Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Scottish Highlands Tour

Wed 1st June – Home to Crianlarich
After finally prizing Diesel off Helen’s bike jacket, we set off from home at around 8:50am and headed straight up to Devils Bridge via our usual route through Sawley and Rathmell. We arrived at Devils at around 10:00am and it was funny to be the only bikes there.

All packed up for the off After a brief stop we continued up the A683 to Sedbergh. Just before Sedbergh we joined the B6256 and then the B6257 and headed for the A685 to Tebay. In Tebay we took the B6260 to Orton and then the B6261 under the M6 to meet up with the A6. We joined the A6 and headed North through Shap and then on to Clifton. We continued up the A6 and headed through Penrith and then joined the (horrendously windy) M6 at junction 42. We followed the M6 up to Gretna Green and then joined the A75 and headed for Dumfries. We soon arrived in Dumfries and stopped at Tesco for some fuel and lunch.

Devils Bridge We left Dumfries and headed North up the A76 towards Kilmarnock. Although there was a lot of traffic about we managed to have a good run and soon passed our Burns Night haunt, Friars Carse. We continued up the A76 through Sanquhar and soon arrived on the outskirts of Kilmarnock. We by-passed Kilmarnock on the A71 and then turned on to the B7064. We then joined the A735 and went through Kilmaurs and Stewarton before joining the B776 at Lugton. We followed that to the A737 and then joined the M8 at Paisley before we went over the Erskine Bridge on the A898. We then headed into Dumbarton where we came across the first rain of the day. We stopped briefly at some services under some trees for a bit of protection.

We left the services in the rain and headed through Dumbarton and then joined the A82 and headed for Loch Lomond. We followed the A82 alongside Loch Lomond and soon arrived in Tarbet. We then headed for Crianlarich and soon left Loch Lomond behind. Although the rain was heavy now it didn’t really dampen spirits and we were still able to enjoy the A82. We turned left at Crianlarich and continued up the A82 and soon arrived at our B&B for the night Glengarry House, which is located just outside Tyndrum. We were greeted by the owner who assisted us in putting the bikes in the garage (up a nasty steep gravel drive!). We then unpacked some of our stuff and then went down and had a much needed flapjack and some coffee.  Our hosts cooked us a lovely meal, which was followed by snuggles with resident black cats, brother & sister Alex and Alice – absolute ringers for Diesel – and Ferret the chinchilla.  Not a bad sleep in the super king size bed, but the B&B was on quite a busy main road, so it got noisy from around 5.30am.

Both of our Gore-Tex Hein Gericke textile suits performed brilliantly in the rain. Once we had removed them at the B&B we found that we had stayed completely dry. My jacket had held some of the water in the outer part but Helen’s was completely dry as the rain had just beaded off.

Thurs 2nd June – Crianlarich to Skye

We awoke to no rain and a clearing cloudy sky with the hint of some sunshine. After a nice filling breakfast we got the bikes out of the garage and put all of our luggage back on and got ready for the off.  

Loch Cluanie We left the B&B and headed North up the A82 on dry roads, but within a mile we hit some more light rain and wet roads. We stopped at the Green Welly Stop in Tyndrum for fuel. We left Tyndrum and continued up the A82 and passed through Bridge of Orchy. We carried on through Glen Coe on some fabulous roads, but kept going from dry roads and no rain to wet roads with patchy rain. After Glen Coe we stayed on the A82 and went through Corran on our way to Fort William. We stopped at Morrisons in Fort William for a brief rest and a comfort break. 

Loch Cluanie We left Fort William and immediately hit a traffic jam, we filtered to the front and then had to wait for what seemed ages before we followed the convoy vehicle at 10mph on a horrid scarified surface through the roadworks. We eventually got through the roadworks and set off again at our own pace. The roadworks though did give us a clear road in front of us for several miles, which with the drying roads and sunny weather was a breath of fresh air. We passed through Spean Bridge on our way up to Invergarry. We then turned left on to the A87 and headed for the Isle of Skye.  I had recalled from driving this road in the past, just how good it was and it didn’t disappoint. We then stopped by Loch Duich to take some photos and have our croissants which we had acquired from the B&B that morning. 

