Looking across to the snow capped alpine mountains seen from the back seat of a motorcycle

Home Travel StoriesBute And Kintyre 2019

Ayr For The Third time

Ride Date - 12 May 2019

By Ren Withnell

We are at Sharon's humble abode this Sunday morning. In the hope of being up and out early to enjoy reduced traffic on the motorway Sharon has made a monumental effort and staggered out of bed long before the crack of noon. This has rather addled her already befuddled brain. She barely knows which way is up let alone how to load her bike.

Both motorcycles are heavily laden with luggage as they prepare to leave Sharon's place
Just a light minimal load for this short trip.

Sharon knows the way to the M6 northbound. She's taken herself to my mother's place that way. She's taken herself to Devil's Brigde (Kirkby Lonsdale) that way. She's been that way with me many times to many places. I ask her to lead us both up the M6 northbound. It'll make a nice change me not leading for once.

So soon enough we're on our way to Birmingham. Yes, Birmingham. Students of British geography might notice that Birmingham is south of Sharon's home near Liverpool whereas Scotland is in fact north of Liverpool. 

A very simple map with Scotland north, Birmingham south and Liverpool between
You and Sharon need know no more than this.

I don't recall discussing this change of plan with Sharon. Maybe she has secretly booked us onto a ferry to Spain as a special surprise? Maybe she's secretly booked us into a 5 star hotel in The Cotswolds as a special treat because I'm so nice? Oooh, maybe we're off on a week's boating around the Norfolk Broads? The possibilities are endless!

Far far more likely though is that she still does not know which way is up.

Sharon likes to travel at 70mph on motorways, I'm much happier at 60, so we've settled on 65mph. There's a police car up my derrière, a muddle of junctions and a mixture of trucks and vans. I cannot figure out a safe, legal and inoffensive overtaking manoeuvre which would allow me to lead her back onto the path of directional correctness. 

I position myself to the left, desperately hoping she'll notice I'm not where I ought to be. Then over the roar of wind and the engine noise I hear very very large penny dropping. Sharon moves over, backs off and I pass her without upsetting PC Plod too much. We loop around a junction and head north, I wave Sharon back into the lead.

At Lancaster services she's most apologetic. Meh. No-one was hurt, we didn't get too far off course and anyway, it sure was funny, ahem, looking back now at least. We throw a cup of tea down our necks and crack on.

Carlisle brings fuel and food at Morrisons then the A75 leads us to Crocketford and the turning for the A712. This is a favourite road of mine. While the scenery is pleasing enough it is more the way the road wriggles and winds it's way through that scenery I appreciate. I stop briefly to ensure Sharon is in good order then issue instructions - "just stay on this road". I'm off, playtime.

Sharon astride her loaded Z250SL ready to ride the A712
"Now don't stop to talk to any strangers, OK?" I fear for the strangers you see.

I'm feeling just a tad exhilarated by the time we join the A713. This is another good road yet different. It's broader, more sweeping and just a little busier, although hardly packed. We roll together here, Sharon prefers the wide sweeping bends as opposed to the nadgery gnarly bumpy stuff I've just been playing on. She has no trouble keeping pace here.

I struggle to fix my feelings about Ayrshire, I have for a while. It, well, the area is actually quite lovely within The Galloway Forest Park and the surrounding countryside is perfectly fine too. I don't know this area well but the few roads I have travelled flow well without too much traffic. Maybe I need to explore it more, the problem is I'm always passing through. Note to self - explore South West Scotland someday. 

Carsphairn Shop and Tearoom provides a little light refreshment as we approach our first night's camp. We sup our tea inside while in the back garden 3 bikers languish in the cool though bright sun. Behind them and their accents are hills that look both remote and yet managed. Sharp tree lines indicate man made forestry for the purpose of industry, the hills rise and fall as they may have for millennia. 

