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Trip Notes by
David Mc ---
Miles travelled: 1878
With COVID cancelling the 2020 trip to Northern Spain we were hopeful that the 2021 trip to Northern Spain would go ahead. However, by March, things were looking dodgy for the Spain trip so a small group of us decided to book an alternative trip to Scotland for the same week as our Plan B.
The bookings were made for 6 of us
and a route involving the NC500 plus some extra miles was agreed. The numbers were
deliberately kept low as having to manage another trip that may need to be cancelled, with
all the pressures and frustrations that entails, and with the continuing uncertainty
around COVID restrictions, was something I really didnt want to do.
Subsequent to the bookings, Brian
C confirmed hed also like to join the trip and Neil M had to back out. That left
Roger C, James W, Mark R, Richard S, Brian C and me.
Home to Dumfries
The bike was packed on Friday
evening so at 07:30 I started up the bike and headed off towards the meet-up point with
Mark near Peterborough. A stop at Cambridge to brim the tank, then meeting Mark
(shockingly he was on time!!!) had us both heading up the A1 to the M62
The sun was shining and itwas warm
so perfect for riding a bike. The intercoms were working and the banter/ribbing had
We followed the route off the M62
and into the Tesco petrol station that was the meeting point with Rogerand James. Both
were already there and after filling the tanks, we all headed off for the cross country
route up to Scotland.
The route over Ilkley Moorand past
Barnard Castle was superb. The roads were good and the views superb. A stop for lunch had
us consuming what are possibly the biggest baps we;d ever seen. (My sausage and
bacon bap contained 5 sausages and 4 thick rashers of back bacon. I dont think I
needed my side order of chips!)
The route involved a ?0;dog
leg crossing of the A66. Turning East on the A66 did feel wrong but the near
deserted dual carriageway did give us a chance to open up the bikes. Each of us on a full
throttle run had us up to
A stop in Eggleston for a drink
was then followed by a run to Dumfries. The Kawasaki was the bike that was needing fuel
first (though only about 5 - 10 miles sooner than the K1300Ss)so I was the one who made
the call to fill up just before arrival at Woodland House Hotel and the meet up with
Richard and Brian.
After booking in we had a lovely
meal in the hotel restaurant and enjoyed the ability to catch up with people we
hadnt seen face-to-face for some considerable time.
Sunday started dry and bright. We
had a breakfast at the hotel where the staff were good to their word from the evening
before and provided Richard with a slice of Lorne sausage with his Scottish breakfast.
After breakfast we headed out onto
the A76 and north towards Glasgow. The traffic started light but increased as we got
further north. On the run in to Glasgow, and with the heavier traffic, we managed to drop
Mark R and Richard off the back of the group. Mark was part of our intercom group but
Richard was running an antique device that didnt link to our Packtalk
group. The antiquated intercom proved its worth when he was unable to hear Roger's
comments concerning the lean angle required to maintain the chosen direction for a GSA
when riding in strong side winds later in the trip. Eventually Mark managed to catch us up
but Richard, who was less willing to run at the speeds Mark had been running at, was still
The different sat navs defined
different routes through Glasgow to the Erskin Bridge but the 5 of us crossed the bridge
and headed for Loch Lomond. Richard sent us his location, which was now about 20 minutes
behind the rest of the group so we headed on.
The traffic past Loch Lomond was
heavy, as we expected. We were initially content to just sit in the queue, but it
wasnt long before I got bored and we started the process of skipping bits of the
endless queue. At Tarbet, the traffic thinned out and by the time wed past the top
of Loch Lomond things were much better and we were able to make progress. However, the
weather was looking threatening.
At Tyndrum, we stopped fora coffee
and a cake. We ordered for Richard and sure enough, just after the coffees/cake arrived,
so did Richard.
Back on the road we were again
heading north and enjoying the roads. We past a Triumph Rocket rider who tagged onto the
group and kept with us, pulling into the petrol station in Glencoe with us. He introduced
himself as Jim and asked if we minded him tagging along, which we didnt. However,
the issue was that the radiator on Brians KTM was peeing coolant all over the
forecourt. After a bit of head scratching it was agreed that Richard and Brian would
attempt to repair the radiator with some epoxy metal and Radweld. This was
going to take some time as the epoxy needed an hour to set so we agreed to leave Richard
and Brian and see them at the hotel in Fort William.
