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Favourable Freeways And A Grotty Grotto

Ride Date 17 September 2022

By Ren Withnell

Hmmmm. Yes I rather messed up with last night's choice of camping. Sharon can't get ready quickly enough to leave this place so we're packed and ready to roll before 1000. Tonight's campsite is Sharon's choice so I can relax about that, what I am concerned about is what to do and where to go today. It's only 85 miles to our next pitch, Bruce's Cave Caravan and Camping Park, just north of Gretna Green. If it's 1000 now we could be there for 1200 say, which is a bit too early even by my standards. I figure I'll have to drag this out a little.

We've barely departed before I spot something, anything, that might offer an excuse for a stop. Crawick Multiverse is an odd place. There's a peculiar building, open plan and open to the elements but it does contain toilets that we make use of. It is, apparently, art. As such it is entirely wasted on the great unwashed and uncouth such as I. Even Sharon who has such a thing as a "soul" isn't all that fussed about walking around an old coal mine that's been landscaped. We keep our entrance fee. 

A timber clad oddly shaped building among rolling countryside
The Coalface at Crawick Multiverse. An odd place on an odd day.

Instead we sit on some alternative furniture and eat our snacks, admiring the day.

Sharon sat on a tiny stool and next to an oddly shaped tiny table
Look at the little pixie by her little pixie table.

From Crawick Multiverse rather than getting back on the A76 I deliberately go in the wrong direction along the B740. Oh wow, I have no regrets about my choice. Of course it's not as wonderful as The Highlands but this road is peaceful and quiet, sweeping and swooping, and rather pretty in a gentle, calm, rolling hills kind of way. 

This leads me up to Abington and I spend the next few miles avoiding Mrs Sat-Nav trying her utmost to put me on the motorway. Eventually she relents and we find ourselves on the A702 heading southbound and in the correct direction once again. 

I've harped on far too much about how lovely and wonderful and beautiful The Highlands are, how the roads are the best and and and and and and... Yet here I am finding myself getting ready to eat my own words. I throw the bike into another wide open bend, the tyres grip and I grin as the g-forces balance. I ease a little to crest the blind bluff then smile as the serpentine highway presents itself. Open the throttle and throw myself towards the countryside once again. Bliss.

I'm a tad overenthusiastic into one corner and have a quiet word in my shell-like. I ease right off to give Sharon a chance to catch up. Is... this... better? The hills don't have the drama of Mull, there's a distinct lack of loch to offset the green bits, no cute middle of nowhere cluster of houses. All this being true the corners here are as good as The Highlands, the surface is too. Most importantly it's quieter, like I remember The Highlands. There's some damn good riding to be had hereabouts.

Sharon on the broad, twisting and quiet A702 in south west scotland
Not *quite* as stunning as The Highlands yet the roads here are great!

Is it fair to say that The Highlands proper (Fort Willian, Ullapool, Skye etc) is presently enjoying (suffering) the benefits of excellent marketing (NC500) and post Covid (UK holidays, rise in campervan sales). Here in Galloway and Dumfriesshire and Lanarkshire, west of the M74, we appear to have escaped the worst of the tourist trade today. This leads me right back to yesterday's thoughts - the benefits of the south-western corner of Scotland. 

We carve some more corners and I find myself drawn to signs for Drumlanrig Castle, out of curiosity and the need to kill more time I follow them. As soon as I turn into the Drumlanrig driveway I get a sense of deja-vu - the last time I was here I was on the CBF125 en-route to Ullapool eventually. 

We park the bikes and note the array of rather smart Porsches lined up out front of the highly manicured front garden. We learn from a comfortably smart driver this is a Porsche owner's weekend away trip. Much like myself and my motorcycling friends they like to meet up and go to places. The major difference is they use nice hotels and don't get quite as wet when it's raining. 

Five smart Porsches outside the grand ornate castle at Drumlanrig
Nice - but I'd still rather be on my bike.

It's not long before we've filled the tanks at Dumfries Tesco and we're on the dual carriageway A75 towards Carlisle. Kirkpatrick Fleming is a small town north west of Gretna Green and easily found, Bruce's Cave Caravan and Camping site is harder to find with sat-nav leading us along a dirt track road to a dead end. Off-roading is not in the plan and a Herculean effort is required to turn both bikes around on this narrow farm track. 

