Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

Home Travel StoriesThe Scottish Trip 2010 - By Ren Withnell

The Scottish Trip 2010 - The Kyle Of Lochalsh Loop - Again

Thursday

2 of the lads are going back home tomorrow, you know, commitments. So MW leaves it up to SS and JR to decide where we're going today. With the sun shining once again there's only 1 real choice. It's the Kyle road again. I wonder whether to go with them or should I make my own ride somewhere new and fresh. Nope. Scotland's a magnificent place and there's much to explore, but sunny days like this are few and far between so today's going to be another fast day. A riding day.

Breakfast is polished off in the usual manner and stocked up on toast I check the bike out. Yesterday she felt fine, but looking at that chain I wonder if a little adjustment is required. It only takes a couple of minutes to adjust the chain and I now feel much happier that all is just as it should be. Several of the other lads are tightening chains, altering cables and lubricating levers. As all this happens the sun is warming the already pleasant morning air.

Fort William seems busier today. There’s more traffic and a queue of cars into Morrison's petrol station. As we wait and fill up there's a couple of bikers looking bemused and concerned at the other end of the station. After I've filled up I join the rest of the lads standing with the bemused bikers. It seems one of them has filled his nice VFR 800 with a tank full of diesel. Being the helpful chaps we are LJ goes back through the traffic to the BnB and borrows the landlords mini siphon. It’s a nifty little plastic tube with a really simple pump on top. I stand there in horror as the rider siphons out and into a grid what must have been almost a full tank of diesel.

Our first stop is the commando memorial on the outskirts of Spean Bridge. It's funny how a bunch of lads who show no respect for political correctness, traffic laws, women's rights and each other's feelings can become all subdued and righteous when we see the statue. I can't speak for the rest of the crew, but I don't think I'd be brave enough to fight and die for my country. It's beyond my comprehension as to the mindset of such men, so I thank them as best I can for the freedom to blast through this glorious countryside.

The commando memorial at spean bridge
The Commando Memorial just outside Spean Bridge. A remarkable and stunning place for such a memorial.

Out on the road we follow the A82 past the perfectly flat Loch Lochy and hang a left onto the A87 at Invergarry. This is a fast road. Long sweeping turns through the trees at the start, in the foothills, then we soar on to the mountain tops before stopping at the viewing point to take more pictures and listen to more German bikers speaking in their harsh tongue. The road down the other side is twistier until the A887 joins it at a sharp junction. Now it gets even faster. In glorious sunshine we get separated as the faster riders make progress. I'm at the back again and wondering just how anyone could go faster than I'm going already!

The view from a viewing point along the A87
Magnificent. The views just go on and on and on and on....

I'm repeating to myself - "Easy in, turn, power out...easy in, turn, power out..." through each corner. I don't want to overdo it and crash, but I don't want to waste this once a year opportunity to really open my 600 up properly. I know I'm fast, my speedo is reaching a long way round and the other traffic is being swallowed up like a humpback whale swallows plankton. Brake for the bend, drop the bike in, look for the apex then power power power. Oh this is awesome, I'm Carl Fogarty and Rossi, I'm the fastest thing that ever was, I'm just the best! Then MW passes me like I'm on a bicycle. He must have been parked up somewhere and now he's playing catch up. Damn, he's fast.

I learnt several years ago to not try and keep up. I'm an average rider who can go a bit fast because I've got over 400,000 miles experience. I'm just lacking in the real natural talent that some people have. I let him go and get on with enjoying my own ride at my own pace. Considering the Eilean Donan Castle must be 40 miles from the last stop it only feels like 5, it's that fast. At the car park in the visitor centre it look at MW's tyres. I've seen shredded tyres after track days, but I've never seen a tyre shredded on the public roads. He really must have got his head down.