We decided to take the long route
around the Kinlochleven road rather than going over the bridge. What a road! If
youre ever up that way its a must ride road.
We arrived at the CruachanHotel in
Fort William and booked in. We had booked single rooms and these were definitely single
rooms. There was certainly no unused space in the room.
After unloading we walked into
town and enjoyed the beers at the local brewery outlet before eating at the Chinese
A full Scottish cooked breakfast
was enjoyed by all before we packed the bikes ready to move. The attempted fix on
Brians radiator had failed so he has calling recovery for his bike and was deciding
what hed do next. The KTM dealer in Perth was the best bet at that time so looked
The 5 of us then set off, again
heading north. The weather was overcast and threatened rain. The light traffic still
resulted in the group getting spread out, with Richard losing contact with the other 4 at
the time when we turned off the A82, but Mark waited atthe junction and Richard
wasnt far behind.
The run up to Applecross again
gave a great variety of roads, ranging from fast, wide and well surfaced to single track
with passing places and poor, potholed tarmac. While very different, all of the roads
offered great riding with stunning huge vistas.
A stop for coffee and a cake was
followed be even more roads with stunning views. The rain threatened enough that
waterproofs were put on but there was not enough rain to spoil the fun.
At Ullapool we found the hotel and
checked in. The car park at the back of the hotel was packed with bikes. The hotel had
definitely seen better days and the single room was even smaller than the one from the
The hotel didnt have a
restaurant so we headed down into the town only to find it closed! There was one pub but
it was fully booked so we ended up buying fish and chips and taking them back to the
hotel. We could see that we werent the only people who had established that the chip
shop was the only option.
The beds in the hotel had been
surprisingly comfortable so wed all had a good nights sleep when we met for
breakfast. The news of Brians bike was that the radiator had been ordered and he was
waiting in Perth for it to be delivered and fitted.
After breakfast we all packed the
bikes and headed north, again we were impressed with the mile after mile of stunning
scenery. We had the usual issues with the occasional bit of traffic that didnt seem
to understand the signs at the side of the road that said Use passing places to
allow overtaking but we did eventually manage to get past those few mobile
roadblocks. Most traffic was actually extremely good and pulled over to let the string of
bikes pass at the first opportunity. However, Richardss enthusiasm for a large gap
between him and Mark meant it became a standing joke on the intercoms when passing other
traffic that 4 of us would get through but Richard would then get caught until the next
passing place. The comment of all through except Richard got caught was
repeated a significant number of times!
A stop for a coffee and cake (you
may notice a common theme here!) had us chatting with a couple of ladies who lived
locally. One of the ladies warned us about an unmarked police carin the area that had
pulled her over and given her a ticket. She told the story in a very funny way,
identifying that shed been lucky as a cyclist had reduced her speed and she would
normally have been going significantly faster.
Richard and I had suggested to the
others that there was no point in going all the way to John O Groats as it was best
described as a shit hole but, as the others hadnt been there before,
they wanted to tick the box. The last 20+ miles to John O Groats is really boring
and sure enough, Roger, James and Mark all agreed that John O Groats was a
shit hole best avoided. Well know that for next time!
The run south was on pretty
uninspiring roads but arrival at The Bridge Hotel in Helmsdale had the proprietor allowing
us to park the bikes within the hotels secure car park.The hotel was great with large
comfortable rooms. The only two downsides were that it didnt offer evening meals
and, worse, didnt have a bar! (Note to self: never assume a bar in a hotel.) We
therefore made our way to the Bannockburn Inn just up the road for a few beers and a nice
Brian had found sitting and waiting for his bike in Perth, on his own, extremely boring. His radiator had still not arrived so hed hired a car and met us at Helmsdale
Breakfast was again another full
Scottish breakfast with the usual choice of tasty but heart clogging dishes. Brians
radiator was still not expected in Perth so he was also heading to Oban with us. The
breakfast discussion was that the ferry from Skye needed to be booked in advance, which we
hadnt done, so it was agreed wed go to Skye over the bridge then turn around
and head to Oban via Fort William.
The car park at the hotel had some
pretty deep gravel so we had fun each helping to pull the bikes out, luckily, without
incident. After that, it was onto the A9 south for the run down towards Inverness. This
bit of the NC500 is pretty uninspiring but we covered the ground quickly enough, stopping
to refuel on the way.
