A travel story by Mark Bryans. Photos of the trip are provided using this link :
Unlike the traditional race across the length of Great Britain, this trip is in 2 parts - Cornwall then the rest.
Early August 2018.
South West Cornwall
The Cornwall bit formed a part of my annual family holiday based at the brilliant Trewan Hall campsite in between Wadebridge and Padstow where we always meet up with a few other families who we have got to know really well over the years we have been coming here.
Joan and Jennie, my wife and daughter, together with the majority of the camping gear always travel down to Cornwall in the jammed car with loaded up roofbox from our home in Sharnbrook in the East Midlands. I then follow with my luggaqge - on my Honda Pan European touring motorbike, whilst my fellow biker, brother-in-law John, comes down from Dorset with his camping gear on his Triumph Sprint sportsbike..
John and I took some time away from family and friends this year to do a full day's ride which took in some of the best roads and places west of the campsite made especially so with the settled sunny weather - yes in Cornwall - we must have done something right !
** The route included : St Mawes - King Harry Ferry (B3289) - Lizard Point (A3083) - Penzance to Mousehole on the Cliff Road (B3315) - Lands End (B3283). The trip then lead us on to the most scenic part : Bojewyan (B3306) - Portmeor.
At St Mawes we nearly had to double back as the road-workers were out re-surfacing but fortunately they let through motorbikes and the estuary was very scenic and made a great photo opportunity. The King Harry Ferry was exciting and I think is the best way to exit the Roseland peninsular (https://www.falriver.co.uk/getting-about/ferries/king-harry-ferry) . The Lizard coastline was wild & rugged and well worth a pause to take it all in ! Motorbiking on the cliff road was very atmospheric but we made sure we were careful of the tourists and trafic in Penzance. Likewise Lands End was a tourist hot-spot but a photo to include the famous signpost was a must. This left what for us was the best part of the day, the road which followed the coast back up to the north of this part of Cornwall with old tin mines a-plenty - very scenic and a great biking road. All in, this was a brilliant way to spend a day on a couple of motorbikes.
This leads me on to the second part of my adventure !
My trip north was a long time in the planning. I was supposed to do it a couple of years before this, but, due to a collision with a truck which left me with 2 fractured wrists, this lead to a considerable delay, but could have been far worse. So at the beginning of September having been given a green light and a pass for 3 weeks from my wife I headed off on the second part of my trip of Great Britain.
Cat 'n' Fiddle Pass (A537)
Having packed my bike the previous evening, I left home quite early and the trip began. Motorways bore me and so I planned the shortest possible time on the M6, but at least it did give me time to get used to the loaded bike and the way it handled. My route took in Ashbourne and Macclesfield and then on to some more interesting roads. For me, wherever you are, you can always tell the most interesting routes by the increase in the number of cyclists and motorbikes and the decrease in the number of larger vehicles on the roads. Hence, the Cat 'n' Fiddle pass was no different. There were switchbacks and steep parts to the route, and the road was brilliant with good views a-plenty, especially at the top where I had my coffee across the road from the Cat 'n' Fiddle Inn. Shortly after this, there was a fuel and chocolate stop and then on to the place where I was spending my first night. This was at a large old manor house owned by the Youth Hostel Association in an attractive valley called Millers Dale - YHA Ravenstor.
Peak District - Forest of Bowland - Yorkshire Dales - North Pennines - Lake District
Snake Pass (A57) - Malham Cove - Hawes - High Force - Tan Hill Pass
Cooked breakfast like the one on my 2nd day would form a feature of a lot of the days away from home. The ones at the Youth Hostels are great and always set me up for the day ahead. Thus, after packing and negotiating the gravel drive away from Ravenstor YH, I set off once more. My bike club the Oakley Motorcycle Club first introduced me to the Snake Pass on one of their many trips away. It is a great road especially as it gets higher away from the very scenic Derwent Water. Soon after this, the road leading away from the Malham National Park Centre rises above Malham Cove which is a huge amphitheatre above a very pleasant valley and via some of the roads with dry stone walling (a feature of this part of Britain). My next stop included a walk to a large waterfall through crevices in the rocky outcrops known as High Force. The ticket-seller at the entrance was very informative and even offered to look after my helmet and gloves for me which made my walk here easier. My final main stop of the day was at the top of Tan Hill where there is the highest pub in Britain - the Tan Hill Inn. Here in the rain a fellow biker showed the usual friendly commaraderie to come out of the pub in the rain especially to offer to take a photo of me by the pub-sign. I think this was really to impress his girl-friend though ! Tonight another comfortable manor house to stay at - this time at Hawkshead Youth Hostel in the Lake District.
