Category Archives: 5K for £5K

Rewards

On 6 October 2013 I submitted my score card and photographs to the organisers of the Round Britain Rally. Each landmark is allocated a number of points based on location, how difficult it is to find and how close it is to other landmarks. In 2013 there were 88 landmarks throughout Britain offering a total of and 2100 points. Awards were given based on the number of points gained:

100% All Rounder – all landmarks visited (no errors)
All Rounder – all landmarks visited (some errors)
Platinum – 1700 and over
Gold – 1200 to 1699
Silver – 800 to 1199
Bronze – 400 to 700
Standard – 200 to 399
Finisher’s Certificate – 0 to 199

I had 665 points which equated to a Bronze Award. I scanned my score card into my computer, uploaded my photos and emailed the whole lot to the organiser. A short time later I got an email back saying I’d got one of the landmarks wrong and that my total had therefore been reduced to 640 points. Apparently, I’d got the Manner’s Stone in Skye wrong. Whatever I’d photographed, it wasn’t the Manner’s Stone. Fortunately, I still had enough points to get a Bronze.

A couple of months later, the Final Results and the Rally Newsletter came through. I’d come 92nd out of a total of 157 entrants. I had been one of just 38 contenders that had made it all the way to the Kyles of Tongue Crossing Cairn, but then again, I hadn’t done any of the English or Welsh landmarks. Nevertheless, it was still a great achievement and as I had never won anything before I decided to make the trip to Lichfield in February 2014 to collect my award in person at the official Presentation Dinner.

Although it wasn’t actually freezing, it was still far too cold to ride my motorbike down to central England so I hired a van – it was cheaper than a car.

Arriving in Lichfield I checked into the hotel and soon discovered I’d been allocated the “Bridal Suite”, a huge room with a king sized bed and a Jacuzzi bath. Surely this wasn’t all for me? It occurred to me that if I managed to snag myself a man, all sorts of fun could be had in that room.

The Bridal Suite

The Bridal Suite

With a few hours to spare I took myself off to see what Lichfield had to offer. The cathedral was just a few hundred yards from the hotel and beyond that was the town centre filled with a mixture of red brick Georgian villas and ancient Tudor houses. A small lake flanked by formal gardens bisected the village. It was a bustling town, full of locals and tourist alike flitting in and out of shops and the outdoor market.

Lichfield Cathedral

Lichfield Cathedral

Content that I had seen its main attractions, I returned to my suite to relax in the Jacuzzi – well, I mean, you can’t have a room with a Jacuzzi bath in it and not use it, that would just be ungrateful.

I arrived in the bar at the appointed time, 6 pm, and started chatting to an older couple who had done the rally several times. In fact, it seemed quite a lot of people did it every year. At 7 pm we made our way in for dinner. I was on a table of six people who all seemed to be about the same age as me and were very friendly.

Half way through I got called up and handed my trophy. I was delighted and bounded up just managing to resist the temptation of throwing my arms in the air and doing a victory lap of the function suite.

Receiving my Award

Receiving my Award

It was a great trophy – a heavy wooden frame on which an aluminium plaque embossed with the words “Round Britain Rally 2013” and the rally logos on either side was set, with my details engraved on a smaller plaque below. Coming in 92nd out of 157 might not sound like much, but I was thrilled.

My Trophy

My Trophy

Pity I didn’t manage to find someone to share that fabulous Bridal Suite with though. That would definitely have been the icing on the cake!

Trip 10: The North Coast

Wednesday 4 & Thursday 5 September 2013


View Trip 10 – The North Coast in a larger map

At the end of the last trip I had 533 miles/857.5 km left to go so I needed a trip that would cover a lot of mileage. And I knew just the thing. I’d been dying to do this since the start – the very north edge of Scotland.

I really wanted to do the Bealach-na Bo pass to Applecross in Wester Ross. This is a very steep, hairpin pass which zigzags its way up a mountainside. You get to it by taking the A87 to the Kyle of Lochalsh then a series of single track and secondary roads which eventually come out at Ullapool from where I’d be able to continue on to the north coast. But it would add a lot of time to my journey and, as I’d done it before, years ago, in a car, I decided against it and to go straight to Ullapool via Inverness. This would reduce the trip to two days instead of three meaning I wouldn’t have to leave Cozy, my cat, alone for more than one night.

It was still a huge distance to cover, so I was up at first light and on the road by 8.00 am. Straight up the A82 to Fort William, then on to Invergarry. This is where I could have turned west to Applecross but I continued straight on to Fort Augustus, where the Caledonian Canal meets Loch Ness. The canal locks were bustling with people but I didn’t stop and continued until the road started to run parallel with the Loch. I kept wondering where the spot was that that couple saw Nessie all those years ago.

Loch Ness

Loch Ness

I was in Inverness by 1pm. This is where my map let me down as it wasn’t detailed enough and I had to ask a man in a car park how to get onto the Ullapool road. He gave me directions and, when I then pulled level with him at a roundabout, he pointed me to the correct exit. Over the Moray Firth bridge and I found the A835 which I followed all the way to Ullapool.

The A835 was a fabulous road – a nice, wide carriageway with no pot holes and well graded bends that required no reduction in speed. As I came to an impressive dam I pulled over to take a photo.

Dam

Dam

God, it was so quiet. I couldn’t hear a thing. As I lined up my shot, suddenly, BANG, there was this almighty explosion as a Tornado jet rocketed across the sky.

I reached Ullapool at 3 pm and had a quick break.

Ullapool

Ullapool

The skies were clouding over and it looked liked rain ahead, so I went in search of something to eat. Fortified with chocolate and a cup of lentil and cumin soup (quite the oddest combination I’ve ever had) I headed for the petrol station. Here, I met a German lady who was also touring Scotland on a motorbike. She’d come with a friend but it seemed they’d had a parting of ways and she was now having the time of her life exploring every single track road she could find.

After a few minutes cars started to queue up and the owner came out and gave us the evil eye. We wished each other bon voyage and I continued north as she went south.

Riding up a series of narrow, winding, back roads through the hills and glens of Scotland’s north western coast was a true delight. It was raining but I didn’t care, it was breathtakingly beautiful.