Tallulah We left the Loch and continued on the A87 and after some thrilling riding arrived at Shiel Bridge, where we stopped for fuel. Helen got to grips with the garage dog, a very friendly Jack Russell called Tallulah. We then went off piste at this point and headed over to Glenelg to visit some historic ruins. We were surprised to immediately start climbing very rapidly using numerous switchbacks as we went over Mam Ratagan Pass at 1115ft - you could easily have mistaken it for a road in the Pyrenees or Alps. Glenelg After a while we dropped down into Glenelg and stopped briefly at Bernera Barracks. We then continued on to two well preserved Brochs, Dun Telve and Dun Troddan. We then retraced our way back to the A87 and continued on to the Isle of Skye. We then arrived at

  Eilean Donan Castle where we stopped for lunch and took the customary bike and castle photo

Eilean Donan Castle We left Eilean Donan and headed North on minor roads to Plockton, as we had heard it was a must-visit place. We stopped in Plockton and had ice creams and said hello to a lovely black cocker spaniel and his black Labrador friend.  

We left Plockton and headed for the Kyle of Lochalsh. We passed through a small quaint village called Duirinish, which bizarrely had free range Highland cattle wondering around the village as if they owned it. After a while we arrived in the Kyle of Lochalsh and then rejoined the A87 and headed over the Skye Bridge on to the Isle of Skye. We then followed the A87 for a short while before we arrived at Ailean Cottage our B&B for the next 2 nights in Broadford.

Highland Cattle @ DuirinishWe had pre-booked Creelers, an extremely tiny and well regarded seafood restaurant, for our evening meal (prawn cocktail followed by cajun chicken gumbo for me, and scallops followed by chardonnay poached haddock for Helen, with fantastic crème brullee for 2 to finish).

Fri 3rd June – Isle of Skye Tour
We left the B&B after breakfast and headed North up the stunning A87 and then turned right on to the A855 and headed towards Portree. Just before arriving in Portree we called in at The Aros Experience, to have a quick look around and use the facilities. 

Quiraing Road We left and passed through Portree and continued heading North up the A855 along the stunning Skye coastline. Just after Staffin we turned left on to a minor road to climb up a twisty single track road to the top of Quiraing Road. After a brief stop to take some photos, we turned around and headed back down the way we had come up. We rejoined the A855 and continued North and eventually arrived at the Northern most tip of the Isle of Skye. We then passed by Duntulm Castle, but didn’t stop as there was nowhere suitable to park the bikes. We then turned South and headed down the other side of the island towards Uig. We then joined the A87 again at Uig and headed back towards  Portree. Near to Kensaleyre we turned right on to the B8036 and headed over towards Carbost. We then joined the A850 towards Dunvegan, by this time we had got used to the stunning views and scenery around us. After a while we arrived in Dunvegan and filled up with fuel and stopped for lunch by the sea. We decided not to visit Dunvegan Castle as the weather was too good not to take advantage of the wonderful roads.

Dun Beag Castle We left Dunvegan on the A863 and headed towards Drynoch. We then arrived at another of our planned stops a small Broch up a steep hill, Dun Beag. In hindsight going up a steep slippery hill in motorcycle boots was probably not a good idea! At the very top I managed to lose my footing and dropped with all my weight about two foot onto my left ankle. I immediately knew that I had done some serious damage to my ankle. I managed to hobble back down the steep slope, but both myself and Helen fell on our bottoms on the way down, covering ourselves in muddy peat. If I hadn’t had my motorcycle boots on I suspect that I would have broken my ankle.

My injured ankle After Helen had plied me with Ibuprofen and Paracetamol we left Dun Beag and headed over towards Drynoch. We turned right there on to the B8009 and headed over to Talisker to have a look at the outside of the Distillery. We then returned back to the A863 and continued East towards the A87. We joined the A87 and headed back towards Broadford and our B&B. Although  my ankle was hurting a lot we decided it wouldn’t spoil our holiday and turned right in Broadford on to the B8083 to Elgol. Loch Slapin, Skye Although it was a single track road the views were amazing - it is also the closest road to the Cullins. We arrived in Elgol and had a magnificent view of the Cullin mountains in the distance. We then turned around and headed back to the B&B after a fantastic day’s riding. A quick hobble up the main road and we just about made it to the closest restaurant, The Claymore, for a lovely meal (haggis, neeps & tatties followed by duck for me, and crab cakes followed by duck for Helen).

