This year’s trip started on the morning of the 20th August. Only three of us this year, me (Steve Parry …. On an R1200RT LC), Andy Gear (R1200GS Adventure) and Ian Bidwell (Triumph Tiger 800XCX).
This year was the first year since 2009 that I was going for the annual trip without the K1200GT, seemed funny leaving it in the garage.
Andy rode over to pick me up and we collected Ian enroute. A quick stop to top up all of the fuel tanks and we headed out of north Wales for the M56 before turning north onto the M6.
I normally schedule stops every 60 miles or so, and the first stop was for coffee at Charnock Richard. Went for a Coke though as £3.50 for a stupidly huge Costa coffee seemed nuts.
Continuing onto the tedium of the motorway slog the boredom eased by playing music on the BMW Navigator 5 sat nav via the BMW comms system in my System 6.
The weather was grim with heavy rain and black skies promising more. Lunch was a welcome break and we turned off to Kirkby Stephen and the Black Bull Hotel.
Black Bull Hotel Kirkby Stephen - Coast to Coast Walk Accommodation - Home
Minute steak baguette and a soft drink eaten we made our way back through the dales to the M6.
Getting towards Moffat for the afternoon break, Ian reminded me he needed to refuel his Triumph Tiger 800XCX. Whilst in Moffat we stopped for a coffee at Café Ariete in the high street.
Final stop of the day before getting to the hotel was to come off at junction 24 in Glasgow as there’s an Asda with fuel just off the junction. Topped up ready for the next day’s ride we did the last 10 miles or so to the Erskine Bridge Hotel.
At the hotel, we as usual parked up at the side of the main doors and raced to our rooms to get changed and down to spend an hour in the pool, sauna, hot tub etc.
It’s a fantastic way to chill after a day (280 miles) in the saddle.
Then it was off to the restaurant for dinner before having a couple of pints in the bar and a nightcap of a Macallan Gold Single Malt (apparently Macallan is James Bonds malt of choice)
Just before we went up to the rooms we checked on the bike and were dismayed to find there were two large hen parties (200 to 300 drunken women apparently) having their parties at the hotel, and of course they were all going outside to smoke, and being drunk thought it was acceptable to clamber all over the parked bikes taking pictures.
The prospect of hundreds of drunken Glaswegian tarts climbing on the bikes when we weren’t around and knocking them over or scratching them was concerning.
We had a word with security and they said we could move them around the back to the staff entrance where they’d be safe.
Thankfully this was within the hotels grounds as at this point we’d had several beers and whiskies and didn’t have our helmets... Bikes parked and safe we could sleep safely.
Next morning, we brought them back around the front before packing the luggage again.
After a voluminous breakfast it was off under dry skies, towards Aberfoyle on the A821 and the delightful Dukes Pass.
As you head towards Aberfoyle you start to get a taste of the roads and the epic scenery, with the Trossachs dominating the horizon.
The A821 Dukes Pass is a ribbon of tarmac draped around a mountain through a forest and is the type of road where a well ridden RD 250LC would nail anything else. It flicks back delightfully, hit’s little crests and dips whilst all the time changing direction. Speed is not the decider here, handling and braking are.
There’s a cracking little tea rooms on the other side of the pass, in a village called Brig o’ Turk. However, this year we rode past it in favour of a few miles on at the pretty village of Killin on the A827 and the Falls of Dochart. Here we stopped at the Falls of Dochart Inn
Rooms - Accommodation - Falls of Dochart ~ Killin ~ Trossachs
Continuing on towards Pitlochry to pick up the A93 up to the Glenshee ski centre where we were scheduled for lunch.
The A924 and A93 up to the ski centre are again awesome with breath taking views largely traffic free, part of you wants to go slow to take in the stunning vistas, whilst another part urges speed to enjoy an awesome route.
Ski Scotland skiing + snowboarding at Glenshee Ski + Snowboard Centre
After lunch at the ski centre we dropped down the other side heading towards Balmoral. Just before which we turn left over single track road towards The Lecht and on to Tomintoul.
Scotland's ski and snowboard destination. Snowboarding, Offroad biking, Trick park, Mountain bike trails
Just after turning onto the single track road a Land Rover was coming towards us followed by a Range Rover. We pulled to one side to let them pass and was stunned to see it was the Queen driving! She even gave a thankyou wave for letting them through. I assume the black Range Rover behind was the Royal Protection Group.
Further on the road opened up to normal A road and we got into a group of local guys, the pace got very hot and this is where the RT showed its weakness compared to the K1200GT. Namely it lacked the horsepower to play at the speeds these guys were doing. The fantastic handling and braking kept me in the running but it was hard work. After several dubious overtakes and near misses by several of them I decided to stop playing and I stopped for Ian and Andy.
A few miles on we caught up to the local guys again, it seems one of them on the ZZR1400 overshot a corner and clipped an oncoming Ford Focus ST. Everyone appeared to be OK.
Dropping into Tomintoul for coffee at the Old Fire Station.
The Old Fire Station Tea Room
From there we headed to the A9 and its average speed cameras, to Inverness where needing fuel again the sat nav pays for itself by directing us to the local Tesco fuel stop. After fuelling it was on to Invergordon to stay the night at Tuckers Inn.
Tuckers Inn is on the seafront overlooking several oil rigs in for maintenance, around the corner was a cruise ship in too. Very friendly little place with good food.
After an excellent night’s sleep and a stunning breakfast with really good quality ingredients (the black pudding especially was awesome) we went back onto the A9 to continue north.
This part of the A9 is far more interesting but restraint was in order as there was thick fog rolling in from the North Sea. We’ve had this before on this stretch so I assume it’s the warm air from the land hitting the coast.