It comes with some considerable relief when this other single track opens out to our campsite for the night. You may wonder why the site is called "Bruce's Cave". Have a guess? That's right, a certain Bruce, as in Robert The Bruce, took shelter in a cave hereabouts. Allegedly. There are several caves that take credit as being Bruce's Cave but this one's a real contender apparently.

As we roll onto the site it becomes obvious Sharon's selection of places to sleep is far better than my own. While Bruce's Cave Campsite is not upmarket or first class it already lacks the hordes of screaming kids. I shall not declare the site as the best ever, rather as everything being present and correct and presented well. From now on I should leave the campsite selection to Sharon. Ah, no wait, she'll choose expensive sites complete with walls and roofs and heaters and a real bed and en-suite. 

We pitch close to a very large monkey puzzle tree. A monkey puzzle tree? Yes, a monkey puzzle tree. It's just there in the middle of the camping field, no fanfare, no declaration, not even a plaque. Oddly it fits right in, I guess it's just that kind of place. We drink and we dine and make use of the facilities and still time is on our side. I suppose it only makes sense to go and see the cave in question.

A very tall monkey puzzle tree towers over the bikes and the tents at the campsite
Fits right in don't it.

Down a footpath and around the bend and we find the cave. Fortunately I have no expectations because the cave is no larger than a small bathroom, hewn by human effort from the rock rather than naturally craggy. Above a river and below some trees it feels damp and claustrophobic, if Robert The Bruce did indeed spend several months here hiding from those evil Sassenachs then they'd have been miserable months, sooner him than me.

A narrow wooden and metal path clings to the side of the rocks leading to the cave
I doubt this path was in place when Bruce was here.
A dark man made hole in the rock is damp and musty
Very homely I'm sure.

The day drifts into night and to bed one more time, for tomorrow we return home to our houses and our everyday lives. My mind however is still on today's ride and this area. I feel the need to explore more and to learn more from the Rhins of Galloway to the Mull Of Kintyre, from Kilmarnock to Gretna, there's much more for me to see. And it's all that bit easier to get to for us southerners. That's right, in England I'm a northerner but here I'm a southerner.

I giggle as a memory comes to mind. I recall an acquaintance was lost in Scotland. They live in Bolton as I do which to them is "up north". They found signs on the motorway system for "somewhere somewhere and North". They followed these "North" signs for quite some time. This plan didn't work as the place names never became familiar. "North" only works if you're in Birmingham or London, it won't work in Glasgow. Apparently it was a very long ride home and to this day they still cannot grasp the notion that Bolton is only "North" for about half of the UK.

Time for bed.

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Prologue - This Time It Is Up North Ren has made this kind of trip many times and several trips of much greater magnitude. The bikes are fine and everything is under control. Don't worry dear readers, Ren is worried about having nothing to worry about.
A Successfully Dull Day The job of the day is simply moving 2 people on 2 motorcycles around 280 miles north. Is it worth the effort?
Speed, Strontian, Showers And Silliness At last! The Dynamic Muppets finally get into The Highlands properly. There's a couple of things for Ren to moan about, particularly that Sharon is far too happy.
The Ardnamurchan Peninsula - Slowly And Quickly It's not far from Strontian to The Ardnamurchan Lighthouse... or is it? The weather ain't too bad and there's a lovely bathing belle on the beach that requires Ren's attention
Dangerous Distractions, Draughts And Dapper Drivers Not all is as perfect as one would wish for today. There's a draught or two and a lairy scary moment. All in all though things seem to be going acceptably well for The Dynamic Muppets.
The Majesty And Magnificence Of Mull By keeping his expectations in check Ren finds the small island of Mull to be a delight. Apparently it's all about the journey not the destination though.
Spendthrifts And Sumptuous Scenery Ren's wallet is quivering in fear and loathing as Sharon seeks the comfort of a real bed. Maybe the scintillating scenery will be sufficient to ease Ren's pain?
From The Sublime To The Ridiculous The day starts well with a full breakfast and good weather. The day goes well too considering the dynamic muppets are back in the throngs of civilisation. Ren's choice of accommodation isn't quite to Sharon's liking though.
Favourable Freeways And A Grotty Grotto After last night's debacle this time Sharon's choosing the overnight location, making it much more amenable. Ren decides the roads hereabout have much to offer too.
Epilogue - Home And Thoughts It's the final day of this Scottish trip. With regret Sharon and Ren must return home to their regular lives. Ren reflects on the changes in Scotland and considers his next moves.