Sat 4th June – Isle of Skye to Lairg 
We left the B&B on Skye and headed along the A87 and back over the Skye Bridge on to the mainland. We then turned Strome Castle North up the A890 and headed towards New Kelso. The road twisted and turned for a while and then came out on the coast. The road then followed the coastline all the way up to Strathcarron. At New Kelso we turned left and headed down the other side of the coastline to Lochcarron. We then headed on minor roads to Strome Castle, unfortunately due to the state of my ankle I can only view it from afar. 

Lochcarron We left and headed back to Lochcarron, we had intended to head over to Applecross but decided against it with my dodgy  ankle. So instead we headed on the A890 towards Achnasheen, this road was very straight and a bit boring. If you had so wished you could have easily tested out the top speed performance of any vehicle. At Achnasheen we turned left on to the A832 towards Kinlochewe. This road was more interesting and had some spectacular views as we dropped down to Loch Maree. We followed the full length of Loch Maree and then arrived in Gairloch, where we stopped to buy some buns for lunch.

AchnasheenWe left Gairloch on the A832 again and followed it to Poolewe, where we joined the coast again. We then followed the coastline on the A832 through Tuirnaig and on to Aultbea. We then left the coast for while as we cut across to Laide and then rejoined the coast again. We then followed the coastline to Dundonnell, before leaving it again for a while. We then arrived in Corrieshalloch Gorge where we joined the A835. We followed the A835 to Ullapool where we stopped for lunch and some fuel.

Ullapool We left Ullapool and headed on the A835 towards Ledmore. This was a very fast and interesting road although Helen didn’t like the surface as it looked like it has loose chippings on it. At Ledmore we joined the single track A837 to Lairg. This was a pretty fast road, considering it was only single track, due to its good visibility. We passed by a couple of Lochs before riding over Oykel Bridge. We continued on to Rosehall where we turned left on to the A839 and cut across to our holiday let for the week at LairgThe Gallery.

Sun 5th June – Tour of Assynt  
Ardvreck Castle on Loch Assynt We left Lairg on the single track A839 and headed to Rosehall where we joined the A837 to Ledmore. We passed through Oykel Bridge again and after Ledmore the A837 turns from a single to a dual track road. We followed that up to Loch Assynt and our first stop of the day Ardvreck Castle. We left Ardvreck Castle and continued along the A837 to Lochinver.

Lochinver We stopped here briefly to have a look around the Assynt visitor centre. We left Lochinver and joined the B869, a very nice and twisty single track road. Around every corner of this road was a potential photo stop opportunity. The scenery and tranquillity of this area of the highlands was breathtaking. We continued on this  road to Stoer Old Man of Stoer Lightousewhere we turned off onto an even narrower single track road. We followed this road all the way to the Old Man of Stoer Lighthouse. At the end of this road by the lighthouse, was a carpark that was surprisingly full of  vehicles and a brew van (complete with friendly pooches).

B869 near to Drumbeg We left the lighthouse behind and worked our way back to the B869. We followed it all the way along the coast and the road was even better this way. We eventually got back to the main road and joined the A894 just before Unapool. We passed through Unapool and then stopped by the road bridge at Kylesku for lunch. 

Bridge at Kylesku After lunch and a few photos we left the bridge and continued North on the A894. We then enjoyed several miles of this very fast flowing road as it twisted and turned it was up to Scourie. Just on the outskirts of Scourie we stopped by Roy Sidwell’s memorial plaque and bench. Roy was a member of NUKB and sadly died at this point in 2007 while touring Scotland  with some of our friends from NUKB. I sat on Contemplation on Roy's Bench (Scourie)Roy’s bench for a while completing things while looking at the outstanding view. Helen meanwhile was leaving some teabags by Roy’s plaque, as he loved a good brew after a ride.

After  a while we left and went into Scourie to put some fuel in our tanks. We found the most expensive fuel to date at 153.2p, so we only put a splash of fuel in to see us back home. We left Scourie and continued on the A894 for a bit before turning View from Roy's Bench (Scourie)right on to the single track A838 back to Lairg. We followed this road for about 33 miles before we arrived back in Lairg. Although the road passed by lots of small lochs and was very peaceful, it was pretty boring and really just a means to get back to Lairg.