Ardmair

Ardmair

Public services in the highlands

Public services in the highlands

Ardvreck Castle

Ardvreck Castle

Ruined croft

Ruined croft

As I approached Durness, I saw a sign for the Passenger Ferry to Cape Wrath. Unfortunately, that was the closest I was going to get to that corner of the country as it was 4.30 pm now and, I suspected, too late for the last ferry.

Reaching Durness, I was overcome with joy. I had made it to the north coast of Scotland. I felt utterly elated.

From here I decided to continue on to Tongue, a short distance on judging by my map. I didn’t look very closely though, as if I had, I would have noticed the road goes down one side of Loch Eriboll and up the other and adds an extra 20 miles to the journey.

Coming into Tongue, the road crosses another inlet, the Kyles of Tongue, via a man-made causeway called the Kyles of Tongue crossing.

Kyles of Tongue Crossing

Kyles of Tongue Crossing

I stayed in the Tongue Youth Hostel that night and got talking to an Aussie bloke called Phil from Moruya. By a remarkable coincidence, he knew Steve and Jan, the couple I’d met when doing my tour there in 2010/11.

I was on the road for 7.30 am the next morning. The petrol station in Tongue didn’t open till 8 am but a sign informed me there was one in Bettyhill. I figured by the time I got there, this would be open. It was so tiny, I rode right past it without noticing it and had to turn round and have another go.

Filling up, highland style

Filling up, highland style

I continued along the coastal road, the A836, taking in the sights, when suddenly I saw what had to be Dounreay nuclear power station. It was in the process of being decommissioned but judging by the number of cars there this obviously involved quite a lot of people.

Dounreay Nuclear Power Plant

Dounreay Nuclear Power Plant

Next stop was John O’ Groats. Somehow I was deeply disappointed by this. It was just a car park really surrounded by a visitors centre and a few shops.

John O' Groats Harbour

John O’ Groats Harbour

John O' Groats First and Last Shop

John O’ Groats First and Last Shop

After a cup of tea and a wander around, I got back on the bike and headed south. Travelling down the east coast, my mood became sullen. The wild, untamed, ruggedness of the west coast was replaced by a more cultivated environment of fields and organised villages. It was pretty but not in the same way as the west.

It was a long ride down to Golspie where I turned off the A9 onto the A839 to Lairg and on to Bonar Bridge and Ardgay. From here I went in search of the final landmark in the Round Britain Rally that I was participating in. Ten miles of single track road and I found the spot just as a group of school children doing their Duke of Edinburgh award arrived at the scene. One of their teachers kindly took a photo of me.

Me, at the end of my Round Britain (or in my case, Scotland) Rally

Me, at the end of my Round Britain (or in my case, Scotland) Rally

Rejoining the A9 it was a long, cold slog, back to Inverness. I was cold, hungry and grumpy and I still had over four hours of riding to do. All I could think about was food. What I needed was a nice, hot stew. I was salivating just thinking about it. But there was no stew to be found so I had to settle for an egg mayonnaise sandwich in Fort Augustus and a pot of soup at the Green Welly in Tyndrum.

I got home at 8.15 pm, just as it was starting to get dark. Going north, I had loved it, but coming south, it was a real trial to keep going.

But I’d done it. I’d completed my 5,000 km (5,310.5 km/3,300 miles to be precise). Alas, I’d failed miserably to raise £5,000. But I’d seen Scotland in all its glory during the best summer we’d had in years, so all in all, it was a fantastic experience.

For full photo gallery
Trip 10 – The North Coast

 

The final position:

  Miles Km £
Overall Target 3,107 5,000 £5,000.00
Total this Trip 726 1,168  
Total to Date 3,300 5,310.5 164.85
Left to Go 0 0 £4,835.15

I may have covered the 5,000 km I set out to do on this trip, but I haven’t raised anything like the £5,000 I hoped to, so if you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, then please MAKE A DONATION NOW by using the JustGiving link below. You can find out more about my “5K for £5K Challenge” here. Thank you.

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Trip 9: Fife & Tayside

Sunday 25 August 2013 – Part 1


View Trip 9 – Fife & Tayside (Part 1) in a larger map

The last couple of trips had been a bit uneventful so things were due for a shake up and, by golly, that’s what they got on this one.

Things started out well enough – the sun was shining, I was on the road early and, as I didn’t have too many miles to cover, would hopefully be home again by mid-afternoon.

Once again, I took the M8 out of Glasgow, then joined the M80 to the junction with the M876 which took me over the Kincardine Bridge to the ancient Kingdom of Fife. It wasn’t as sunny here, in fact, it was quite overcast and hazy which obscurred the views, nevertheless, I wanted to see what I could, so I followed the Fife Coastal Tourist Route (B9037) past the rather unsightly Longannett Generating Station on to the gorgeous village of Culross. From here I could see the refineries of Grangemouth (that I’d passed on Trip 3) on the other side of the Forth estuary.

Longannet Generating Station

Longannet Generating Station

Culross

Culross

Grangemouth from Culross

Grangemouth from Culross

Leaving Culross behind, I continued along the tourist route towards Inverkeithing. Suddenly, I saw the massive crane of the Rosyth Naval Shipyards towering over the horizon. Man, that thing was collosal and deserved a closer look. Rounding the headland, the whole shipyards lay below me with the Forth Rail and Road Bridges poking up behind them. It may not have been pretty, by my goodness, it was impressive. Three of man’s huge constructs in such close proximity.

Rosyth Naval Shipyards with Forth Bridges beyond

Rosyth Naval Shipyards with Forth Bridges beyond

At Inverkeithing I planned to start making my way north to Tayside. This is where things started to go downhill.

It was slow-going along the coast road and the haze was getting thicker, spoiling the view and I was starting to wish I’d gone north via Dumferline instead – a faster road. As I came into Kircaldy I got stuck in a huge queue of traffic caused by a set of roadworks. Finally clearing these, I made my way along the Esplanade, then got stopped at another set of lights. Just as I was thinking what an unattractive town it was, I suddenly felt a hand on my shoulder and almost jumped out of my skin. It was the man from the car behind me.

“Did you know your back tyre is flat?”, he said.

“What?”, I replied, not quite believing him.

