Tag Archives: Touring

A lost weekend in Amsterdam

Just posted a new album of pictures form a weekend away in Amsterdam. We went from my local pub with a dozen of us, and another 16 from a nearby pub, to Holland for the weekend. All but 4 of us were on motorbikes, and the other guys drove to the port and then used public transport on the other side.
On Thursday we met up around lunch time for a meal of pie and peas, and then got geared up and rode over to Hull, about 70 miles away. We were there quite early, and got loaded up onto the ferry a few hours before it sailed. Spent the evening drinking and had a bit of a flutter on the blackjack tables.
Arrived in Rotterdam about 8 am, and rode to Volendam, around 80 miles away, to uur hotel. Volendam is about 20 miles north of Amsterdam. Had a few beers, checked into out room, and then headed off into Amsterdam on the bus. Most of what ensued for the next 2 days passes by in a blur, but plenty of merriment was had by all. One of the highlights was a sponsored nipple-piercing by one of our chaps -Paul Merta- he was very brave.
Rode down to Noordwijk on the sea Sunday midday-ish, then down to the europort in Rotterdam again. Although we arrived there about 100 minutes before the England-Ecuador match, they were very slow loading us on (I think on purpose) so I only saw the last 10 minutes of the match. Anyway, apparently it wasn’t really worth watching – and we won, so alls well.
Had a relatively quiet evening on the ferry – the highlight was watching a very entertaining match between Holland and Portugal. There were a record 16 yellow cards in the match.
Arrived in Hull, had a fast ride back to Halifax – stopped for a cooked breakfast at a greasy spoon in Brighouse. Everyone had a good time, but probably need a couple of days sleep just to catch up.

Black Clauchry to Halifax

30th May 2006 – Black Clauchry to Halifax – 263 miles
Had some tea with Aidy and Caroline, they left for Edinburgh around 10ish. I had a shower, then sorted myself a new phone out with various calls to the phone company – they were going to deliver a new one to the office on Wednesday. After that got the bikes packed up.
Drove out of the forests and turned Northwest toward Girvan. Day was slightly cloudy interspersed with lots of blue sky. Nice curves in the road all the way – from about 2 miles away we could see the sea and Girvan.
Refuelled in Girvan, then stopped on the sea front. You can see the Ailsa Craig – a massive Granite rock in the middle of the sea. It is reminiscent of the sugar loaf in Rio. You can also see the peninsulas of Arran and Kintyre, as well as Holy Isle, and on a clear day you can see the hills of County Antrim in Northern Ireland.
 
We rode along the coast southward toward Stranraer – again beautiful views and the road was in very good condition. Stopped at Cairnryan with lovely views on Loch Ryan. At Stranraer we headed east toward Newton Stewart – again fab roads. Stopped at Newton Stewart for some lunch, then mounted up for the last leg home.
Through Dumfries to Gretna, and stopped at Carlisle for fuel. Then a blast down the motorway and off again at Kirby Lonsdale. Quick last cup of hot chocolate at Devils Bridge, then on to home. Unloaded bike, and gave it a good wash with the powerjet as it was filthy. Rick came down and we washed his bike too, before he took his bike down to the garage and I gave him a lift home.

All in all, a great trip. The weather hadn’t always been with us, but I had seen some places that I had always wanted to visited, found some beautiful new places, met some really nice people, and had a great time while on the road spending hours in contemplation inside my helmet.