Mon 6th June – John o’Groats  
It rained heavily this morning, but weather reports suggested it would be reasonably pleasant further North. Dunnet HeadSo we left Lairg and headed North on the A836, a single track road from

just outside of Lairg. We soon got to a road block as the road was being resurfaced. We only waited for a short while but ended up stuck behind loads of cars and van which wouldn’t pull over to let us past. We had to follow them for around 9 miles at a painful 45 mph. After those 9 miles we turned right at Altnaharra on to the even narrower B873. Fortunately all the other traffic went straight on so we weren’t stuck behind them for a further 20 odd miles.

Castle of Mey We then arrived at the Northern coastline of Scotland and joined the A836 near to Bettyhill. This road soon turned into a double track road and was nice and dry. It had a lot of very nice corners which we were able to enjoy. We then passed by the now redundant Dounreay nuclear power station on our way to Thurso. After passing the Orkney ferry port at Scrabster we arrived in Thurso. We negotiated

our way through Thurso and had to stop at some traffic lights (we haven’t had to deal with those since Fort William some days ago!). After Thurso we stopped at Seadrift visitor centre for lunch


Duncansby Head We left the visitor centre then proceeded on minor roads through Brough to the most Northerly point on mainland Britain, Dunnet Head. We parked up by the lighthouse and took some photos. We left there and headed foe the Castle of Mey. We decided to stop and take some photos rather than paying to go in


Journeys End Cafe - John o'Groats We left there and headed over to the most North-easterly point in mainland Britain, Duncansby Head. We stopped by the lighthouse to take some photos. Helen also walked over to the other side to take a photo of the Duncansby Stacks. We then went for the obligatory John o’Groats visit and had coffee at the Journeys End cafe.

Castle of Old Wick We left John o’Groats at around 4pm and took the A99 down to Wick. We called in at the local Tesco store for some cheap(ish!) fuel. We left Tesco and headed over to the East coast to Castle of Old Wick. Due to my ankle we only took photos from afar. After Wick we headed up to Noss Head to visit Castle Sinclair Girnigoe. I hobbled to within sight of the castle but was aware that I had to hobble back so didn’t go too far. Helen decided the castle was worth a visit so she went and had a good look around.

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe We left the castle at 6pm and headed back to the A99 at Wick. We headed South again and soon joined the A9 at Latheron. We expected the A9 to be boring, but it had several nice corners and two rather nice sections with several switchbacks with steep elevation changes. 36 miles later we arrived in Golspie which signalled the imminent right hand turn back to Lairg, arriving home around 7:30pm. We had been lucky and pretty much escaped the rain all day, only dealing with the odd wet road and a few brief showers here and there.

Tues 7th June – Dornoch Firth  
We awoke this morning to the aftermath of a very heavy rain shower. After watching the weather on BBC we didn’t expect particularly nice weather today. Glenmorangie DistilleryWe decided to head over to the nearby Falls of Shin for a coffee and to use their Wi-Fi internet access. After looking on the weather satellite track on the internet it looked like heavy rain was on its way, so we decided to stay fairly local to Lairg

We called at The Gallery to drop off the laptop and then headed over to Bonar Bridge on the A836. Just as we left Lairg it started to rain again but it wasn’t too heavy. We crossed over the Kyle of Sutherland at Bonar Bridge and continued on to Tain on the A836. We then joined the A9 briefly before turning Glenmorangie Distilleryoff to visit the Glenmorangie Distillery. We had a really nice tour of the distillery for the measly sum of £2.50 each (refunded if you buy anything over £16 in the shop), which also included a wee dram of malt whisky. We both sampled two 12 year aged whiskies, one matured in Port casks and the other in Sauternes casks (French wine). Helen decided she preferred the later, called Nectar D’Or, and so purchased a bottle (hoping there’s enough pannier space on the way back to Heywood!). 

We left Glenmorangie and headed into Tain to get some shopping and for some cheap fuel from Tesco. We then headed North up the A9 and passed over the Dornoch Firth via the Dornoch Bridge. It was Glenmorangie Distilleryvery windy so we went over fairly quickly to prevent us getting blown over (it is worse going slower on bikes in the wind). We continued on the A9 and went through a really nice section with new asphalt, but the roads were too wet for us to really enjoy. We then turned left on to the A839 and headed back to Lairg. Shortly after getting back the light rain turned into a constant stream of heavy rain, that persisted into the evening and eventually stopped at around 4:00am.