We turned off the A9 and started
the run west towards Skye. There were a number of roadworks that held us upbut the roads
were, in general, open and flowing with not too much traffic. We were all having fun!
Eventually we were headingover the
Skye Bridge, turning left towards Kyleakin to admire the small pile of stones that were
once part of Caisteal Maol. After a stop for coffee and a cake to warm up, we headed back
over the bridge then back towards Fort William. The Kawasaki said it had 38 miles left in
the tank with Fort William 43 miles away as we approached what my sat nav said was the
last petrol. Both Mark and James came over the intercom saying their sat navs said there
was another petrol station in 12 miles so carry on, which I did. After about 8 miles James
suddenly twigged that his sat nav was trying to take him to the Skye ferry, thus turn him
around, and that the petrol station that had been 12 miles away was actually behind us and
was now 20 miles away. That meant that I had the choice of turning around and riding 8
miles in the wrong direction or taking the risk and pushing on to Fort William. I opted to
take the risk despite the bikes range still being a few miles less than the distance to
the next petrol.
After a gentle ride for the best
part of 30 miles I arrived in Fort William with the bike still running. I dont know
what range I still had in the tank as the bike had given up telling me a good 5 miles
previously but I suspect there wasnt much.
After filling the tanks we headed
out towards Oban, deciding again to ignore the Loch Leven bridge and instead using the
long cut of the Kinlochleven Road. This time was even better than the last
time. Lots of 2nd and 3rd gear work with some challenging ups and downs as
well as some great bends.
Back onto the A828 Oban road we
continued to enjoy the great surface and good visibility. That was, until we were stopped
by a set of roadworks traffic lights about 4 miles outside Oban. Your bike is
leaking something James said over the intercom. A quick investigation said it was
coolant so while watching the engine temperature like a hawk, I rode the last few miles
into Oban and the hotel car park.
Sure enough, when I stopped, my
radiator was having a little wee onto the tarmac. Damn! Brian was already at the hotel so
his hire car was called into service while we went looking for somewhere to buy Radweld in
the hope that it might work this time. There was, after all, nothing to lose other than
the cost of a can of Radweld.
Once the bike had cooled Richard
provided some more epoxy putty that I pressed into the bit of the radiator where the hole
was, central and near the bottom, then I filled the radiator with the Radweld and a little
water before running the bike up to temperature. There were a worrying few minutes as the
remains of what had already been spilled was boiled off the exhaust and other bits, so
lots of steam, but once it was hot, it looked like the fix was holding. The really good
news was that the expansion tank contents were increasing as the temperature built showing
the system was at least holding some pressure.
Temporary fix complete, I still
had a kettle full of water that Id brought down to replace lost coolant, but that
was not needed. A devious plan was hatched and the kettle contents were poured away
directly under the rad of Marks bike.
After a couple of beers we headed
out to find somewhere for dinner when the puddle under Marks bike was spotted. Mark
appeared very casual and simply said hed look at it inthe morning.
Throughout the meal it was obvious
that Mark was worrying, even though he didnt actually say anything so when we
returned to the hotel for a beer, I cracked and told him it was all just a wind up. The
mixture of relief and frustration was obvious, but Im not sure hell forgive as
any time soon! J
The Great Western Hotel inOban was
another hotel that had seen better days, and those better days were some time ago! That
said, we all had a comfortable nights sleep and linedup for the breakfast at 08:00,
waiting eagerly for the dining room to open. The organisation from the staff for breakfast
was like a scene from Fawlty Towers with people rushing all over but not actually
appearing to do very much. The funniest thing of all was discovering that adding extra
items to your already substantial cooked breakfast did not add a penny to the cost
however, instead of having the full Scottish, ordering the Eggs Benedict which consisted
of a poached egg (part of the full Scottish), half a muffin, a slice or two of some
plastic looking ham and plus a dollop of yellow sauce masquerading as hollandaise sauce
accompanied by a couple of slices of toast (also part of the full Scottish) added 30% to
the price of the breakfast! That made the bacon, sausage, black pudding, beans, tomatoes
and tattie scones also on the full Scottish great value!
We said goodbye to Brian as he
made for Perth to get his hire car back in time, then headed out of Oban. Again the roads
were great with some stunning views. My radiator fix was holding and we all settled into
enjoying the ride.
All too soon we were back on the
A82 and looking for a petrol stop in Dumbarton. Our Highland Fling was complete, although
we still had the run through the lowlands and the overnight stay in England.