As soon as the lights changed, I pulled over and, sure enough, it was flat.

Flat tyre

Flat tyre

Now, it’s either a testament to my superior riding skills or a sign of my complete lack of sensory awareness, that I hadn’t noticed this. Either way, there was only one thing I could do. I whipped out my foot pump and started pumping. Five minutes later it was still flat as a pancake so I asked the man who had just come out of the pub if there was a Kwik Fit nearby. He directed me back up the Esplanade. Unfortunately Kwik Fit don’t fix motorcycle tyres, so I had to call the AA who immediately advised me they wouldn’t be able to fix it either and that they’d have to tow me back to Glasgow, I’d just have to wait 2 hours for the recovery vehicle to arrive.

While I waited, the Kwik Fit mechanic offered to pump up the tyre. Once he’d done this he said “I can hear it leaking,” but it wasn’t coming from the tyre but from the where the spoke met the wheel. How the hell had that happened?

Two hours later, the AA duly arrived and winched my bike onto the back of the tow truck.

Poor Bonnie gets towed home

Poor Bonnie gets towed home

David, the driver, strapped it down securely and we set off for Airdrie, where the plan was to leave it at the garage I usually used. When we got there, however, not only was the garage closed but the entire truck yard in which it was located, was also closed and gated shut, so, even though he wasn’t supposed to, David then took me all the way back to Glasgow (what a hero!).

By the time we got back, unloaded the bike, and I then got the train home, it was 7.30 pm. So much for a nice short day.

Sunday 1 September 2013 – Part 2

After the bike got dropped off, I contacted a mobile motorcycle service (www.mobilemotorcycleservices.co.uk) I’d seen around and Gordon, the owner, came and took my Bonnie away for repair. A couple of days later, it was back, with a new inner tube and looking none the worse for its ordeal. In fact, Gordon had even washed it down for me, so it looked beautiful and shiny. Top service!

I’d been really pissed off about having to cut this trip short and it was a real battle with myself to get going and finish it off. It was cold and windy outside and I hadn’t really planned on riding this weekend, so it took a supreme effort to get out of bed and head over to my friend’s to pick up the bike. Once I was on the road though, I felt a lot better. I took the back road (the A811) from Milngavie up to Stirling as I didn’t want to retrace my steps from last week. Arriving in Stirling, I could see the castle on the hill – what a magnificent sight.

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle

Not much further on is the Wallace Monument, another fine piece of architecture.

Wallace Monument, Stirling

Wallace Monument, Stirling

From here I picked up the A91 east. It’s a beautiful road through lots of charming villages and farmlands and next thing I knew I was filled with joy. At Milnathort I had the option of joining the M90 to Perth and then on to Dundee, but where would be the fun in that? Basically, I was a back road rider, so I continued on the A91. Just after Auchtermuchty (another great Scottish placename), I stopped to take a photo of the one of the many fields that had been harvested.

Harvest time near Auchtermuchty

Harvest time near Auchtermuchty

On returning to the bike, the pressing need that had been building for some time, suddenly felt like it needed to be relieved. Now, Scotland is full of beautiful villages, but providing public toilets is something it’s not so good at. I found a bush (which, judging by the number of paper hankies behind it, several others had found too) and squatted down. And just as I let go, wouldn’t a car pull in!!! Concluding my business, I zipped up, wandered past the couple, said “Afternoon,” as if nothing had happened, and rode off.

A few miles further on I turned onto the A92 and followed it over the Tay Bridge to Dundee. It’s not a high bridge so you feel quite close to the water and given how windy it was, it was quite scary riding across it. To my left I could see the Tay Rail Bridge but there was nowhere to stop and take photos. Arriving in the city, the whole waterfront was built up and I had to ride some way out of town before I could find a vantage point.

Tay Road Bridge, Dundee

Tay Road Bridge, Dundee

I didn’t hang around Dundee and followed the A90 north to Tealing where I tool a back road west to Coupar Angus and joined the A94 to Perth. This took me past Perth Airport at Scone, a place I’d worked back in 2001.

Control Tower at Perth Airport, Scone

Control Tower at Perth Airport, Scone

Planes at Perth Airport, Scone

Planes at Perth Airport, Scone

After Perth, where I could have taken the A9 south, I decided to continue west on the A85 to Crianlarich. By Crief, though, it was getting really cold and the thought of going all the way down the side of Loch Lomond home seemed far too far, so I took the A822 south back to the A9. At Dunblane the A9 becomes the M9. By now, it was blowing a gale and I didn’t want to get blown under a truck, so I came off at Stirling and went back the way I’d come – on the A811 to Glasgow.

I’d covered 269 miles/432.9 km on this trip which meant I only had 533 miles/857.5 km to go to complete my 5,000 km. One more trip should do it.

For full photo gallery
Trip 9 – Fife & Tayside

 


The position so far:

  Miles Km £
Overall Target 3,107 5,000 £5,000.00
Total this Trip 269 432.9  
Total to Date 2,574 4,142.5 164.85
Left to Go 533 857.5 £4,835.15

 

If you’re enjoying reading this blog, then please help me reach me raise £5,000 for charity by donating using the JustGiving link below. You can find out more about my “5K for £5K Challenge” here. Thank you.

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Trip 8: The Borders

Sunday 11 August 2013


View Trip 8: The Borders in a larger map

I was back over to the east coast for this trip, visiting The Borders. A quick whiz over the M8 to Edinburgh, then the City Bypass round to East Linton. This is a really pretty little town with old sand-stone houses and a river running through it. Thinking this was going to set the standard for the day, I raced on to Dunbar, where, as a bigger town, I expected more of the same. Unfortunately, Dunbar missed the fairy dust when the town planners were dishing out quaintness. This was more a mismash of new and old and didn’t quite work. Round from the town centre was the coast and harbour, far more picturesque.

Dunbar Cliffs

Dunbar Cliffs

Dunbar Harbour

Dunbar Harbour

From here I rejoined the bypass (which was, by now, the A1) for a few miles then took the A6112 south into miles of rural farmland. Acres of golden wheat fields speckled with regal farmhouses, quadrangled stables and rows of farmworkers’ cottages lay ahead.