There’s a couple of really tight bends on steep hills on this bit and trying to recall were they are in the fog is nerve wracking, the sat nav helps but it’s still spooky.
The fog lifted on the A99 before we hit the morning coffee stop at Lybster Harbour. There’s a little coffee shop/museum there.
Waterlines Feature Page on Undiscovered Scotland
Lybster featured in a 1940’s film about herring fishing called The Silver Darlings.
From there it was a couple of yards retrace to pick up a lane to take us back to the A9 and on to Thurso were we turn onto the lovely A836 past the Dounreay nuclear fast breeder site.
The scenery is now getting increasingly bleak and the traffic getting lighter and lighter, well apart from the foreign plated camper vans.
Today’s lunch was at the Halladale Inn at Melvich
The Halladale Inn Chalet and Caravan Park.
but we’re keen to get back onto the A836 and its scenic delights, at one point we even saw a Golden Eagle!
At Tongue we turn off the A836 onto the A838 skirting around Loch Eriboll the views really are awesome. After riding all around the sea loch we come to our coffee stop at the other side at Laid.
We’ve stopped here previously and the old fella that runs it is a really nice guy. He came up here 20 years ago scuba diving with a group from Yorkshire and never went back.
After coffee we carried on the A838 towards Ullapool stopping for a couple of shots of the lovely beaches at the side of the route and the Kylesku Bridge (it features in the Ikea advert with the flying t shirts in case you recognise it).
I must admit to enjoying the road at this point and “made progress” on the RT to Ullapool turning onto the A894.
Arriving at The Ferry Boat Inn to luckily find parking as it’s at a premium on the front at Ullapool.
That evening we ate at the Inns restaurant, I go for the shellfish platter with some awesome raw oysters, before having a couple of drinks and retiring to our rooms for another good night’s sleep.
Next morning was a leisurely one as we didn’t have the normal 250 plus miles to do to our next destination, which was the Applecross Inn.
After refuelling, we rode south down the A835 to Braemar Crossing turning onto the A832 and a quick stop to look at Corrieshalloch Gorge.
The A835 is again a gorgeous route with mountains to our left and ocean vistas to our right we rode the roller coaster of a road to Poolewe to the cake delights of the Bridge Tea Rooms for a cuppa and a scone.
Staying on the A832 through Kinlochewe we turn at Archnasheen for the A890 and onto the A896
Then for a break at Lochcarron before tackling the stunning Applecross Pass also known as Bealach na Bà.
The Pass is the greatest ascent in the UK going from sea level at Applecross to 2045 foot in about 5 miles.
Dropping down from the pass to the Applecross Inn we park up and book into our room in this cute Scottish inn.
Quick shower and change and it’s down to the crowded bar for a pre dinner drink.
Dinner was awesome, I went for the langoustines in garlic butter.
The inn has an envious selection of single malts so I line up 4 for a taste test. My favourite 16 year old Lagavulin of course and a couple of others including a Dalmore 18 year old (which at £12 per measure is a bit ouch!) and a reserve Macalan too. Must admit the 16 year old Lagavulin was still my favourite.
Sat outside for a while watching the sun setting, thankfully protected from the loathsome biting midgies by Avon Skin So Soft. Yep it works as promised keep the biting bastards away! ... and this years Lagavulin 16 shot with the bikes in the back drop
After a good night’s sleep and yet another stunning breakfast it’s back over the Bealach na Bà to take in the delights of the pass from the opposite direction.
An R reg Lambretta scooter, two up, followed us up and fair play it carried them both to the top. Stopping for a few cars coming the other way and for a tiny shrew that was hunting in front of my rear wheel, we slowly wound our way back down to Lochcarron and on to Eilean Donan Castle. This time stopping at the café overlooking the castle.
From here the road gets wider, and faster over towards Fort William, stopping at Commando Memorial near Spean Bridge before stopping for fish and chips at Spean Bridge itself.
Fort William was as congested as usual but thankfully because we were on motorbikes was easily dispatched before the climb up the beautiful Glencoe and over to Tyndrum. This time not stopping at the Green Welly but moving further on for a coffee stop after Tarbet on the shores of Loch Lomond.
After which we did some serious filtering through the commuter traffic at Erskine to return to the Erskine Bridge Hotel and it’s welcoming swimming pool.
This nights meal was not taken in the restaurant but as a bar snack. The following morning stopping at junc 24 again to top up the fuel tanks for the run home.
Stopping once more at Moffat for coffee and then this time going into the lakes around Ullswater and Glenridding to the Kirkstone Pass Inn for lunch.
Bit of a disaster here as whilst getting on my RT I heard a crash to find Ian had dropped his Tiger into the grey telephone box and broken the screen mounts.
30 minutes later after cable tying the screen into place we made our way back to the M6. After a few miles on the M6 another disaster hit, this time to me. Whilst in the outside lane following the traffic I hit something with my front wheel. It was a very hard his and I knew something would be damaged, and for a few moments was half expecting a blow out to follow. This was just before junction 31 southbound. Shortly after we pulled into Charnock Richard to inspect the damage.
Luckily, the strike had been at a spoke so was at a stronger part of the wheel. But sadly the rim has a slight distortion in it so will need replacing I guess. Oh Hum ….. at least I have protected no claims.
So five nights, the R1200RTLE LC reports 1375 miles, average speed 47 MPH, average 57 MPG. It’s a better tourer than the K1200GT but the K1200GT is a better sports tourer. Didn’t need the comfort seat conversion as the RT seat proved great for the 280 mile days.