Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

Home Travel StoriesNorth Coast 500 2017

North Coast 500 2017 Epilogue

By Ren Withnell

There's little to report about the last day of our trip. Rain heading from Peebles to Moffat. A peculiar breakfast in Moffat where the lady got Sharon's order wrong but it was Sharon's fault apparently. Rain on the motorway to Lancaster and a weary but heart-warming goodbye as Sharon went on her way home from Charnock Richard services. That was the end of our journey.

The clyde estuary, massive broad stretch of water between very wet and misty mountains
The Clyde Estuary in the heavy mist and rain.

My thanks go to Nick for being bold enough to put the adventure forward. "But he only put together a set of suggestions?" Indeed, but being the man that did this meant he was the man everyone turned to for guidance. Be that myself asking "Where's Smoo Cave?" through to having to field the odd gripe, I know it can be a tiresome responsibility. Well done that man.

Highland hills and mountains run down to Loch broom in the dark evening skies
Ullapool's ominous yet noble surroundings

I have been to Ullapool before on my 125 (Ullapool ABR Rally 2015) as well as touring The Netherlands with Sharon on her Chinese 125 (The Netherlands 2016). I did these things as an experienced motorcyclist and camper. On this trip I accrued much admiration for Marina who travelled up from London on her Yamaha 125 step through scoot. She set out never having met any of the riders before to take on a journey across the top of the country while still on "L" plates. That is a real adventure, a real step into the unknown and she mastered it all in her stride.

A hoseshoe shaped cove with a sandy beach in the centre, surrounded by rocky cliffs
Nice quiet beach holiday? Durness could be for you.

I'll mention Sue. While she's quite experienced on two wheels as well as exploring she's still adjusting to doing it alone, having lost the love of her life a while back. Making new memories alongside all the old ones is a good thing I'm sure but it must be difficult and sometimes emotional.  

A cove with steep rocky sides and a small river running across pebbles to the sea
Looking out from Smoo Cave.

As for the rest of the crew I think I've made some new friends as well as enjoyed the company of those I already know. From Neil who's as big as a giant and as daft as a brush to Martin's softly spoken intellect. From Dawn's alternative world view to Dom's gentle Gaelic lilt. Each and every one is a character of their own unique style and a remarkable mix. 

Oh, and the real star? The Highlands of course. Stunning, beautiful, amazing breathtaking blah blah blah blah blah. 

Sharon has her scarf over most of her face in the heavy rain at Helmsdale
Sharon thinks she should be the real star of the trip. What do you think?

If you're looking for great content for your motorcycle related website maybe we can help? Contact

North Coast 500 2017 Prologue Ren looks at the wheres, whys and hows of this year's trip to the North of Scotland. This time they're with a group, kind of, sort of, maybe.
Panicking, Boredom and Pleasure After the pre-departure concerns and a dull stretch of motorway things improve as Sharon and Ren head north on the first leg of their adventure.
Letting Sleeping Sad Sacks Lie It's Sharon's turn to tell her version of the first day's events for this trip. After recently having surgery to remove a tumour is she even fit enough for the forthcoming journey?
The Best Of The Worst Heading into the Highlands brings forth both rain and midges for our travellers. Fear not though as they are both prepared and fortuitous (ready and lucky).
Twisty roads and Twisted Friends Sharon discovers the joy of riding Highland roads is more than enough to blow away the blues even in the rain. Nothing can stop her now.
Muggles at Bealach Na Ba With improving weather and impressive surroundings Sharon has to make a major life changing decision. Will she...won't she...can she...should she...?
A Day Full Of Mystery And Magic Sharon's journey into The Highlands is a mixture of magic, fear, delight, beauty and sheer survival. Can she remain shiny side up over The Applecross Pass?
Into Ullapool While the weather takes a turn for the worst it's not nearly enough to put the dampeners on a group ride. Follow our trekkers along the Highland coastline and into Ren's favourite town, Ullapool.
BEE Happy There's a lot of emotions flowing through Sharon today but they all lead to one conclusion. Life is for living because tomorrow is not a certainty. The Highlands is an excellent space to make the most of life today.
Priceless Scenery And Pies The next part of the NC500 adventure is arguably the most beautiful part. Will the weather hold out and just how expensive can 2 pies be? All this and more besides.
Friends Come In All Shades Of Blue Fabulous scenery along fabulous road put a big smile on Sharon's face. There's friends old and new and some of the new friends are wearing blue. But why?
Stolen Limelight Riding across the very top of the country is always a pleasure even if it's raining. However Ren's day is ruined due to Sharon's fame.
Envy Attracts Envy And Fame Sharon is revelling in the wonders of The Highlands, the delights of meeting fellow travellers and in upsetting Ren by being famous.
Sleeperzzz In The Rain It's a soaking wet day riding from John O'Groats back south. There's the promise of a hearty meal and a proper bed at the end of the day to keep the riders going.
Fairly Dry And Rather Bracing In spite of the awful weather Sharon's making the most of the last day riding the North Coast 500. At least she gets spoiled at the end of the day.
Failure and Reality There is nothing left any more, nothing to look forward to now the adventure is complete. Ren just wants to get home but is that just a little too much to expect?
Thrills And Spills There's a whole heap of miles to be covered for Sharon on her way home. How many can she cover, can she enjoy or endure them and will she survive?
North Coast 500 2017 Epilogue Ren sums up the experience of riding the NC500. It's all about the people, the route just speaks for itself.
The End Of The Story Leaves Me Speechless Sharon rounds off the NC500 adventure with the wrong breakfast, the wrong weather and the wrong traffic. Luckily these are just tiny hiccups on what was a most excellent adventure.

