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Four for Scotland  (or Doddery Bikers Go on a Junket)

Starring: Brian Taylor, John Angus, Dave Porter and Gordon Fenwick

It was an impromptu chat which led to Dave, Gordon, John & Brian setting off on Friday August 10th on a trip swiftly organised by our route planner, nPic 1avigator & accommodation master John and being tidy he had decided to go clockwise on oPic 2ur journey. We followed the A66 and the motorways to make quick progress until we passed Glasgow and early afternoon saw us booking into the Arrochar Hotel at (yes you guessed Arrochar). The hotel is right on the side of the loch, comfortable, clean with a good bar and food, but a little tired. We had a good parking spot though. Breakfast was splendid served with haggis balls as well as black pudding, proper Scots stuff with no nasty fat in it. Cereals were on a buffet and coffee by request. We set off reasonably early as we headed off to Applecross. We stopped at Fort William for fuel and a slurp in the supermarket cafe (big spenders you know).The cunning plan was to go to Mallaig (at the request of the nameless one) get the ferry to Skye then ride up the island and across the bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh. It turned out that even though ferries were frequent summer traffic volume meant booking, something not considered by us.   We got back on course and stopped for a break at the Kyle of Lochalsh  to get over the extra miles we decided to lift our spirits with an evening meal of excellent fish &chips, Dave got a small fish and was ragged unmercifully, we really thought it would be a little late to get anything in Applecross.  When we went back to our bikes it was starting to rain so some of us had waterproofs to don.

      We had had a great ride over Applecross cattle pass ( that`s what it started as) We had a little problem finding our bunkhouse Hartfield house but an eagle eyed GPic 3orPic 4don spotted the driveway and it was  about half a mile to the house. As we arrived quite late and the midges were out in force we didn`t fancy the mile long walk to the pub so it was a good job we had our meal at Kyle of Lochalsh. The bunkhouse was good with an enormous kitchen/dining room and a good lounge. Our TV engineer failed miserably and couldn`t get either the TV or the DVD player working, for me watching was funnier than watching the tele. We also learned when we retired for the night that two of the group were wearing secret garments to aid bum comfort, namely cycling shorts. It did explain all the huffing & puffing when they went for a wee after a hard day in the saddle.    Thanks to our resident insomniac, games player and general noise source we were early to rise and get on our way, the thought of breakfast spurred us on as we hadn`t got anything with us. Not far out of Applecross where the road is narrow a white car thought it was funny to keep to his excessive speed and laugh at us, it turned sour on him as when he did a last minute swerve to give us some room; his girlfriend was laughing her head off until they hit a large roadside rock.The road from Applecross round the peninsular was great lovely scenery and lots of bends you need to take though as it is quite narrow, we stopped for photos as the small villages and the hills looked great in the morning sun. We pulled off at the Altguish Inn which strangely only does B&B, and doesn’t serve breakfasts to casual customers who are limited to hot filled buns and hot or cold drinks from the bar. For the first time I had a black pudding filled bun with an egg in for good measure.

   With comfortable stomachs we enjoyed a great run up the West coast single track road where the views are spectacular. It was a lesson in modern attitudes when coPic 5nsiderate car drivers pulled in to a passing place to let us come through, then plonkers behind overtook them! So much for forward vision. Did you guess this time? Yes they were BMW or Chelsea wagon drivers. They did stop when they saw four of us approaching and ignored us when we passed. We carried on across the top past Durness and Dounreay Nuclear Power station (which must be 45 years old now). The Weigh Inn at Thurso was easy to find as it sits at the roadside just before Thurso town. After settling into out separate motel style rooms we met in the bar where a few gourmets decided they would like a Chinese meal for dinner. Charley Chan`s was located on Google and appeared very nice, we arrived by taxi to find that had reduced to an oriental shop and takeaway run by a bearded orang-utan with a Scots accent. Another taxi ride later we arrived back at the Weigh Inn, poorer but wiser. Thurso looked a really dour run down place but then most places do in the wet. We all had an excellent meals served with fresh veg and chips at reasonable prices.

After a good nights sleep we were roused by our insomniac loading his bike and Pic 6making strange noises on windows of heavy sleepers. When we went into the breakfast room, which overlooks the bay, we were surprised to see a massive cruise ship. Perhaps they knew something about Thurso that we didn`t or were they just doing lifeboat drill. The breakfast menu was varied and included smoked haddock with poached eggs which is one of my favourite breakfasts. After a leisurely repast we sorted ourselves out and headed off towards John o`Groats, stopping on the way to visit Mary Ann`s croft, which is in its original 19th century format. The social were going to sell it to pay for Mary Ann`s care, when in her nineties she had to seek help. The Queen Mother heard of this, formed a trust, raised the money and bought it. It remains today under the trust and is run by the village as a museum. Unfortunately for us it was shut until the afternoon.

       We carried on, stopping again at the Castle of May (the Queen Mother`s house) but due to the high price of Scottish beer and petrol a democratic decision decided against paying the entrance fee. We did have a coffee though so we could get some Castle serviettes as a memento of our visit.

