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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by slartidbartfast, Jun 14, 2008.
Great report, amazing pictures. Thanks!
Thanks for your comments.
I have neither the photographic artistry nor the writing prowess to properly describe the Scottish Highlands. It was certainly a great trip.
We rose to a brilliant hazy day with a cool and gentle breeze. The Uig youth hostel does not provide breakfast so there was not much incentive to hang around.
I checked tire pressures and gave The Duchess a quick mechanical inspection. The final drive leak repair seemed to be holding fine, the rear tire was still holding air and no other issues were noted apart from being filthy.
Meanwhile, DewNmoon was excercising his shutter finger:
We decided to head down the west side of the island. After carefully negotiating the steep gravelly driveway of the youth hostel, we were off again.
I am always pleased to see the use of renewable energy and not quite as incensed as some at the desecration of the landscape.
The route we took down the West side of Skye was, if anything, even more spectacularly beautiful than the one on the East we rode up last night.
The Cuillins or Black Cuillin (because of the dark Basalt and Gabbro they are made from) are an incredibly jagged mountain range cutting across the middle of Skye, they are visible from most parts of the island.
We saw a sign for the Talisker distillery (the only one on Skye) and after a brief roadside conference, decided to go and have a look. However, we didn't make it far before being sidetracked again by the scenery. Somehow, when it comes to photography, we seem to be drawn to the same kind of views
I couldn't say why but we didn't manage to take any photos of the distillery. We spent quite a while in the visitor center which had some interesting history on the area, and we got a small taste of the famous peaty single malt. However, we were getting hungry and opted not to take the tour.
There were more enrapturing views of the rugged peaks of the Black Cuillin, silhouetted against a darkening, brooding sky as we headed for the mainland.
Stopping again for petrol at the same place in Broadford, I noted that we had done more than 100 miles on the island since passing through there the evening before.
Crossing back over the bridge, we went looking for lunch in Kyle of Lochalsh.
Keep it up!
All looks incredibly beautiful...and it's certaintly made me appreciate that maybe the miles we were thinking of doing each day might be a bit tough
I'm stuck somewhere with useless internet access for a couple of days but there is loads of good stuff yet to post. Standby!!!
Back on-line and a few family matters attended to...
Kyle of Lochalsh must have some great places to eat. I don't think we found them. The place we picked, Northwest Cafe Bar, looked like the local evening hangout for loud music and hard drinking (that serves teas and sandwiches for something to do at lunch time.) It was a bit austere inside but the food was warm.
As we were leaving, the old lady inside the strangely painted black house came out and questioned us quite determinedly about how long we were going to be there - I didn't get an anti-biker vibe but got the distinct impression she felt the parking space in front of her house was somehow being violated!
Our next stop was back at Eilean Donan, in the hope that the sky would be more suitable for photography. It was but just barely.
There were quite a lot of other bikers there. Chatting to them, we found Several Ukraninans, Germans, and Dutch but just one or two Brits. Strangely, they were virtually all on sport bikes, many two-up. Now that's endurance riding!
We were treated to a low-level fly-by from two jets - First down the loch and then, a couple of minutes later back up. The view and sound for us was quite impressive. The view from the cockpits must surely be something else again.
I've no idea what or who these were. Perhaps some ADVer out there can ID this:
"Here comes the rain!!!!"
Back in the (damp) saddles, we decided to follow some of the advice we were given and take the road to Applecross. A few miles north from Eilean Donan and we are looking at the signs for the pass:
I'm sure this is meant to be a dire warning. To most bikers (certainly for us), it is a strong invitation with exciting possibilities.
"Woooo Hoooo!!!!! Applecross here we come."
Words cannot even begin to describe how great your report is, I love seeing normal people doing normal stuff, in extraordinary places. Thank you for sharing with us.
DewNmoon is the one who likes to catch photos pf people. I don't have that 'artistic eye', usually concentrating on landscapes and such like.