Wrynose Pass - Hardnott Pass - Wasdale Head - Buttermere (B5289)
Cooked breakfast ! Today was some of the best biking roads - very narrow, steep but exciting. I met some very helpful bikers who recommended staying in 1st gear up the passes & to keep going at a steady pace and I was so glad for this advice. The lakes are always a bit of a gamble weather-wise and I was glad that it stayed relatively dry and not too windy, as the passes would not have been a good idea otherwise ! The roads may have been taxing but the brilliant and mixed scenery is some of the best. After coming away from the lakes, I went through Carlisle and on to Gilsland where I stayed the night at Slack House Farm bunkhouse. I wondered around the farmyard where there was a cafe & farmshop with a viewing window through which I could see the workings of the Birdoswald cheese-making. I then met and had a chat with the most friendly & welcoming farmer and his wife (Eric and Dianne). The place was heated by a wood-pellet real fire and I set in for the evening. I was not on my own for too long however when 2 sets of 2 walkers joined me. They were all following Hadrian's Wall from Carlisle to Newcastle-upon-Tyne and as the evening progressed fascinating stories were told. One of the guys had severe blisters on his ankles and toes but was determined to keep going. Hopefully, all 4 lads made it to the end. It was strange to meet them, and to find out that they were going to reach Newcastle in 2 days time whereas I was going to take another 20 ! Dianne was an excellent cook and used ingredients from the farm and local area. 3 of us had a huge casserole whilst the other 2 made their dinner from dried food-packs. It was then soon time for bed.
Gretna Green - Mull of Galloway - Mabie Forest
Huge cooked breakfast made by Dianne ! This was my 1st day back in Scotland. 25 miles from the farm was Gretna Green where I took the necessary photo of the Smithy Building. From there I rode the direct route to Drummore the most southerly village in Scotland on the Mull of Galloway. On the way to the place I stayed at for night 4, I took a less direct route finding some really quiet roads through the forests and for most of the way there were no other vehicles. The place, Marthrown of Mabie, is a refuge at the end of a rough gravel track where a couple have built a Celtic iron-age roundhouse and a comfortable bunkbarn on a hill with breath-taking views and surrounded by forest. Just before I arrived at Marthrown Bunkhouse I was beginning to wonder if I was going the right way as Sat-Navs do not work in the immediate area, but a short while later, on climbing up to the top of the hill, I found that the mobile phone signal was brilliant - a bit strange to say the least ! Whilst I was preparing a log fire in the bunkbarn, a couple of lads arrived on cycles. They were cycling from Lands End to John O'Groats but did not appear tired, as I would have expected them to be, and so they must have been very fit. After each of us cooking our suppers, and chatting, we all turned in.
Isle of Arran
Dumfries and Galloway - Ardrossan - Arran
Prior to leaving home, I had read a little bit about a most unusual building in Scotland - its only buddhist temple - and ever since, I was intrigued and thought I would visit it. The "Samye Ling Tibetan buddhist monastery & centre for world peace and health", as it is advertised, was not too far away from where I stayed on night 4. The main building is the Samye Ling temple and is in a quiet rural setting and gardens. I walked around them and kept wondering what the temple was doing here, but it did have a tea room and so I had a pot of Himilayan leaf tea and then made my way. The area of Scotalnd it is in has a lot of trees, and for several miles I saw quite a few huge juggernauts loaded up with full size tree trunks. It would take a long distance for one of these to stop, and so I kept well away from them. I rode up to the ferry port via motorways, and a lot of vehicles, which seemed strange after so many miles of relatively empty roads. The ferry crossing was very smooth and soon I was on the Isle of Arran. The campsite in Lochranza at the foothills of a mountain is very peaceful. I set up camp alongside the river and cooked supper. Very soon afterwards I fell asleep.
