Scotland In September

28 February 2009

I had a week in Scotland planned since I picked up the 800GS in March. Then I had to wait for luggage to be made, and work kept sending me to Singapore...finally, only six months later I made it up North this last week.

The weatherforecast was for 5 days of sunshine and good weather...that turned out to be a load of lies. I whizzed up the M1 > A1 > A66 (stopped at Scotch Corner for a bacon buttie - don't use the services but stop at the hut in the layby at the start of the A66!) Then picked up the B7076 at Gretna as an alternative to the M74. It follows the same route and is a tad slower but much quieter than the motorway. After that I took the B7078 to Kirkmuirhill and picked up the M74/M8 to breeze through Glasgow. Picked up the A82 to Loch Lomond and made camp for the first night in Luss.

The end of September is a quiet time for camping, even at popular spots like Loch Lomond. When I woke up to this view the following morning, I knew I was on vacation:

I packed up and followed the A82 and A830 to Mallaig spent 90 mins waiting for the ferry, having just missed one.

The ferry took me to Armadale on Skye on the Southern tip.

Then I pootled up the west coast of Skye enjoying the views and dodging the odd shower.I made the north-west corner of Skye, a place called Dunvegan and decided I liked the views enough to stop for the night and pitch camp at a campsite.

Again, the campsite was almost empty, apart from a group of bikers, including a lass with a very interesting 'blade...

More showers through the night and down to about 8 degrees so quite chilly! The rain and sun in the morning made for some fabulous sights. It was like nature's own light show while I had breakfast.

Tempted as I was to go looking for the gold, I headed back down the east coast of Skye.

I was headed for the bridge over to Lochalsh but instead ended up taking a little road from the A87 to Kyle Rhea. This road was amazing. Single track, up and down, twisty turny all over the place...the bike seemed to be in its element I mean, riding up from Loch Lomond and around Skye there were some great roads, but this was incredible.I found a little turn-table ferry at Kyle Rhea to take me to Glenelg.

The road from Glenelg to Shiel Bridge was also brilliant, much like the one to Kyle Rhea. Then I followed the A87 for the obligatory Eilean Dolan Castle visit:

You know what is coming next, don't you? The A890 and A896 to Tornapress:

Yep, the infamous road to Applecross. Having heard to much about it, I couldn't really pass up the chance, could I? Unfortunatly, straight after the above photo, the skys opened with a vengenace known only in Scotland. The mists decended and visibility above 1200ft was down to about 50yds. So...not ideal conditions for the Applecross road. What I can say is that apart from a couple of hairpins, the road is very similar in style to the roads to/from the ferry at Kyle Rhea and because the weather was good then, I enjoyed those roads more.

From Applecross I followed the coast road around to the A896 again - this is another great road. Evening the pouring rain and freezing cold. My original plan was to keep the sea on my left and follow the coast up to Gairloch for the night...however by mid-afternoon I was so cold and wet I decided to stop and a posh hotel in Torridon for a coffee...and ended up paying for a room and staying the night. Very nice it was and gave me a chance to dry out my kit and tent.The following day the weatherforecast was for a cold wet front moving in from the North. My night on Skye was cold and wet enough for my liking, despite the second set of thermals I had to buy and was wearing in addition to my normal gear. So in an attempt to stay ahead of the weather I turned east and south the following morning taking the A382 to Inverness and then the B862/B852 down the south side of Loch Ness.

The rain paused long enough for a quick photo.

Other than that, it was non-stop freezing rain all the way. So I bolted down past the Green Welly A82/A85/A84 to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and stayed the night in a log Cabin near Loch Earn in Balqhidder. I guess it was low season so they did me a nice deal for the night, and another chance to dry out and get warm again.The following morning I headed down the Duke's Pass (again in the pouring rain) which is another not-to-be-missed road. I bolted down the A68 and some back roads to Kielder in Northumberland to revisit some places I hiked in my teens. And because the weatherforecast showed no clouds over Northumberland.

At the campsite, they had a couple of these weird scandanavian sheds (called "pods") available, and I figured for an extra £5 I could at least stand up, and avoid pitching my tent in the rain again.

Northumberland National Park and Kielder Forest have logging roads all over the place - and as the weather broke it was still early I had a couple of hours hooning around off-road and I appreciated once more what an amazing machine the 800GS is. She needs some cleaning and TLC and I wonder if that exhaust will ever been shiny again. The smell of cow dung cooking on the engine block is not one I will forget in a while.

Overnight stayed dry, but the lack of cloud cover dropped the temperature to 3 degrees I decided that October was no longer camping weather and make the decision to head home. But not before one of the highlights of the trip. Heading east from Kielder, there is a Forest Drive of 12 miles. Its a £3 toll road that I had hiked 20 years ago.

I planned all along to take the bike down this road, so my morning brightened considerably with this nice bit of logging track. Just me and the bike in the middle of nowhere.

Then I picked up the A68/A1/M1 and some tedious motorway miles home. Overall it was a good blast, but tempered with some rain and freezing weather. That third day leaving Skye and doing Applecross was some of the best biking of my life, and the last couple of days off-roading was brilliant.

I had TCK80s on the 800GS for this trip, after falling off in mud in Derbyshire a few weeks back on the battlewings. Pretty squared off now after a couple of thousand miles. Even on the twisties in the rain I didn't feel I was anywhere near the edge of the tyre's grip, they are much better than I am. I was also surprised at the speed I was carrying into some corners - when you glance down and see you're doing 60mph in the rain on a flip-flop stretch I guess there must be a lot of confidence in the bike and tyres!

I had to reign it in a bit at times. Given how fast they wear I don't think I will go with the TKC80s again, maybe Tourance next time. I think they would have coped ok with the terrain I did, and certainly the motorway miles a lot better.The fuel gauge was interesting too...reporting 80+miles or so left after riding for 180miles when the reserve light comes on...not good. But although cafes & garages are few and far between in these parts, there always seems to be one just when you need it.

Erm, that's it, I think.


Martin said...

Great read, off to Scotland myself on the F800GS with my wife on her ER6N.

Hope the weather holds off and the midges....

About This Blog

I had been saving for a ST1300 for a long time, as it was clear that my Deauville wasn't up the task.

In November 2007 I saw pictures of the F800GS and ran to the dealers to place a deposit.

On 13th March 2008 I took delivery and have never regretted it.

On 13th April 2009 my 800GS joined me in Singapore for a new life and adventures...

This is my F800GS Blog.


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