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Home Travel StoriesThe Scottish Trip 2010 - By Ren Withnell

The Scottish Trip 2010 - Portree And The Kyle Of Lochalsh Loop


Breakfast is much the same this morning as it was yesterday, except Jane, the Landlady, has put beans on my plate rather than a tomato, thankfully. After another huge dose of toast I learn the plan today is the Kyle road, then Portree. Outside there's the usual checking of bikes, oiling of chains and adjustments to settings. Again we fuel at Morrisons rather than the expensive "Gleaner" garages around this area.

We're not heading straight to the Kyle of Lochalsh. We follow the road up to Fort Augustus. Along this road is Loch Lochy, this always strikes me as a silly name, rather like saying Lake Lakey or Hotel Hotely. It is not a stupid place though, it's gorgeous! There's barely a whisper of wind and the Loch is millpond flat. I know I should be keeping pace with the lads but this is just too good to whizz by. BigD's behind me as I pull in to take some snapshots. He's getting busy with the camera too and as well as getting the obvious scenic views we also try to snap another passing biker but he's so quick all we both get is an empty road in frame. Riding in Scotland is an awful lot of fun, but it would be a crying shame to not stop and appreciate the beauty and vastness of the place.

Loch Lochy, millpond flat in the glorious sunshine
Loch Lochy, a silly name, totally flat and in the glorious sunshine. What a day!

In Fort Augustus we take the obligatory tea and cakes onboard and then head down to the Locks on foot. In case you don't know, there's a canal that runs right across Scotland, essentially cutting the top of Scotland off from Fort William to Inverness. This Canal, the Caledonian Canal, connects Loch Ness to Loch Lochy and the Sea Loch of Loch Linnhe. There are associated in canal raise and lower boats where required. They're quite impressive in their size and we watch a while as 2 sailing yachts pass through. I'm always fascinated and strangely hypnotized by water and locks. It reminds me of making damns in the sand to capture water flowing down a beach as a child on holiday.

A lock at Fort Augustus and 2 yachts
A Lock at Fort Augustus, filling up with 2 Yachts heading upstream.

At Invermoriston along the shores of Loch Ness we turn off the main and busy A82 onto the much quieter and much faster A887. This is more like it! It’s a fast fast fast road with long sweeping bends, clear straights and twisty nadgery to keep you on your toes. It's a big favorite of MW’s, the fastest rider and as I fall further and further back I can't image how quick MW's going because I'm not hanging around at all. The A887 becomes the A87 and the road just gets better and better. Not only is the road fast but the scenery is impressive. Vast valleys open into deep Lochs, jagged rock faces overlook sheep strewn fields and apart from the tarmac I'm riding the only other man-made objects are occasional small white-painted croft houses with gravel tracks to the road. It's so very very different from North-West England, where the cities of Manchester and Liverpool almost merge around Warrington, where every patch of green is surrounded by housing estates and shopping centres. Isn't space brilliant.

The lads are waiting for me at a remote petrol station along the road. It seems despite the frantic pace of the fast riders I'm only a minute or two behind. My ego takes a small comfort from that. Back together MW leads us off the main road and onto a back road and up to the Five Sister's Viewing Point. The road is tight single track with a couple of amazing switchbacks, then the crest opens out onto a stunning view. Now my mates are not exactly the cultured types, preferring porn to opera and conversations that revolve around making rude comments and being as politically incorrect as possible. It's with some surprise then that I find them all quite in awe of the scene before us. It takes a few minutes of picture taking and quiet contemplation in the midday sun before the usual offensive quips at each other's expense resumes.

The view from The Five Sisters Viewing Point
Five Sisters Viewing Point, Amazing to see this on such a perfect day.

Back on the main road the pace is as rapid as ever and sure enough BigD and I are out at the back again. I don't care anymore, I'm on a good bike on a good day and riding as fast as I can, that'll do for me. The Eilean Donan Castle with its associated visitor centre is a regular tea and cake stop, and it comes into view very quickly. It never ceases to amaze me how much distance you can cover quickly in this area.

The Eilean Donan Castle
The Eilean Donan Castle. Apparently Scotland's most photographed I thought I'd help keep it that way.