Isle of Arran
Circular road (A841) - Lagg Hotel - Sannox Beach
I had a quiet lazy day. There is a road which goes around the circumference of the Isle of Arran which I took the last time I visited the island. This time I decided to go inland as well, and took the B880 up over a few hills with dramatic views. I had a pot of tea at the oldest hotel on Arran - the Lagg Hotel which supposedly has a fire which has been lit since 1791, and then on the way back to my tent, there was one of the best beaches I have been to - Sannox Beach and in the diswtance there was a view of Holy Island.
Mull of Kintyre (C18) - Kilkerran Road (C19) - Glencoe
I began today with the idea of leaving Arran early - I eventually caught the midday ferry, and arrived back on the mainland at around 12:30. During the trip my packing the tent up did get quicker ! I headed for the Mull of Kintyre, enjoyed the peaceful roads, and once again started to make better progress. I reached St Columba's Footsteps and Chapel without incident. Once there though, I did get caught out. A construction lorry passed me, and one of the workers walked back to speak to me. He informed me that they were laying wet tarmac on the road I was on, but also if I tried the other direction on the only other road, I could get trapped as tarmac was also being laid from that direction. I was effectively trapped, and did not fancy my ST1300 getting coated in tar ! I started back the way I came and puzzled over what I could do, as there appeared to be no way out of this one. Once I started back the way I came, however, I found the C19. (The C roads being narrow roads which join unclasified roads back up to main routes labelled A roads and B roads). Once past the nearest hamlet of houses, the scenery from this road to Kilkerran, which I had stumbled upon was truly beautiful with great views of the sea on 3 sides at times. Once in Kilkerran, I felt relieved as I found my way back to Campbeltown, and then on to the mountains of Glencoe. This road was also breathtaking, and at times I was surrounded by high sided hills and mountains just as I remembered it the last time I was there. The Red Squirrel campsite I stayed at had mainly tents with far less number of pitches for motorhomes than the other campsites I had stayed at in Scotland. It was a truly wild and tranquil site. I pitched my tent in the twilight, made a brew, cooked & ate supper and turned in for the night. Quite an eventful day !
Waters of Nevis - Glencoe Visitor Centre
I wanted to see Ben Nevis today but was slightly disappointed in that the mountain, from where I saw it, looked rounded at the top and not like the traditional pointed mountain top which I prefer. Some of the other mountains in the area did look like my preferred variety though, and so my disappointment did not last long. I went for a walk in the Water of Nevis region and enjoyed fine views of a gorge and valley. This area I would strongly recommend. I then visited the National Trust of Scotalnd Glencoe Visitor Centre which was fascinating. I had another short walk through the woods, had a strong coffee and visited the exhibitions - one on the history of climbing in the Munros, and one of the history of how the area was formed (both well worth the time spent visiting the exhibits). Fairly close to the Red Squirrel campsite, I decided to check the air pressure on the bike's tyres at the nearest garage, a practice I tried to remember to do every other day especially due to the heavy load I was carrying on the bike from site to site. However, at this particualr garage, the air gauge was faulty and more air was lost from the tyre than was going in. This made me concerned and I therefore decided I would need to make a slow and careful trip back to where I had come from (Fort William) as my Sat Nav showed this to be the nearest place where I could to re-check them. Having travelled to the second garage, unfortunately the air gauge there was out of order. However, as luck would have it, there was another garage close by. The front tyre was running on about 2/3 the right pressure and so it was good to sort it out there. Returning to the campsite I breathed a huge sigh of relief ! That night it was really chilly - so I bought a sack of logs at the site and spent the evening in front of a campsite fire which I lit in the fire-pit beside my tent.