Reader's Comments

Latchy said :-
Good write up Ren and Sharon, but do you not get fed up of all that wet riding? I've been to see Scotland twice, yes it is one part of the world that as a motorcyclist you really should go and explore.
But also, there are countries further afield that not only give the jaw dropping views we bikers crave, but give much better riding conditions, Europe of course, is what I'm on about, a massive playing field.
I myself am off to do an anti-clockwise loop of Spain in mid July of all months. I shall take as many photos as I can and try to remember as much about each place as possible and post my adventure on here.
Our group is looking forward to this one because we have tried to eliminate the use of motorways and head for as many mountainous areas as possible, and the weather should do my arthritis good on the tour as well.i have to admit though 40 od deg c in the middle of Spain will be challenging as will be the hard seat on my new bike ( going to sit on my partially filled camping pillow all the way).
2/7/2017 11:11:01 PM UTC
Brian said :-
Cycling shorts with decent padding make a hell of a difference!978741
3/7/2017 12:24:05 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Ah Europe, warm, dry and beautiful Europe! Save for the time we went to France in 2013 - see link. Or the time I went on my own in 2012. I will grant you when I went to Spain in 2005 it was 45 degrees coming across central Spain and Badajoz.

We do want to go back into Europe and we've discussed it in great detail this year. We originally planned to go to Spain this coming September but having priced the ferry to Santander at £650 for the pair of us we decided against this. £650 more than covered our Scotland trip with plenty to spare. I estimate 2 weeks in Spain would cost us around £1,000 pounds if you put the ferry price in.

As you know I can afford this so long as I don't go mad elsewhere. You ought to know that Sharon works for the Library service and as such her job is on the line and her pay has been frozen these last 5 years. Sharon *could* afford her portion of a trip to Spain but this would leave her in serious trouble if ANYTHING happened like a boiler breakdown or the car needing repairs. For 2 weeks of sun it's just not worth the risk to her financial stability.

We enjoyed Scotland immensely even when the rain came. I am certain we'd enjoy Spain too. I'm also sure we'll have a great time later this year when we take 2 weeks off touring to places as yet undecided.

We have been invited to Germany by "The Blue People", the German couple featured in the story, we would like to go and visit them as part of a trip. Maybe we could drop in on Henrik in Denmark or even Sweden. We know a chap in Bulgaria who'd put us up for a night I'm sure. We have options galore and we're looking into them.