Edinburgh to Black Clauchry

29th May 2006 Edinburgh to Black Clauchry – 139 miles
 Slept late – got up about 10 today. Slowly got ourselves sorted and loaded up the bikes. We discovered that Ricks bike wouldn’t start at all, so he rang recovery, and Sean and I went to a motorbike shop. My jacket and trousers don’t zip together, so when it rains I get wet around the midriff. They didn’t have anything that would solve that, but I bought a pair of heavy duty braces that would at least keep the trousers waistband up high enough while seated on the bike. While we were in the shop Rick rang to say that he had sorted the bike and cancelled recovery.
We went back to meet up with Rick, and headed out on the A70 toward Carnwath. Nice roads, went into Carnwath, then turned onto a small country road and went the 3 miles to Biggar. Had some fish and chips for breakfast/lunch – it was about 1230 already. It rained on us while we were sat outside on a bench enjoying our fish & chips.
I headed out of Biggar in the wrong direction, but quickly realised and turned around – caught up with the other 2 and rode to Abington where we refuelled and had a coffee. We said goodbye to Sean, who headed home. We stayed on the A702 and road along really beautiful, twisty roads. Pretty little villages, lovely valleys and hills.
 
At St Johns Town of Dalry (to give the town its full name) we headed up into Galloway Forest National Forest, which was simply stunning. Stopped at Bruces monument then carried on to Newton Stewart. Through Minigaff and rode alongside the smallish River Cree toward Girvan.
 
Just before Barrhill, we turned off the road and onto a forestry track, and rode 5 miles on a rough gravel track to Black Clauchry. The ride was not easy on a big road bike like mine, but I managed without falling off once.
 
Adrian and Caroline, cousins of Rick, bought Black Clauchry about 2 years ago. It was originally built by the man who started Austin Motors at the end of the 1800’s and early 1900’s – and it is fabulous. A huge house and marvellous grounds – 14 acres I think. It was built with all the mod cons (as were then) and still has some very rare examples of various pieces throughout the house.
Aidy and Caroline are slowly trying to restore the house to how it was originally. They have spent large sums of money just to get it structurally sound. The showed us some pictures from 1906 taken in and around the house, showing how things were, and also the Austin family.
Apparently many famous people came here for shooting and fishing, including Churchill and the Prince of Wales. We had a tour of the house and it is amazing. As I said, all of the then mod cons were included, and there is a working bath/shower contraption (one of only two working examples in Scotland) which was a forerunner to the Jacuzzi type bath we have now. The workings of it are incredible.
Aidy and Caroline are lovely, welcoming people. We had a nice meal and a couple of beers, then opened the bottle of whisky that I had bought at Edradour. We chatted til about half past one or so, and between Aidy and myself we polished off the whole bottle.
Went to bed, slept well (no wonder), and got up about 0830.

Drumnadrochit to Edinburgh

28th May 2006 Drumnadrochit to Edinburgh  – 197 miles

Day started at the Springburn B&B in Drumnadrochit. Bits of blue sky appeared at breakfast time, though we also had a quick downpour too.
Packed up after nice breakfast and said our farewells to the landladies and headed north, The sun came out, and the road alongside Loch Ness was empty of traffic, and fabulous to look at and ride. Sun sparkled on the water and the  views were great. Stopped for some more pictures, then on to Inverness.
 
Stopped to fuel up, the headed south on the A9, the main road from Inverness to Edinburgh. Inverness was the furthest point north that we reached on our travels. The A9 is a wide road, some dual carriageway sections to it, and once more, (boringly) lovely scenic views. After about 20 miles on the road, we stopped for more pictures. As we were about to set off another group of bikers pulled up. They were form Germany and we chatted for about 10 or 15 minutes. They told us they were going to the Highland Games at Blair Atholl and so we said we might call by.
Set off after chatting to the bikers, and I forgot to zip up my pocket. Sean saw my mobile phone fall out and bounce down the road, smashing to pieces. We tracked back to find it, and it was totally fu*!@d.
Headed toward Blair Atholl – another 20 miles or so. Found Blair Castle, which is a fairy-tale castle if ever I saw one. We drove up the wrong driveway by mistake and ended up in the car park without having paid our entry fee. We had a quick look around, then went and had Haggis pasties for lunch. Yum.
 After lunch we watched a marching piped band, followed by a set of highland soldiers carrying pikes. We decided to push on rather than stick around to watch the games, so we drove out (the wrong way again) and on the few miles to Pitlochry. Off the main road for a couple of miles and up to Edradour, the smallest distillery of Scotch Whisky in the world. We did a tour, had a taste, and bought a bottle before heading off again.