Wed 8th June – Sutherland Sortie  
After looking at the weather reports it appeared that it Loch Shinwould be nice in the morning and then due to cloud over with patchy rain later on. We awoke just before 9am to sunshine and blue skies, the roads had also dried out from last night’s torrent. We decided to head up to the Northwest coast and past Cape Wrath and Durness

We left Lairg on the A836 towards Tongue at around 10:30am. We then turned left on to the A838 and headed towards Laxford Bridge. We had actually ridden down this road inLoch More the opposite direction on  Sunday and found it boring, but today we found it to be much better in this direction and the vistas very picturesque. We were able to appreciate the sheer size of Loch Shin and we seemed to ride along it for ages. Then we passed by Loch Merkland and Loch More before finally passing Loch Stack just before arriving at Laxford Bridge.

Harbour at Kinlochbervie At Laxford Bridge we turned right on to the A838 and followed that to Rhiconich. We turned left there on to the B801 to Kinlochbervie. This road turned out to be a real corker and was surprisingly not a single track road. It was evident once we arrived in Kinlochbervie why the road wasn’t single track - at the harbour was a large warehouse facility for loading lorries with seafood from the fishing trawlers.

Smoo Cave We left Kinlochbervie and headed back to the A838. We continued North along this road and soon passed by Keoldale the site of the very small ferry across the Kyle of Durness to Cape Wrath. Unfortunately this is only a passenger ferry and to get over to Cape Wrath you have to ride the last 12 miles in a small minibus at a rather slow pace. We decided back at home that this would be too much of a faff so didn’t bother! We continued up to Durness and then parked about a mile further on at Smoo Cave. My ankle had healed enough to enable me to hobble down to the cave, although it did take us a long time. Not surprisingly with the huge amount of rainfall overnight the waterfall at Smoo Cave was a huge torrent of powerful water. There was no way that the dinghy tours into the other two caverns could operate, but we could access the first cavern to see the waterfall.

Kyle of Tongue After lunch in the scorching sunshine, we left Smoo Cave and continued on the single track A838 around Loch Eriboll. I lost count of the amount of caravans we passed! One foreign caravan did put the frighteners on me as he must have got confused, as he headed onto our side of the road and forced me on to the wrong side of the road to pass him. After Eriboll the road turned back into a double track road as it cut across Whitten Head. After a short while we crossed over the Kyle of Tongue on the causeway and then caught site of Varrich Castle sitting up high on a rocky outcrop.

A836 South of Altnaharra We turned right in Tongue on to the A836 and headed back towards Lairg. We passed Loch Loyal on our way to the remote village of Altnaharra. Then passed by the even more remote Crask Inn before getting briefly stuck at the road resurfacing work area again. We pushed our way to the front of the queue at the roadworks. When we got going again we had a clear run all the way back to Lairg. As we arrived back in Lairg it started to rain and after we went inside the heavens opened with a torrential downpour again. Think we’ve been very lucky with the weather today based on the original forecast.

Thurs 9th June – Dunrobin Castle  
Dunrobin Castle After a nice cooked breakfast we headed out at round 10:30am. We left Lairg on the A839 and headed towards Rogart. We passed through Rogart and then turned left on to the A9. We passed through Golspie and then arrived at Dunrobin Castle, where we were greeted by the piper. We went straight in and walked (although some of us hobbled) down to the bottom of the gardens to watch the falconry display.

Andy and the Harris Hawk We got there in good time and so had a quick look at the birds on display. We were amazed to see a Golden Eagle just sitting there within touching distance. We then sat down at the front for a good view. A Harris Hawk was used at the start of the display, it kept flying away to a wall and then coming back to Andy (the Falconer) at low level, skimming the heads of the audience. While the Harris Hawk was flying a Peregrine Falcon kept coming in at speed to take food thrown up in the air by Andy. The last bird in the display was an Eagle Owl, which had being sitting camouflaged up in a nearby tree. Andy called it down and it gracefully glided in. Although it is a very powerful bird it was also very tame,Eagle Owl so after the show Andy put it down on one of the benches so people could get up close to it to take photos. 

After a quick look around the castle we called at Lairg to pick up the laptop. We then headed over to the Falls of Shin visitor centre again for a coffee and to use the free Wi-Fi. We had a look at the BBC weather website and were pleased to see that the weather should be good all day tomorrow for our visit to Orkney.

