Trevor Hunt Trophy Trial

Not so much of a write up, more an evaluation of the event and what to do next. Too busy to take photos on the day (and I left my camera at home too 🙂

The weather was good for setting out on Saturday and remained fine for the trial, with rain arriving around 18h00 after everyone had finished.

The sections and route are attached, results to be uploaded also.

Review

The feedback on the trial was general very good, in particular:

– good sections (just like the Manx was one comment). 14 different groups helped provide variety and that some of the classic Trader’s section made it in, added to the fun

– the off-road sections (Shawl’s, Hermit’s and Hill Lane) added to the mix and had an impact on the results

– that the Standard Route sections were of a good-level, though for the top riders a couple of stopper sections may have helped

The Wye Valley club learned a lot from running of the event and it was good to see a generally excellent level of support from members, friends and landowners. It wouldn’t be possible otherwise. The first event will always be the hardest, as Andy Pitt is probably hoping.


Entry

There was an entry of around 70, with a few non-starters

– having the modern bikes in trial certainly helped the entry, but the trial wasn’t set out for them, so they have may have found it on the easy side in some cases. Most of the modern bike riders understood that

– the Alternative route was only 30% of the overall entry; more pre-65’s and twinshock riders would have enjoyed it

The Sections

Glandwr, potentially for more (and harder) sections in the right hand stream, but the banks and trees provided some great variation
Darkies; older classic section and though not hard should remain a feature of the trial because of tradition and history
Blackhill, good traditional stream section and some potential for further subs
Shawls, like Darkies but harder, again a traditional section that makes a statement about the style and ‘feel’ of the trial
Little Cefn, only one sub here, but the Standard route sub was good one, again split up the longer road section round to Urishay
Cae Mawr, relatively easy, but laid out that way. Would have been different in the wet, but mainly provided some variation
Slough Dingle, again, character sections
St Margarets, nice stream sub and broke up the ride round to:
Lodge Wood, lots more sections here, not just in the stream, as people who’ve ridden other WVAC trials know. The stream sections here caught out a few and were harder than expected
Platch, couple of short subs (used for schoolboy sections till now), again some other potential
Fedw: good subs, again in a stream. There are some more “interesting” sections further downstream
Mynnyd Ferdin: good couple of sections again, some more potential for harder subs here
Pont yr Ynys: good subs, again of the right flavour for a classic trial

There was room infact to put subs in both Hermits and Hill Lane, probably 3 or more in the latter and the inclusions of these UCRs in the route, added to feel of the trial

Where Next ?

There was a thought of getting the trial into either the Sammy Miller or ACU Traditional Series. However, both series would potentially restrict the sections available for use and the character of the event.

Perhaps it should stay as a standalone ‘classic’ event, to keep the character and flavour of the sections, aiming at pre-65 and twinshock riders. There is infact enough ground for a two-day trial with limited overlap.

Comments welcome, either here or on the thread on TrailsCentral

Trip Planning: short journey to the Western Isles

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Where to Go

Have an outline plan and then be flexibile. Our schedule was governed by the Calmac Hopscotch – ticket we bought, which covered 5 ferries. Scotland makes great bike touring country and the Western Isles combine that feeling of being miles from southern England without the expense of getting there (or needing the time to travel)

In terms of accommodation, there are some good campsites, and wild camping on the islands (esp Barra) is usually ok with permission. The hostels and bunkhouses were good. Camping prices ranged from £4.50 (in Uig, with free showers) to £7.00 in Glencoe. Most campsites will charge 50p or have a meter for the showers. Hostels were from £9 for the Gatliff hostels, which are good and in great buildings / locations, to £15 for the 5* bunkhouse in Leverburgh. The Oban Backpackers hostel is good value for £13.50.

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When to Go

The weather is more changeable April -> May and Sept -> Oct, but can be varied at anytime of the year. The infamous midge is at its worst in July and August though not as bad on the islands as it is in places like Glencoe. The Horgabost campsite log book did have plenty of midge complaints even from the 2-3 weeks before we were there. They’d not camped in Glencoe recently.