Hills and rural scenes behind the cafe, a mixture of rugged moorland and managed forestry in Ayrshire
It is beautiful no doubt, yet it's not The Highlands.

I manage to get lost as I have done each time I've been to this site. We end up on a single track road that leads us over a hill. There's a few sharp bends, gravel down the centre or even grass, steep stretches both up and down and to add to the pleasure the odd impatient driver. I imagine Sharon is cursing me by now.

As part of always passing through Ayrshire we arrive at the staging post I've used twice before already - Heads Of Ayr Caravan Park. Why here? Better the devil you know really. The toilets are clean and smart. There's a bar on site if the weather is pants or the midges are out. I have no particular loyalties here but the familiarity is already becoming friendly. 

The Z250SL and CB500X by the tent ready for the night in Ayrshire
Not quite home sweet home but these surroundings are now familiar.

After the tent is pitched Sharon hops onto the back of my now luggage free 500 and we take a 3 mile ride to a nearby co-op for supplies. There's a chippy next door so we share a small portion of chips while young people try to make themselves sick by drinking a whole bottle of pop each in one go. Fear not, these young people come from a country with battered and fried mars bars and equally battered and fried pizzas. We don't come to Scotland for the cuisine.

We relax with a glass of pop in the bar. Outside the air is rapidly cooling as the sun sets over the yard arm. There is something missing. Midges. The air is fairly still but perhaps it's just a little bit too dry for them tonight. Good. Oh, something else is missing too. Rain. Surreal, very surreal.


If you have a product you'd like reviewed here on Bikes And Travels contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Bute And Kintyre - But Why? Ren is trying to justify why he's not taking Sharon abroad to exotic places. He blames Brexit but we all know the real reason is because he's mean and miserly.
Getting Mentally And Physically Ready Before Sharon leaves for Scotland she's both excited and yet pensive? She's normally a chilled out traveller so what is different this time?
Ayr For The Third time Familiar roads to familiar places, theoretically, if Sharon can work out which way is up.
Air Head To Ayr Sharon is having one of those days. Still, she's keeping positive and her motorcycle upright.
Boating To Bute An easy and leisurely ride up the coast of Ayrshire and an evening on the Isle of Bute.
Breathtaking Bute Sharon would like a lazy, laid back and chilled day. Unfortunately she has brought a Ren with her. He's not so bad when he stops flapping.
The Beauty of Bute Is Bute a Beaut? It's a most peculiar day to find out though. There's no rain and a big yellow thing in the sky.
The Long Way To Machrihanish Using ferries to get from Bute to Machrihanish ought to be a most pleasant and easy ride. So how do Sharon and Ren manage to turn it into an epic exploit?
Exploring The Mull Of Kintyre A little look around The Mull Of Kintyre on two wheels and a short walk that Ren makes a big thing of.
Of Batteries and Glendaruel A bit of an issue this morning. Can Ren pull himself out the poop or will Sharon simply tear him limb from limb? Serves him right for being an idiot.
It's Time To Go Home It's the saddest part of any adventure, the return home. All good things must come to an end. Fear not Ren is more than man enough to cope...?

Reader's Comments

JohnS said :-
It is an easy mistake to make Sharon. Don't let Ren be too hard on you. I was well on my way to Exeter for several miles before I realised I was going to Salisbury. If it is a route you often take as I do we seem to operate in autopilot.
23/5/2019 9:09:05 AM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Many years ago I took the Commando on the ferry to Bilbao, with the plan to return over the Pyrenees and up through France (a very pleasant trip). I had the map of northern Spain in my tank bag and could see that once leaving the port I needed to head for somewhere starting with St. - of course the rest of the name was under the fold of the map.

So off I went, picked up road signs to St Somewhere or other and was soon making good time along the road. After a while it struck me that it was odd that I was heading away from the early morning sun as I should have been going east. It struck me as even odder when I noticed the sea on my right hand side.