Fri 10th June – Orkney  
Orkney FerryWe got up bright and early as we had to get the 9:30am ferry from Gills Bay to Orkney. We left Lairg at 6:45am and headed out on the A839 towards Golspie. We then turned North on to the A9 and headed up to Latheron, where we joined the A99 to Wick. In Wick we stopped at Tesco to get fuel and use the facilities. We left Wick on the A99 and then after Freswick we cut across on minor roads to join the A836 at Gills Bay. We rode down to Pentland’s ferry terminal, which was basically a few portacabins. Helen went in to pay while I was directed to the front of the queue. We had decided that Helen would park her bike here for the day and to only take my bike across. As soon as Helen got back we boarded the ferry first and the bike was very well secured at the front of the boat. 

Stones of Stennes The ferry left on time and the whole operation was very slick. We left the harbour and immediately the captain opened her up. We passed by the Island of Stroma on the left and could see lots of the abandon houses, as the last people left in 1962. We then passed by the smaller Swona on the left, with South Ronaldsay on the right. We then passed by the tiny island of Switha and could also see the oil terminal on Flotta. We then entered Scapa Flow before rounding South Ronaldsay and arriving at St Margaret’s Hope

Settle at Skara Brae Due to our location on the ferry we were pretty much the last ones off. We had left behind the sunny mainland and arrived to light rain and dark cloudy skies, but could see clearer skies to the Northwest. We left St Margaret’s Hope and joined the A961 and passed over Churchill Barrier No.4 and on to Burray. We then went over Barrier No.3 on to Glimps Holm, then Barrier No.2 on to Lamb Holm where the Italian Chapel is located. We then passed over the final of Churchill’s Barriers on to Mainland, Orkney. We continued on the A961 and into Kirkwall where we parked up to visit the Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces and also St Magnus Cathedral

Skara Brae We left Kirkwall on the A965 and soon got out of the wet weather and on to dry roads again. We passed by the Bay of Firth and arrived at Finstown. We continued on the A965 and passed by Maeshowe Chambered Cairn just before turning right on to the B9055. We then stopped at the Stones of Stennes for lunch. We then continued up the B9055 for half a mile and arrived at the Ring of Brodgar. We followed the B9055 for a few more miles and soon arrived at the Bay of Skaill, the location of Skara Brae. I managed to hobble the short walk to the prehistoric village and marvelled at the well preserved 5,000 year old site. We then went back to the visitor centre and had a well earned coffee and a scone. Helen was also able to use our 20% Historic Scotland Members discount in the shop to buy a Shiela Fleet Skyran pendant, which she had already eyed up in the visit Scotland Orkney brochure.  

Broch of Gurness We left Skara Brae and headed North on the B9056 and soon arrived in Birsay at the Northwest tip of Mainland, Orkney. We stopped to have a quick look at the Earl’s Palace, before heading back on the A967 to Twatt. Strangely there were no signs to take a photo by, I wonder why! We then headed Southeast on the A986 before turning left on to the B9057 in Dounby. We headed Northeast and stop on the road close to Click Mill, but couldn’t see anything really from there. We then joined the A966 briefly before heading to Point of Hellia and the site of the Broch of Gurness

Settle on Orkney Ferry We then left and headed back over to catch the ferry from St Margaret’s Hope back to the mainland. We arrived at the ferry terminal on time and immediately went to the front of the queue and boarded the ferry first again. The ferry left on time at 17:30 and we headed back to Gills Bay on the mainland. We got off the ferry pretty much last again and then picked up Helen’s bike. We then headed back to Tesco at Wick to fill up with fuel again. We left Wick and proceeded back to Lairg on the A9, which was pretty quiet at this time of day. We arrived back in Lairg at around 20:00 pretty tired from our long day. Somewhere on route one of my headlight bulbs decided to give up and blew. Fortunately the VFR has two headlights so I was still giving off enough light to alert other drivers to my presence.

Sat 11th June – Lairg to Ballater  
We surprisingly awoke to sunshine and blue skies as the weather report had predicted heavy rain across Northern Scotland today. So we packed up and left The Gallery in Lairg our home for the last week and headed out on the A836 to Bonar Bridge. We then crossed over the Kyle of Sutherland at Bonar Bridge and continued on the A836 towards Tain. We then joined the A9 near to Tain and headed to the Tesco for fuel and to try and get a new headlight bulb for my bike. They only had a bulb kit but at £8.00 it was well worth the money for all the bulbs it had. After a little fiddling I replaced the bulb and then noticed that the other headlight bulb looked like it was on its last legs as well.