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Things to Take

Bike spares

|Item| Number|
|21″ inner tube | 1 |
|DPR8ES Spark Plug|2|
|Chain link|520 chain link|
|Oil|500ml 20/50w|
|cable ties|assorted|
|Electrical tape|roll|
|wire|short length, single core|

In the end we used none of the spares, except for the cable ties. The oil was handily mounted underneath the rear carrier, as the Transalp is using some but maybe as a result of motorway runs

—-

Tools
|Tyre Levers| 2 short|
|Allen Keys|set|
|Spanners|8,10,12,14,17mm|
|Adjustable spanner| 1|
|sockets|8,10,12,14,18mm (plug socket)|
|socket wrench|1/4″ drive |
|pump|Small bicycle hand pump for emergencies|

For each of use I managed to mount a BDH container on the rear footrest and strap it on. This allowed for easy access when on the road. The fuel container and knife also went in there.

—-

Camping items
|Tent|small, North Face tent, 18 years old and beginning to show|
|Stove|MSR Dragonfly, petrol stove|
|Fuel Bottle|for the stove|
|Pans|lightweight pans from Trangia, two pans and a frying pan|
|Bascha|ex-MOD 2m x 3m cover with bungees|
|Head torch|small Petzl|
|Insect repellant|50 rated anti-midge, though the locals all swear by Avon “Skin So Soft” ?? |
|Utensils|tin and bottle opener and sharp knife|
|Thermarest mat|best sleeping mat around, Rog also used one|

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Group Items
|Guide Book|Rough Guide to Highlands and Islands|
|Map|Map 2 of the Ordnace Survey Road Map Series|

Personal items
|Spare trainers|Hardly used infact|
|Underwear|yep did change them|
|Socks|in bike boots all day can make them agreesive|
|T-shirts|layers are good|
|Woolly hat|even in summer (?) good when outdoors|
|Fleece|lightweight NF fleexe, and heavier top|
|Cutlery|knife and spoon|
|Towel and wash kit|yep, I did take some|

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Bike Clothing
|Jacket|Rukka Jacket, large|
|Trousers|Frank Thomas over trousers and Hebo trials pants underneath[[these did begin to get a life of their own after lots of use]]|
|Gloves|Frank Thomas Aqua + pair of lightweight mountain bike gloves|

No need for leathers or too much protection. Top speed on the trip may have hit 70 on the Harris, but it was a bit of blast.
—-

With all travel, the less you take the better. Pack, remove the non-essential items and then go through it again. If anything it gives you space to load up with single malt and shopping as you travel. For me, I would have ditched a couple of t-shirts and possible the trainers and packed flip-flops.

—-

Barra of laughts (2) ?

Awoke to a far better day, with clear skies overhead and visible signs that the weather front had passed over, with the remnants hanging over Beinn Mhor. Cooked breakfast whilst Rog packed and got ready for the short journey down to Lochboisdale. The XL however didn’t want to start so a quick push down the road got it running and he headed off into the fine morning.

Stoneybridge

Matt and I were heading to Barra and had the 10h15 Eriskay to Barra ferry to catch. Nice run down, including passing through Stoneybridge, a much pariodied location on 90’s TV sketch show, Naked Video [[about 3 minutes in on the Outer Hebrides Broadcasting Corporation (OHBC) slot]. Eriskay is famous for the wreck of the SS Politician duting WWII, when it sank for lots of Jamaican currency and a large load of Whisky. This event was fictionalised by Compton Mackenzie and made into the 1947 film ‘Whisky Galore’ (which was filmed on Barra).

The weather was looking good for the day, as the smallest ferry of the trip so far came across the Sound of Barra. No need to strap the bikes down and with no lounge as such we stood on the deck, watched the bikes on the deck and the scenery around. After a pleasant 40 minutes we arrived in Barra. Its a small island and the main road (the A888) circumnavigates the island in around 12 miles. It is described as the Western Isles in minature and has a mountain and great beaches.

First stop from the ferry was the airport. Barra Airport (BRR) is infact Traigh Mhor, ie the large cockle beach in the north of the island. There are not too many airports which can claim to be as laid back as this, though there is a control tower, fire services and security. It’s also a great attaction and has a good cafe that is reasonably priced. We timed it well and saw the 11h30 flight from Glasgow land superbly on the wet sand and roll up infront of the airport building. Next to the airport you can wild camp (as you can anywhere on Barra), but there is plenty of ground here with the added interest of the planes taking off and landing.

