Scotland on bikes is what holidays are made of. Following last year’s epic trip with a bunch of mates brought together by twitter we decided to do it all over again. Different routes, of course. Scotland has enough roads to keep going back and always discover new ones. You won’t get bored in a hurry.
I said goodbye to my travelling companion from yesterday and set south towards Palnackie to meet with Deli and her new steed. Last year she travelled around Scotland on her trusty Trumpet but sadly the engine had enough and Deli had to buy a shiny new bike – the SV650. She has travelled up a few days earlier and stopped on a boat for a couple of night. We decided to meet up first and ride together to meet with ‘the boys’ later in the day.
Deli knows the roads around the area and I was happy following her. It was a sunny day and we took our time riding towards Stirling to meet with the rest of the crew. We were the last to arrive and the other bikes were already lined up outside the hotel. The sound of our exhausts altered the others to our arrival and they all came outside to greet us.
Time for the introductions:
Deli and her brand new Suzuki SV650 (last year on Triumph Street Triple)
Paul on his trusted BMW GS800 (same as last year)
Roey on his new (to him) Aprillia RSV4 (last year on an Africa Twin)
Daz on his new BMW S1000R (last year on a Triumph Tiger)
Jules on his BMW S1000RR (same as last year but with a luggage system, no more backpack)
And of course me on my trusty Bella (Ducati Supersport S)
Due to the newfangled rules the restaurant in the hotel wasn’t opened so we hired a minibus to take us to Stirling central for a big meal and a beer or two. It was fantastic to see everyone together again and Deli won the evening by producing a badge for each of us with Gavin, our entertainer from last year’s evening at Loch Carron. A must watch if you haven’t seen the video yet https://majasmotorcycleadventures.co.uk/2019/10/13/day-5-of-the-most-bizarre-evening-entertainment-ever-trip-to-scotland/
A quick minibus ride back to the hotel and we retired at a reasonable hour excited about the next day.
Day 1 – Stirling to Inverness (30th July 2020)
The restaurant still wasn’t open until the evening and Deli needed her first service done on the new bike so while she headed to Falkirk the rest of us found a garden centre for breakfast. Not the best choice, as we’ve found out, the food was just about edible and the service was awful but we were hungry and waiting for Deli.
As soon as we could, we headed towards Inverness, our base for the two nights. The weather wasn’t kind on the day, it was cold and raining. No, it wasn’t just raining, it was absolutely pissing it down and the ride over the Duke’s Pass sure was filled with adrenalin. Just not in the kind of way you’d like it to be. Another road to mark and ride again in better weather, well worth a visit – beautiful scenery and a fun, challenging and well-maintained road.
We fuelled at The Green Welly Stop and took refuge in a diner across the road where we indulged in cake and coffee and I used the toilet’s hand dryer to dry some of my clothes off. User error – I forgot to tuck my layers inside my trousers and the water slowly but surely soaked my t-shirt and thermal layer up to my bra line!
After the break, we headed over to Glencoe which we rode last year and I was really looking forward to it. A compulsory photo stopped turned into a race against the midges and preventing them from getting inside the helmet. Paul warned us about them but as I’ve never experienced the Scottish midges before I didn’t know what to expect. It wasn’t pleasant! I’m sure my average speed for the day was faster just because of the way I rode away from the midgets.
The road leading to Glencoe through its valley is full of waterfalls, especially on a rainy day like we’ve had, fantastic wide road with flowing bends and peaks such as Buachaille Etive Mor. A compulsory stop for a photo with the white cottage was made to carry on the tradition Deli and Roey started a while ago.
Our group has split into two, the sporty boys went ahead during the photo stops and we met up at Fort William in the car park of the very fancy restaurant with yellow arches (no, I didn’t eat there). After that, we carried on riding towards Inverness, still raining and arrived there in the evening.
Day 2 – Inverness to John O’Groats to Inverness (31st July 2020)
We stopped in Inverness for two nights which meant today was a luggage-free day and our route took us all the way to the top of the world. Or John O’Groats and Dunnet Head which is as north as it gets on the British Isle without falling off it.
On the way north we stopped at Dunrobin Castle but only four of us as Daz and Jules on their BMWs decided to carry on and wait for us further up the road. The rest of us took a short stroll around the castle and Deli and I blagged our way in for free to check the plumbing in the ladies’ room was working.
The Castle is the historic home of the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland with the earliest part of the building dating from around 1275. It resembles a French chateau which makes it for an impressive sight when you arrive to it down the long drive.
The coastal road to John O’Groats was a steady ride, the sun was shining and the skies were blue. We made it to the top, took photos, added stickers to the board and found somewhere to eat.
Daz and Jules eventually caught up with us having gotten bored of waiting for us and found a jet wash to clean their bikes instead. Roey was developing a headache, we all suspected it was due to his noisy exhaust on his sexy Aprilia which meant he got no sympathy from any of us.
After lunch, we followed the coastal road heading west towards Castletown and stopping at Rock Rose Gin Distillery where Deli and I may have stocked up on a few goodies. Paul, Deli and I decided to ride to Dunnet Head, the most northern point of the island, which rewarded us with stunning views of the lighthouse and the cliffs which made Deli dizzy and even I felt a bit wobbly sitting on the edge.
