Scotland – Argyll & Bute and Isle of Arran May 2023
Planned route – Yarm – North Yorkshire to Scotland – Inverary, tour of Argyll and Bute including Glen Coe and Isle of Arran. A planned route of 933miles.
Riders: Bob Arnett GS 1250 Rallye, Bob Bilham GS 1200, Peter Rochester GS 1250 Rallye, Michael Jones Kawasaki ZX 1000.
Day 1 – Mileage 255.
The sun was shining for our rendezvous at Bradbury Services on the A689 at 1000hrs. We took a meandering route along the A68 past Corbridge in Northumberland, passing the Otterburn ranges. On the approach to the Edinburgh ring road, the skies darkened while the traffic started to back up. It rained most of the journey towards Stirling whilst on the M9, but as we were to exit onto the A811, the blue sky started to appear, and we could feel the sun starting to warm us through our riding gear.
We then headed west towards Loch Lomond. The Soup Dragon Café offered a relaxing coffee break. The hosts showed us the impressive fire breathing Dragon hiding in the trees which was fabricated from steel and mounted on a trailer. The Game of Thrones cast then continued the last leg of the day to Inverary along the A82/A83 and to the George Hotel where we had booked in for 3 nights.
Day 2 – mileage 191
Our bikes were parked in a lovely private area at the side of the Hotel where one of the Hotel staff had kindly chained off for our use whilst we were staying there. Also, it just happened to be right next to our hotel room which made it feel that bit more secure.
With the sun shining, our second days route took us along the west side of Loch Fyne heading south towards Campbeltown. We rode along the A83 through Lochgilpinhead, then over the lock gates of the Crinnon Canal where we had to wait for a fishing trawler to traverse through the last canal lock into Loch Fyne. A few miles further we turned in land and headed to Tarbert and the roads went from a lovely smooth tarmac to single track with miles upon miles of gravel on the centre crest of the road.
Once we reached Campbeltown, the steeds were parked alongside the harbour and a table was found in the Café Bluebell for a Tuna toastie and cup of tea followed by a stroll around the harbour and a look at the Severn Class offshore Lifeboat. This station which also includes an Inshore D Class Lifeboat was established in 1861 and positioned to strategically cover the Mull of Kintyre.
Back on the bikes, we travelled along the B843/2 and went round the Southend Loop which skirted the southern coastline of the peninsula. Our return leg followed the eastern shoreline, again along single track with copious amounts of gravel. Our day was finished off in the George with some Loch Fyne Oysters washed down with ale and a wee dram.
Day 3 – mileage 165
After a hearty Scottish breakfast, the forecast was good and with the sun on our backs we headed again to Lochgilpinhead, but turned west and skirted the coast towards Oban. We pulled off the A816 to stretch our legs and take in the scenery at a Craobh Marina alongside Loch Melfort. The café/restaurant was closed during our break, so we just chilled for 30 minutes. Then it was onto Oban. We managed to park up alongside the harbour, had a wander along to the ferry terminal and back to a burger bar opposite the motorbikes for our lunch. An hour or so later we headed north out of Oban towards Connel leading to the stunning scenery of Glen Coe. There were several photo breaks along the route until we turned right in the direction of Loch Etive which is synonymous nowadays for the film set of Skyfall with Daniel Craig and Judy Dench. There was a small amount of traffic on these roads out of season, but it must get hectic during holiday periods. Time was pushing on and we had to limit our presence here as we had a table booked for our evening meal back in the George.
The A82 took us to Tyndrum where we refuelled at the Green Welly Stop, onto the A85 and then diverted onto the A819 alongside Loch Awe and this road brought us back into the centre of Inverary.
Day 4 – mileage 124
Today The Isle of Arran is our destination. Again, the sun is shining but a southerly breeze was building up. We had our last Scottish breakfast in the George Hotel and booked out at around 0930hrs. This had been a great Hotel with attentive staff and recommended if you are looking for somewhere to stay in this area. We headed south along Loch Fyne to Tarbet along the A83 and then to the Ferry Ramp at Claonaig. We arrived about 40 minutes before our sail time. The sea state was about a 2 to 3 metre swell. With some consternation, ourselves and other passengers were watching the sea/spray washing over the extremely exposed ramp and wondering if the crossing will be cancelled (this is literally a concrete ramp straight into the sea where the ferry lowers its loading ramp onto). The Ferry (named Catriona – Glasgow) eventually came into view way to the south of its normal route as it was allowing for the wind so it didn`t get swept past the dock.
Once the ferry had lowered the rear ramp a car and a scaffold lorry embarked and then I was motioned on by the deck hand. I rode onto the deck followed by Peter, Bob B and Mike on his ZX1000. The ferry was rocking from left to right as I led the quartet onto the deck. We were marshalled to the left-hand side of the deck area by a deck hand who had hold of a ratchet strap. Within less than a minute three BMW GS`s were laid on their sides before any of us had got off the bikes such was the extent of the vessels swaying. Mike on his ZX managed to stay upright with the help of another deckhand. The extent of the damage was a few scrapes of CALMAC Green deck paint on our engine bars, due to the robust nature of the GS`s design with a little help from the panniers. We eventually got strapped down and the Ferry Captain made a point of coming for a chat and offered to waive the cost of our tickets.
We docked around an hour later in Lochranza on Arran, which was in a nice, sheltered bay. We exited the ferry port and turned right to start an anti-clockwise route of the island. The roads were a mix of rough and smooth. First stop was at the Machrie Bay Hall café on the side of the road. We sat outside on a veranda to take on some refreshments and to chat about the morning’s events.
On the south end of Arran, we visited the LAGG Distillery which was only founded in 2019 and did a 1 ½ hr tour and tasting session. The first batch of whiskey was released in 2022 after the regulatory 3yrs and one day. All drivers/riders were given the various tasting samples in small vials to have at a more convenient time. We continued our route in the same direction and ended completing a figure of eight around the Island roads.
The Auchrannie Resort in Brodick was our overnight destination where we dined in the “Cruize” restaurant followed by a last beverage in one of the bars within the hotel complex.
Day 5 – mileage 198
We awoke to rain for our return journey home. The CalMac ferry port in Brodick was only ½ mile from the hotel. We arrived in good time and managed to shelter from the rain under a passenger gantry whilst we waited to board. This was the only other ferry terminal on the Island and is of a normal industrial design so there are no issues with weather conditions. After an hour crossing, we docked in Ardrossan in fair weather on and headed south Back home.
The average mpg on the trip for the GS 1250 was 51.3mpg. Thanks to Bob Bilham for the route planning.
Written by Bob Arnett