A motorcycle parked in front of a tent on a pleasant green campsite

Home Travel StoriesThe Scottish Trip 2010 - By Ren Withnell

The Scottish Trip 2010 - The Dalwhinnie and Pitlochry Loop


I've been roomed with SC. He's tidy, to the point of obsession, which is fine. He openly admits he snores too. He does, but not the noisy sawing type of snore, just the mildly annoying snore that many men suffer. I've been well prepared for this with copious quantities of earplugs that don't stop the noise, but deaden it enough to allow sleep. Now, after a shower and fresh clothing I go for breakfast.

We've been to this BnB now for the last 4 years. Breakfast consists of cereal with lashings of sugar, then bacon, sausages, egg, hash browns and beans. SC as ever pulls his face and pushes his meal about the plate whilst the rest of us tuck in. I take on board as much toast and jam as I can squeeze in, determined to make the most of the meal included in the price of the digs.

Theview from Hillview Bed and Breakfast in Fort William
The view across Loch Linnhe from the BnB

It seems a route I took the lads on last year was more popular than I'd realised. The route consists of following the A82 north to Spean Bridge, hanging East on the A86 to the A889 to Dalwhinne, then down the A9 past Pitlochry to Ballinluig where we head back West on the A827. This will drop us onto the A85 which then will put us back onto the A82 over Rannoch Moor.

The weather outside is damp, just like yesterday. Not the soaking rain we've had in the past but wet enough to warrant caution on the roads. After Fueling at the local Morrisons where the fuel is only a couple of pence more expensive than back home, we head out. It's only when we hit the open road out of Fort William I feel a familiar feeling. It's the Scottish feeling. It's the feeling of space, the feeling of open roads, the feeling of green and the wonderful feeling of speed. That feeling grows after we turn off the busy A82 and get onto the much quieter A86. The damp road is a concern but the traffic is light and the road is twisty and exiting.

Perhaps a little too exciting. I'm leading, not because of my speed and ability, but because I know where we're going. I open the taps on a straight and grin as the needle heads swiftly round the numbers...then I notice that distant corner is approaching much faster than it should and much more than I can manage. PANIC! Brake brake brake...oh yeah, 600cc machines don't corner on the brakes, not like the little 125 I use day to day. Into the left hander...I go straight on. I'm on the wrong side of the road and almost stationary before I collect myself and negotiate the corner. Close. Note to self...slow in...find apex...power out...repeat this to yourself for the rest of the week. MW, the fastest rider among us, passes me on the inside and I can almost hear him laughing to himself at my lack of skill and ability.

 Bikers in a layby on the A86 towards Dalwhinnie
We take a break on the A86 towards Dalwhinnie. If the picture is blurred it's because I'm still shaking after my moment.

With me backing off the throttle while I settle the adrenaline the rest pass me by, one by one. I learnt a long time back I'll never be fast. I ain't slow and I can hold my own, but being only one tenth of a second slower on each corner, after a thousand corners the rest of the lads are soon ahead of me. It's no bother any more, age teaches me to enjoy the ride my way and accept I'll have to prove my manhood in other ways. Other than my moment the road is great, fast and magnificently beautiful, particularly where the road crests some of the mountains and the views stretch for miles.

Dalwhinnie is a strange place. It's one road with a handful of houses and a rather strange contemporary Cafe-cum-restaurant. The sign outside declares Dalwhinnie is twinned with Las Vegas! The young chap behind the counter openly admits it's a funny gimmick but it's good for trade. We take a break while MW relays the story of my "moment" to much humor and a little sympathy. Here we are, 8 roughty toughty bikers sipping tea and cappuccino and eating shortbread and cakes. I also warn the lads about keeping speeds legal down the A9 and the importance of sticking together as the Ballinluig turning is easy to miss.

The strange and quite contemporary cafe at dalwhinnie
Outside the strange and contemporary cafe in Dalwhinnie

The weather has improved. There's been no rain really since we set off and now the roads are dry.

The A9 doesn't have that Scottish feeling. It's a regular road with regular signs and cameras and pleasant but not impressive scenery. Fortunately Ballinluig comes quickly enough and all the lads are in position for the turn off. After a quick look behind to see everyone's there it's time to get the hammer down again. The Scottish feeling is back again. This road is more to my liking with shorter, tighter corners which means speeds are lower and my mind is much more used to dealing with these kinds of roads. We stop for fuel in Aberfeldy then again at Taymouth Castle to take pictures and Killin for another round of tea and cakes. SS has lost his keys and it takes 10 minutes of frantic searching until JR finds them in the toilet...DOH! I love this road as not only does it suit my riding style but the views are great and the rare villages we pass through are tiny and unobtrusive.

The Entrance to Taymouth Castle on the A827
The Entrance to Taymouth Castle on the A827. A wonderful and beautiful road.

By now I'm hanging off the back of the bunch, I like it here. No-one's going to buzz me or get frustrated with my pace, and I can hide my silly mistakes. BigD's new to Scotland this year so he's hanging at the back with me rather than playing with the rest of them. I know he's got to stay with me...I know the way back! We take the road to Oban rather than the shorter Rannoch Moor and Glencoe route. Wow...what a road! It's open with great views of the corners which allow me to properly calculate my speed and position so I really get my head down. I'm flying now and have to slow occasionally to allow BigD to catch up. He's not slow, he's just not used to travelling at such a pace on such great roads.

We don't reach Oban, we turn off and head North on the A828. This road's a little slower and it's quite a relief when we get to the Cafe at Castle Stalker. BigD's knees are hurting from the ride and I'm quite tired now. Again it's more tea and cakes all round and the sun is shining, bathing the amazing rugged coastline and the Castle in warm early-evening light.

In a rather strange twist of fate, this year my son is up in Scotland this weekend with his Mother and Step-Father. Even more remarkably, and purely by coincidence, he's in Glencoe, just a few miles from Fort William and even closer to Castle Stalker, where I am now! I'd already agreed I'd visit him at the Clachaig Inn, where he's staying, so after a quick call I leave the lads and head off to see him. I find him and some of his Mother's family and friends sat outside a chalet drinking and chatting on the decking. I stop for a while and we all comment on the chances of us all being in the same area at the same time. I pass a pleasant hour or so before the midges start to bite and the light starts to fade, so I head off back to the BnB.

On the Veranda at the Clachaig Inn
The Veranda at the Clachaig Inn. My Son's the good looking one looking towards the camera.

The rest of the evening is spent getting a bite to eat in Fort William and uploading the camera pictures onto the internet. I'm tired. Tired after a long ride up yesterday and after a long and fast ride today. The bed is a good place to be and with the earplugs in its not long before I drift off to the muffled sound of SC's snoring.

The Scottish Trip 2010 - The Trip North
The Scottish Trip 2010 - The Dalwhinnie and Pitlochry Loop Ren rides out with the boys across the Scottish Highlands. There's a scare, some thrills but more than anything else there's beauty and space in abundance.
The Scottish Trip 2010 - Portree And The Kyle Of Lochalsh Loop The Scottish Highlands provide and stunning backdrop to a fabulous ride.
The Scottish Trip 2010 - Strontium and The White Sands at Arisaig
The Scottish Trip 2010 - Remote Isle of Luing Luing provides Ren and BigD with a much more sedate and peaceful day's ride than the previous frantic trips. And relax.
The Scottish Trip 2010 - The Kyle Of Lochalsh Loop - Again
The Scottish Trip 2010 - Fort Augustus and Neptune's Locks
The Scottish Trip 2010 - Going Home
The Scottish Trip 2010 - More Images A selection of fabulous images from the Scottish trip to bring the story to life

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