Glenfinnan - Isle of Skye
Today I was breakfasted, packed and on the move by 10am. Just outside Fort William on the road to Mallaig, there was a sign saying that the next ferry to the Isle of Skye would be at 16:00. Hence, I had plenty of time to get there. The first place I aimed for was Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel where there is a famous monument of a soldier on a 60 foot pillar.Glenfinnan is a hamlet in the Lochaber area of the Highlands of Scotland where in 1745, and lead by Bonnie Prince Charlie, the "Jacobite rising" began. The monument was built to commemmorate it. On the opposite side of the road is the long Glenfinnan Viaduct which appears in several of the Harry Potter films. I then moved on to Mallaig to catch the ferry to Skye. Arriving at the ticket office, I was informed that due to Storm Bronagh, no more motorbikes without bookings could be accommodated that day. I had already pre-booked 3 nights starting that night at Portree independent hostel on Skye. Hence, my choice was to bike it to the bridge crossing, see if it was open and if not stay another night at the Red Squirrel campsite. Luckily, the Bridge was open, though the crossing was interesting as the wind had picked up and at times the angle of the bike was quite acute just to keep riding it in a straight line. The long journey ended at the bright yellow painted independent hostel building in Portree, which luckily was lit up by streetlamps in the dark.
Isle of Skye
Storm Bronagh had just about passed through leaving quite heavy rain today. I decided to do my round trip of Skye today and to leave the next day for a relaxing day with minimal biking. I have wanted to see the middle hills of the island for quite a long time. Hence, my first stop was close to the Old Man of Storr and the Quirang mountains. This was also the place where I saw the largest number of tourists on the Isle. I then went south to Elgol which was a brilliant road with great scenery and very little traffic. Glenbrittle was the next stop. it is located on a very steep hill but luckily there is a fairly flat carpark opposite the Fairy Pools. I stopped for lunch over-looking them and when I dropped quite a few crumbs several very small birds landed right next to me to feed on them. I returned to Portree, riding down to the port-side where I found a small fish and chip shop run by the owners of a few boats - one being the fishing boat landing the fish to be sold in the shop and the other a tourist boat which has appeared on a wildlife programme on TV. I then returned to the hostel to make use of the drying room !
Isle of Skye
I awoke fairly late today, had my cereal and then visited the Aros Centre. I wanted to see the exhibition on the history of the Isle which was advertised in the tourist book I had purchased at home. However, I was told that they were between putting on exhibitions and so there was nothing to see. I had a coffee and left. The weather was better today, and so I decided to go on another trip on the Isle. I went north to check out Kinloch campsite which has a great road to it and then on to a cafe / bookshop called Mor Books which is a very relaxing place which does very tasty soup with home-baked bread ! I then returned to the hostel, had a curry and turned in early.
It took a while to leave one of my favourite islands but I'm sure I'll re-visit it again before long. The trip across the Isle of Skye Bridge was a lot calmer today, and I had time to look across both sides of it. On one side is the Eileen Donan Castle and I decided to get a close up view of it - though I did not feel it worthwhile to pay to go inside, nor to see the exhibition, but instead I decided to explore the Kyle of Lochalsh area. My intention today was to stay overnight close to the Pass of the Cattle (Bealach Na Ba Pass) which though it has a lot of traffic is one of the iconic roads in Scotland. However, what most visitors do not realise is that if you travel in the other direction from the Bridge, there is another brilliant road - the C1223 coast road to Corran, and this is the route I followed and was very impressed. Again it covers some serious hills but here there are very few tourists. There is a great monument in Arnisdale looking across the estuary and on to the mountains including Beinn Na Caillich and luckily visibility today was much better. From here, I decided to return the same way that I had come from. Often doing this the views and the roads can seem totally different and this was the case here. Fuel stops were infrequent today but I knew that there was a petrol station very close to the Bridge and so I went back there for a fill up and (again) some chocolate. I then went on to Strathcarron and to my night stop at the Sanachan Bunkhouse. If you are in the mood for a seafood supper there is a proper fish restaurant next door to the bunkhouse but it is not cheap. I settled for cooking some pasta myself and for reading before bed.