Back down to Pitlochry, where we refuelled, then turned off the main road again heading west for Aberfeldy. Nice forested road, the we turned south again and headed for Crieff (Good Crieff, I hear you say). Road was fabulous – perfect sweeping curves for the bikes, beautiful forests and great views of the mountains in the distance. Drove through Crieff, and then stopped outside the Gleneagles Hotel and golf course for a picture. 

Pretty nice ride on to Dunfermline. Then over the Forth Road Bridge and on into Edinburgh. At the apartment, I texted some people using Seans phone to let them know that my phone and I had parted company. Wrote up my diary, and then went out for a couple of beers and a great Nepalese curry.

Aberfoyle to Drumnadrochit

P>Saturday 27th May 2006 – Aberfoyle to Drumnadrochit – 154 miles
Mildly encouraging dry start to the day, but looked very overcast. Had breakfast in the hotel and got packed up. We headed back south toward the bottom of Loch Lomond. We had stayed in the Trossachs, about 20 miles or so east of the Loch and about parallel with half way up it. More are less as we set off, so did the rain.
Once we had gone north of Glasgow yesterday, the scenery changed and became really pretty (from what we could see through the mists). About 5 miles along the country road, a little deer darted across the road in front of us.
We road through Drymen (pronounced Drimmin, don’t you know), and then onto Balloch which is at the Southern tip of Loch Lomond. I must admit I was excited to be finally visiting the shores of the Loch that I had heard about in song since I was a wee wain. We stopped on the shores, and picked up a couple of pebbles to take home. The drive up the west side was really beautiful  with the rain stopping and starting continuously. In fact the rain did that all day – we did have one or two patches of sun even, but never for long. Stopped again for some more photos before we took our leave of Loch Lomond.Â

Rode up to Crianlarich, then on to Tyndrum. Stopped at the Green Welly Roadside Cafe, filled up the bikes then went in for lunch had a traditional Scottish fish broth called Cullen Skink. Delicious. As we went back to the bikes, a massive downpour nearly drowned us. Headed north again past Loch Tulla and Loch Ba (no humbug here though). We headed up into Glen Coe – The name means narrow glen, and the views were nothing short of stunning. High snow-tipped mountains all around, and wonderful crags and valley sides, covered with heather. At the highest point of the valley we encountered some roadworks. All traffic had been stopped in both directions, so we rode past about 2 miles of stationary traffic. Sometimes it’s great to be on a bike. As we got to the front of the queue they let the first lot past, so on we sailed. Some people had been waiting over an hour in their cars. A bit past the roadworks we stopped again for more pictures.

Rode on to the town of Glencoe, then up the side of Loch Linnhe to Fort William. Again a fabulous ride but bloody wet n wild. Stopped in Fort William for a rest, and a hot chocolate. Maybe you can see a pattern emerging here – get wet, ride past lochs, stop for fuel and hot chocolate and pictures. Thats about it!
We set off about an hour later still heading north. Joined a long line of Harley Davidsons from the Netherlands who were on tour, and rode 15 miles or so with them. Rode past Loch Lochy and Loch Oich then on to the southern tip of Loch Ness. Again more excitement for me – another one of the places I wanted to visit in my life ticked off the list. Loch Ness is massive – 26 miles long. It’s also very deep, about 775 feet at its deepest. One statistic that I was told is that if you emptied the loch, you could fit the entire worlds population in it without filling it completely. Again, superlatives fail to describe the views.
We stopped at Castle Urquhart – an old ruin (just like me), and took some more pics. The rode on last few miles to Drumnadrochit (I warned you about trying to pronounce some of the place names – my spell checker is going mad here). Drumnadrochit is about two thirds of the way up Loch Ness. Stayed at the Springburn Bed n Breakfast, which was run by two lovely ladies, Sheila and Dot. They were very welcoming, and took all of our wet gear to hang up and dry. Dot gave us some cake, and then sorted us out a restaurant for the evening.