Farmlands

Farmlands

Farm buildings

Farm buildings

Round a bend, I suddenly saw a castle poking its turrets into the sky and guarding its kingdom below. Castle Hume it would appear.

Hume Castle

Hume Castle

At Kelso I picked up the road to Selkirk and spotted another castle over more pastures. This was Floors Castle (click photo to enlarge).

Floors Castle, Kelso

Floors Castle, Kelso

As I bumped the bike onto the kerb to get a photo, I ran out of momentum and the back wheel caught against the kerb, flipping it sideways. “Oh no, not again” I thought as I wrestled to keep it upright. Wrenching it back to the vertical, I stopped, ate a Mars Bar and collected myself. I was getting tired again and needed a rest. In Selkirk, I bought a sandwich and some Powerade and waited while my sugar levels came back up.

I was going to take the A72 via Peebles then the A721 back to Glasgow, but had a last minute change of mind and diverted onto the A7 instead as I hadn’t been that way before. The road went through Galasheils which seemed to be more of a series of shopping centres than a town.  Trying to navigate my way through its many roundabouts, I was so busy looking ahead, I almost went straight through a set of red lights.  Slamming on my brakes just in time, the lady in the Mini behind me almost ploughed straight into me.  As if that wasn’t enough, I then mis-read the next signpost, started to go straight ahead at a roundabout, then realised this would take me into a supermarket car park, so jerked the bike left and cut her up again!

As I came into Edinburgh, it was drizzling. By the time I got to the services at Harthill, it was pouring down, so another stop and a cup of tea before the final sprint home.

For full photo gallery
Trip 8 – The Borders

The position so far:

  Miles Km £
Overall Target 3,107 5,000 £5,000.00
Total this Trip 247 397.5  
Total to Date 2305 3709.6 164.85
Left to Go 802 1,290.4 £4,835.15

If you’re enjoying reading this blog, then please help me reach me raise £5,000 for charity by donating using the JustGiving link below. You can find out more about my “5K for £5K Challenge” here. Thank you.

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Trip 7: The North East

Monday 22 July 2013


View Trip 7: The North East in a larger map

This was a huge trip – 466 miles in one day. I set off at 9.45 am and after stopping to talk to a friend that I passed in the street, it was probably about 10.15 before I even got on the M8 motorway out of Glasgow. We’d been having a heat wave for the previous 2-3 weeks but the weather seemed to have finally broken as I left Glasgow and made my way north up the M80 to Stirling and then the M9 to Perth.

Dull day outside Perth

Dull day outside Perth

Nonetheless, I was in Dunblane by 11 am so it looked as if I’d cover my route quite quickly. From Perth I continued on the A9 to Dunkeld where I took the very picturesque, but somewhat twisty, B923 to Blairgowrie. When I arrived in Blairgowrie, the A93 from Perth crossed my path. Funny? This was the road I intended to take to Ballater, could it be that I could have taken this all the way from Perth instead of weaving my way on a back road? Not to worry, I’d got there in the end.

Having found the A93, I now took this up towards Glenshee, one of Scotland’s ski resorts. I’d been this way before when I was a youth, and kept expecting to recognise it, but I might as well never have taken this road before, as it all seemed new to me. It was beautiful though, even though the authorities seemed to think it was a bit dangerous for motorcyclists.

Beware of low flying motorcycles!

Beware of low flying motorcycles!

Getting up to the ski fields, suddenly everything seemed familiar. Sunnyside to the right, and the Tiger to the left – happy memories came flooding back.

Glenshee Ski Resort

Glenshee Ski Resort

Getting over the top of the pass, the sun came out and stayed with me for the rest of the day.

A93 after Glenshee

A93 after Glenshee

As I followed the road round to Ballater, the smell of pine trees filled the air, castles poked over treetops and rivers babbled alongside me. Suddenly I found I was smiling contentedly.

Ballater, like most of the towns in this area, was a pretty little place with charming granite houses and a well presented village square.

Ballater

Ballater

Next I took the A939 to Tomintoul. I love the place names in Scotland – Auchterarder, Findo Gask, Ballindalloch. The A939 has got to be my favourite road so far. Golden fields of wheat:

Harvest time on the A939

Harvest time on the A939

Purple hillsides of heather:

A carpet of purple heather

A carpet of purple heather

And, another ski resort. So this is where The Lecht is!

The Lecht Ski Resort

The Lecht Ski Resort

From Tomintoul I was going to take the B9136 to Ballindalloch but it was closed so I had to divert to Grantown on Spey. From here the A95 took me all the way through to Keith. This is whiskey country and the road was littered with distilleries. At Aberlour the smell from the Walkers shortbread factory almost drove me insane – I’d only had a glass of fruit juice and a Greek salad all day and was starving by now.

A quick trip up the B9016 brought me out near Buckie, on the Moray Coast. I turned onto the A96 and followed it till the turning for Lossiemouth. As I rode into the town, the most almightly roar broke out and just as I was thinking, “What the hell was that?” I saw a Tornado fighter jet rocketing through the sky above me. The RAF have a base here. On the way out of town, I saw another Tornado in a petrol station car park looking somewhat less impressive:

Fighter jet at Lossiemouth

Fighter jet at Lossiemouth

All day I’d been swithering about whether I should camp overnight but as I reached Elgin the clock tower said it was 6.35 pm and a gantry sign said “Heavy Rain Forecast Tuesday”. That did it. I wasn’t going to camp if it meant packing up wet and riding home in the rain, so I spent the next 4 hours, racing down the A9 home again. A quick stop in Aviemore for fuel and another in Pitlochry for chips (it was 8.30 pm and this was the first food I’d had since an ice-cream in Keith) and I was back on the road. By the time I got to Perth the light was fading fast. By Stirling it was pitch black. My visor was covered in bug splatter and I could hardly see a thing. Thankfully I made it back to Glasgow in one piece at 11.15 pm but what a day!

