A wee run up to Sutherland on the old XS

7th November 2015

Anne and Mairi were in Lewis at my son Hugh’s induction to the Stornoway High Free Church. I had a day to myself and the forecast was for it to be dry and I suppose mild for the time of year. I was going to go further but my bike is not charging it’s battery reliably so went for a shorter loop round East Sutherland.

I prepared for the time of year. Two pairs of socks – one thick and woolly. Three pairs of trousers! – tracky bottoms, then my lined trousers for cycling in winter and then the motorbike waterproof, lined and armoured trousers. A long sleeved shirt, my thick hairy fleece and my waterproof, lined and armoured jacket. I was only a little cold.

I left at about 10:20 and went to Morrisons for petrol and picked up a can of coke and a small Dairymilk chocolate bar. I then followed the coast by Invergordon and Barbaraville to Kildary where I joined the A9. It was then past Tain and onto the Dornoch Bridge. I stopped at the start of the bridge to check the charging voltage. It wasn’t as high as I would like (not even reaching 13V at 3000 rpm) but the lights seemed bright enough so I decided to keep going.

It was dull and overcast but the roads were drier than at home.

IMG00667-20151107-1102 IMG00668-20151107-1103
I then pushed on to Loch Fleet and stopped by the entrance at the Telford Weir.


This is the old station at the Mound. It is now a private house. I remember the wee steam train that used to run here.

IMG00671-20151107-1118 IMG00672-20151107-1119
I pushed on to Golspie and stopped at the car park on Fountain Road. It was cold and I needed to go to the public loo!

That is the house I was born in, delivered by Dr Penny. Where the car park is was a garden back then. We left Golspie in 1960 when I was 5. I can still remember watching the steam trains from the back garden.


And the view up Fountain Road to Ben Braggie.


I saw the owner of the house, Mr Field and asked him if I could take a photo. He kindly let me. That’s him there. He was clearing up leaves. A very pleasant man.

As we were chatting a car came out the car park and honked at us. I thought it was for Mr Field but it was at me! It was Richard Bradley and John Miller returning from Hugh’s induction in Stornaway going back to Thurso. Two fine men. They let me know that Anne and Mairi were safely across the Minch with my mum.


I met Mrs Field and after talking headed up to Brora and then branched off at the clock tower to go to Balnacoil, up Strath Brora. I stopped at the head of Loch Brora. I used to visit two lovely old people – Donald (Spark) and Joey Ross who lived in Dublin. They were brother and sister and had gone to school in Strath Brora their father being a farm labourer. They told me they wore clogs to walk to school.

IMG00677-20151107-1211 IMG00678-20151107-1211 IMG00679-20151107-1211

The engine on the XS650 is really a work of art. I think it is one of the most beautiful engines of any bike. The Yamaha designers got it just right. As a student I had an XS250 and always coveted the XS650. Now I have one. I am so fortunate.


A little further up the Strath at the other end of Loch Brora. Notice the wind farm. Everywhere is spoiled by them.

IMG00681-20151107-1221 IMG00682-20151107-1221 IMG00683-20151107-1221 IMG00684-20151107-1221
A bridge crosses the River Brora. Anne, Mairi and myself came here in February some years ago from the other direction. The river had burst it’s banks and the road was flooded. Anne wouldn’t let me try to push on, so back we went. It was fine today but the road looked from all the silt and gravel that it had flooded recently.

IMG00686-20151107-1227 IMG00687-20151107-1231 IMG00688-20151107-1231 IMG00689-20151107-1233 IMG00690-20151107-1233
I stopped near the top of the Strath to have my dinner. That wretched windfarm is still in view.

My quality dinner. My cheese sandwich was kind of squashed but tasted good. Notice I resisted a pork pie!


It is getting late autumn. The colours show it. We can have snow at this time.

IMG00695-20151107-1250 IMG00696-20151107-1250 IMG00697-20151107-1251

I pushed on and beyond Rhilochan saw this wee loch

IMG00699-20151107-1257 IMG00700-20151107-1259 IMG00701-20151107-1259
This is getting to near Rogart


And Rogart. We spent a holiday in Rogart when I was 15 in Hugh Mackay, Backies, house.

A little before the mound is the rocky area where there are feral goats.

IMG00707-20151107-1311 IMG00708-20151107-1311
I didn’t come across any goats, but here are sheep. I met the only other bikes of the day on the other side of the sheep!


It was on to the Mound, across the raised road beside Loch Fleet and then onto the Loch Buidhe road . This had been closed for a long time but it is open again. I tried to get round it in early Spring and again at the end of the Summer, but it was closed both times. I’m glad it is open again. It is a road I love. I come on it when I’m down and weary.

IMG00712-20151107-1324 IMG00713-20151107-1327
And here we are at Loch Buidhe. I usually come the other direction but always park here.


Here is the other end of Loch Buidhe where the road curves away to Bonar Bridge.


And I found why the road had been closed. There was brand new road following the old road most of the way to Bonar. It seems to have been remade for the electricity supply. There seemed to be more pylons and there was an awful noise of construction.

It is so sad. It was such a quiet road with grass growing up the middle. I hate progress.

A wee bit further on is Loch an Lagain and Meall Moraig.

Here is Bonar Bridge coming up. That is the Free Church showing which is just outside it. Gustvus Aird’s church!

And a wee bit further on, Loch Migdale.


I left this poor picture in because it shows the bridge at Bonar.


The parish church.


I stopped on the bridge to get some photos. You can do that on a bike!


This is what you see if you look up!

Got to have a selfie on the bike.

I stopped a wee bit beyond Ardgay to look back to Bonar. I didn’t get the reflections. It was so calm.

And then stopped at an old haunt – the Struie viewpoint.

IMG00743-20151107-1421 IMG00744-20151107-1422
It was then drive over the Struie and home, about 3:40. A great wee journey. I think that’s the latest in the year I’ve done a longer run. It was 96 miles.

Anne and Mairi were back, very tired. The induction had gone well.

I put the battery on the charger but it hardly needed any topping up. Maybe my alternator is back to delivering the goods. The bike actually ran fantastically.