Earlier this month LincsGeek and I headed on our annual motorcycle trip with our two friends Paul and Rick. This year we decided to head up to Scotland, via Northumberland on the way up and Carlisle on the way back. We love Scotland and have had the pleasure of holidaying and touring in various parts of the country before.
This time around we based ourselves close to Aviemore in the Cairngorms, somewhere we’d ridden through very quickly on the last day of the Graham Homes Memorial Ride and, in fact, equally as quickly on the way up to John O Groat’s to start our JOGLE trip. On both occasions we’d used the fast A9 to make our way through the area as fast as possible, enjoying the views but having no time to stop or make any kind of detour from the main road. Having four nights in this mountainous area would give us what we missed, the chance to explore, ride mountain passes, sit quietly by lochs, make sure the sea was still there, and do it all at a leisurely pace.
Here are my highlights of our Scotland by Motorbike trip…
Day 1 – Lincoln to Ashington
We took the direct route up to the Humber Bridge before peeling off to take the coastal route to Bridlington (fishcake and chips in paper by the sea for lunch) and up to Whitby.
Rick rides an old R80RT which is getting on for classic status, and when his clutch cable frayed just outside Guisborough we stopped in a lane on the side of the road and replaced the cable (of course he had packed a spare; he was the least lightly packed of all of us!). Thankfully being an old bike the tank was off within a few seconds, the old cable came out easily, and while the new cable didn’t want to play ball to start with the men (I was naturally given the task of holding things and taking photographs) did manage to get Rick’s bike sorted within the hour. A guy on a cruiser and another guy in a van stopped to give us a hand; something that seems to only happen when you’re on a motorbike – people are always willing to stop and check you are ok, and offer assistance where needed. I hope I would do the same for someone else, although I know I couldn’t advise on the changing of a clutch cable!
Once back on the road we headed through the Tyne Tunnel and up to Ashington, where the Premier Inn we stayed in is within the grounds of a beautiful country park with a lake and lots of wildlife.
Day 2 – Ashington to Feshiebrdge
When we go on a trip like this we take it in turns to plan our route and lead from the front. Today was my turn and I had planned a long and winding route for us to enjoy, taking the coastal route from Ashington to Edinburgh, and then once over the Forth Road Bridge and off the motorway at Perth, up and over the Cairngorms for some mountain passes.
The best bit of the day was riding over Glenshee, which was simply stunning. The cloud came down as we rode up but it didn’t matter, the mountains still provided awe inspiring views. We stopped at the Glenshee mountain centre for a hot chocolate and tried to work out how the ski run we could see in front of us could possibly be a green… must be less steep in the snow. From there the road continued to wind and undulate all the way to Feshiebridge where we were lodging. The most memorable bit was probably a rather pointy bridge with a particularly blind summit – I’m certain anything longer than our bikes would have beached on the brow!
We ran to a loch-side restaurant (well walked really REALLY fast, because when we phoned to book a table they wanted us there within half an hour and we hadn’t taken our bike gear yet) and sat overlooking the beautiful Loch Insh and ate rather well. If you’re in the area the Loch Insh Boathouse Restaurant is a great place for a meal, I recommend it, but make sure you phone ahead, and remember that in the week they shut the kitchen at 8pm.
Day 3 – Culloden, Fort George, Nairn
After two days of 260 miles a piece we decided on a “just one tank of fuel” day (one of Rick’s tanks, anyway, always work on the smallest). We started with a walk to the river close to our losgings, which was absolutely stunning. We then headed north to Inverness to take a look at the Culloden Battlefield and then on to Fort George. Scotland was enjoying the UK-wide heatwave and we were enjoying the blue skies and warm weather for sure. On the way back to Feshiebridge we stopped at Nairn to check the sea was still there and get an ice cream. The A941 and A95 back was a glorious route, we all enjoyed that one.
Day 4 – Loch Ness, Ben Nevis
Back up towards Inverness but this time into the city and out the other side so we could ride down the length of Loch Ness to Fort William. Another road we’ve ridden before but without the luxury of time. We had a great run down with awesome views of the Loch (no monsters, though), until we caught up with a wide load which slowed things down somewhat. We stopped at the Nevis Range Mountain Centre and watched the mountain bikers come down the world cup downhill course. We took the A86 back to Aviemore which, again, was a really fab road for biking – winding but fast with some absolutely awesome scenery.
Day 5 – Lossiemouth
I am slightly obsessed with the sea and got my own way again today with a ride up and over to Lossiemouth for lunch. It was a surprising find with a sandy beach, great views of the ocean, a harbour with kids jumping in off the harbour wall (reminded me of my childhood summers down in Plymouth), and great fish and chips. The ride there and back was great, too, apart from the traffic in places but we dealt with that by turning off and going a different way. The Eurofighter playing about in the sky overhead was a treat.
Day 6 – Feshiebridge to Carlisle via Glen Coe
We woke up to heavy rain which we knew would be with us until Glasgow, which was a real shame as the A82 over Glencoe is officially my favourite road in the UK and the weather put a real dampener on it. I’m not afraid to admit that while the views were still spectacular, the wind and rain brought on feelings of disappointment. Even riding along the shores of Loch Lomond, where you are right by the water in places with views across to the mountains on the other side, were dingy. What an absolute shame. At least I know I’ve seen it in much better light and could use the views from my memory banks to keep me sane!
Once south of Glasgow we were free of the rain and warmed up quickly. We took the old A74 from Glasgow to Gretna Green which runs alongside the M74, unusually when the built the motorway they didn’t replace the old road, but rather declassified it (the B7076 in places) and left it there weaving either side of the six lane highway. A bizarre but pretty much traffic free route south, much nicer than sitting with the lorries on the straight road.
Day 7 – Carlisle to Lincoln via Hawes
Our last day riding we headed home via Hawes, a little village in the Yorkshire Dales with a famous biker café, Penny Garth Café. While the scenery was lovely the traffic was heavy (being a sunny Sunday) and we were pleased to get across the Dales and to the more main roads home.
We got home having ridden something over 1300 miles through some of England and Scotland’s most beautiful scenery, and in some of the hottest weather we’d experienced when riding in the UK.
We bought ourselves a Drift Stealth 2 for Christmas and have been playing about with it when skiing and out on the bikes since then; here’s a short roundup of our Scotland trip this time around. We’re not adventure film makers or anything, so think home movie using video and photos (if you like this kind of thing here on Splodz Blogz, or you really don’t, please say).
If you’ve not explored Scotland, especially if you’ve got a motorbike, then get it organised – an amazing country with great roads and some totally amazing and awe inspiring scenery. Just make sure you pack waterproofs and insect repellent! 🙂