For full photo gallery
Trip 7 – The North East

 

  Miles Km £
Overall Target 3,107 5,000 £5,000.00
Total this Trip 466 750  
Total to Date 2,058 3312.1 164.85
Left to Go 1,049 1,687.9 £4,835.15

If you’re enjoying reading this blog, then please help me reach me raise £5,000 for charity by donating using the JustGiving link below. You can find out more about my “5K for £5K Challenge” here. Thank you.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Trip 6: Stranraer

Saturday 6 July 2013


View Trip 6: Stranraer in a larger map

For this trip I decided to go all the way down the west coast to Stranraer. I’d been as far as Girvan before, but never all the way.

There are three routes you can take from Glasgow, 1) all the way round the coast via Gourock, 2) inland down the A737 to Irvine, or 3) go the whole way on the A77. The forecast was for fine weather so it had to be the coast road. It had been a few years since I’d last been that way and there had been some changes. All the old ship yards between Port Glasgow and Greenock were gone – a few cranes were left – but now a vast superstore had replaced what used to be Scott Lithgows (I think) and many of the old warehouses had been converted into trendy flats.

It was hazy for most of the way along the Clyde estuary.

View from Gourock

View from Gourock

Rounding the bend at Gourock things began to clear and by Irvine things were brightening up considerably. At Ayr, I missed the turning for the A77 and somehow managed to get myself onto a back road and ended up taking a rather convuluted route to Turnberry where the two roads joined.

Ailsa Craig from A77

Ailsa Craig from A77

A quick stop in Girvan for lunch and to admire the only sandy beach I’d see all day.

Ailsa Craig from Girvan Beach

Ailsa Craig from Girvan Beach

From here it was a clear run all the way to Stranraer. At Cairnryan I noticed there was a nice new terminal for Stena Lines’ crossings to Belfast. Funny, I thought they went from Stranraer.

New Stena Lines ferry terminal at Cairnryan

New Stena Lines ferry terminal at Cairnryan

A mile or so on was the P & O terminal to Larne. Strange, could have sworn the ferries went from Stranraer.

In Stranraer the mystery was solved, the Stena Line terminal had been closed down and moved to Cairnryan.

The old ferry terminal at Stranraer

The old ferry terminal at Stranraer

By this time I was bursting for the loo, so I enquired at the Police Station where I might find a public convenience. “The Library” I was informed. I set off in search of this only to discover it was closed. The Tourist Information Office was over the road so I asked if there was another one. “Take a right at the ??? Hotel, then right again, right again, and Morrison’s have one there”. Great, but what was the name of that hotel again? Passing one that seemed like it might be the right one, I turned right. Obviously not, and before I knew it I was on the road out of town to Dumfries. “All right”, I thought, “let’s try Newton Stewart instead.”

The Gulf petrol station in Newton Stewart had a very nice toilet, so all was well. From here I took the A712 to New Galloway – a beautiful road winding through the Galloway Forrest. At New Galloway, after a few wrong turns, I found my way onto the A702 to Moniave.

Moniave

Moniave

From here I did a quick loop up to Penpont then took the B729 from Moniave across to the A713 at Carsphairn. A beautiful, deserted road which oscilated between two lanes and single track. As I came round a bend a small loch was to my right and a family of geese was crossing the road directly ahead of me. I stopped to let them pass and scrambled to get my camera out to take a photo of them, but I wasn’t quick enough and this is the best I could manage (click on the photo to enlarge).

Geese on the B729

Geese on the B729

The A713 took me all the way back to Ayr where I picked up the A77 back to Glasgow.

The position so far:

             Miles                Km                   £
Overall Target 3,107 5,000 £5,000.00
Total this Trip 278 447.4  
Total to Date 1,592 2,562.1 164.85
Left to Go 1,515 2,437.9 £4,835.15

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Trip 5: Skye

Saturday 8 June and Sunday 9 June 2013


View Trip 5 – Skye in a larger map

The forecast was for fabulous weather this weekend so being a rare event in Scotland I decided to do an overnight trip to Skye. Not wanting to abandon my cat without food or water, I went to the pet shop and got him a food dispenser. A trial run proved it worked, so I filled it up with food and set off.

I collected my bike from my friend’s house then came back to mine and loaded it up with camping gear. As I was doing this, I realised I’d left my camera in my bag at my friend’s. Darn! I couldn’t go to the jewel in Scotland’s tourist crown without being able to take photos so twenty minutes was lost returning to her’s to get it.

Camera retrieved I went up the A82 again (just as well it’s such a gorgeous road as this was the third time I’d been up it in two months). Through Glencoe again and on to Fort William where I joined the Road to the Isles. This is one of my favourite roads – a long straight stretch runs parallel with the railway along the side of Loch Linnhe, then it heads over a hill to Glenfinnan, past the monument and the railway viaduct (featured in the Harry Potter films). I’d forgotten it was there so had a quick stop to refresh my memory.

Glenfinnan Monument

Glenfinnan Monument

From there the road continues west a bit further then heads north to Mallaig, affording fabulous views of white, sandy beaches and the isles of Rum, Eigg and Muck beyond.

Morar beach with Small Isles in the background

Morar beach with Small Isles in the background

I had a three hour wait in Mallaig as I hadn’t booked the ferry and the next two were full. It was glorious sunshine though so I wandered about, soaking up the rays and taking in the views.

Packed ferry to Skye

Packed ferry to Skye

I made it to Skye by 5.30 pm and took the southern road to Dunvegan on the west side, passing by the foot of the Cullins. These are spectacular jagged peaks that rise far above everything else and can be seen from all angles of the island.

The Cullins

The Cullins

Arriving in Dunvegan I made my way to the Kinloch Campsite, a beautiful spot right on the coast. I pitched my then, then made something to eat. There is something supremely satisfying about making a meal using a camping stove. Maybe it brings out those “hunter gatherer” instincts, but I swear, my simple meal of pasta, pasta sauce and bacon, was the best thing I’ve ever tasted. So was the cup of tea that followed it.

Camping at Kinloch Campsite

Camping at Kinloch Campsite

Next morning I was up at 6 am. I couldn’t sleep anymore. In fact, I’m not sure I ever really slept. I just seemed to creak from one solidified position to the next. Camping is a great idea in theory, but the reality is that I’m getting far too old and stiff for it.

What a view to wake up to!

What a view to wake up to!