The Applecross pass is also known in Gaelic as Bealach Na Ba, or Pass of the Cattle.
It was every bit as much of an exciting ride as we had been led to believe...
...although not "steeper and narrower than Hardknott" as we had been told by a couple of people.
We passed maybe half-a-dozen bikes going in the opposite direction and one lone cyclist but not many cars.
Nearing the summit, on the East side, the pass climbs the wall of a corrie -
The views from here were quite amazing - but presumably nowhere near what they would have been had it not been raining.
We're two-for-two on the "Passes in the pouring rain" index. Shame as we should have had a view of Skye and the Black Cuillin from the West side.
What a ride though... "Woo Hooo!!!!" What a fabulous road!
:eek1 I've been told about the applecross road and it's in our plans to do it. Even in the wet it looks awesome
It was defintely worth dealing with the rain, just for the road. I'm not too sorry about the weather though as it gives me an excuse to go back
I gather the alternative route around the Applecross peninsula is also unique and absolutely stunning. This area would certainly repay a day dedicated to just exploring these few roads.
The road from Applecross to Ullapool is largely single-track with passing places, and in the manner of the best and most fabulous roads we have ridden anywhere, it twists and turns around and rocks and rolls over every lump, bump, hill, valley, cove and headland on its path.
We stopped many times to take it all in, snap a few photos, and then, grinning like kids, couldn't wait to get back on and see what was coming next
Mobile wooly speed bumps were around every other corner
Awesome vistas abound on this route
Finally, we came to another road, where we encountered yet another group of European riders - from Switzerland this time. We had been noticing for a while that the density of BMW's seemed to be directly proportional to the distance from the nearest large town - Hmmmm...
We had a choice to head somewhat directly to Ullapool or follow another long section of coast road on the scenic route - After 0.13 seconds of deliberation, we headed for the scenic bit.
There was a subtly different type of landscape (or so it seemed) in each and every passing inlet. Whoa! Look at that... a fair portion of this section of road is wide enough for a white line.
It rained a bit, then it didn't, then it did. We were having a ball and didn't care at all.
Riding this lonely bit of coast was so entrancing, it was a big surprise when the vast metropolis of Ullapool suddenly came into view.
There were loads of other bikes in front of the Youth Hostel and we quickly discovered bikers from a broad mix of British and other European nations, several of whom were doing a similar trip to ourselves. Some of them had come from John O'groats and were heading for Skye the next day. A few had also been to Land's End already - The End-to-End ride!
After the (now routine) business of checking into the youth hostel, collecting sheets and pillow-cases and unloading the bikes, we headed out for a wander around town - and in search of food!
Ullapool is a curious and quaint mixture of tourist town and commercial centre for the ferry service to several of the outerlying islands and the vestigial remains of the fishing industry.
We were told that the bookshop or one of the hotels might have a wireless connection so DewNmoon had his palm computer in-hand up and down the length of the sea-front, hoping to send out a couple of emails. We never found an accessible signal though.
The contrasting state of these two attached houses caught my eye
Once we finally settled on a place to eat, the talk turned, as usual, to the day's accomplishments. It seems that where western Scotland has been concerned, each day is better than the last - and we can't seem to do more than 200 miles in a day - I don't have the exact figures but I doubt this day was even close. So what! It was another great day of riding, measured not by the miles covered but something far more significant in our souls...
Dew was taking sneaky pics of people living their lives again. I wish I thought to capture those images sometimes.
The sun rises in northern Scotland before 4:30am in summer - but it's light long before that. In fact, it never truly gets dark unless it's clouded over. We got up reasonably early and looked out to find a strong, blustery wind with the promise of rain. Scotland, however, seems to present even such bad news for bikers in a majestic and truly beautiful way.
The Germans we were sharing a room with were still sleeping when we set out. Destination: John O'groats, via the most remote parts of the British mainland, around the northwestern tip of Scotland.