More tea, more cakes, more pictures and more relentless ribbing of each other. The sun is out which means the tourists are out and there's a steady stream of people coming and going as we sit there in the shade of some trees. It goes quite for a moment and I reflect on the time a couple of years back I came here with the girlfriend. It's strange. I miss her being here with me, sharing the sights and the sounds and making observations. In other ways it's a little easier, I don't miss the additional responsibility of her on the back of the bike, of trying to be sure she's having a good holiday and her having to make endless calls to the kids to act as judge and jury between them. Then the lads start again with the teasing and pointless conversation so I come to the conclusion I do miss her.

Biker drinking tea and being rude at the eilean donan visitor centre
"Did you see me into that corner!" "Yeah, coulda gone faster round there with flat tyres ya poof..."

It's not that bad really. On the bike we cross the impressive Skye Bridge again and make our way back to the ferry. At the Armadale Terminal we park up next to 2 chaps, one on a Vespa 200 and the other on a 125 Innova. They've travelled up, one from Yorkshire and the other from, oddly enough, our hometown of Bolton! I try to imagine riding a 125cc scoot from Bolton to here. I quietly promise myself I'll come here on my 125 one day. I say quietly because if I mentioned it to the lads they'd think I was mad. This of course would lead to relentless mockery.

Honda Innova 125 and Vespa 200, loaded with camping gear on the ferry
125 and 200...camping...round Scotland...fantastic madness!

In Mallaig most of the lads stop for tea at the expensive cafe. JR and I head back to the white sands at Arisaig which had impressed us both so much on Tuesday. This time we catch the B8008 at its Northerly end and I'm feeling much more confident of finding somewhere pleasant this time. As we turn onto the B8008 it's only a few hundred yards before the first stretch of white sand. It's quite busy, well relatively speaking for Scotland, so we pass by and follow the contorted road which clips the coastline from time to time and offers glimpses of inaccessible beaches. Around another bend I notice the flat land which indicates we're close to the shore again, and in a gravel lay-by there's another motorcycle so I pull in.

The tiny graveled area leads to a splendid white beach. Not the white beaches of far-off places as seen on picture postcards, but a bay with rocks, rock pools, seaweed and algae all amongst the white sands. As we park the bikes there's a couple in their leathers and we say hello. They're from the Loch Lomond area and work in the catering business, he's a chef and she's a manager. We talk at length about their dreams to run a "smokery", where meat is smoked. Eventually though they need to be away to give themselves time to get back so JR and I walk down the beach and dip out toes in the water, it's bloody freezing! It does seem strange being stood on a white sand beach, in a pair of shorts, with the sun out shining and the sound of seagulls then to realize I'm on the North-West coast of Scotland.

White Sands at Traigh Beach
Traigh Beach

We head back into Fort William. Fast. As I've said before I'm not the fastest here by any means but to me I am going very very fast. It's all relative you know, if you're used to travelling around the towns and cities of Manchester and Liverpool at 30mph then anything over 50 seems quick. And believe me, I'm definitely doing over 50. 30 Miles in the city can often take 2 hours, with traffic lights, buses, junctions and roundabouts. 30 Miles here passes in a flash, a blur of tarmac and trees, centre lines and crash barriers. We leave Arisaig and with what seems like a flick of the throttle and a switch through a bend we're slowing down for the 40 zone coming into Corpach.

I take JR down the short but very twisty road near Glen Nevis that I'd been down with SS on Tuesday. JR seems less impressed with the road than SS, although he did get air a couple of times. As we stand and talk JR goes quiet, then reaches into his leathers to produce a small pair of binoculars. In the distance I can hear the sound of a cuckoo and JR wants to see it. I don't fancy his chances as we're surrounded by towering mountains with steep rock faces and a clump of trees. He looks for a while but is unsuccessful so we head back.

Back at the BnB the rest of the lads return and we make our way into Fort William for tea. We're lucky to get a place in the Grog and Gruel but we have to wait a long hour before we're called to our table. As we wait I take some time outside alone to talk to the girlfriend via MSN Messenger on my phone. I'm happy to be here but I'll also be happy to get back and see her. I love the rides, I love the places but I miss my home comforts and I miss my space. The meal is worth waiting for though.

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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