The midges were out in droves so I quickly rustled up some breakfast in the wash-house to try and get away from them, then packed up and was on the road again by 8 am. I headed south west along a single track road to Galtrigill where the road runs out. A group of cows protecting a calf prevented me making it all the way to the end, so I turned around and took another single track over to Glendale, a typical island village.

Cows warding me off

Cows warding me off

Glendale Post Office

Glendale Post Office

Next, I wanted to get the ferry from Kylerhea to Glenelg, back on the mainland. This time I took the northern road from Dunvegan, past Portree to Broadfoot where, a few miles later, I picked up the road to the ferry. Now I’ve done some small, twisty single track roads in my time, but this one was exceptional. As you get to the top of the pass you get the most spectacular view down to the narrows below. The road then descends down a near vertical track to the slipway at the bottom.

View from top of pass to Kylerhea narrows below

View from top of pass to Kylerhea narrows below

The Kylerhea – Glenelg ferry is the oldest crossing in Scotland and is serviced by the last ferry of its type – one with a rotating deck. The water in the narrows moves very quickly and the ferry has to cross it at an angle so that by the time it arrives it has been swept back to the right level to dock.

Kylerhea - Glenelg ferry

Kylerhea – Glenelg ferry

Me, on board the ferry

Me, on board the ferry

Having been safely delivered to the other side, I followed the road from Glenelg all the way to its end. Another winding single track up through pine forests and along rugged shorelines. A fine journey, but possibly a step too far as I was starting to get very tired now. The road was a dead-end so I had to retrace my steps back to Glenelg before I could pick up another single track to Sheil Bridge where I rejoined the main road through Glen Garry to Invergarry. From here the A82 took me south through the Great Glen. This should have been a fairly quick piece of road but my progress was impeded by hundreds of cyclists (six-hundred to be exact). At a stopping place outside Spean Bridge I discovered they were all doing the John O’Groats to Lands Ends (or JOGLE as it’s commonly know) ride. I didn’t quite get to the bottom of why they were doing this, but as they all seemed to be stopping here, I got back on the bike and continued to Fort William.

From here it was back down the A82 through Glencoe, down to Tyndrum and back along Loch Lomond to Glasgow. I got home at 7 pm having covered 499 miles. Cozy had survived his time without me but I noticed he actually let me pick him up and sat happily on my lap while I stroked him – something he never normally does. It’s always difficult to tell what cats think of you but I think he was relieved to have me back – as was I.

For full photo gallery
Trip 5 – Skye

The position so far:

  Miles Km £
Overall Target 3,107 5,000 £5,000.00
Total this Trip 499 803.1  
Total to Date 1,314 2,114.7 149.85
Left to Go 1,793 2,885.3 £4,850.15

Remember, you can find out more about my “5K for £5K Challenge” here or make a donation by clicking the image below. Thank you.

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Trip 4: Ardnamurchan

Saturday 25 May 2013


View Trip 4: Ardnamurchan in a larger map

This trip’s destination was Ardnamurchan, the most westerly point on mainland Scotland. The sun was shining so I leapt out of bed and was on the road by 8.45 am. Straight up the side of Loch Lomond on the A82 until Tarbet where I took the right fork and continued on the A82 to Tyndrum. A quick stop in the Green Welly then onwards on the A82 to Glencoe. After Bridge of Orchy the road starts to climb. There’s a fabulous lookout half way up so I stopped there to take a photo and met a couple of guys on bikes who were on their way to Inverness.

Me at the Bridge of Orchy viewpoint

Me at the Bridge of Orchy viewpoint

From there, the road passes through Rannoch Moor before entering into Glencoe itself. I think the word “awesome” is so over-used these days it loses its meaning, but it is absolutely the right word to describe Glencoe. Huge, sweeping peaks rise up on either side. Depending on the weather, it can be either deathly eerie or jaw droppingly spectacular. The latter was the case today.

Glencoe

Glencoe

Buchaeil Etive Mor, Glencoe

Buachaille Etive Mor, Glencoe

Next stop was Inchree to get the ferry to Corran. It’s only a short crossing – you can see the slipway on the other side – in fact, the wait was longer than the crossing itself. Then I was off. Miles and miles of single track roads through groves of lime green trees rising up and down along the coastline. It’s one of my favourite routes.

Single track road on Ardnamurchan

Single track road on Ardnamurchan

At Salem I turned left onto the Ardnamurchan peninsula itself and followed it over undulating moorlands (where I saw two deer) round to Kilchoan.

My plan was to catch the ferry from there to Mull, then head down to Craignure where I was booked on the 7 pm ferry to Oban. It was 2.30 pm by now and the next ferry from Kilchoan was at 3.15 pm. If I was quick, I could make it up to the lighthouse and back in time to catch this connection. It was only 6 miles each way, but on twisty single track roads, it was going to be a challenge to make it in time. But I liked a challenge, so I fired up the bike and headed off.

There’s not many times I ride like a racer, but now was one of them. I was charging along, fleeing around corners, gunning it up hills and bombing along straights. I should have realised it wasn’t a good strategy for these type of roads, and soon I was to get my comeuppance. As I came hurtling round a bend, I lost my line, crossed onto the wrong side of the road and ploughed into a two foot long pothole in the verge. My left foot flew off its peg as the bike crashed into the hole and slammed down on the tarmac smashing my toes. Momentum carried the bike out the other side and back onto the road surface but it lurched left and right and I thought I was going to lose it. Then, as quickly as it all started, it stopped. The bike righted itself and I was able to carry on.

I should have paid heed to the warning though. I was tired and hungry and needed a rest, but I was almost there, so I would get a rest in a minute.

Ardnamurchan Lighthouse

Ardnamurchan Lighthouse

When I arrived at the lighthouse, the road passed two car parks then circled the lighthouse. The sensible thing to do would have been to park in one of the car parks, but not thinking very clearly, I rode past these and started riding round the lighthouse. It was a gravel track, something that would usually have put the fear of God into me, but this shows how tired I was becoming as I didn’t even notice it and started riding round the base. Next thing I knew the bike was on the ground. I’d hit the edge of a raised drain and the whole thing got thrown over. I don’t even remember if I fell off or got thrown from the bike. All I knew was the bike was on the ground and petrol was flowing out of the tank. I needed to get it back up before the heat from the engine ignited it. Amazingly, the engine had switched itself off, but it was not a good situation. I tried to remember all the videos I’d watched on picking up a fallen bike, but my mind went blank. I needed assistance, so I went off to the museum, found a couple looking at the exhibits and asked for their help. Together, the three of us, got it upright again but I’d broken the right front indicator and the mirror had been bashed off at an angle that no amount of pushing and pulling would release it from.