Fortunately I did realise the error and only went 20 miles or so in the wrong direction....
23/5/2019 9:56:58 AM UTC
Upt'North said :-
Sharon, your secret is safe with us.
Whilst working on the M6 many moons ago and parked on Hilton Services S/B near to J11, my colleague and myself were approached by a family from Bolton. They enquired over directions to their desired location. After my colleague and I kid you not, told them to buy an f'in map, I enquired where they were travelling to. "Blackpool". A little taken a back but as sharp as a button my broad geordie speaking colleague became very interested and gave the following directions before waving them off.
"Take the M5 to the SW, past Bristol and head for Exeter, you can't miss it, you can see the tower for miles around".
Off they drove, gawd knows where they ended up.
Upt'North.
23/5/2019 1:03:52 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Blackpool from Bolton via Hi;ton Park is bad enough. I wonder if they also went via Exeter?

It reminds me of the old joke
"How do I get to Cork from here?"
"Well first of all I wouldn't start from here, I'd start from Dungarvan first."

Ian, there are those among us who would not know what side the sea and the sun ought to be on.
23/5/2019 3:28:57 PM UTC
Sharon said :-
Haa cheers guys thanks for the support, at least I'm proving that I'm not making it up when I say I have no sense of direction.
Although in my defense this time I did indeed do thismistake because I had in my mind to head towards my friends house.
That route need a tweak but the tweak never happened and sure enough I stuck to that route to my friends and ended up going in the wrong direction. I did twig after a few miles when I saw M6 south, as bad as I am even I know Scotland is north. Maybe there is hope or more likely probably not.
24/5/2019 8:51:01 AM UTC
Tom McQ said :-
Intercoms. It's the future!

Seriously guys, you do so much travelling together, I can't believe that you don't take advantage of the modern world's ability to permit hands-free conversation between bikers. It totally transforms rideouts - ESPECIALLY when you're separated by more than a pillion seat.

Feel free to TRY it at least, by borrowing ours and see what you think. And don't forget Ren, if Sharon starts to bend your ear too much, you can always turn the volume down :-)

Tom.


4/6/2019 10:32:27 AM UTC
Upt'North said :-
Tom, each to their own. I personally can't think of anything worse. When I ride I want as little distraction as possible, I certainly don't want Er'Indoors saying, "oh look at that lovely view", or the SatNav shouting "turn around!" I even less want to listen to Beyonce or any other screaming idol. I ride with a Pillion 99% of the time and I think a total of two hand signals covers just about everything. Why would I want to take a call, I'm riding not too. Just my opinion.
Upt'North.
4/6/2019 1:15:29 PM UTC
Upt'North said :-
Plus my teeth aren't that white, what's your secret?
A toothpaste thread, who'd have thought it.
4/6/2019 1:17:26 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Gosh yeah. I know folks who have the radio on and take calls "hands free" while riding. I can barely chew chewing gum and walk at the same time, I've no chance. Anyhow how much do I really need to know about how Sandra said to Peter that Charlotte's new BFF is horrible. Actually, thankfully, Sharon doesn't do much of that nonsense. Actually, more likely be me sending Sharon to sleep with detailed explanations about 270 degree crankshafts versus 180 degree.

I must admit there are times when it would be useful. If I've made it through the lights but Sharon hasn't and there's nowhere safe to stop then I'm turning right at the roundabout it would be good to let her know. On the other hand it's more kit to charge, more kit to break, more kit to lose and more kit to get nicked. Sharon - I think we need to learn telepathy. Wait no, not a good idea. She'd run a mile if she knew what sordid thoughts I have in my head. Poor girl.

As for toothpaste. Tipp-ex Upt'North. I'm sure it is poisonous but it does a smashing job of whitening my teeth.
4/6/2019 1:51:19 PM UTC
Upt'North said :-
Thanks for the Tip'pex Ed. Gawd you're smart.
Upt'North.
4/6/2019 3:47:20 PM UTC

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