Barra Arrivals Hall

With the weather improving all the time, we set off on the road round the west side of the island stopping at one of its less glamorous spots next to the scrap heap to go looking for a geocache (the Barra Fun Box), which turned out to be an easy find. Had planned to do more on this trip but had left my ipod in the van, along with the cache information.

A run round the west coast didn’t take too long, though the beaches (some with cows on) were spectacular. Round into Castlebay, before turning off south towards Vatersay (Bhatarsaigh in Gaelic) , which is the southern most inhabited island in the Western Isles. Vatersay is also now connected via a causeway and leads to the hilly northern have of the island. There is a memorial to a Catalina flying boat crash from 1944 and remarkably some of the original aluminium wrekage is still there. 3 of the flight crew died.

We then continued round the road to east beach at Vatersay and spent a pleasant couple of hours cooking and eating the remainder of the food (bacon, tuna, 3 scotch pancakes and a tin of fruit salad). Nice.

Vatersay: cooking on the beach

Then walked over to the windward, western beach, which was an impressive place. There were a number of fearsome cows grazing on the machir behind the beach, along with a memorial to the wreck of an emigrant ship bound for Toronto.

Vatersay village marked the end of the journey south, notable only for a very small Post Office complete with washing line. Back round the single track coast road, passing the faded red bus on the last part of the school run. Castlebay itself is not unpleasant, but to some extent sums up the typical Hebridean small town (or village). Small, but everything is there. The grocers is also the petrol station, where supplies reflect what came in the last boat from Oban.

The castle of the clan MacNeill sits in the bay and after a quick tour of the town, Matt and I retired to the hotel for a pint on the balcony. A hour or so to kill before the ferry arrived from Oban and indeed not a bad way to finish the tour of the islands.

Castlebay

No bike brakedowns (well none that could be classed as serious) with the most useful tool the lockwire pliers (my stove and tent fixed with them). Onto the ferry, which was pretty empty for the 5 hour journey back to Oban. Pretty uneventful except for consumption of food, attempting to get a phone signal off the coast of Mull and arriving on time at 23h40.

We’d booked to stay at Oban Backpackers which at £13.50 is pretty reasonable and quiet and comfortable in the dorms. We’d negiotiated a couple of one-way-streets, the wrong way on the ferry, but soon crashed.

A reasonable breakfast (for £1.90) and we set off in the rain heading east past Loch Awe. Matt swung off towards Inverary and south towards home, whilst with improving weather I went to Crianlarich, Crieff and then Perth. The bike was running well and as the road dried, it seemed it was beginning to enjoy itself. Excellent finish to the trip. Rog had packed his bike and it was a case of loading up and hitting the road south for the 6.5 hour drive to Hereford.

Long way roundabout

No time for a round the world trip, then the Hebrides is the best option…
Can’t afford £11k for a BMW GS, then £700 gets you a 1980’s trailie off ebay.

Long way roundabout thanks to Simon for the name] has allusions to both blokes with budgets going round the world on trains (and bikes some of the time), but also a classic [Yes track

Moidart

For the story of our trip and lots of tales of derring-do [[see http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/derring-do]]

1. Slow way round

2. Long way out

3. Skyveing

4. Hurry up Harris…

5. Nis Plus

6. Uist drowned world

7. Barra of laughs

A. Planning and Kit

Photobox Album with all the Photos

Lewis

The Uists (we think ?)

The nights sleep at the Am Botham hostel was a poor description; between the snoring of Matt, a short Scots guy and one of the two Angus’s as well as the guy who insisted to listening to his music all night, it was a bit crap.

Whilst camping has the potential to be wet, windy and cold, the decision to bail out to a hostel should not be taken lightly. That we’d would have had a cold, wet and early start, would have been outweighed by a good nights sleep. Funnily enough Matt would disagree.

Leverburgh, ferry hassle

Short 2 minute ride down to the pier in Leverburgh still allowed enough time for us to get completely soaked. Decamped to the waiting room to see when the ferry would arrive. A number of the people from the hostel were in the waiting room as well and we were all well placed to see the ferry fail to make an initial attempt to offload. The crew and the lorry driver were obviously well practised in the art of scaring the people about to drive their expensive cars (and less expensive bikes) up the ramp onto the ferry.