I've been onto Skye before, I’ve been over the smooth and sleek Skye Bridge several times. Yet I've never ridden deep into Skye, I've always taken the Ferry road to catch the Ferry to Mallaig. So it's quite a pleasant change to find myself riding further into Skye as we head for Portree. I'd heard Skye was picturesque, and it does not fail. The road is fast again here with some good sharp corners so I force myself to slow down a little to admire the views. Small croft cottages, all painted white, hunker down amid fields that stretch down to the rocky shoreline. All this is overlooked by the mountains inland that tower over me as I pass by. It's easy to imagine lone crofters tending to their sheep and their crops but some of these tiny cottages have flash cars parked homes.

Portree is a little larger than I expect. In my head it was a tiny hamlet with an ice cream shop and tea room. It’s not, it's a small town with a market square, one or two major banks and the usual plethora of tourist shops. We park on the square and it's now I notice just how hot it has become. It's a great relief to remove my jacket, if only I could remove my biking trousers too. We sit there a while before a strange aging hippy woman and her confused ancient father sit beside us on the benches. It's not long before she's ranting about the English then asking us to buy her some cider from the shops. It' seems she's banned. I can't imagine why.

We leave Portree, happy to get away from the incessant drivel of the Portree Piss-head. As I turn onto the Armadale road that will lead us to the ferry, I get excited. It's a great road that's very twisty, narrow and challenging, and the weather's perfect. Not anymore. I recall last year there were road works, now after a few fast straights and high speed corners, the road passes straight and slow through a handful of villages with a 40mph limit. I shouldn't complain, it gives me time to take a breather and to take in the sights again.

It's good to see the ferry. It seems that every holiday I've been on over the last 5 years has involved a ferry, so now I don't feel like I've been on holiday unless I've been on a ferry. It doesn't need to be a long trip, just across a river will do, but there has to be a ferry. The Armadale to Mallaig ferry is a good one. About 20 minutes of open water separates Skye from the mainland, at this point at least. It's not cheap though, £14 for the bike and myself this year, 2010. It's worth it though. I love standing on the upper decks, seeing the bikes strapped down below. Seeing Armadale melt away and Mallaig come into view. I can't explain it, there's something about the sea.

Motorcycles strapped down on the armadale to mallaig ferry
Bikes on the Ferry. I'm never quite sure it's strapped down properly, but I've not lost one yet...

In Mallaig we get off the ferry and only travel less than quarter of a mile before we park again and go to another favorite tea room. There’s more tea, more cake and more lewd and rude comments about the pretty waiting staff. Sometimes it can be quite cheesy and embarrassing, so I'm thankful to be leaving to ride the renowned "Road to the Isles"

Mallaig Harbour
Mallaig is a busy fishing harbour along with the ferries.

The A830 is known, in all the promotional literature, as the "Road to the Isles". It's bigged-up as an excellent driver's road and a road that runs through some of the most scenic parts of Scotland. In my humble opinion, it is a scenic road, but there a far more scenic ones in the same area. But it is certainly a driver's road...or in this case a rider's road. 45 miles of every combination of turn and straight you can imagine. Fast bends, slow bends, the odd sharp bend and long long straights too. There are only 2 places with a 40mph speed limit and you pass through these smoothly and easily enough. Be warned though...there's 3 bridges, the first has traffic lights that you come upon quickly, the second is single file traffic and the third looks like another fast corner until it's too late. It's all too easy to end up IN the third bridge.

Otherwise...what a road! And to ride it today in the glorious sunshine is a pleasure I probably don't deserve. Of course like any pleasure, it's over all too soon. 45 miles, gone, like a single moment of time. It feels shorter than a ride to the shops.

As usual the evening is spent getting a bite to eat, this time from Morrisons, spending an hour or two uploading pictures and watching trashy TV on the small set in the small bedroom of the BnB. I've only been away from home for 3 nights but I miss my home comforts. I miss having the whole house to myself, not having to think about anyone else. That said, I don't miss washing up or having to tidy up after myself. I miss the girlfriend too.

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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Home Travel StoriesThe Scottish Trip 2010 - By Ren Withnell
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