Thursday, October 8, 2015

Winton Massif - Roots 2015 Part 1.

Ten years ago I organised a bike tour of Scotland. I had two weeks off and a long list of people who had said they were up for coming along. The list dwindled a bit but I headed off on This Trip, joined along the way by Hammy, Faithir , Aidan and Ben. Ten years on, we're still heading away on the bikes. After some discussion a rough route was planned and Ferg came up with the name "Roots" for the trip. Either we were a bunch of roots or we were getting back to our roots, Ferg even designed what I thought was a good T shirt commemorating our ten years, but some of the guys thought it belonged more in a garden centre than on a bike trip. The route was for everyone to meet in Oban to sail over to the wee Isle of Colonsay, spend three nights there before heading to Islay and Jura then on to the mainland to visit some of our favorite haunts like Strontian and Applecross. Aidan, Ferg, Faithir and I all had a bit more time off near the start of the trip so we planned an extra couple of nights, Aidan and I staying at Lairg and meeting Ferg and Faithir at Kinlochleven.
The forecast was for rain, but it stayed mostly dry and Aidan and I headed north, avoiding the Average Speed Camera Zombie Assassins A9 and Police and tourist clogged A82 in favour of the Glenshee/Lecht road. 
Stopping at Blairgowrie.

We stopped in Blairgowrie to sort out a plan for that evening. Our accommodation was a couple of miles outside Lairg at a new campsite called Pondside Campsite. We had planned to camp but they have a static caravan that's really cheap to hire, so we had booked that. The idea of buying steak to cook in the van was traded in for shopping local in Lairg. We carried on north, stopping at the Lecht cafe for some lunch, much to the dismay of Aidan's rumbling guts which needed stuffed with the usual tea and cake by Glenshee, miles back down the road.
My regular reader will have heard all about the A93 on here before, but it never gets boring riding it. It gets really fun after Blairgowrie where you go through Glenshee, popping easy wheelies over all the crests in the road and chucking the bike about the place then turning on to the A939 and the steep climbs and drops up to the Lecht. We arrived at the Lecht cafe to "Am fuckin starving!!" from Aidan and were greeted by a big black Dog who seemed to be the only staff member in the reception. Luckily humans were found up in Cafe. Soup and cake inhaled and we were off again.

How can I help you?

Looking south, back down the Lecht.

At Ardgay where the Dornoch Firth becomes the Kyle of Sutherland (well that's at Bonar Bridge but I needed a caption)

It's the same twisty fun down the other side of the Lecht and all the way to Carrbridge where you had to site on the shite side of the A9 for half an hour or so. Fueled up in Inverness it was A9 again till we turned off at Alness onto the Bonar Bridge road. This is a fucking cracker, like a wee version of a French gorge road in some bits. An enthusiastic throttle will find you at the end of the Dornoch Firth in no time, and from there its just a few short miles to Lairg. It was only these last few miles that it started to get a bit damp, the pace was reigned in and we chilled our way through Lairg noting the chippy and the shop and found our way to Pondside Campsite where we were staying that night.
It took some finding but after a few passes we figured out where we should be and rode in. 
What a place. It was a pretty new site and they were still building a lot of stuff like a proper dedicated shower block, but we were impressed. As I've said we had planned to camp but seeing the price of the static caravan we chose that instead. Price in mind I expected some mouse eaten shitehole, not the luxury establishment we found, and we had the whole place to ourselves. We dumped our shite in the caravan and headed back into Lairg for a braw chippy and to pick up some beers and snacks from the shop.

No a bad view to eat your dinner to.
There were 3 midgies in the area so Aidan's hood was up.

We were joined by the campsite cat. Cool as fuck.


After we were fed we farted about the site for a while, chatting to the owners who were really friendly and loved the idea of having a bunch of bikes up for a party then it was on to serious rock and roll, wild shit, as you can see in this video update.

The next day Ferg met us at Pondside and we got breakfast at the Pier Cafe in Lairg, quite a fancy and very nice wee place. We ate our food while the helpful folk from Pondside phoned down and arranged to drop off some of our stuff we had left behind in the caravan. I say we, I had left the gopro charger in the socket. What a fud.

Bonar Bridge

We headed south. Today's destination was Kinlochleven, camping at a site between Kinlochleven and Glencoe. We headed back through Bonar Bridge to Inverness than down the "other" side of Loch Ness towards Dores then down the side of the Loch through Foyers. It had got wet but it was still an enjoyable run. My old bike kit still seems to perform well in the rain and I didn't envy the bunch of about 30 odd pushbikes we passed all wearing their boil in a bag, plastic bin liner capes. They'd have been sweating like pregnant nuns! My new lid was great as well. I've bought myself a Scheuberth C3 and it's the first lid I've owned with pinlock. What a difference. Riding in the wet was like russain roulette compared to the clarity I have now. I'm never getting another lid without something like pinlock again. 
Anyways, the road down the other side of Loch Ness is fucking good. If you've never done it but like me, you're up there all the time then add a wee bit time on to your journey and head along for a look.





As it so often does, it got wetter and wetter the closer we got to Fort William. By the time we got to Kinlochleven it was pishing doon a storm. We got to our planned campsite which had turned into a proper swamp. Fuck camping in this. 
"We'll go back up to the top of the site, there's a tree to hide under. We can figure out a plan there. There's the Red Squirrel at Glencoe or Tim's place over at Stontian."
"Right. OK"
Aidan had other plans though, at the top of the campsite he turned up the road. We followed him to Glencoe village where we stopped at the wee shop. We agreed that the site at Kinlochleven was out, the Red Squirrel was OK and we could shelter under trees but Tim's place, Sunart Camping at Strontian, had a wee room we could use. It has a wood burning stove and everything in it. Right. Sunart it is. How do we let Faithir know? By a stroke of luck Faithir was stopped at the Green Welly having some soup when I phoned him. He agreed that Tim's place was the best bet too. Sorted.
All our gear was soaked by the time we rolled up at Sunart Campsite. We got out tents up and the insides were dry in no time. The stove in Tim's bothy was lit and soon out bike gear was steaming away. We stocked up in the shop and I made quite a shite Carbonara (it'll be better next time, I promise) and it was a quiet night in the pub.

The Bothy at Sunart Campsite, Strontian.
Tim's bothy at Sunart Campsite.

The sun was out and drying the previous night's drizzle off the tents. We packed up, got a bite to eat then set off. I went to pay for our camping on the way out as did Ferg. I fired my bike back up and Ferg tried the same.




Ferg's bike wasn't starting.


Shit. This isn't the time to break down. We need to get to Oban for the ferry at 3 o'clock.

"We'll bump it."

A few sweat inducing shoves later Ferg's bike was away. We met Faithir and Aidan at the fuel station and let them know what happened. Then it was on to the Corran Ferry. We decided to see if Ferg's bike would start before we got on the ferry. It would be much easier to leave it running on the tiny crossing than shove it off at the other side.


That'll be that then.

Ferg's GS after a bump start.

Corran Ferry

Staying positive.



We reckoned it was the battery that was fucked. Faithir was sure there was a bike shop in Oban. The plan was to get to Oban, find the bike shop, sort Ferg's bike, stock up on stuff for wild camping on Colonsay then get to the ferry. I'll let you know if we make it in Part 2.


  1. Good times!!

    You're leaving us hanging here about Ferg's bike. Bump starting those beasties are not easy.

    Great pics!

  2. Glenshee and the Lecht are the only way north. The A9 was pish before the speed cameras, never been near it since they went live. Roll on part 2...