Run the bikes on the boat and for a sit down in the warm and dry of the seating area. Couple of vending machines to keep you company as the wind and rain lash across the Sound of Harris. After a hour of playing chicken with the rocks, the ferry arrives at the north end of the causeway to Berneray and on a day like this, it feels like the middle of no where. Across the causeway to North Uist and the wind is gusting at > 40 mph, pushing the bike across the narrow single track road as it weaves it way around the lochans. There was more water than land it seemed.

The Transalp then had its first jitters of the trip, as it was misfiring on one cylinder, probably as a result of the amount of moisture in the air. We headed to Sollas and the supermarket, with the intention of heading down to the GHHT hostel at Todha Mor (Howmore) in South Uist. The idea of camping in this didn’t really appeal. Coughing and spluttering we got to Lochmaddy, not the biggest town, but where food and drink could be obtained from the Arts Centre. The proprietor of the Lochmaddy Hotel said the staff weren’t on yet, so couldn’t help with coffee or food, so therefore directed us over to the Arts Centre, and then joined us later when she was on the hunt for an Internet connection. Dial up of course.

Lochmaddy: the team prepares to head south

Back out to get set for the journey south, with the amusement of Roger trying to don his wet weather oversuit in a howling gale. The Transalp was still running mainly one one cylinder and therefore struggling against the wind, whilst Rog found the clutch on the XL slipping as it tried to push its way forward. Meanwhile Matt was still failing the Ewan off-road riding school challenge as he took it steady at the rear.

Lots more rain as we crossed the causeway into Benbecula, and with the conditions relatively interesting it made you wonder what it was like here when the wind really blew. After camping near Taransay and its history with the TV Series ‘Castaway’ it was noticed that the only person still in the media eye from the series, Ben Fogle could be a badly pronounced Benbecula (Beinn nam Fadhla) in Gaelic ?

Next stop was a garage for some fuel, where there were two pumps and a price of 126p a litre. Interesting place with a few suitable car wrecks scattered around the back. Another stop just after getting across into South Uist, this time for food. Attached to a local community hall was Mary’s Cafe serving traditional fare of the region with Matt plumping for Black Pudding supper (ie two big slices of black pudding, deep fried in batter with lots of chips). Whilst we were eating a large puddle collected beneath our coats hanging in the corner, which we did offer to clean up prior to leaving but our offer was not accepted, “its happens all the time out here”. Reluctantly we pulled on our kit, which were more like sponges that an effective means of weather proofing and headed back into the rain and wind, which was by now gusting strongly. About 6 miles down the main road (ie single track with passing places) till we got to Tobha Mor (Howmore) and turned off towards the Hostel, which given the weather was our target for the day.

Light lunch ?

Interestingly, all the road signs in the Uists and Benbecula didn’t have any distances and though the main road goes from Lochmaddy in the north, to Lochboisdale in the south, you need to look at the map to work out the distance travelled.

An initial inspection of the dormitory at the Tobha Mor hostel wasn’t that appealing, as like the one at Garellin it was a traditional Black House, with heather/thatch roof. However, this one leaked. We then realised that there was another house next door, where the kitchen and common room were and by timely moving of clothing, we managed to blag the three bed room in that building. One couple were about to leave and head towards Barra and we’d arrived with another couple of people who’d just got off the bus. The stove was lit and providing some heat, so by 14h30, we were settling down to an afternoon of reading, chatting and welcome other bedraggled visitors to the hostel, which began to fill up. Plenty of tea and chat as the wind and rain continued to batter the outside walls, which are luckily of a Uist 3 foot thick standard.

Roger’s turn to cook later, following our visit to the Coop earlier and created a superb dish involving pasta, new potatoes and a pasta sauce. Also, uniquely for the week, it contained green vegetables. As part of the hostel cookery competition, Matt christened it “Nunn-chuck” in honour of Rog’s ninja skills in the workplace, though this was an undeserving description. This was Roger’s parting shot as he decided to head for the 09h00 ferry from Lochboisdale so he could spend a night in Perth with Amelia and the in-laws.

The hostel is slightly less formal that the Youth Hostel Association (or its Scottish counterpart) and is run by the Gatliff Trust , along with another 3 in the Western Isles. They are to be recommended.

