It was just a wee bit drizzly as HB and I set off on the short ride over to Janet's and for the first time in ages I wasn't the last to turn up! We me up with GHC's son Brian, who was wearing the Route Captain hat on this trip, 2i/c Smillie, Bob, Hammy, Aidan with Andy and Lyndsay turning up just after us. After thundering all the bacon rolls, tea, coffee and chocolate biscuits that Janet could produce down our throats, we were off.
There had been a few worried grumbles about the weather from certain hairy backed Tiger riders but as we headed north on the A9 it was ok, a bit windy but dry and warm.
For those of you unfamiliar with Scotland's road network the A9 is the main artery north. It's really easy to take it for granted, to get blasé about the scenery, to get tired about the straights. It's a really easy road and a quick way north, but once you've done it once its dull as fuck, and most of the Massif have done it over one hundred times (think about it guys).
Andy wrestling his waterproofs
At The Janet's.
Young Brian's tempted to get wired into Captain Rumbletum's Menu at Ballinluig.
We had our first stop at Ballinluig where tanks were topped with fuel and guts were brimmed with tea, coffee and cake then it was onwards to Inverness. Coming into the Cairngorms we got a bit of a soaking but dried off again in the wee cafe above Tiso outdoor shop in Inverness.
The further north you head on the A9 the more fun it becomes, even the weather cleared up a wee bit. I'd not long had the new GS serviced so now I could open it up. Its got a fair bit more poke at the top end compared to the 1150 but HB was complaining a wee bit, my riding was a bit shoddy as I'm still getting used to the super light controls. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
We arrived at Brora campsite and were greeted by Faithir, Ben, Aaron, Liam and Other Brian who had all enjoyed themselves at Applecross the night before. Both Ben and Aaron's bikes had developed problems just before the trip so they had traveled in Ben's car. Andy headed into Brora for the beer and a wee while later Ferg and Lynne arrived. Ferg riding my old 1150GS that he'd bought off me and Lynne driving their car to take the old exhaust and other such shite I had kicking around from the 1150. I have to admit, it felt a bit wrong to see Ferg riding in on my 1150, sort of like watching someone else shag your wife, but its his bike now as folk were constantly reminding me.
Shortly after Ferg arrived Tom, HB's brother, turned up with his girlfriend in his M3. We shot the shit for a bit and got wired into some Highland Park but the drizzle was getting worse. Taxis were phoned and Bob, HB and I jumped in the M3 with Tom who dropped us off at Captain Crabbs.
We had planned on getting an curry before we went to Captain Crabbs but the curry house was booked solid till half nine, so Gus, the owner of Captain Crabbs suggested we just get a take away and eat it in his pub. Sorted! Curry was scoffed and glassed raised to GHC then the beer flowed and flowed and flowed. The locals started turning up later in the evening and were really supportive of the GHC run, some even gave us money to donate to the Macmillan Nurses.
Enjoying the weather on Brora
Ferg passes Darth Smillie's tent. Smillie is the king of social camping.
This just felt wrong.
Gus from Captain Crabbs
Winton Massif from left to right.
Andy, Lyndsay, Ben, Faithir, Smillie, Bob, Other Brian, Me, Ferg, Liam, Hammy, Brian, Lynne, Aidan, HB and Aaron.
HB, Andy, Me, Smille, Ferg and a local guy.
Keeping it real.
Here's the video from Brora. Andy Mac shows us his moves like a fucking boss.
The morning I woke up relatively early and discovered we were almost a man down. Young Brian had opted to stay with a local lass he'd met rather than embrace the comforts of his tent and he'd only got back to the campsite half an hour before I got up. Dirty bastard!
Today the group was splitting with Aidan, Brian, Smillie, HB and myself saying cheerio to everyone else and heading over to Applecross. The weather had cheered up a bit and slowly everyone got up and packed away. Rather than head the usual route to Applecross via Lochcarron I had suggested we head for Kinlochewe after Achnasheen and head to Applecross via Torridon. By fuck what a road it was. Racetrack smooth with fast, sweeping corners and a view all the way down to Torridon. Absolutely fucking stunning.
It got warmer and warmer the closer we got to Applecross, the temperature gauge showing 20 degrees by Torridon, that pretty much tropical here in Scotland! The ride over the Bealach Na Ba was great, you could see for miles!
Once at Applecross everyone got showered and we chilled out with a few beers. We had stopped in Dingwall so were fully stocked up in a Winton Massif favourite, Primula Cheese and Ritz Crackers. Braw!
Later in the evening we headed to the Applecross Inn, a place my few regular readers will recognise, where we had a smashin meal. I had Chowder to start followed by Duck. We had managed to get an outside table with the incredible views of Skye, Raasay and the Inner Sound. We would have sat there all night but it got a wee bit nippy so we took the laughs indoors.
Andy cooks breakfast at Brora.