The restaurant was about 6 miles away, way out in the middle of nowhere. Dot gave us a lift there (it was still raining and we couldn’t be bothered to get geared up and go on the bikes). An excellent meal in a lovely rustic restaurant called ˜The Steading”. Had a Haggis starter, nice venison steak, a few whiskies, and felt very Scottish indeed.
Dot picked us up again and took us back to the B&B. Sean and I sat and played guitar and sang til 11ish. Rick went off to bed. We all shared one room, and the other two were snoring by the time I was ready for sleep so popped in my earplugs and slid off to sleep myself.

Halifax to Aberfoyle

Friday 26th May 2006 –Halifax to Aberfoyle – 236 miles
Awoke to torrential rain. Did not bode well for the trip – and the weather was forecast to be crap all weekend. Got packed up and ready, then rode up to High Road Well sandwich shop, where I met Rick and Sean for some breakfast at 0830. I was quite wet already when I got there– they had already ordered when I arrived. Had our sandwich then set off toward Keighley. The plan was to ride a scenic route, and the road between Halifax – Keighley – Skipton – Kirby Lonsdale is lovely.
In quite heavy rain we rode to Devils Bridge (a popular bikers stop near Kirby Lonsdale – about 50 miles ride) and stopped for a hot chocolate. We had talked about taking a scenic route all the way into Scotland, but the rain was bad so we decided to get onto the motorway and burn up some miles. Stopped for coffee and fuel a couple of times – by about 1230 we were already at Abington (well into Scotland) which was good going.
As I have already hinted at, the rain was quite heavy, and my helmet didn’t cope well at all. It kept getting very wet and rain-spotted inside, and also misting up a lot. I decided I had to replace it so we called in to a bike shop in Hamilton, just south of Glasgow, and bought a new one. Back onto the motorway, and negotiated horrendous traffic – we filtered through the traffic (on of the major advantages of being on a bike) and headed out of the city north toward Strathblane.
Stopped in Strathblane for a lovely steak baguette in a nice hotel (don’t think they get too many smelly hairy bikers in there very often) then back on the road for the last 15 miles to Aberfoyle.
Aberfoyle is in the Trossachs – a Scottish National Park. The lodge-style hotel was full of line-dancers who were there for a line-dancing convention. Very weird.
Rick moved the bikes from where we originally parked, and decided to ride mine across the lawn. Given that it was very wet, and my bike is rather heavy, he carved a trench about 40 meters long across the hotel lawn – made a real mess. I made him go and own up and apologise to the hotel – in case they got grumpy and decided to throw us out. We got ourselves settled, then went down and had a few beers and played pool. The hotel kitchen closed really early, so we ordered a Chinese take-away, and ate it in our room.
Overall, a very wet day. However, besides struggling with my helmet, I quite enjoyed the ride up.

A Balloch in the Trossachs – Scotland Bike tour

Table of contents for Scotland 06 Bike Tour

  1. A Balloch in the Trossachs – Scotland Bike tour
  2. Halifax to Aberfoyle
  3. Aberfoyle to Drumnadrochit
  4. Drumnadrochit to Edinburgh
  5. Edinburgh to Black Clauchry
  6. Black Clauchry to Halifax

A Balloch in the Trossachs – Scotland Bike Tour May 06
Having originally planned to bike down to the south of France to meet up with the boys who were going to be in Monaco for the Grand Prix, my plans were somewhat scuppered when they failed to get their act together and ended up not going to France at all. So – I had 10 days in my diary that was allocated to a bike trip, and no real plans.
I had some work which needed doing, so I decided to shorten the break to a few days, and planned a trip to Scotland instead. I am a regular visitor to Scotland – we have an apartment in Edinburgh for work – but have not spent much time touring or holidaying further afield. I have always wanted to visit Loch Lomond and Loch Ness, so this was the perfect opportunity. Rick (who came biking in France and Spain with me last year) and Sean decided to come along for the ride, and so we planned a route which would get us as far north as Inverness, and pass through some of the areas that I had wanted to see. I have not written down all of the names of the places we visited, as some of the Scottish names are so hard to pronounce that, as best you end up with a mild headache trying to say the name, or at worst you could lose various teeth in the attempt.