Scene of the crash - remains on my indicator in foreground

Scene of the crash – remains on my indicator in foreground

It was time to stop. I was trying to cram too much into my day. I parked the bike in the car park and had some lunch in the cafe. So, it had finally happened – I’d lost control, twice in a row. My foot felt like I might have badly bruised my toes but otherwise I was unscathed.

Needless to say, the ride back to the ferry was a much calmer affair. I was early so I amused myself by setting up my tripod and taking a picture of myself using the self-timer for the staff magazine at work.

Waiting for the ferry at Kilchoan

Waiting for the ferry at Kilchoan

I arrived in Mull at 5.30 pm. My next connection was 7 pm from the other end of the island. I had no idea how far it was, so learning nothing from my near miss, I hurried on down the single track road south from Tobermory. Everyone was going in the opposite direction and no-one was giving way to me and I was having to stop continually. All I could see in my right mirror was my own face (a somewhat disconcerting sight) which meant I was pulling out blind from every passing place. When I finally got to Salen, half way down, I saw a sign saying it was only 13 miles to Craignure. The road expanded into two lanes here so I was able to slow down, relax and take in some of the fabulous views around me.

I got the ferry terminal at 6 pm. Three cyclists arrived shortly after me and started chatting. Then an American man called Chuck pulled up next to me and told me he had a Bonneville America but wished he’d just bought the regular Bonny as he didn’t like the handling of the America. When I told him about my crash, he then heaved my mirror back into place which made the final run home to Glasgow much safer.

Arriving in Oban

Arriving in Oban

The ferry to Oban was late so it was 8.15 pm before we docked. Already the light was fading so I just had to blast it all the way home, eventually arriving at 10.40 pm. It had been a marathon of a day and made me question the wisdom of my idea to visit all destinations on this Challenge within a day.

For full photo gallery:
Trip 4 – Ardnamurchan

The position so far:

Miles Km £
Overall Target 3,107 5,000 £5,000.00
Total this Trip 272 437.7
Total to Date 815 1311.6 £124.85
Left to Go 2,292 3,688.4 £4,875.15

Remember, you can find out more about my “5K for £5K Challenge” here or make a donation by clicking the image below. Thank you.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Trip 3: Central Belt

Saturday 11 May 2013


View Trip 3: Central Belt in a larger map

It was low cloud and drizzle when I got up and I almost decided to call off my trip and leave it to another day, but a challenge is a challenge and if you cry off every time it’s raining, then you’d never go anywhere in Scotland. So I donned my gear, started up the bike and headed for Falkirk.

By the time I got onto the M80 north the rain was torrential. Low cloud reduced visibility to about 50 feet so the ride to the Falkirk Wheel was horrible and I was dripping wet by the time I got there. I parked the bike and set off to find the Wheel. As it came into view my gaze was drawn skywards to the huge structure looming above me. The next thing I knew I was flying through the air and landing on my arse in a flower bed. Someone had left a tangerine on the pavement and, like the proverbial banana peel, I’d slid on it and went flying. I was now soaking wet AND covered in mud. Not the best start to the day.

 

Falkirk Wheel

Falkirk Wheel

Falkirk Wheel

Falkirk Wheel

Falkirk lies in the Central Belt, an area that covers about a 50 mile stretch between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Given it’s so close, it’s an area I’d never really explored before. However, today I needed to find a landmark in connection with the Round Britain Rally that I was participating in, and as Yvonne Harley from MAD Scotland had contacted me via Twitter about my book, and invited me to look her up if I was passing, I’d asked her if she could show me the way.

When Yvonne arrived, we had a quick chat then headed into Falkirk. Yvonne was an excellent rider who looked like she’d been riding bikes all her life (which, it turned out, she had). She led me through large industrial estates with more car showrooms than I’ve ever seen in my life, before we reached a residential area which led to the park where the landmark was located. Landmark found and photographed, we headed off to South Queensferry to visit the Bikers Cove cafe.

Falkirk is clearly in the middle of Scotland’s industrial heart-land. The town sprawls for several miles and seems to blend with the edges of Grangemouth, where a huge refinery is based. Massive cooling towers scrape up into the skyline for mile after mile. I followed Yvonne as she navigated us onto the A904 to Bo’ness, a much prettier, residential town, lined with stone villas overlooking the Firth of Forth in the distance. Another turn a few miles later and we joined a coast road which gave spectacular views of the Firth of Forth and the road and rail bridges ahead of us. A quick stop in a parking bay for some photos and we continued down into South Queensferry.

The Forth Bridges

The Forth Bridges

The Bikers Cover cafe is a tiny, little cafe with a big, friendly atmosphere, right at the foot of the railway bridge. I was introduced to Trish and Chas, the owners and plied with tea and a bacon roll. There was a fun crowd of people there so we spent the next hour or so chatting to anyone that came in.

Forth Rail Bridge from South Queensferry

Forth Rail Bridge from South Queensferry

Tricia, Me, Chas and Yvonne at Bikers Cove

Tricia, Me, Chas and Yvonne at Bikers Cove

On the return trip, Yvonne detoured into Grangemouth so I could get a better view of the refinery. The road weaves right through the plant and I found it quite awe-inspiring passing through such massive structures. We stopped to see an old Spitfire that had been erected at the roadside, then we parted ways and I started to make my way home.

Grangemouth Refinery

Grangemouth Refinery

Spitfire at Grangemouth

Spitfire at Grangemouth

Beyond the refinery, Grangemouth becomes a vast industrial estate, flanked with factory units, warehouses and storage yards. I had no idea so many industrial plants were located here. So this is where Scotland’s manufacturing hub is located.

From Grangemouth I joined the M9 then the M80 back towards Glasgow. The wind was very blustery by now and I was getting buffeted across the carriageway so I took the back road from Cumbernauld down through Kirkintilloch to Glasgow.