On the Torridon road.
Aidan on the Bealach na Ba
Hammy on the Bealach na Ba. The big KTM sounds smashin with the Acrapovic pipes
HB and I went for a cheeky pint in the Inn before we headed to the campsite.
We woke up feeling good but the hills had fuzzy heads and a foggy hangover, riding over the Bealach visibility was down to a few metres in some places. We were heading to Lochcarron, specifically to the Waterside Cafe in Lochcarron where Smillie and I had a challenge to conquer. Some of you will recognise the name, the Waterside Cafe Challenge Breakfast, would it beat us?
Would it fuck! Smillie annihilated it and I finished a few minutes behind him. We collected our certificates and said our goodbyes. HB and I were heading to Skye today and the rest of the Massif were heading for home.
Returning to a phone signal.
Smillie contemplates the challenge.
The amount of food on our plates actually put Brian off his breakfast.
Bikes at Lochcarron.
We rode around Lochcarron then up and down the steep swoopy road to Kyle of Lochalsh and over the Skye Bridge to Boadford on Skye where we brimmed the massive tank on the GS. It's pretty handy having the 33 litre tank. Don't get me wrong, you'll not run out of fuel touring Scotland. You'll always find a fuel station even in the more remote areas, but not having to look for one for 300 miles just makes everything a wee bit more relaxing.
Todays destination was Dunvegan, on the West Coast of Skye. HB had treated us to a bed and breadfast at The Tables Guest House, named after the flat topped hills that overlook the village. The road to Dunvegan is a fast one that gives great views of the Cuillins, the pointy mountains on Skye that you can see from Applecross. I say great views, that's only when Skye isn't living up to it's name as The Misty Isle as it was today. Most of the peaks were completely hidden by cloud but it was still an enjoyably warm ride to Dunvegan.
We were a bit early to check into out room at The Tables so we visited the Giant Angus MacAskill Museum and booked ourselves a table at The Old Schoolhouse Restaurant. After unpacking all our gear off the bike and chilling out at the bed and breakfast we headed out for our meal. The Old School house was really nice with a big open fire and good, friendly service. I had their take on surf and turf with strips of steak accompanied by king scallops and prawns. A nice bottle of wine and some great starters too made for a really good evening. After The Old Schoolhouse we headed to the Cellar Bar at the Duvegan Hotel where we chatted bikes with local Jerry and an Italian guy who was bike daft.
The Tables Guest House
The Tables covered with a cloudy table cloth.
HB, me, Angus MacAskill and Tom Thumb. I'm 6'4 so MacAskill really was giant!
Angus MacAskill's socks. Aidan would make light work of filling them up.
Jerry and HB in the Cellar Bar.
Refreshed and full after a good bed and breakfast at The Tables we set off into the drizzle for Glencoe. At least the cloud had lifted and we could see the hills as we headed for the Glenelg Ferry, a community owned, manually operated turntable ferry. This is the traditional way to get to and from Skye and the last of its kind in Scotland. At only £7 for us to cross on the bike, plus the amazing single track road to get to it, this will be the way I'll be getting to and from Skye in the future. There's also a high chance you'll see some of the local wildlife too. We saw a seal swimming around and Sea Eagles have been seen there too. Check out their website http://www.skyeferry.co.uk/ there's a video that the BBC shot as part of their Hebrides programme for you to see.
After Glenelg the road climbs up and down, twisting round big hills and wee lochs, some of the scenery is stunning. I caught it on the Gopro but the wide angle lens flattens it all out, it still gives a wee bit of an idea of what its like. If you're planning a trip to Skye use the Glenelg ferry, the road is a must do. It joins up with the A87 to run along side Loch Cluanie, Loch Garry before turning on to the A82 and following the banks of Loch Lochy. These A roads are all fast, swoopy efforts that contrast big time with the road from the Glenelg Ferry. There's plenty places to stop and photograph the awesome scenery but HB and I decided to just carry on to Glencoe and enjoy the ride, only stopping in Spean Bridge for a bowl of soup and for a look at the Commando Munument.
We camped at the Red Squirrel Campsite in Glencoe. At the weekend the Red Squirrel can be pretty busy but midweek it was quiet. We set up camp and headed into Glencoe village for some supplies. I got a few bottles of locally brewed River Leven Ale as a birthday treat. I was 32! Old bastard eh?
We had a fire on the campsite and chilled out for a while before heading along to the Clachaig Inn for some food.
Waiting on the Glenelg Ferry
Here it comes.
Fud on a ferry.
The Commando Monument.
At the Red Squirrel.
The road at the Clachaig.
Our run home was nice and sunny. We fueled ourselves up in the Glencoe Cafe and rode down to Callander where we filled the bike up one last time.
Here's the Gopro film of some of the roads. Achnasheen to Kinlochewe, Kinlochewe to Torridon, road to the Glenelg Ferry and on down the A87.