or Long Way Down (Scotland)

Another great adventure with my “wee” brother

25th July 2012 – the outward journey (212 miles)

Bill and I had arranged to visit our sister and her husband at their new home in Campbeltown. This was all depending on the weather – as I’m a soft motorcyclist. I will only go out if the weather is dry and the temperature in double figures. There was a great forecast for these two days so our journey was on!

Bill has a 1 year old Hyosung GV250 and I have a 31 year old Yamaha XS650.

We had arranged to meet at my house at 10.00am which turned out to be 10.30am! So we headed off on our grand adventure. This required picking up petrol for Bill’s bike at Tesco in Dingwall. So both bikes were ready to head south. We went by Muir of Ord then Beauly and over the Cul na Kirk to Drumnadrochit. We had a wee stop by Loch Ness to stretch stiffening legs. This is a rather attractive photo of the lovely place that we chose to stop at.

Then it was down Loch Ness to Fort Augustus. We bought some nutritious rubbish to eat – including a pork pie costing £1.80!! Did it have a gold filling? I had to borrow a fiver off Bill as I couldn’t get a cash machine. We moved to Bridge of Oich where we stopped to eat our delights. There is nothing quite like a pork pie (even if it costs £1.80). Helped along by crisps, coke and a marathon!! There was a mass of swallows feeding under the canal bridge. Its a nice spot.

It was good to stop but you have to keep going. I picked up petrol in Fort William. We also used the toilet here – it would win no prizes for hygiene.

And I found a cash machine and was able to repay my debts! Ballachulish was the next stop. We used to cross the ferry here when we came up from Glasgow on holiday as children. It was a 7 hour journey then to go from Glasgow to the Black Isle. But it was like going to heaven so we bore the long journey with fortitude. If the ferry queues were long then we would go round the road by Kinlochleven – we all hated that. But there is no ferry now, just this bridge. But that was almost 50 years ago!

We were not making great time so we pushed on for Lochgilphead. We bypassed Oban by taking a branch at Connel to Kilmore. This was single track road but great fun. In fact the whole driving was just superb.

I brought on a bit of entertainment here. Bill’s bike can be a bit tricky to start sometimes. It is having charging problems and is just back from having a new regulator fitted! At the traffic lights for the bridge I stalled by hitting the side stand and activating the cut out switch. Then I panicked trying to start it and it would not start – I drained what little charge was in the battery. So it had to be pushed with Bill on it to bump start it. I can tell you that pushing a motor bike with Bill on it is quite an act of strength and willpower. REM have a song “The Great Beyond” one of the lyrics in it is “I’m pushing an elephant up the stairs“. But we got it going and got over our embarrassment.

We were pretty much ready for a rest on getting to Lochgilphead. We both picked up petrol. And used the toilet – this time a fragrant clean one!!

We stopped a wee bit further on the way out of Lochgilphead to eat and rest.

Once more – nutritious food!

But Bill didn’t want to sit at this nice table and chairs!

We had to keep going so onto Tarbert and then down the Kintyre peninsula. It is stunning countryside and superb biking roads. We stopped half way down at Ronachan with fantastic views to Islay and Jura.

We could also see out to Ireland as we headed south. But at nearly 7.00pm, a bit tired and weary, we reached Cambeltown. I really enjoyed the run down.

Liz and Calum as expected were very welcoming and we had a smashing tea. After a rest they took us to see their church and the harbour. They are fine people and have decided to use the twilight years of life trying to help in a small church. The church has done some fantastic work getting their building wind and watertight. It is a lovely little church.

That’s not a good photo but the only one I took with Calum, Bill and Liz all in it – its in the gallery of the church. One of the church members has made a fantastic job of restoring the wall round this large window once leaks had been repaired.

If you live in Cambeltown join with them for worship. If you go on holiday they would be delighted for you to join with them. And pray for this little congregation. We took a wee walk round the harbour as the night drew in.

I do like Cambeltown. My father was a minister and we had a holiday in Tarbert over 50 years ago. He took the services and we stayed in the manse. I think it was a pulpit and manse swap. A very strong memory I have – I was probably six at the time – is of going to Cambeltown. On the way down we picked up a father and son who had come off a motorbike. They were a bit bashed and cut and the son a bit confused. My dad and mum wanted to take them to Cambeltown hospital but they just wanted to go to their home, so they were dropped off at home. That is all I remember. Probably my first memory of motor bikes. A good thing it didn’t put me off.

