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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.