Reader's Comments

Upt'North ¹ said :-
Ed, what are you doing to us all. Damn it I want a ride....and soon.
P.S. It's snowing....arrrrgggggghhhhhhh.
The picture of the pixie riding up the road is very bordersesque.
15/03/2023 16:19:56 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
The borderesque image is borderesque because, well, we weren't too far from the border! You sir are only a hop-skip and and a jump from that area, I'm sure you can manage a day out there soon.

Snowing you say? We had a lot of hail yesterday which stuck around for a while which is quite unusual. Icy this morning.
15/03/2023 21:41:59 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Moffat is a pleasant day ride from here, any further would be just eating into cake time.
You don't want to miss cake time.
16/03/2023 08:57:03 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Riding is important, cake time is importanter I agree. Moffat is a pleasant town with some good riding to be found thereabouts too. While the weather is even more inclement up there in the borders you are blessed with some wonderful surroundings. Here in the grimy bits of North Manchester and South Lancashire we have occasional nuggets of loveliness between the perplexing plethora of housing estates, industrial estates, retail parks and rapidly declining town centres. Pffffft.
Posted Image
16/03/2023 09:16:47 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Reminds me of my visit to Newcastle upon the Tyne yesterday. Where I will visit again next week because National Windscreens couldn't organise a session in a brewery.
But it's only a 100 mile round journey!
And I've got nothing better to do.....apparently.
16/03/2023 10:49:34 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Coming from County Durham it always peeved me to hear Manchester etc described as "The North". As you say, only if you're south of the wash......
16/03/2023 17:20:08 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
We all know "The South" starts at the Tyne.
17/03/2023 08:11:20 UTC
Rev. Mick! said :-
North = Bristol
Far North = Birmingham
A Far Distant Land = Manchester.
After this all exotic and wonderfully interesting intriguing places to visit on expedition.

Funny how we all have different perceptions of the same thing. The Buddhist parable of the 3 blind men comes to mind.
17/03/2023 08:31:47 UTC
Rev. Mick! said :-
The A708 from Moffat to Selkirk is an amazing road on an Innova on a cold crisp winters day!
17/03/2023 08:35:07 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Indeed it is your most reverend and don't forget to pop into the temple whilst your nearby.....

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17/03/2023 11:29:34 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Sharon and I discovered some rather enjoyable roads around Shropshire this weekend. So, err... is Shropshire in the North or the South? Don't say "Midlands" because that'll just confuse me even more.
20/03/2023 20:05:39 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Ha, that be in the Ancient Kingdom of West Mercia. Practically Welsh they are.
21/03/2023 08:03:45 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Now here's a strange thought, didn't said Kingdom (many centuries ago, someone here will remember it) used to border with Northumbria. Ooooo they were't days.
21/03/2023 08:36:47 UTC
Rev. Mick! said :-
In the North, it’s well past even Birmingham.
They speak with a northern accent up there. I bet you have never seen clotted cream teas advertised on those lovely lanes.
22/03/2023 09:07:13 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
The area is as you say Upt' right next door to Wales - but does it feel Welsh? A bit I suppose but without Welsh language road signs it feels mostly English. If we're talking history the whole border area has swapped hands and sides many times over the years.

Sharon and I were just south of Ironbridge in a lovely little town called Broseley Rev. Mick!. By my reckoning that's only just a tad more north than Birmingham. However I approve of your definition of being down south - do you see clotted cream teas advertised. North it's a pie shop, south it's cream tea. Speaking of pies the pasty from "Eley's" in Ironbridge was absolutely fantastic.
22/03/2023 11:36:59 UTC

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