Rain still falling, we settled down to more Ambrosia rice pudding and a tin of Tennants lager. More chat and then to bed. Promise of a better day tomorrow and memories of one of the more interesting 50 miles I’d ridden.

Nis Plus: Lewis and Harris

The day started with the attack of the otters (based on best guess and large scrape marks) which seemed to have a taste for bacon butties. They left the sausages and scotch pancakes, which luckily gave us something else to eat for breakfast. I always felt sorry for Tarka, but now I have some sympathies for Deadlock, the Otterhound.

The thing that ate the bacon

Nice morning, though the wind had dropped enough for the midges mentioned in the camp logbook to descend, though compared with Glencoe they were pretty mild and only slightly above the 1 level on the Midge Forecast. Anyway the MSR took out a few of them, with the sausages and poached eggs.

Then set off for a tour of Lewis and Harris. North Harris must be one of the most rugged places in Britian, which some of the oldest rocks in the world. The road towards Stornoway heads up over the pass with some newly laid tarmac (which is sure to attract the attention of Clarkson, May and Hammond at some point.

Over into Lewis, and the scenery changes to become flatter and more open and desolate, though the villages strung out along the road reminded me of the west Wales valleys to some extent. The headed out west towards Calanish and the coast, meeting a Stig-a-like biker throttling the life out of a Honda CG125.

The stone circles at Calanish are probably the biggest tourist draw on Lewis and are in a fabolous setting overlooking some small lochs.

Calanish

A few people around, though Roger bumped into a guy from Sun (who spotted the Red Hat cap). Like others he was doing an island hopping tour and saw us a couple of days back in the Talisker distillery. We also continued to see (twice) the yellow VW camper we’d been following since Mallaig highlight the small number of tourists on the road up here in September. It was commented that if we were heading to Ness (or Nis in gaelic), the Sun guy would be going further to Nis plus….

Next stop was the Garennin black house village, with a number of restored buildings. There is a youth hostel there, one of 4 in the Hebrides run by the Gatliffe Trust . Its an excellent building with probably around 14 beds and a pretty good kitchen.

The bottom of the village overlooked a small bay, and sitting on the seat like Foggy, Compo and Clegg the subject somehow got onto James Bond films. That Matt was able to compare the car chase in Casino Royale (all 30 seconds of it before the Aston is totalled) with the Withdrawal Method is still somewhat baffling but kept us amused until we found our way to the excellent cafe there.

Black House Village

A nice lunch, though somewhat spoilt by the couple who insisted on playing Radio 4 very loudly from their camper van the previous night, but enhanced by the excellent scones and friendly staff. I’d thought I’d check with Calmac on the Leverhulme to Berneray ferry for tomorrow. Lucky I did, as not only was it compulsory reservation (didn’t say that in Mallaig), they’d also got the date wrong on the Castlebay -> Oban crossing. By a week.

Then in still really nice weather, off to Nis and the Butt of Lewis, which was a fair trek past the crofting communities of the west coast. You can tell their commitment to their religion and the Free Church of Scotland (the Wee Frees) just by the densisty of churches and the large size of the carparks. Much of the Hebrides (about from Catholic South Uist and Barra) is strict Sabbatarian; not a lot happens on Sundays.

The Butt of Lewis was more impressive than Ardnamurchan point, as the lighthouse was taller and the cliffs bigger. Matt decided not to follow Roger’s and my example and park the bikes right at the edge of cliff. Some great views back across the Minch and you see the whale back summit of Suliven over in Assynt. Place for a future trip.

Back across the peat bog that is the centre of Lewis towards Stornoway, which after a few days on the road in the Highlands and Islands is a little unsettling. Its a transported Glasgow commuter town and it seemed worlds away from Tarbet, only 40 miles away. Quick stop for petrol and off back south towards Harris.

Stopped for fish and chips at Ad’s Takeaway in Tarbet, which were excellent with that crunchy freshly cooked batter and great tasting cod. To be recommended. Then with the motel under refurbishment, we paid a visit to the inflatable pub in the car park. The girl behind the bar was very hopefully that the motel would be finished in the next 4 weeks, before the autumn gales took the pub and her with it out into the harbour. Plastic glasses only.

