Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

Home Travel StoriesUllapool ABR Rally 2015

A Head Full Of Ayr

By Ren Withnell

I'm not sure I'm looking forward to this trip. Firstly the gf was supposed to be coming along but due to a re-hash at her place of employment it seems the holidays she's booked and the hours she works have all changed. This is most frustrating but I won't be travelling alone, Mark W will be joining me. I've known Mark socially for a couple of years now, I've never spent any length of time with him so lord only knows how we'll get along. 

Secondly I've come to realise I need to rethink the way I travel. Regular readers will know that for years I have pressed on an on, moving to a new campsite and a new destination most nights. Recently though I'm starting to realise I'm trying too hard to see too many places. This kind of relentless form of travel causes me dissatisfaction because I never get the chance to fully immerse myself in a place or explore it. I merely pass through, I miss the nooks and crannies, the highlights and the lowlights. I used say I'd been somewhere, I'm coming to realise I've merely passed through somewhere. 

I fear this trip will be the same. I've allowed 6 nights, 7 days, to get to and from Ullapool. If I chose to use a big butch bike and gird my loins it's a trip that can be done in a single day but I choose to ride a 125 and cover easy distances. Maybe I'm soft, maybe I'm never going to be an "Iron Butt" badge holder but I gain little pleasure from pounding through endless mile upon mile upon mile. We'll be camping in 5 different places. I'm just repeating what I've done for years but I can't change the plans now, it's just a little too late. Oh well.

Ren's bike loaded with his camping gear and ready to hit the road at Tesco
Reet, I guess we'd best be hitting the road then.

I meet Mark at 0915 on a bright but cool September morning and after fuelling up we set off. My sympathies lie with Mark right now because he's on a BMW 650 capable of cruising at more than 70 mph all day long yet he's stuck behind me at a steady 50 to 55. He's either got the patience of a saint or he's quietly boring himself into insanity while looking at my reg plate. The motorway drags on until lunchtime.

Mercifully we leave the motorway and after a snack in Gretna we're on the A roads heading for Ayr. While it's better off the motorway I've chosen the fastest route rather than the most interesting as we've got just over 200 miles to cover today. We pass though undulating agricultural farmland and small towns as the skies above us remain undecided between threatening and glorious. We're making good time so I spot a sign and pull of to see what Drumlanrig Castle is all about. 

Drumlanrig Castle is definitely not an medieval affair, rather more of a grand mansion. We park up and take some snaps as we stretch our legs but soon enough we're back on our way again. This is my point about the way I travel. I've physically been to Drumlanrig Castle and taken some pictures, I didn't look around and explore. 

Drumlanrig Castle that looks more like a large ornate stately home
Evidence I have passed by rather than actually explored. Drumlanrig Castle.

Our campsite, the Heads Of Ayr Caravan Park is quiet as we're out of season now. It takes a little while to find the owner but when he arrives he's most affable and his prices are fair. Not only that the toilet block is in pristine order with a sense of the designer and some nice touches. Grass is still grass though and soon we're pitched and the kettle in on. I show Mark how to use his petrol stove as I have the same model. We both agree they're marvellous things.

Crisp modern and almost designer toilet facilities at the heads of ayr camp site
Oh I say, far too posh for oiks like me. Heads Of Ayr's facilites.

One advantage of pressing on is that we have some time this evening. We go to the Electric Brae - a mere 4 miles away. The Electric what? It's a road that looks like you're going downhill when you're going up, and vice versa. I've been before and didn't experience the illusion so I want to go again and see if I missed it. Nope. No I don't get it. I mean the road is almost flat anyhow, there's very little slope so it's hard to tell either way. I'm wishing I had a football to see the illusion more clearly. Pffft. Back on the bikes.

The Electric Brae - or just some ordinary road in the countryside
Up or down? Who knows, I can hardly tell either way. The Electric Brae.

On the return we detour into a little village by the sea. Dunure's castle is only small but it is what I think a real castle should be with thick stone walls of which there is very little left standing. Dunure also has a small harbour that leads out into the sea with the isle of Arron visible across the bay in the darkening skies. It's windy, moody and a most satisfying end to our ride.

Dunure Castle, just a small tower and doorways in ruin by she ayrshire coastline
Now THAT is what a castle looks like. Dunure Castle.

Back at the campsite there's a quiet bar where Mark and I partake in a drink. We talk of bikes and places while taking in a little of the BBC's Horizon program on multiple universes. The concepts are enough to baffle even the most intelligent minds and soon we retire to bed. As I settle in I reflect on the day. The ride here was "work". I don't mind doing it but it's not why I ride. What I enjoyed was our little exploration of Dunure, just poking around and taking some time to stand and look at a castle or a harbour or the views across the waters. That's why I ride, that's the sort of riding I want to do. 

Looking out across the water from Dunure Harbour's wall. Arran in the distance.
This is why I ride, these are the things I love to see. Dunure Harbour looking out to Arran in the distance.

A Head Full Of Ayr Ren and Mark set off to the Ayrshire coast. Ren is pondering the way he travels and Mark is probably bored to tears behind him.
Into Scotland Proper Mark and Ren ride into the breathtaking beauty of the Scottish Highlands. With good weather, impressive surroundings and a gentle pace it is a good day to ride.
Waiting For Ullapool Mark and Ren go through a mixture of sunshine and rain and waiting and rushing on their way to their final destination, Ullapool and the ABR rally.
A Perfect Day Exploring A day exploring the Achiltibuie Peninsula alone gives Ren the chance to be selfish and self indulgent. Here the 125 is the perfect machine for the job too.
An Easy 200 Miles With favourable weather and winds the start of the journey back home makes for some easy miles. Ren is starting to realise that he's in his comfort zone. Is that a good thing?
Horse's Heads With No Bacon Art and Ren don't really mix too well. He appreciates the engineering though. There's also a wobbly bridge and no bacon butties.
Home And More Photos The final leg of the Ullapool trip just sees Ren on the motorway home with his thoughts. So to make it more interesting there's a collection of fabulous images too.

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