Despite initial impressions, it had been a brilliant day and I was really grateful to Yvonne for her company and showing me around (click here to read Yvonne’s account of our day).

Yvonne Harley

Yvonne Harley

For full photo gallery:
Trip 3 – Central Belt

The position so far:

Miles Km £
Overall Target 3,107 5,000 £5,000.00
Total this Trip 103 165.8
Total to Date 543 873.9 £124.85
Left to Go 2,564 4,126.1 £4,875.15

Remember, you can find out more about my “5K for £5K Challenge” here or make a donation by clicking the image below. Thank you.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Trip 2: Mull of Kintyre

Saturday 27 April 2013


View Trip 2: Mull of Kintyre in a larger map

Today’s destination was the Mull of Kintyre – Oh mists rolling in from the sea, my desire … but not today, oh no, sunshire, blue skies and light winds were the order of the day. And FREEZING wind-chill. My God, it was cold.

I headed up the A82 out of Glasgow, past Loch Lomond, and, for the first time ever, felt compelled to stop and take a picture of Ben Lomond, basking in the sun:

Ben Lomond from the A82

Ben Lomond from the A82

Up to Tarbet where the road splits, I took the A83 and followed it round to Arrochar. As I came over the brow of the hill as the road descends into the village, I got a crystal clear view of The Cobbler (aka Ben Arthur), so, again I stopped here for another photo:

The Cobbler from the A83 coming into Arrochar

The Cobbler from the A83 coming into Arrochar

Onwards to Inveraray and more photo opportunites – isn’t it amazing how a bit of sunshine brings out the photographer in me:

Inveraray

Inveraray

Inveraray Castle

Inveraray Castle

From here, the A83 continues to Lochgilphead then Tarbert (that’s TarbeRt, not to be confused with TarbEt, mentioned earlier):

Tarbert

Tarbert

Leaving Tarbert, the road crosses to the west coast of the penninsula and it’s an exposed ride down to Campbeltown. On the way there, I noticed the ferry from Islay coming in to Kennacraig, so yet more photos here:

The Islay Ferry

The Islay Ferry

Approaching Campbeltown, I saw a sign for Machrihanish where an old wartime airfield was located so I detoured off the main road to have a look. It turns out, it’s now the Campbeltown Airport, a vast international hub with multiple terminals and a dedicated rail link (not!):

Campbeltown Airport

Campbeltown Airport

I left Glasgow at 8.45 am, and as it was now 1 pm and I hadn’t even made it to Campbeltown yet, I pressed on. As I left the airport, I joined a different road into the town. With only 2 miles to go, I then saw a sign post for Southend, from where I’d get to the Mull of Kintyre. The only reason I was going to Campbeltown was to take the road to Southend, so it seemed daft to continue to the town, when I could turn here. So a right turn it was and within a few miles, I found another sign to the Mull of Kintyre. Apart from Paul McCartney’s song, I have to confess, I had no idea what the Mull of Kintyre was so I didn’t really know if I was looking for a beach, a promontary or what? Then, just before I got to the point where the land looked like it was going to run out, I saw it, a sign saying “Mull of Kintyre Lighthouse – 8 miles”. Would you believe it – this was becoming like hill-walking – every time you think you’ve reached the summit, another peak comes along. But I’d come this far and I wasn’t going to cheat myself now, so I made another right turn and followed the road west.

Ever since I’d seen the sign for Southend I’d been on single-track roads, but this has to be one of the worst ones I’ve ever been on. It rose steeply up a hillside and narrowed into a tight-rope of a passageway. It was strewn with potholes and broken edges. Just when I was thinking, “I don’t think this road has ever been resurfaced in its life”, I came round a bend to find a resurfacing truck blocking the road with the driver asleep behind the wheel. A quick toot of my horn woke him from his slumbers and he pulled over enough for me to squeeze past.

The road to the Mull of Kintyre Lighthouse

The road to the Mull of Kintyre Lighthouse

When I eventually made it to the end of the road, there was fence blocking access to an even smaller road which presumably took one round to the lighthouse on foot. But I was too cold and hungry by now to walk the indeterminate distance to the out of sight lighthouse, so turned around and headed back to Southend.

End of the road

End of the road

It was 2.30 pm before I found somewhere to have lunch. I only had soup and a sandwich, but when I remounted, there seemed to be considerable strain on my waistband and within a few miles of heading off, I had to stop and un-do the buttons on my riding trousers. They must have particularly fatty tuna in this part of the country.

I took a wrong turn out of Southend and ended up taking another beautiful, single-track road round to Campbeltown. But it took ages to cover the ground and when I eventually got to the town, it was 4 pm.

Island Davaar on the approach to Campbeltown

Island Davaar on the approach to Campbeltown

As if nearly losing my fingers to frostbite wasn’t enough for me, I decided to take another single-track road all the way back to Kennacraig from Campbeltown, instead of going straight up the A83. Although stunning, it took over an hour to cover the 30-odd miles. However, remarkably, I arrived back in Tarbert just in time to catch the 5.15 pm ferry to Portavadie on the Cowal Penninsula. This meant I wouldn’t have to go all the way back up to Inveraray, and would cut about 20 miles off my journey.

Docking in Portavadie

Docking in Portavadie

The road up the Cowal Penninsula has a fabulous viewpoint which overlooks Loch Riddon and the Kyles of Bute so a final photostop before making the last push home.

Loch Riddon and the Kyles of Bute from the Tighnabruaich viewpoint

Loch Riddon and the Kyles of Bute from the Tighnabruaich viewpoint

By the time I got back to Glasgow it was 8 pm. I’d spent almost twelve hours on the road with not much more than an hour off the bike for photo-stops and lunch. But what a day – it may have been freezing but God, Scotland is beautiful!

For full photo gallery:
Trip 2 – Mull of Kintyre

The position so far:

Miles Km £
Overall Target 3,107 5,000 £5,000.00
Total this Trip 295 474.8
Total to Date 440 708.1 £99.85
Left to Go 2,667 4,291.9 £4,900.15

Remember, you can find out more about my “5K for £5K Challenge” here or make a donation by clicking the image below. Thank you.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!