Tarbet, the inflatable pub

Watching the weather forecast on the BBC did prompt a decision, to head back to Horgebost and pack camp and head to the bunkhouse at Leverhulme. With an 08h30 start probably best to get going quickly and dry rather attempting to pack a wet tent. Being out and about and on the road makes you far more conscious of the weather than normal.

The Am Bothan bunkhouse was fairly full, but warm, well equipped and very dry. A chance to power up kit and pack up kit ready for the morrow. With the wind whistling around the building, its going to be an interesting day tomorrow.

Hurry up Harris, we’re all going down the beach…

It had stopped raining during the night, so getting ready for 09h40 sailing to Tarbet on Harris wasn’t going to be too much of a challenge. Also helped by the fact the pier was about 200m from the campsite.

Nothing open for food in Uig and impressions of the place were reinforced by the robust approach by the Calmac guys checking in. Ferry on time and the bikes fastened to vertical bars placed on the deck. The MV Hebrides isn’t a massive ship, but its a good size for crossing the Minch

Matt straight onboard searching for power to charge the array of electrical devices. His Freeloader charger procured from the Eden Project the week before was failing to produce the necessary charge, but probably down to the limited amount of sunlight available.

Tarbet

A good breakfast onboard and settled down for the 1h40m crossing. The weather out across the Little Minch was better than that on Skye and importantly dry. On arriving at Tarbet, did some investigation on campsites and also did some shopping. The size and number of the shops reflect both the size and requirements of the community on Harris. As Matt and Rog dissappeared into a hardware store last seen in England in the 1950’s, I wandered into Munro’s grocery store, where the lottery machine was handily placed next to the bacon slicer. The locally made beef sausages looked excellent and a sample was provided.

To the petrol station for fuel and air for the rear tyre of the XL, after Roger decided 10 psi was probably a little low (it should have been 25). Petrol here is more expensive than the mainland, at 124p for unleaded and the price had been rising steadily since we left Perth.

Seilebost, Harris

After discussions on where and how to stay, we headed towards Horgabost in South Harris with the intention of staying a couple of nights. After a section of single track road across the rocky heart of Harris, we emerged over looking the bay at Seilebost and its really impressive view across white beaches, blue sea and the mountains of North Harris behind.

Luskentyre

The campsite at Horgabost was behind the beach on the machir and was an excellent spot. We spent the afternoon on the beach and rockpools and Matt and Rog even attempted some fishing with equipment Roger had procured from the Pound Shop.

Some decisions over dinner; either Matt’s army ration boil in the bag or the tempting delights of a Corned Beef Madras with new potatoes. Unsurprisingly the latter one and was followed up by Ambrosia rice pudding and a can of McEwans Export. Even though I say myself, the meal would have been worthy of a place on the menu at the Ivy. However, its missing ingredient, not being at the Ivy, but in Harris, added significantly to the dining experience.

Horgebost: Campsite

Total of 10 miles travelled by bike today, what bike tours should be about. A tour of Lewis and Harris tomorrow planned, weather hopefully ok.

Skyeving

Steady rain through the night at Invercambie eased and stopped by morning, which made packing the bikes easier. A nice spot and good showers makes this a recommended site to stop at, though probably busier in the summer.

Off to Mallaig via the old coast round, with Matt maneouvering the tank (aka Pan European) carefully around the bends giving the more nimble but slower bikes the chance to catch up. Got to Mallaig in plenty of time for 10h55 to Armadale. Bought the ‘Hopscotch’ tickets from Caladonian Macbrayne (Calmac) which at £130.00 for rider and bike for 5 ferry crossings doesn’t seen too bad.

The route chosen was Mallaig -> Armadale (on Skye), Uig -> Tarbet (Harris), Leverhulme (Harris) -> Berneray (North Uist), Eriskay -> Barra, and finally the long route home from Castlebay on Barra back to Oban.

The 30 minute crossing from Mallaig to Armadale was straightforward, though got stuck behind a very large coach, which unlike most of the tourist and locals alike didn’t fancy pulling over as we made our way up through Sleat. The view back over towards Morar and Knoydart were excellent, though became obscured by some large black clouds.