Portsmouth/Caversham/Halifax

We arrived at Portsmouth at about 7:30 in the evening. Engine problems had slowed us down a bit, but in the end we were only about 3 hours late. Rick had to work on the 29th, so he headed straight home. Chris and I rode an hour up to a town called Caversham, near Reading, about 40 miles west of London. We stayed with a friend overnight, before heading home. We got back to Halifax late afternoon.

In all we had ridden almost 1500 miles (2400 Kilometres) in a week, and had enjoyed a wonderful holiday. We have already started talking about what run we will do next year – perhaps riding the full length of the Pyrenees, or maybe a run down to the French Riviera for our annual pilgrimage to the Monaco Grand Prix. Watch this space………..

Zarauz – Bilbao (65 miles 104 Kilometres)

Lovely ride along the coast then up into the hills, and onto the motorway for the last 20 miles or so. I lost the other 2, and as they had the map, I got a bit anxious. We had ridden together so well for days, so got a bit pissed off that they didn’t wait for me when we got separated. Eventually I found the signs on the motorway for the ferry port, and found the boys there when I arrived.

786

The ferry was delayed, and we sailed later than predicted, setting off about 2 pm. The crossing was easy, the ferry catering well for a 29 hour crossing. There were 2 cinemas, a number of restaurants, clubs, bars and recreation rooms. Our cabin was small but comfortable – though we didn’t spend much time in it.

Bordeaux – Zarauz (Spain) (195 Miles 312 Kilometres)

We headed off on our last full day of riding on the continent. Weather was stunning, and our by now traditional breakfast was taken on a lovely terrace overlooking the hotel garden. Not for the first time, we got a bit lost heading out of town. We headed toward a city called Arcachon. The roads were really nice – mostly in pretty forest areas. Some way further south are the costal areas which are home to some lovely, quite large, lakes. There are many holiday and camping villages along these lakes, which is a very popular vacation area for the French and Spanish. We stopped for a drink at one of these camping areas, and found quite a few English families among the visitors.

772
At one of the beautiful lakes south of Bordeaux

The weather was so hot that even riding at 60 or 70 miles an hour, we still felt quite warm on the bikes. Had lunch at Vieux-Bacau, then rode through some quite heavily populated towns into Biarritz. This really beautiful city on the French side of the Basque region is very chic and sophisticated. We stuck out like sore thumbs when we stopped for a Coke at a smart seaside cafe, but still felt quite welcomed. We rode on the sea road out of Biarritz, which rose and fell along the cliffs producing stunning views of the sea, and the coastal tip of the Pyrenees.

This is Basque country, and they are keen to point out that while the region is governed by France and Span respectively, they regard themselves as an autonomous country and work hard for independence. It certainly is an extremely beautiful part of the world. We crossed into Spain without coming across a border, riding up and down the hills and valleys. I will definitely visit this part of the world again.

Our plan had been to stop and get a map of this region (we had only been travelling with a detailed map of France), but somehow found ourselves lost in San Sebastien, a large city, without having stopped to buy a map from a service station. We sent Rick off to find a map, while we lay resting in a park. He eventually returned with one, and we plotted our route to Zarauz. It only took about 30 minutes of riding to find this lovely little seaside resort. Again it is a popular vacation destination, and had very modern promenade, full of restaurants and bars. We had the obligatory paella, which was not only good, but ridiculously cheap compared with the prices we were used to paying in French restaurants. Beer was cheap too, so while I retired to my room to read, the other two headed off to see how much of the beer they could drink. I think they accredited themselves well, judging by the state of them the next morning.