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Home Travel StoriesUllapool ABR Rally 2015

Into Scotland Proper

By Ren Withnell

Much like travelling with the gf I get the impression Mark likes being in his bed rather more than getting out of it. Unlike the gf however he doesn't grumble and groan and gripe when it is time to get out of it, he just gets on with it. Today should be more interesting. There's a ferry to catch and I do love my ferries. Then there will be Scotland proper. Yeah, I know we're in Scotland but for me Scotland doesn't really start until you're in the Highlands surrounded by mountains, lochs, moorland and bugger all else. 

I've taken the A78 towards Largs before and I know it is a road of beauty yet still I gasp again as I climb over the hill north of Ardrossan where Arron becomes visible once more in all its glory. The work of yesterday's ride is being paid back in full as we follow the coast - in fact it is almost dangerous as I want to look to my left rather than at the road. We've hardly set off but I must stop for a moment to see it properly, and I'm sure Mark will be wanting to take some pictures with his fancy camera. Magnificent, we are blessed with crisp clear skies and blue waters.

Looking across the waters to the Isle of Arron. Mountains in the distance.
Today we are blessed with perfect conditions. The Isle of Arron across the water from the Ayrshire coast.

We roll straight onto the ferry at McInroy's Point and we barely have time to catch our breath before we set off across the bay with a jolt. As I look across the water to the angular hills and mountains beyond it's hard to imagine that a few miles further up the bay lies Glasgow with all that ghastly cityness. The route we're taking will actually add miles and hours to our journey however it's more than worth it just to see this grandeur rather than the high rises, tarmac slabs, tenements and industrial parks that Glasgow or any other major city has to offer. The good weather makes it all the more special.

Looking from the ferry up the Loch towards Glasgow. More stunning hills, mountains and water
Somewhere up around that bend lies Glasgow. It's hard to imagine, thankfully.

To be riding along an empty Highland road under blue skies causes a true moment of delight and awe at the richness of nature. To see the trees on the craggy hillside plunge into the calmness of the loch moves me to consider poetry. Luckily the next bend focuses my mind on reality before I get all arty farty. We stop for another brief photo opportunity and get on with the business of crunching miles. This is no longer work, this is pleasure as the corners mix with the views to keep the journey interesting and enthralling. Yeah, this isn't just Scotland, this is Scotland proper. 

A twisted tree by a pretty tree lined loch. Loch Eck in the Highlands
Eeee by 'eck, it's Loch Eck and it looks fan-bloomin-tastic. Innit.

However nice it is to ride I'm ready for a stretch and a brew at Inverary. We park by the coastal wall (Loch Fyne runs to the sea so this is the coast) and Mark gets us both a cuppa. A tall chap and his wife are preparing to head off on a big black full dresser Harley and I get talking to them. He's an examiner's examiner, he trains and tests the people who take you and I for our bike and car tests. He works at Cardington, a place I remember well from when I passed my CBT and DAS instructor's exams. It's a small world. He's loving the Harley but his wife prefers their Gold Wing, much smoother and quieter. 

a couple on board a large big black harley davidson motorcycle at inverary
"It's a bit loud!" "Sush, I can't hear my engine..."

Inverary is very much worthy of exploration but I fear time is against us so Inverary remains just another place I've passed through rather than looked at properly. Damn. Onwards and northwards to another photo opportunity at the Connel Bridge. The tide must be on it's way out as the water swirls and broils through the narrow gap at the end of Loch Etive. Castle Stalker provides us with another brew in warm glorious sunshine before we make the last leg into Fort William.

I know Fort William almost as well as I know my home town now, I've never stayed at The Lochy Holiday Park before though. We've struck lucky again. The toilets here aren't designer like last night but they're still clean and smart with a much needed warm shower. We're also lucky that there's a light breeze keeping the midges at bay. I've suffered the Highland wee beasties before and they can turn even the hardiest of men into itching scratching swatting buffoons covered in annoying little red blotches. 

There's no bar here and there seems to be little willpower from either of us to make the effort to go into Fort William. Instead we just settle in for the night, I catch up with the gf online and make my tea on the stove. It seems there's rain in the forecast, it's to be expected, we've been lucky so far.

Mark and Ren's tents at lochy holiday park. Trees and Ben Nevis in the background
We've had far too much fun for one day so I suppose it's bedtime soon.

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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