Fortrose Cathedral We left Tain on the A9 and headed towards Dingwall and then crossed over the Cromarty Firth and on to the Black Isle. Just after crossing the bridge we turned left on to the B9163 and headed over to Balblair. Here we joined the B9160 and headed over to Fortrose where we joined the A832. In Fortrose we took a slight detour to Chanonry Point, so we could look across Moray Firth to Fort George on the other side. We then headed back into Fortrose and had a quick look at Fortrose Cathedral as last time we where here it was raining very heavily. 

We left Fortrose on the A832 and headed back to the A9 at Tore. We joined the A9 and headed South and stopped briefly in North Kessock for a comfort break. We could see from here the grey and overcast skies to the South and knew we would hit rain shortly. We left and then headed over Kessock Bridge and into the outskirts of Inverness. We then joined the A96 and headed towards Nairn before turning right on to the B9090 and cutting across to the A939 via Cawdor. Just outside Cawdor we hit very wet roads and as we turned on to the A939 rain was starting to fall. This was a real shame as the A939 is a fantastic road that cuLochindorb Castlets through wooded areas and over hills. It also has lots of twists and turns over multiple elevation changes, because of the rain and very damp conditions we had to take it easy. Just after Dava we turned off the A939 on to minor roads to briefly visit Lochindorb Castle. We then headed back to the A939 and headed South towards Grantown-on-Spey. We soon passed through Grantown-on-Spey and continued on the A939. After a nice run on the old military road we then descended down rapidly into Bridge of Brown on a few tight corners. We then headed back up the other side and soon arrived at Tomintoul. We then climbed up to the Lecht Ski Centre at 2090ft, it was still raining and quite windy but I was enjoying the breathtaking views so didn’t mind that much. Unfortunately all the carparks looked to have a soft sandy base down so we choose not to park up and visit the nice looking cafe at the top. We dropped down from Lecht Ski Centre and then briefly stopped to have a quick look at Corgarff Castle, before heading into Ballater.

Gordon Guest House We arrived in Ballater at around 14:00, so had a bit of time to kill before we could check into our B&B for the night the Gordon Guest House at 15:00. We parked up outside the Old Royal Station and had coffee and scones in cafe. We then checked into the Gordon Guest House and the owner let us park the bikes on the driveway. We then got ourselves dry and then later on headed over to The Balmoral Bar for something to eat. It had been raining constantly in Ballater all day and hadn’t really let up at all while we where there. It only really started to let off raining just before we went to bed.

Sun 12th June – Ballater to Peebles 
We awoke to sunshine and clearing skies and surprisingly dry roads. We filled up with fuel in the garage around the corner and then left Ballater on the A93 heading towards Braemar. There was still the odd damp patch under trees etc., Glensheebut we were able to ride the road with more gusto than yesterday. We some passed by Balmoral Castle as we wound are way to Braemar. In Braemar we turned South and headed on the A93 into Glen Clunie. We then started the climb up to Glenshee Ski Centre. We passed over the top and then stopped just below the summit to take some photos. 

  We continued down the A93 and through the Spittal of Glenshee. The A93 at this point started to cut through the valley and alongside the river Shee Water. This section of road was very bumpy and you could easily get yourself into difficulty if not ridden with some caution. After a really great ride along the A93 we eventually arrived at Blairgowrie. We then took the A923 to Coupar Angus, because my satnav was constantGlensheely going off with safety camera alerts we where taking it easy. At some point along this road Helen noticed a sportsbike catch her up very quickly but did not pass. We were instantly suspicious and kept pretty much to the speed limit. We then lost it briefly as we entered Coupar Angus and we followed the A923 on to Dundee. Again the bike caught Helen up very quickly, but did not pass. Then just before Muirhead he stopped and possibly turned around. As we came into Muirhead an unmarked Police Car had already pulled over a biker. We then got diverted off the A923 due to roadworks and cut across to the A90. We then turned on to the A923 again and headed into Dundee. We then crossed over the Firth of Tay on the Tay Road Bridge and stopped near to Tayport at some services. 

