Bright and early on Friday 14th October we left a sunny Bristol heading North on the M5 to the Buccleugh Arms Hotel in Moffat, just North of the border. With a safe fuel tank capacity of just 100 miles, we had to make frequent stops for fuel, coffee and rests. Stopping in the Lake District for a bite to eat, my bike suffered the first casualty - the speedometer broke, leaving me with no speed indicator and more importantly no trip meter! (The VN800 has no fuel gauge, so the trip meter is kind of important)
After a leg stretch around Lake Windermere, we headed back to the Motorway and pressed on towards Moffat. We eventually arrived in Moffat early evening and were warmly greeted by the proprietors. Having been shown to the room we settled down in the lounge with some great food and whisky and went for a wander around Moffat.Miles for Friday: 325 (approx)
Early Saturday, after breakfast, we checked the bikes over before starting the long journey to Portree, the capital of the Isle of Skye. As we approached Glasgow, the weather turned against us and became wetter and wetter the further North we rode. By the time we reached Fort William for a McDonald's lunch it was raining cats and dogs! We almost decided to stay in Fort William and let the weather pass, but having studied the weather maps we decided to press on. Somewhere around Loch Duich I had to stop for a bit to rest and cold and tiredness was beginning to set in, but shortly after the rain eased off and we made one final push to Portree. As we rode over a crest of a hill we could see Skye basked in sunlight which really spurred us on. Over the bridge and onto the Isle we were greeted with the sunshine and dry roads at last.
On arrival in Portree we checked into the Portree Hotel and I think I must have emptied pint of rain from each boot! So much for Gore-Tex! Jeans soaked through despite the "waterproof" overs and even my wallet was drenched (money drying out, pic right). Opting not to eat at the hotel restaurant as Rob wanted Fish and Chips, we headed out to explore Portree only to find the Fish and Chip shop closed. Wandering around to find another we eventually settled on Co-Op sandwiches and McEwans 80/- from the hotel bar.
Having done a fair few miles the past few days, Sunday was going to be our lazy day staying on Skye. The plan was to tour around the East and North, go fishing off of Neist Point and camp out for the night. Unfortunately the weather was far to windy for sea fishing, not to mention setting up a tent, so we headed back to Dunvegan and got a room in the Dunvegan Hotel
After a decent meal and a few drinks we headed to bed for an early night but ended up watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Good job we didn't camp out as that night the island was battered with gale force winds and torrential rain. So much so we thought the bikes would be blown over! Alas, they were all safe and after breakfast, we hit the road heading back to Scotland and the North.Miles for Sunday: 82 (approx)
After breakfast, early Monday morning we headed out of Skye towards Kishorn and our lunchtime stop at the Kishorn Seafood Bar before crossing the Applecross pass and heading North to set up camp next to a Loch under clear skies. Stopping on the shore of Loch Shieldaig we had a look around for a suitable sheltered clearing to set up the tents. Having assembled the tents and campfire we headed out to the shores of the Loch to catch our supper. Unfortunately, we had no such luck, and a tin of soup was to be our meal for the night.
It was a shame that neither of us had watched the videos of Ray Mears lighting a fire in the rain, as the best we could manage was a bundle of mildly blackened wood once we had run out of fire-lighters and petrol. At least we had a gas stove to cook the soup on!
Despite the lack of supper, at least we camped out under clear dark skies, the first time I had truly seen them! So many stars I could hardly get my bearings. Eventually, I could make out Cassiopeia and once I had that, Andromeda was an easy find. Once my eyes were dark-adapted, I was even able to make out the faint fuzzy of the Andromeda galaxy with my eyes through averted vision. It was a great shame that my camera had become waterlogged on the trip to Portree.
As well as a seeing ten times the number of stars I have been accustomed to, I also saw a number of UFO's. Tiny points of light the size and colour of a star, but not twinkling. Some moved in straight lines, while others stopped for a second and changed direction. There were defiantly not aeroplanes or helicopters - no flashing lights. Not satellites as they were too bright, moving too slowly and satellites don't stop and change direction. Whatever they were they remain, to me at least, unidentified.