As we round the northern coast of Scotland the view and vegetation reminds me of trips in the higher elevations of the Rockies. Trees fading away replaced by alpine type low growth. Almost barren an I wonder how it could support all but the hardiest of life.
Rounding some curves I am occasionally awakened out of my thoughts. What kind of primitive "ice age" critter is that!
Takes me a bit of time to register as I never considered seeing something like this after days of the mutton on the hoof and their usual trail of matter usually deposited where you least expect it.
Wind is pretty fairly blustery over this open stretch. We sometimes pass a few intrepid souls on un-motorized single track vehicles which remind me of my own cross country avdenture ride across the US in earlier days before employment and other responsibilities limited my free summer time.
Certainly a ling climb without the benefit of a tail wind.
Any on the road again stopping now an then to soak in something other than liquid sunshine I don't have many 2 legged candidates to pick on w/ my camera noting a buzy 6 legged and winged one enjoying the native thistle.
The chill starts to creep in after a while and a spot of tea might be nice. We pass a group of riders 12 or 13 I think at a cross road who seem to be taking a longer route. Ion the approach to the tiny village of Bettyhill we are told at a road block that the road will be closed .
Seems some poor rider from the Netherlands (I think) had an encounter or the unexpected kind cresting a hill and wound up on the wrong side of the road greeting a taxi whose driver headed for the ditch. The KTM LC4 did a number on the taxi and tied up traffic for hours on the narrow road. The local NW constabulary needed about 1 1/2 hours just to get to the accident scene. The rider apparently was air meded to somewhere.
A gentle reminder to mind what side of the road I stay on and which way to swerve if need be.
Almost all the miles we covered this day were in conditions ranging from threatening and blustery to wet and windy. Temps started out in the high 40s (F) and took quite a while to warm into the low 60's.
Prior to encountering the unpleasant accident scene, the landscape and highways continued to be every bit as awesome as the parts we rode the day before and not long after leaving Ullapool, we came across a castle and a ruined house.
Ardvreck Castle was the 15th century stronghold of the MacLeods of Assynt, which makes it a mere youngster compared to most others we've seen. Also, in the 16th century, The MacKenzies held the castle and a certain Mrs MacKenzie decided it was not to her liking so the house was built nearby. She quickly ran up enormous bills which contributed to the financial ruin of the MacKenzies. The house was bought by the Earl of Sutherland, an enemy of the MacKenzie clan who promptly burned the house - so that was that!
The castle certainly made a striking silhouette.
We moved on and the scenery continued to amaze and impress.
"Where do you suppose we could get breakfast around here?"
A few additional notes about Ardvreck Castle and Calda house
Interesting conjectural reconstruction as to what these may have been like.
On to Dunnet Head!
By around 9:30 we were both getting hungry. After passing several hotels that didn't look open, we finally came across a sign for the Kylesku Hotel, immediately before the impressive Kylesku bridge. It said "Tea, lunch, dinner, open all day, guests welcome" or something like that.
We parked in front of the hotel which is in a scenic spot next to the old ferry ramp.
We weren't even dripping wet or anything like that but certainly got the most biker-unfriendly welcome of the trip.
"Can I help you?"
"Yes" says I, looking at all the empty seats in the dining room and hot breakfast items being served. "We'd like a cup of tea and a spot of breakfast."
The hotel person look panicked for a second or two... "Uh, uh, we're not open..."
"The sign outside says 'All day'"
"Uh yes.... but that doesn't include breakfast..." more panicked looks as she realizes we can see all the empty seats just a few feet away. Then firmly "This is the guests' dining room. We're not open until... uh... until 10:30."
I gave her my best 'Paddington' stare, shrugged and walked away.
Back outside: "Bullshit! They just didn't want a couple of greasy bikers mixing with their guests".
Dew: "Come on, let's go!"
We finally managed breakfast and lunch together at a strange little cafe another couple of hours or so up the road.