Pass of the Cattle (but only a bit...) - Corrieshalloch Falls - Little Gruinard Bay - Gairloch
So - I set off from Sanachan Bunkhouse and happily aimed straight for what, some say, is the best road in Scotland, the Bealach Na Ba Pass. The road to the Pass is about 10 minutes from the bunkhouse and so the overnight stop proved very handy for it. As I gained height on the Pass, it was a pleasant still day with bits of blue sky. I travelled along a straight after a few switchbacks and I could then see the hairpin bends along which I had biked before with no problems. As I went around the first one, gusts like I have never felt before hit my bike and I quickly had to think. Would I want to gain height always with the chance that the gusty winds and by now quite heavy rain got considerably worse or, alternatively, it could clear and become still again ? No contest....stay safe being my main thought and so with very little traffic I decided to head back the way I came. Even though my bike was loaded up, I do believe the best choice would have been the same if my bike had been empty of luggage ! A racing green open top Morgan then came down the road towards me and stopped. I thought the driver was just going to have a go at me when he got out of his car. However, he just said he had experienced nothing like it before and after offering his help said he was glad for me that I had chosen not to go on. I thanked him for stopping, and told him that I would be ok and he then continued on his way after putting his lid on his car ! When I got back to the bottom I breathed a sigh of relief and as it happened the weather then gradually improved. The Applecross coast road on the other side of the Pass would have to wait for another day... I then rode to an area with a great view and at the top of another mountain road I visited the site of the Corrieshalloch Falls which has a metal suspension bridge across a very deep-sided gorge - a great area to visit and to take time out from riding. On the way down to Gairloch I passed a great beach - the Little Gruinard Bay and then the weather turned again with heavy rain. Arriving at Gairloch Camping & Caravan Site I asked how much it would be to pitch my tent and then by chance having just seen a sign for a bunkhouse I asked how much that would be as well. The campsite owner must have taken pity on me because she said camping would be £10 and the barn would be £20 but owing to the weather I could stay in it for £15 for the night - no contest. I made my curry in the bunkhouse kitchen and spent a very comfortable night with sole use of the bunkbarn.
North West Scotland
Gairloch - C1047 ("Road to the Summer Isles") - Port-A-Baigh Campsite - Ullapool
I left the bunkbarn after a very relaxing stay and I was so glad to have found it. Today one of the routes was one of the best roads I think I have ever travelled along - the Road to the Summer Isles. When the road met the sea the campsite I was staying at was also very scenic and generally a lovely campsite (with the owners also managing the local pub). Once the tent was up, I decided to re-visit the Road and to go to Ullapool to test the bike's tyre pressures and to get some food. The garage I found was not so good. I do not understand why some garages have their air compressors on steep slopes as was the case here and so I didn't bother and rode off. I was luckier with my food though. A lady directed me to the Seafood Shack in Ullapool (http://seafoodshack.co.uk) . The place had outside seating in a yard and was literally like a hut which did the best cooked seafood and had won awards for doing so - like the BBC Food & Farming Award it had won in 2007. I had spicy fish soup followed by a haddock & salad wrap and both were wonderful ! On the way back to my tent I took a circuitous route via the Rhue Lighthouse where I had a short but welcome walk. I then returned to my tent, had a brew, read my Kindle and turned in for the night.
North West Scotland
Wester Ross - Kylesku Bridge - Badcall Beach - Balnakell Craft Village - Sango Sands
I must have been getting used to packing up my tent because today I was breakfasted and on my way by 10 am. One of the first stops was Kylesku Bridge which has several great photo opportunities. In the car park there was a silver Ferrari which I wanted to swap my motorbike for, a vintage Aston Martin and the racing green Morgan - yes - the same one I had met on the Pass of the Cattle ! Soon on my way again, I visited a couple of the beaches in the area including Badcall Beach & Scourie Beach. At the end of the day's journey I visited the Cocoa Mountain Cafe in the atmospheric Balnakell Craft Village in Durness where I was served the best hot chocolate drink. I then rode on to the most north-westerly campsite in Great Britain on the cliffs above the Sango Sands beach in Durness, pitched my tent, cooked supper and spent the rest of the evening in the club-house. It was there where a gent came up to me and let me know that he had seen me a couple of days before whilst he was camping in Gairloch - I felt a bit guilty as it was there in awful weather I was comfortable in the bunkhouse but did not mention this to him !