While the ride through Glasgow on
the M8 was as expected - boring, the run down to the borders using the back roads proved
to be good fun. Another stop for coffee and a cake at a Costa with outside tables in one
of the towns we went through had us enjoying the sunshine that had been missing for most
of the trip.
Finally, having crossed the border
into England, we arrived at the Clennell Hall Country House hotel. This really was located
in the middle of nowhere, with no mobile phone signal, but wonderful rooms and great,
Dinner was something of a lucky
dip but no less enjoyable as a consequence: James and Richard ordered the Steak and Ale
pie, and Roger and Mark opted for the double burger. I went for thecod and chips. The
advertised pie was off and so Game Pie was offered as an alternative an
option on a different scrap of paper masquerading as a menu. The double burgerswere just that: two
industrial patties with some yellow plastic cheese place between bread
handles. Notwithstanding that, the
waitress a spry 60-something who appeared to be helping out as part of a bet
was very entertaining, so much so that when James idly expressed a desire for some cheese
she disappeared only to return with a large platter including some, rather good, Stilton
and two varieties of Wensleydale. Most importantly, all the cheese was at room
temperature unlike the vin rouge being drunk by Richard and James, which had been hoiked out of a cold cellar with zero ceremony and served in what
were almost tankards, with jolly village scenes screen printed on their side.
After the meal, with its
associated entertainment value, and a few beers we all settled onto our huge rooms for a
good nights sleep.
Over breakfast (a full English
this time) we all discussed our plans for the return journey. We were brought up to date
by Richard that Brian was still awaiting his radiator (KTM had somehow lost it!) but was
heading for home on Saturday, regardless. Richard was intending to visit some friends and
James was going to Leicester to stay over with some of his friends. Roger was planning to
go to Wales to see his Mum before heading back home in time to watch the England Scotland
Both Mark and I planned tojust
take the quickest route home, which was straight down the A1. The weather forecast was for
torrential rain so we were going to get wet!
James joined Mark and me as we
headed south. Unfortunately, due to a mix up in lane positioning and some heavy traffic
Mark missed the slip road that James and I took to get petrol so we were separated and
didnt manage to reconnect for the rest of the journey.
Sure enough, after an houror so,
the rain arrived and it was extremely heavy. That was it for the rest of the run home,
wet! James peeled off to go to Leicester and I carried on through the rain.
Home at last, another Old Gits
trip complete. It was not what was originally planned and involved considerably fewer
people than recent Old Gits trips. However, it was great to catch up with both Richard and
Brian, who I hadnt seen since the 2016 trip. I hope they join another trip soon.
It was also good to be riding with
Roger, James and Mark. Missing the 2020 trip completely, and then the worries around the
Northern Spain trip in 2021 had made things frustrating for everyone but, finally, we had
all been able to enjoy some great roads and some great company.
If youve not done the NC500
then I can recommend it as a must do route. Scottish weather will always be a
challenge but the scenery is stunning and the roads are extremely enjoyable. Just try to
avoid the midges!
by Richard S
I wandered somewhat aimlessly to
my friends near York via the North York Moors arriving mid
afternoon. He then headed
south on the A1(M) and suffered only moderate rain but a great many drivers showing no
lights despite the significant reduction in visibility as a result of the spray.
by Brian C
To add some detail to my return, I
arrived back in Perth on the Thursday. The KTM dealer explained that the radiator was
still ' at large' so rather than waiting in the hope it would arrive, I arranged the
pretty reasonable cost of £200 for the bike tobe shipped and set about getting myself
My first option was to extend the
car hire to a one-way, with it being dropped off near home. Europcar
had said that should be no problem but when I subsequently asked them for it, they said
the car was booked out. A quick ring around a couple of other providers told me that cars
were generally in short supply, but led me to Enterprise, who I called to confirm
availability. They said they could accommodate the 1-way hire but, due to COVID, couldn't
pick me up. So I set about the 40 minute walk to their depot. When I'd got halfway, I
received a call from the local branch, who said they didn't have availability! I then set
off back to the Station area.
Looking for an alternative, I
found that the coaches weren't running until Sunday. Trains were all very busy, due to the
football, and mainly full so I had to admit defeat and get a hotel (it was about 3pm by
now). Fortunately, I was able to get an off-peak ticket for the next morning, which was
£98 rather than £260.