Road to Portree

Up to the main road and through Broadford, where the weather opened up and as we came round towards Sconser the clouds descended from the Black Cuillen and it rained nice and hard. Ruined the views of the peaks and of Raasay and also meant it hurt whilst riding over 50 mph, put the current strategy meant we weren’t going much faster than that. Stopped in the Sligachan Inn for lunch, which had the added entertainment of watching the landlord take the piss out of a swiss couple who were having trouble with the concept on a venison burger. He then tore into a couple of lads drying their kit in the bar, just for an encore. The soup was ok, but you never know what added ‘sassenach’ ingredients were in it.

A wet run over to Carbost on Mingnish and a visit to Talisker Distillery. Always a little dissappointing to find that rather than the small independent image of marketing, Talisker is owned by Diageo and the first part of the process (the malting) is done near Inverness. As we walked into the room with stills, Matt brightened up, quoting “excellent, this is all a bit more Willy Wonka”. Anyway, the tour ended up in the shop and though we did get a voucher for £3 off a bottle, no room on the bikes for the bottles.

Across the mountain road towards Portree, and then after some confusion around Peiness, headed back up on the A87 to Uig. More rain and the long sloping hill down into the village. The campsite was right next to pier and was soaked and after a quick search located a couple of dry spots next to the fence.

Road over the hill

After putting up the tent, went back to the B&B place by the pier which had some static caravans for rent outside. However, £20 per van would have been good, £20 per person per night was a bit steep, despite the rain still falling. Whacked on the Dragonfly and made a brew under the bascha streched between a couple of benches.

Anyway, still raining as we headed back up the road for a mile to the Ferry Inn which looked slightly more homey than the bar in Uig Pier. A little worrying when the lady serving the drinks insisted on us using coasters for our beer, but it became apparrent that this was because of the significant slope of the table and infact the whole bar and the coaster prevented your pint hitting the wall.

They did let us eat in the restaurant after stripping off the bike clothes in the bar and some classically moody service ensued, especially on asking for mayonnaise, twice. After a somewhat shakey meal, its was still raing as headed back to the campsite. Ferry for 09h40 the next day and hopefully the rain was going to pass.

Long way out ?

Away from Glencoe and out to the west, well the furthest westerly point of Great Britain (the island of). Slow roads on slow bikes, the ideal combination

The Red Squirrel campsite looks little better in the morning that it does in the evening. It wasn’t raining. You could see the tops, but the friendly midge was there waiting for you (or more specifically your blood). In part, this may explain why the guy in the tent next to us decided to have a can of Stella for breakfast.

Anyway, damp tent stowed on bike a brew of coffee with the working stove [Roger fixed the plunger on my MSR Dragonfly with the handy expediant of the lock wire pliers. His own MSR Whisperlite seemed to have the wrong pump in that the connecting fuel line bore is too small. Also the seemingly knowledgeable guy in [Field and Trek Guildford provided meths as fuel. Coleman white gas or petrol maybe, but meths no. We tried it]]. Packed up the kit, which seems to take a while as you have to balance everything on the bike as before.

Short trip down to Glencoe Village and the petrol station, where after filling up we watched a guy with a very nice new Jag (an XF?) put a screw into the tyre next to air machine. Then next door to the cafe come craft shop for an excellent cooked breakfast, where another group of Newcastle bikers were already enjoying breakfast. Good set of bikes including a Kawazaki Z1 and a Yam RD350 YPVS and they’d done some mileage over the weekend.

Corran Ferry

Off from the cafe and over Ballachulish Bridge and to Corran Ferry. Not long to wait, though Rog’s XL didn’t want to start when the ferry pulled in. Maybe it doesn’t like it in the sunshine and a nice swathe of blue sky appeared over Loch Leven. A push start from an onlooker got him onto the ferry and a push from both of us up the slipway got him off. The immediate threat of the plug spanner outside the Ardgour Inn seemed to convince the XL to fire up.

Off round past the looming peaks of Garbh Wen [[Which many years ago myself, Helen, Pete Francis and Steve West had completed the circuit of, which inclduded watching otters up by the high lochans]] and down the excellent road to Strontian. From there on it was single track through the Sunart oak woods up to Salen. Quick decision and we headed out through Ardnamurchan along by the loch to Glenborrodale, before heading out across the mountain and round to Knockan. There is a ferry to Tobermory on Mull to here and would be worth checking out for future trips. The last 6 miles out to the lighthouse were more single track, sharp bends (with gravel), slippery (on my tyres) cattle grids and blind ummits.