Durness - Strath Point - John O'Groats - Inverness
It was stormy again today which was a pity because the area is beautiful, but I did not have the time to appreciate it as much as I would have done in nicer weather. Instead, I was fully concentrated on the roads ahead. At around midday the winds eased and the rain became intermittent and so I was more able to appreciate the wonderful and rugged scenery. Along the way I passed the Dounreay nuclear site. If an accident had happened here it would have impacted such a big area, but it just really seemed like any other industrial site. From here, to all of the way along Scotland's north coast, there were a lot of cyclists who I felt a bit sorry for, as the area was so hilly and as they had probably been like me out on the roads in the stormy morning getting wet and so blown about. I travelled to the famous John O'Groats via Strathy Point. I must admit I spent more time at Strathy Point, which was very scenic, than at J O'G as this was just so touristy - however it was not as bad as at Lands End a month ago. I took the obligatory photo at J O'G and set off once again. The journey now felt strange, as it seemed as if I had achieved my aim and had ticked one off my bucket list. Parts of the beginning of my journey south were scenic but perhaps not as much as the west coast but enjoyable nevertheless. At the end of the day I arrived in Inverness which was the most built up place I had been in for quite a while. I had booked into the Inverness Student Hostel and was made very welcome there. I had a Chinese take away and shortly afterwards went to bed.
North East Scotland
Inverness - Rogie Falls - Greytown-on-Spey - Rothiemurchus
After a continental hostel breakfast, I left Inverness at a relaxed 11am after a photo in front of the castle and of the massive seagulls which I thought were going to attack me at one stage ! The next stop-off was a walk around the Rogie Falls woods and across a real suspension bridge above the gorge ( https://www.visitscotland.com/info/towns-villages/rogie-falls-p402141 ). I then rode on to the Cairngorms and a fine town, Greytown-on-Spey, where I want to spend more time if I am ever in the area again. The Cairngorms is great with a number of forests of really tall fir trees. In the middle of one of these forests is the Rothiemurchus campsite where I was to spend 2 nights under canvas. After booking in and putting up my tent, I visited the Rothiemurchus farm estate visitor centre and cafe. After a coffee stop, I bought a whole freshly smoked rainbow trout and some whisky for the evening. The trout dinner was splendid. I then had the wee dram and spent an atmospheric evening by the fast flowing river. During the night, it was raining very heavily which kept on waking me up. At one stage, I woke up and when my hand rested on the ground sheet I quickly realised that the sleeping area was resting on a puddle of water and my sleepmat was akin to a water bed ! I then shone a torch out of my sleeping area and then saw that the living area was literally under a couple of inches of water. I became worried that my gear would be soaked through although it was all in plastic bags, but I also realised that there was very little I could do in the darkness of the middle of the night, so I tried to go back to sleep and would have to deal with it when it got light in the morning !
Loch an Eileen - Highland Folk Museum - Pattack Falls
When I awoke today very early I was relieved that the living area was clear of settled water and that everything though damp seemed undamaged and the rescue could begin. I shifted all of my gear out of the tent, removed all of the tent pegs and lifted up the tent and sleeping area in one go and moved location to what seemed a higher area which was covered in pine needles - a sure sign that there had been no heavy overnight flow of rain water. I re-located to my new spot, spread my gear out inside the tent to dry, made a brew and had my breakfast at only 7:30am ! At around 10am I set off on my circular route. My first stop was shortly after leaving the campsite - a short walk around the Loch an Eileen area which was beautiful. I then rode through the forest to the Highland Folk Museum which was an open-air display of timber and brick buildings which replicated local life through the ages. It was fascinating, and for some reason totally free though a donation box was left at the entrance. I bought a guidebook and spent a lot of the day there. On the way back to the tent, I made a stop at the roadside and crossed the road to photograph the Pattack Falls. I was doing well with free sites today ! Returning to the campsite, I cooked myself some pasta and sauce, had the rest of the whisky and had a relaxing read until it was time to turn in. My gear had dryed considerably but my bedding was still a little damp !
