We go on the full tour and taste a number of whiskys. I am not a lover of whisky at all but it was all very interesting including the amazing whisky collection which fills the walls of a very large room. At the end of the tour we proceeded onwards to have a meal there. It was extremely good and all part of our motorcycle tour. A very good end. Back to hotel where filming was still in full swing. John gave the prize for least “points” during the week to Joe who also celebrated his birthday this day.
Sun 9th June
Bye to everyone as we split to head home in our own ways. I head to Irvine to visit the maritime museum there as part of my research of The Centipede..my Mark 11 airborne lifeboat. This boat was part of my early family history, my Dad having bought it in 1959 and kept it till 1978 where upon it ended up in Duxford RAF museum. There it languished, utterly neglected and vandalised until I eventually got hold of it…probably for my sins!The boat at Irvine was a Mark 1, 24ft long, not restored and very altered from it’s original use in WW11. Interesting museum though and worth a visit.I then head on homeward and reach my AirB&B south of Kendal. Nice late lunch stop in Keswick in the TWA Dog Inn where a lovely old bunch of people were playing all their instruments and singing along.Supper in a pub up the road to which I walked.
Mon 10th June
I was on the road at 7am in order to try and beat the rain. It was dry for at least 3 hours so not bad. Stopping in a petrol station I put on my waterproofs in preparation for the worst and 10 mins later it started. The A17 was particularly horrid with lorries and much traffic. Two hours in the rain and I got home.
For the next 24 hours I got through emails, had a hair cut, got the bike MOT’d, saw to caravaners and a bit more. I left to go to Sam at 3pm on Tuesday afternoon. It did not rain but was pretty cold.
Wed 12th June
Left Sam and Emma at 8.30am to catch Red funnel ferry to Isle of Wight from Southampton. Having landed at Cowes I headed straight to the Classic boat museum. This did not go to plan. The museum was shut due to lack of volunteers! BUT a phone call to “Rosemary” and I was able to go to the boat shed museum and see their Mark 1 abl. It is in very good order with many artifacts. We chatted and she was helpful and knowledgeable but definitely had not seen a Mark 2 like the Centipede. I had a bit of a walk round East Cowes, gone across the river in the floating bridge ( chain ferry) and had a great conversation with a couple who had watched Great Black Backed gulls kill a young Raven on the wing and wound another. Rather amazing….the wounded one was in the car about to go off to a sanctuary.Museums done, I headed to St Helen’s where Centipede was built. Boat yard has gone but possibly I found the spot…ie some sheds!! Bembridge held dim memories and then I went down the coast to Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor, and then turned inland to my Air B and B in Newport. Traffic already building for the Isle of Wight festival this weekend. Walked into town and ate at The man in the moon ..a Wetherspoons place. Very busy and not bad. Called in at another pub and slowly had a glass of wine while it poured with rain and I watched an anorexic woman at the bar and the complete opposite in a man near me who was enormous, constantly pulling his trousers up and his huge t shirt down. Scurried back home in the rain.
Thurs 13th June
I am in no hurry today. A day wandering round the Isle of Wight. I headed down to the south coast and then westward to the Needles. A southwest gale was blowing with bits of rain. The Needles was free parking for motorbikes which was something but as for the visitor attraction…it left me cold. It’s just a cliff top. Chairlift excitement!! 200 steps up and down the cliff . I did 800 in Vietnam to look at a statue…. Anyway, did the steps to the beach and back and then walked to the old battery near the actual needles. Wind howled and it was fun to look at a yacht struggling round the point.Then meandered my way along the coast to East Cowes to have a bit of lunch…..soup. Back to my AirB&B. Enjoyed the relaxation…my only wish that the weather was better and that I had some better walking shoes with me.
Fri 14th June
Ferry off the Isle of Wight and then to Bev, an old friend of Clive’s. It was very nice to see here again and chat about Clive. Finally on to Jane in Cheddar . Had an excellent meal in her local modernised huge pub.
Sat 15th June
Its straight back home. Could have taken more time over the trip but the weather is still very disappointing and there is no point enjoying the non existent sunshine. Motorway a lot of the way….boring!!
Motorbike was great but will have to be changed. Too heavy for me on my own….