Ardnamurchan, and its raining

Got to the lighthouse and it started raining. Its an impressive spot for the most westerly point of Great Britain (geographically correct in terms of the point and the naming on the island) and unlike Lands End doesn’t suffer from lots of commercialisation. We put the cover up between the bikes and the combination of the air blowing through the hot engines of the bikes and the stove cranked up made it all very pleasant. The soup was excellent too.

The journey back to Salen was pleasant and no shorter than on the way out (its about 30 miles out from Salen to Ardnamurchan Point). On the the loop road through Moidart to Lochailort, with the last 6 miles back on faster sweeping dual-laned road around the loch. Great piece of road, with woods on one side and the loch on the other. Across Piper’s Burn (a famous group of sections on the Scottish Six Day Trial ) and up to the Fort William -> Mallaig road.

Roger got some shopping in Arisaig whilst I got in touch with Matt who was riding done through Glencoe at the time. A quick check on the Tourist Information board located a suitable campsite nearby, Invercambie. A great spot next to a sandy beach and bay. Not too busy either and put the tents up with no rain. Managed to dry things out, as the sleeping bag, tent and mat all soaked.

Invercambie

Matt and the Pan European swept in around 18h00. Set about making coffee and then some dinner (meatballs, steak stew and mushrooms with brown rice) whilst Matt put up something that looked more like a garage for the Pan rather than a tent. As darkness settled in, we adjorned to the hotel a short walk up the road for a drink. Matt had done around 490 miles in around 8 hours, with a break in Stirling on the way up. What the Pan was built for. Roger and I only about 120 miles, but around 85 or more of those miles were on single track, probably what our bikes were more suited for.

Off to Mallaig and Skye tomorrow as we head out to the Isles.

Slow way round

What to do with two old(ish) bikes, limited time and a (hopefully retained) sense of humour.

Ok, so we cheated, but so did Ewan and Charley.

I picked up Rog and Amelia in Guildford around 07h30 and loaded the van with the bikes and headed north. Cruising north via the M40, M6, and then M74 into Scotlmeant that we were leaving work and the previous week behind and heading off to do somehing different.

The bikes are my 1987 Honda Transalp and Roger’s 1985 Honda XL600, both ebay purchases and both a little long in the tooth. But at 700 and 550 quid respectively its proof that you don’t need the latest BMW to get in a road trip. Ok, so our hastily planned trip to the Western Isles of Scotland isn’t exactly following the Road of Bones or typing ‘Cape Town’ into the Sat Nav, but everything is relative; we’ve got a week, not 3 months.

Got to Perth and unshipped the bikes (and Amelia) and started loading up ready for an initial jaunt across the A85 to Cranlarich with the aim of getting to one of the Glencoe campsites. Looking at Rog’s XL, is was becoming puzzling on where exactly he would sitting, but with the flourish of nimble Olympic gymnast his managed to sit on the bike, facing the right way.

Loading up in Perth

It wasn’t raining, it wasn’t too cold and it was a good opportunity to give the bikes an 80-mile settling in run. By Cranlarich it was raining and as we moved through Tyndrun, the cloud came down to meet us. The Transalp was suffering in the handling department, probably due to the weight on 21 year old forks and shocks, making the steering a bit vague in the corners.

The 15 miles across Rannoch Moor were memorable for the cloud and rain and will only a brief glimpse down into Glen Etive there was no sign of Buchaille Etive Mor or the other peaks at the entrance to Glencoe. Down into the murky glen, where the mountain rescue were out and it stopped raining.

Passed the Clachaig Inn and to the Red Squirrel campsite, aka Midge Central. It took all of 30 seconds from stopping the bikes for the Scotland’s best known insect to descend whilst we put up the tents. There is a very good reason why Glencoe always gets a 5/5 on the Midge Forecast . Tents up and some protection from midges and rain, Roger and I walked back to the Clachaig for some food and excellent beer (recommend the heather beer) and some good conversation with other visitors to the Glen. By the time we walked back, the weather had cleared and a full moon guided our way back to the road and the tents.

Matt Booth should be joining us tomorrow, somewhere up by Mallaig. We’ll look to head out to Moidart and the Ardnamurchan peninsular (most westerly point of mainland UK) before meeting up with him.