After a short spell of stargazing, the weather started to turn and a few flashes of lightning in the distance heralded the onset of bad weather, so we climbed into our tents and into the sleeping bags.
Miles for Monday: 100 (guess)
After a somewhat longer than the average night with thunder, lightning, wind, rain and a possible earthquake, we awoke fully refreshed and hungry for a cooked breakfast. All we had available was a tin of baked beans! Not even any coffee. We quickly ate breakfast, packed up camp and hit the road for Ullapool, our next stop. The ride to Ullapool was in torrential rain, strong winds and even hail stones. Not nice. As we pulled into Ullapool we stopped at the first B&B we saw to shower and dry out. Once warm and dry again, the rain had eased off so we headed out to explore Ullapool on foot, had fresh fish and chips by the docks and found a bar where we drank (too much) scrumpy and whisky.
Miles for Tuesday: 90 (guess)
Due to the increasingly poor weather, and the fact we had not made the progress we wanted to, we decided not to head further North, but instead that Wednesday was going to be a relaxing day and had a ride down to Inverness so that Robs bike can be checked over at BMW. Only 60 miles away, about an hours ride. Unfortunately, as we rode through the mountain pass it started snowing. Heavy. We pulled over to stop when we couldn't see a thing through the visors, glasses steamed up and ice was hanging off the helmets. It was cold. Laughing about the situation, we waited for the snow storm to pass, as the sunshine and clear skies were following it, and continued on to Inverness. The ride back to Ullapool was much less eventful, and I'd picked up some more waterproofs and a warm fleece face mask to keep the cold out.
Arriving at the Argyll Hotel for a fantastic meal followed by ale and more whisky. Ended up being another quite late night, chatting with the owner who also happened to be Bristolian.Miles for Wednesday: 120 (approx)
With heavy heads we woke on Thursday knowing that it was time to start heading for home. A short stop in Inverness to get new brakes fitted to Rob's bike and we hit the road heading for Moffat where we were hoping to stay at the Buccleugh Arms Hotel again. On the road back we took in Loch Ness, which I thought was a little disappointing to look at, and the Commando Memorial at Lochaber. Stopping at Fort William for lunch in McDonald's (again) we pressed on to Glasgow. Somewhere over the mountain roads (probably when I hit a bump and took off!), the bracket holding the lower exhaust pipe on decided to break off, leaving me with a small hole in the exhaust, and a slight rattle.
Just outside of Glasgow my bike suffered a third hiccup - not starting in the petrol station! Luckily all that was needed was a tweak to the HT leads and she fired up again. Probably the vibrations of the V-twin combined with the weather caused a loose connection. Onwards to Moffat in torrential rain and strong winds on the Motorway!
Arriving early evening, and a day early, we were once again warmly greeted by the owners who were able to put us up for the night despite not having a reservation. Our last night in Scotland I stuffed myself with food, having a starter and main, washed down with a pint of ale. Early night for an early start.Miles for Thursday: 270 (approx)
Friday morning, Rob patched up my exhaust with a baked bean tin lid and jubilee clips and we set off for Carlisle so Rob could get new tyres on his bike. After that, the rest of the trip was pretty uneventful all the way back home. We just headed South on the motorway stopping only for fuel.Miles for Friday: 315 (approx)
Total miles: 1,577 in 7 days, all rubber side down.
Since passing my CBT and getting my first bike I'd only done 2,124 miles in 18 months! And I'd only done 100 odd miles since passing my bike test two weeks before leaving! No doubt I'm a much better rider for the trip, and possibly bike fit for once!
Back in Bristol and in daylight, I could see how dirty my bike was. Absolutely filthy! It took nearly 6 hours of elbow grease to get her all shiny again!