In the meantime I'm sure we'd all love to read your tale about Spain. It would make a refreshing change to hear about sunkissed beaches, warm and dry mountains, parched dry campsites and the mad-cap antics of Chris being rude to you and the rest of the crew. Lots of piccies please!
3/7/2017 2:54:12 PM UTC
Sharon said :-
Hmmmm... I do not know about being the star but why has my fringe been replaced by a dead starfish.
3/7/2017 9:19:06 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
You look gorgeous as ever sweetheart....HAHAHAHAHAHAHHHAAAAHHHAAAAAAA!
4/7/2017 6:01:43 AM UTC
Borsuk said :-
If you are going through the Alpujarra area of the Sierra Nevada mountains you will enjoy the ride. The A346 - A4127 - A4130-A4132 - A348 makes a not bad loop. This route is off the A44 autovia from Granada to Motril and runs via Lanjeron, lots of small villages, Berchules, Cadiar and Torviscon to Rules Dam and back onto the autovia. Never done it on a bike but have in cars and more scarily in buses, those guys don't hang about. We are getting large groups of cyclists and motorcyclists going past my village regularly now. Never seen so many adventure bikes in one place outside a showroom before. The old southern coast road was quite twisty in places and the traffic is lighter now that the motorway from Almeria to Algeciras is completed.
5/7/2017 7:53:19 AM UTC
Liam said :-
I do enjoy reading your tales whilst sipping a coffee. I'm off to the land of Scotts in a week on the CBR250.

I'm planning on staying in Ullapool for a few days and just having day trips out rather than lugging all my gear around.

You're issues with trying to simply kill miles are on my mind too. I've done 500 mile days but they're not fun. I don't think the A82/A835 from Fort William to Ullapool is the best stretch of road to be saddle sore and tired On. The A9 is a bit dull for my liking so the longer way from Glasgow via Fort William is my preferred route.

I think Boston to Ullapool in one day is pushing it. A stop in Fort William may be in order on the way up and just a gentle plod to Ullapool on the second day with my gear.

Keep up the good work and keep us motivated to don the waterproofs and endure the butt cramps :-)
6/7/2017 9:31:07 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Liam - you should know coffee is the produce of Satan and is evil beyond all else bad in this world. In case you ain't noticed I'm not a coffee fan.

Are you camping?

We both find taking the McInroy's point ferry is great. It skips out Glasgow and Edinburgh and plants us straight into the "good stuff". Also the A712 is a fab stretch of tarmac.

Boston is even further then Bolton from The Highlands (que Ian Soady suggesting France...). I'd break that journey up into 3 days if time allows but perhaps your ass is tougher than mine.

Riding through the rain at this time of year even in Scotland is no hardship. Yes yes yes it's wet and the mist can block the view at times but it was not cold. The weather came and went each day save for the trip to Rogart. It definitely didn't spoil the trip.

If you fancy it I'd be happy to publish your story. Be it a one page summary or the fully monty. Enjoy!
6/7/2017 2:32:08 PM UTC
Liam said :-
I shall indeed be camping. I shall have a look into taking the ferry, thanks for the pointer.

I'd quite fancy writing a little summation of my trip and how the little CBR handled it. Something about listening to that little engine spin that makes being on unfamiliar roads more interesting.

Here's to hoping I at least get something other than 24/7 rain like I did last time I was up there ??
6/7/2017 9:28:55 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Rain? In Scotland?? Never! Have faith sir, the skies will be filled with sunshine, the birds will be singing, the flowers will be in bloom and the world will all be at peace. Somewhere.

Don't be too hard on the 250. Show it a little mercy.
7/7/2017 5:31:08 AM UTC
Sue Birch said :-
A great narrative of a great trip with great folks, shame about the weather. Thank you for my mention. The difficulties of grief smooth out somewhat in the company of good people.xx
10/7/2017 9:31:51 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Cheers Sue! Pleased to have made your acquaintance.
10/7/2017 9:04:04 PM UTC
Dawn said :-
Sat up last night reading all of this. Most excellent write up and brought back some awesome memories. Lovely to be included in the narrative. Have to say i was a wee bit jealous of u two, as i would have liked to have stopped a bit more taken more pics and taken the scenery in. Also i spent too much money on food, would have loved to have done more camp food, but my panniers were already overloaded. Need to re-think the packing, for the next trip. xx

12/7/2017 11:04:18 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi Dawn! Yes your panniers were the biggest and heaviest I've seen in a while. I suggest some lateral thinking, engineering and reduction is required before you'll have space for food. Sharon and I are on the road although the scenery is definitely not the same as The Highlands.
15/7/2017 6:15:54 AM UTC

Post Your Comment Posts/Links Rules



Add a RELEVANT link (not required)

Upload an image (not required)

No uploaded image
Real Person Number
Please enter the above number below

Home Travel StoriesNorth Coast 500 2017

Admin -- --