So we came back to the house, yarned for a long time and went off for a well earned sleep.

26th July 2012 – the return journey (232 miles)

I didn’t get up till 8.15, which for me is very late. Even in holiday time I’m usually up by 7.00. So took a few pictures and got packed.

We managed to get away by 10.20 and took the Carradale road up the east side of the peninsula. This is a hard but exciting road to drive on the motorbike – single track with blind corners and very steep gradients. It was constant gear changing and concentration – that’s what makes a bike drive special! The views out to Arran were just amazing.

This took quite a long time but we hit the west road and then picked up speed and moved onto Tarbert. As said before we had a holiday here when I was six (and that’s the last time I was here) but I just couldn’t remember it or where we had stayed. Its a bonny place.

Then the photos stop for a while as we got harassed. We moved to Lochgilphead and went to the COOP for supplies (we got two pork pies for £1, that’s more like it!!).

But coming out to the bikes the Hyosung just would not start. Now there is nothing more embarrassing than bump starting a motorbike round a COOP car park. It gave the locals some entertainment. But we got the bike going and Bill shot off. I lost him and he was the one that knew where he was going! But then I found him stalled near the putting green! Oh dear. Oh dear. So we got the bikes up on the pavement, stopped, and had something to eat including the bargain pork pies!

After a good rest the Hyosung started on the button!! Much to our relief. So it was heading back north. We branched off onto the single track roads beyond Kilmartin and headed to Ford and up the north side of Loch Awe to Taynuilt. The weather was warm, the road interesting, the scenery fantastic a biker’s dream, but – there’s always a but – there was gravel up the middle of the road the whole way so it was extreme care. I came off on gravel just last year and it totally unnerves me.

This was great. The Hyosung had got over its tantrum and was starting like a dream. Even my Yamaha decided that the starter motor could be used – usually I kick it. Batteries don’t seem to last like they used to. The one I have at the moment is a Yuasa one fitted last year. It started great on the motor last year but its now back to its usual ways. All motorbikes should be fitted with a kick start. That would have saved Bill’s and my red faces!

So we went on to Connel and stopped before a bit before Ballachulish. A lot of bikes went past and they all waved to us. The brotherhood! In fact there’s a wee tear in my eye, a lump in my throat and a pain in my heart thinking about it! When I was a young motorcyclist all bikers would wave to you. I find that now many don’t, especially those on high performance sports bikes that are covered in plastic (like a scooter – but don’t tell them).

We then motored onto Ballachulish, and then Fort William where we took on more petrol. I have a range of just 140 miles which is poor. Bill can go another 100 miles further at least on a tankful. The next target was the commando monument at Spean Bridge. It’s a very good monument. During World War II commandos were trained in the hills round here.

We took a long rest here – lay back on the grass for half an hour! Then it was continuing up the Great Glen on to Fort Augustus. Here we got chip suppers which we ate where the canal enters Loch Ness. It’s a really nice spot.

The Dores road on the south side of Loch Ness is much quieter and we took it to Inverness. It’s wide single track and you can make good speed on it. I crashed and wrote off my first bike on the Dores road. I was with Bill then, too. That was a CZ250 sports!! There are some right bonny spots on this road

We had to take a diversion which I’ve not yet marked on the map. It was very nice but narrow single track with gravel in the centre so slow! Then we got to Inverness. Our parents are both still living my dad being 87 and my mum 85. My dad survived two heart attacks three years back but the oxygen starvation during them has taken his memory. He is pleasantly confused but a delight to visit. Such a shame as he was a very clever man. My mum is amazing – she cares for my dad and if we were to have arrived at tea time she would have had a three course meal ready for us in no time. Her house is spotless.

That’s me with my lovely parents. They are great people.

We couldn’t wait long but had to push on over the Black Isle. I prefer the back roads to the A9 and know them well so that’s the way we went. We came back onto the A9 near the Cromarty Bridge. Then we blasted up the A9 to Kildary. Here Bill and I parted and both got safely home.

I keep a log for all my vehicles. At the end of this trip checking our mileage and the volume of fuel I had put in, the old Yamaha was returning almost 70 miles to the gallon. That is pretty impressive for a 650! What a great two days.