       It was overcast and decidedly cool when we reached John o`Groats, where we took the usual photos at the signpost which said 874miles to Lands End. There isn`t a lot to at John o’Groats do so after a comfort break we carried on. The odd fact provider was leading and south of Wick having spotted a sign showing “Toilets, Cafe & Harbour”,  turned left into Libster. The toilets were open and looked to be early Victorian (good plumbers then).The high street was unusually wide and pleasant apart from the cafe which was shut and decrepit. Undaunted we followed the road down to the harbour which is a gem, picturesque and kept in good order. There is a visitor centre there called Waterlines which details the history of Libster as a herring port and also had a small cafe serving lovely home cooked food at the best prices we encountered on our trip. The harbour is well worth a visit.

Torguish House

        Suitably replenished we carried on to our digs for the night, Torguish House which is at Daviot south of Inverness. The turn off the dual carriageway is down a hill, with little run off; so you have to go  at a reasonable pace to spot the Two white Lions which mPic 9ark the entrance. The Pic 9house is an old manse (vicarage) and the church is now on the other side of the A9 dual carriageway. We all arrived eventually and were met by Ben our host, we met his Mum & Dad at Masham where they were delivering antiques and gave us a card for their biker friendly B&B (that`s how we knew it existed). Ben showed us into the large drying room to store our riding gear and boots then took us into the dining room for a coffee, which came from a state of the art machine sat on top of a glass case. In the case is a 350cc Stevens made by Mr A.J. Stevens one of a handful he built before the AJS marque was founded , it comes out of its case when Ben rides it and was recently used to do the North West 500 route. The Stevens is kept company by a BSA B40 perched on the sideboard in the dining room, complete with drip tray.

As mentioned before Ben and family are dealers in antiques and the house is part of their stockroom. There are other sheds outside all crammed with all sorts of stuff, I spotted a pair of Matchless footrests circa 50`s. Outside there is all sorts of larger items including trucks , industrial gear and building reclamation items. They also deal in period vehicles. On the side Ben makes magnificent shepherds huts on trailers to order, the bodies are from thick solid wood planks and the interiors are designed to suit the buyers taste. We were free to roam abouPic 11t and view all.

When we booked we had ordered a meal. Ben arranged the meals at the nearby Culloden Moor Inn and he ran us there and collected us later using his left hand drive ex forces off road personnel carrier(still in camouflage ), which some found difficult to climb up and get through the small door. It was certainly an unusual taxi, which Ben gives as part of the service, Is that brilliant or what! The food at the inn was good and reasonably priced the slow cooked beef was very good and came with lots of veg. It was helped down by a few pints of proper McKewans but they did serve other stuff for the wimps.

 Our room was en suite and had four single beds which we all found comfortable as we all seemed to get a reasonable nights kip, some sleepers were accused of being unusual as they were apparently still dead to the world amid the noise and confusion of early risers.

We had ordered breakfast the night before by ticking off what we fancied on an extensive list so each brekkers was bespoke. There was a buffet of juices, cereals, fruit and yoghurts. The breakfasts were cooked by Ben`s wife and were well enjoyed.

When we were ready we paid our dues and Ben refused to take any extra for the taxi ride , iPic 10nsisting it was all part of the service. The whole experience was great. The best biker friendly digs I have been in. All the better for me as Ben`s Dad was an outfit racer in the same era as myself, we probably bored the company stiff during our late evening chat.None of them would believe that TT racers of the era wore two pairs of goggles so they could swap when the flies got too thick to see through. Now I have been challenged to show evidence or never repeat the tale. We would all recommend this spot which is ideally placed as a touring centre or a start & finish point for the NW500 route

Unfortunately for me,  I had to leave the group here as I had a funeral to go to the next day. The others may have counted their blessings as they could have been sick of my silly facts, rose tinted specs and voice; who knows only them.

I fuelled up at Aviemore and it rained from then all the way home. I stopped only once to empty my overflowing tank and fill the bikes. I made the journey in 5 hours arriving home with wet feet, a damp collar and hands, but my old suit kept out most of the wet stuff. Next time its back to Altberg boots I will consign the others to sunny days.

After the remaining dodderers had safely returned home Gordon sent the following account of their final part of the trip.

______________________________

  After bidding Brian a safe journey farewell at Aviemore fuel station, the now 3 intrepid explorers headed through the pine forest to base camp 1 in the Cairngorms some 2083ft above sea level. After a break to admire the views we retraced our route to join the A9 south to our stop for the night Bein Inn Hotel Glenfarg.

Soon after leaving Aviemore the signs of bad weather looked ominous, without hesitation Dave in the lead pulled over for another comedy moment of donning our wets. Dave having jumped into his then helped John get into his full wets which proved challenging for reasons you don’t need to know - (video available). At Pitlochry we visited the Salmon ladder and dam.

 That night with still the missed opportunity of a Chinese in mind, discussion took place with the hotel receptionist to have a takeaway brought in to eat in the bar. He was both sympathetic and agreeable, however the final consensus from we three was that it was not acceptable behaviour. From the hotel menu we settled for 2 fish and chips and Dave’s massive steak pie, he didn`t want to risk the chance of another fish finger size portion.

Next morning after a good breakfast, we set off for home, with a fuel stop en route, if only we could all do 77mpg (maybe some are dreaming) and with a misunderstanding on the relevance of let’s go down the A19 we all made it home mid afternoon.

I enjoyed the trip, the company and the craick, I just hope the others did too.