We headed back to Inverness, fuelled up in Thurso where we were followed by a group of young cyclists that fell in love with Bella (obvs!). Who’d have thought it that a sticker each made them happier than sweets or money!
From Thurso, we picked up the A9 heading back south. Deli and I peeled off to Dunbeath for a short detour to the Marina before we all regrouped in Inverness again for the evening meal and a beer or two.
Day 3 – Inverness to Ullapool (1st August 2020)
I think I can safely say for the whole group that this was the highlight of the trip. Bags were loaded on the bikes again, the sun was out and we headed up north again. This time towards Lairg in search of a decent breakfast. Due to Covid regulations breakfast at the hotel was minimal and pretty poor so we were all hungry. The only thing I abused slightly was the coffee machine.
We found a shop in Ardgay (much to the amusement of some of the group members) that made us yummy bacon and sausage sandwiches with great coffee. We also stopped for some photos of the Dornoch Firth and Bonar Bridge (I am not making these names up!).
The A836 carried on over the tops of the hills with fantastic views and plenty of photo opportunities (for me anyway, not ideal for testing the patience of the rest of the group).
At Tongue we joined the NC500 route heading west over the Kyle of Tongue and around Loch Eriboll, taking in the views at Durness beach and continuing to Oldshoremore. Paul, Deli and I took the detour to Oldshoremore while Jules, Roey and Daz decided to carry on enjoying the A838. Some say they loved it so much they rode it three times that day.
Some 200 miles from our morning destination we’ve arrived in Ullapool, checked in to our hotels and regrouped outside a pub. We didn’t hang around for too long because we were attacked by the midges and we quickly downed our drinks then ran to the restaurant we’ve prebooked for some good food and wine.
Day 4 – Ullapool to Elgin (2nd August 2020)
Our first stop was not far from Ullapool at the Corrieshalloch gorge which is not for the faint-hearted but well worth a stop and a walk over the suspension bridge.
The coffee at the hotel was just disgusting and I was doing well to keep my grumpy self in check while keeping my eyes peeled for a good cafe en-route. Finally, at Poolewe I spotted a horsebox that was converted into a little cafe and we all stopped there to ensure grumpy Maja doesn’t appear and for Roey to share some love (as ever).
The route took us past some wonderful views, roads and sights, we crossed Inverness and rode to Elgin where we stopped for the night.
Day 5 – Elgin to Stirling (3rd August 2020)
Somehow my mouth said yes before my brain thought it through when Roey, Jules and Daz said they’ll get up early and ride to Lossiemouth early in the morning to try and catch some flights from the RAF base there. For a change, I was waiting for them at 7 am in the car park. Ok, not for long but that’s not the point. Since no one could be bothered to go back to the room to leave the disk locks there we made sure Paul’s GS was extra secure and hoped he doesn’t decide to go out for an early morning ride too (he didn’t, phew).
Hanging around the viewpoint for a while we realised we are not in luck to see any planes so we rode to the lighthouse to take in the view and back to the hotel for breakfast and to regroup with Paul and Deli.
The Queen requested Bella’s presence for coffee and cake and then double-booked herself so instead, we carried on to Braemar where we found a wonderful cafe for our lunch.
After lunch, I discovered my most favourite road on the tour – the A93. Something about the road that Bella and I just connected so well, the views were stunning and I, for a chance, decided to ride for the road and not the views and photos which means I will have to go back with the camera soon.
We turned off to ride one of the most picturesque and the most dangerous roads in Perthshire – the U173 that runs from Kenmore to Amulree, through Glen Quaich. It is usually closed in winter due to adverse winter weather conditions and therefore poses a likelihood of danger to the public. Luckily on this day, the road was clear, in a fairly good condition and the views were worth heading over for. A few switchbacks on the way up and down make the ride quite technical, almost Swiss Alpine pass like, and they certainly add to the excitement. I can see how it becomes impassable with snow on the ground.
We regrouped and stopped at Kenmore by Loch Tay for a leg stretch and a short break.
A 232.5-mile trip today was my second favourite day of the whole trip.
Day 6 – Stirling and home (4th August 2020)
Going home. After saying a heartfelt goodbye to Paul, who sadly decided this was his last motorcycling trip and has since sold his bike to make room for new experiences (a camper van and a dog were mentioned), the 5 of us, all wrapped up and in our waterproofs, headed south towards our homes.
We didn’t get very far when Jules’ BMW brought up an engine fault (again) on the motorway so we formed an orderly queue on the hard shoulder and rode at 50 mph towards the first exit. We ended up at a petrol station waiting for the recovery van. Time was getting on and since I had the furthest to go I decided to carry on, given Jules won’t have been abandoned on his own. Deli decided to ride with me and we rode steadily in an almighty downpour to Southwaite Services for a break. On leaving the services Deli noticed a flat tyre on her bike, she called the recovery and I set off on my way.
A completely epic trip even more important because it was the last with the same group and we were super happy that we managed to squeeze it in despite all the covid restrictions. We’ve made amazing memories that will stay with us forever ❤️