Rothiemurchus - Glenfiddich Distillery - Tomintoul - Lechd Ski Centre - Balmoral - Dunkeld
First stop, after leaving the campsite, was the Glenfiddich Distillery and, although I did not go inside, I did ride right up to the doors The Glenfiddich distillery is currently one of but three distilleries to bottle on site, and houses stills with a total annual capacity of 13 million litres. Furthermore, Glenfiddich matures its single malt whisky in its onsite warehouses, which can house up to 800,000 casks and even outside where I was the smell was terrific. Shortly afterwards, the day saw some of the most "interesting" riding of the trip. As I gained some height, there was a set of snow gates ! I zigzagged my way downhill with a very steep drop on one side. The road then zigzagged even more sharply up the other side of Glen Lochy. I then came to the village of Tomintoul, the highest village in the Highlands at 1,132 feet above sea level. I then took the A939 up to The Lechd Ski Centre where the road reaches its highest point at 2,113 feet with amazing views. My next stop was in front of Balmoral, but, as a policeman was looking at me quite threateningly, I decided it best not to spend too much longer there, and so I took a photo of the signpost and made my way. From here I was soon on the highest public road in Great Britain (the A93) and the wind & rain began to get even stronger & heavier than it had been all day. With the bike on all sorts of acute angles just to keep in a straight line I gingerly continued my journey. I finally made it to Dunkeld and the end of the main riding. I went into Palmerstons Coffee Shop for my dinner. I had a jacket potato with haggis and salad, and a cream tea. I would strongly recommend this cafe as the food was exceptional and reasonably priced. When I checked my phone I picked up a message from home with Joan advising me to stay in the Aviemore area and not to cross the Cairngorms as we were in the midst of Storm Ali - No wonder the winds were up and there were a lot of branches on the roads. It would seem that I was lucky to get through unscathed..After this, there was only a very short ride to Birkeld where I would spend the most luxurious of stays at Jessie Macs Independent Hostel.
South East Scotland
Birkeld - Kirkaldy - Forth Road Bridge - North East England
Delicious Scottish cooked breakfast with locally sourced fresh ingredients and home baking. A good start to the day, but early, as I needed to be at Kawasaki Kirkaldy by 10am so that new tyres & brakes could be fitted. I had booked the bike in for these before I left home. These were well needed. Once ready, I headed to Edinburgh so that I could cross the bridge there, as for quite a long time I have wanted to see the old Forth Bridge which is located alongside the new one which I was on for a long time. After this crossing, I headed for my night stop in North East England at the Bluebell Farm Bunkhouse in the very scenic village of Belford. After curry for dinner, I turned in early.
England - Belford - Alnick - Scotland (again) - Jedburgh - Eyemouth - St Abbs - England - Berwick upon Tweed
Today I was in border country alternating between England and Scotland quite a few times. My first stop was in England for a walk around Alnick Castle and to visit the local bakers to pick up a picnic lunch. Next I was in Scotland taking photos of Jedburgh Abbey, then the small harbour of Eyemouth and finally St Abbs, a tiny fishing port. These places were all very scenic and well worth a visit. I then left Scotland for the last time on this journey. For the rest of the day I spent my time in Berwick upon Tweed which is currently in England although the border keeps getting changed. The residents must be very confused as to which country they belong. Berwick is great and I walked the circumference of the town upon its complete town wall. I then returned to the same Bunkhouse as day 20 and had yet another curry and a well-earned rest.
Belford - Tynemouth - Jesmond
After a swift breakfast, I left for the coast at Tynemouth to spend some more time by the sea, as I could not enter my AirBNB in Jesmond, where Joan my wife and I would stay the night, until 1pm. Once unpacked there, I made my way to my daughter Jennie's student digs to meet up with her and Joan who had made her way up from our home. It was a quite emotional greeting and it was great to see both of them once again !
This was an epic bike ride and one which would take some beating for me. Both the bike and the Sat Nav worked fine throughout the holiday. My pre-arranged routes took in some wonderful roads, places, mountains, coasts and islands. I remained healthy throughout apart from some muscular aches and pains. But, all in all, if you are thinking about any similar trips, I would strongly recommend just starting out and seeing where the road takes you...!!