Tayport Services We left Tayport and continued on the A92 and then soon turned off on to the A914. We then joined the A919 and passed through Leuchars before joining the A91 to St Andrews. We soon arrived in St Andrews and after circling around for a while found a sign to St Andrews Castle as we knew their was some free parking nearby. We parked up outside St Andrews Castle and looked for somewhere to have lunch. We eventually found a nice cafe on South Street called Janettas where we had some paninis.

After lunch and some photos we headed out of St Andrews on the A91 and headed to Cupar. We passed through Cupar and then joined the A914 to Glenrothes. Just outside Glenrothes we joined the A92 again and headed for Edinburgh. We then joined the M90/A90 and headed over the Forth Road Bridge and into Queensferry. St Andrews CastleWe then joined the M9 and then the M8 as we rode around the outskirts of Edinburgh. We then joined the A720 and then soon stopped at Dreghorn services for some fuel. I had also noticed that I was down to one headlight again but even though it was a large garage they didn’t sell any bulbs.

We left the services and then briefly rejoined the A720 before getting off at the next junction and taking the A702 South. We then immediately turned on to the A703 and then on to the A701 before turning off on to the B7026 to Howgate. In Howgate we joined the A6094 and then crossed over the A703 to once again rejoin the A701 heading for Moffat. We followed the A701 for a while and then turned on to the B7059 and cut across to the A72. We joined the A72 and on our way to Peebles we passed by Neidpath Castle. We then arrived in Peebles and briefly stopped to have a quick look at Cross Kirk. We then joined the A703 and headed North to our B&B for the night Winkston Farm. We took the luggage off my the bike and then headed back into Peebles again to get a picnic tea from Tesco. On the way back to the B&B we called in at a garage to get some more H7 headlight bulbs for the VFR. We then parked the bikes under one of the barn canopies as we where expecting heavy ran to pass in the night. Later on that night I went out and fitted the new to replace the second blown bulb of the holiday.

Mon 13th June – Peebles to Home
We awoke to drying roads and and a misty but clearing sky, if a little overcast. After a really nice breakfast we left Winkston Farm and back into Peebles on the A703. We joined the A72 and then the A707 as we headed for Selkirk. We then turned left onto the A699 and then joined the B6453. We then headed through Midlem to join the B6400 towards Jedburgh. We joined the A68 North of Jedburgh and headed South into Jedburgh. We  parked up next to Jedburgh Abbey for a short comfort break.

We left Jedburgh on the A68 but soon turned onto the B6357 towards Bonchester Bridge. We had specifically cut across to Jedburgh to join this stunning B road. We continued South on the B6357 and briefly joined the A6088, before rejoining the B6357 again. This section of the B6357 all the way down to where it meets the B6399 is simply stunning to ride. Fantastic corners and scenery with very little traffic, what more could you ask for. One sweeping tight lefthander sticks out especially. The rest of the B6357 is also stunning and we were soon at the end of it and in Canonbie. Here we joined the A7 and headed back into England and through Longtown and joined the M6 at Junction 44 near Carlisle. We got off the M6 at junction 42 and joined the A6 towards Penrith. We headed through Penrith and continued on the A6 to Shap, where we stopped for a quick comfort break.

Devil's Bridge After lunch we left Shap and then turned left onto the B6261 to Orton. From Orton we took the B6260 to Tebay and then joined the A685 towards Kendal. As the A685 left the side of the M6 we turned left onto the B6257 and headed under the M6 towards Sedbergh. We briefly joined the A684 before rejoining the B6257 and then onto the A683, which we took down to Devil’s Bridge at Kirkby Lonsdale. We stopped here for lunch and found it to be a lot busier with bikes this time.

We left here on the A65 towards Skipton and then stopped briefly in Ingleton for fuel. From Ingleton we continued on the A65 before turning off before Clapham and heading over Burn Moor and past Stocks Reservoir. We then turned right onto the B6478 and headed through Slaidburn and then over Waddington Fell and down into Clitheroe. From Clitheroe we followed the A59, A671 and then the A56/M66 back home. We arrived home at around 3:30pm to Diesel sitting in the kitchen window, she immediately recognised me even with my helmet on. For once all three of the cats were very pleased to see us and didn’t really sulk at all. Once we had unpacked we put the bikes away and we checked the trips and discovered that we had almost covered 2,300 miles on our bike tour.

Please view more photos of our tour around Scotland - Slideshow