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Just returned from a wonderful seven days ride around (literally) Scotland. I will use this post as a marker, and I will be posting ride details as I compile them from memory and helmet-cam video into words, over the next couple of weeks.

I have been wanting to visit Scotland for many years now, and what is a better way to be one with the area than to ride my favorite motorcycle around and be truly one with the countryside! I had started looking seriously to making this trip around last September, and made the commitment to reserve an RT for rental, by December.

For those who might have been thinking about visiting Scotland to ride, I can highly recommend that you go ahead and do so. The ride will test your skills of motorcycle riding in every ways imaginable! This first post will give you some clues as to what kind of riding you will find over there, and some advice on preparations of gear, and the kind of weather that you can expect.

Foremost - make sure that you look at the post that I had entered under "Dealer Experience". My recommendation is to stay away from those guys!

Weather - my research had indicated that I should expect wet/damp weather, and that was not wrong! The best chance for reasonably good weather is to be found during the month of May and June, and so I elected for the early part of June. The temperature for the whole 10 days that I was there was decidedly cool - 45 deg.F to not much above 55 deg.F.

Gears - every motorcyclist in Scotland wore ATGATT, and hi-viz color jackets are very popular. DO take rain gear, but avoid the small mistake that I made. I usually ride with mesh riding over-pant and my main jacket is a Motoport Kevlar Mesh 3/4 length jacket with liners zipped in as appropriate. Those liners were excellent, and I had always been very comfortable using them. However, for this trip, I didn't want to pack such a bulky jacket, and so I had bought a relatively inexpensive Tourmaster mesh jacket, thinking that it will be good for the peak of the summer here later, and the water/windproof liner of this jacket should be fine for use in the wet weather that I might encounter in Scotland. Not a good decision. The less expensive jackets have liner that might be water/windproof but it was not breathable, and if you overheat easily the way that I do, you will soon find yourself somewhat wet under the liner! "Performance" undergarments helps, but they can't wick away that much moisture, and I felt a little uncomfortable for the whole trip.

Roads - of course, they drive/ride on the left over there. Be sure to always be vigilante. Before going, I thought that it's going to be easy to stay left, and in general it was......until my conscious attention lapse by some distractions, and I had found myself on the wrong side of the road a couple of times. This happens when making right turn, and so I took to reciting to myself at every right turn intersections "turn right, go to the other side!" and that seem to work! :cool:

There are speed camera all over the place, and as pointed out to me here, before I left for the trip, that "average speed" camera are gaining popularity and are widely used on the highspeed sections of their highway. Quite frankly, I like the idea of those camera over the instant speed ones! The "average speed" cameras are clearly visible and marked. The idea is that is you go under them, they take a photo of your vehicle, and there will be another set of cameras a few miles further down the highway that will do the same again. If the time that it takes you to go from one set of camera to the next is shorter than a calculated value, then you will get a speeding ticket. IMO, this is good because there are times when one might knowingly exceed the speed limit (like passing), where an instant speed camera will nab you, but with the "average speed" camera, you have the chance to slow down so that your average speed for the distance is within limits! BTW, whenever speed cameras are used, there are big signs to warn you of the fact.

In Scotland, you can be riding on a major 4-lanes highway with speed limit of 70 mph, for many miles, to find (with ample warnings) that the road narrows down to 2-lanes highway with 60 mph speed limit, and further on the road will narrow still with the same speed limit....and then the whole thing turns into "single-track" road....with the same 60 mph speed limit! No, they are not crazy over there, but they do expect you to be rational in your driving/riding! Motorists over there are very polite and considerate in their general driving, and are more conscious or motorcyclist than drivers on this side of the pond! Filtering is legal in the UK, and I had experienced that on my first day. Here is a picture snapshot from my helmet-cam, and you should note how the other vehicles keeps far righ in the right lane, and far left in the left lane to allow us, the motorcyclist, to filter through!



If you are going to ride in Scotland, you WILL encounter "single-track" roads, and you need to learn the rules for using those roads. These are very narrow roads, with traffic going in both directions. Traffic means big trucks, campers, cars along with our little 2-wheels bike. The following is what I consider to be a typical single-track road. Note the logging truck in front. I could have encountered it coming in the opposite direction.....and actually had at some points. Note also the passing place to the right:



The next picture is of the narrowest single-track road that I was on, and this one had no room even for a single passing place! I think I was on this road for about 22 miles, and had to maneuver past a motorcycle, a Rang Rover, a small van, and another car, all going in the opposite direction along the 22 miles stretch!



Oh, yeah.....and the sheep! Can't forget the sheep!!! :cool:
 

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Was hoping you would post a ride report Pad. Looking forward to the next chapters.
 

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Nice report and I liked your previous one on your dealer experience. Did your bike come with a sheep whistle? ;)
 

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Cool! . . . well I guess it really was. :D
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Was hoping you would post a ride report Pad. Looking forward to the next chapters.
That is in the works! I need some times to compile it all together from memory, helmet-cam video, and looking over the route again! The above is just a "place-holder" for now.
 

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Nice report and I liked your previous one on your dealer experience. Did your bike come with a sheep whistle? ;)
Thanks, the ride details will be coming in a few days!

As for the dealer experience, I had also posted a follow-up, but I guess by routine that post was held up by admin, and you won't see it in the thread. The follow-up was to say that I had sent the link to that write-up to the dealer (owner) to give him a chance to read and perhaps dispute my recounting. I received an e-mail back from him that basically backed up his mechanic, and I was rather disappointed in that he thought that I was upset over having to pay that extra money! He didn't understand at all that the problem was with how the supposed damages were evaluated, in particular regarding the valve covers and the cluster holder. I am done with it though. It's in the past, as far as I am concerned now.
 

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Cool! . . . well I guess it really was. :D
That it was! :cool: I get hot very easily, and my planning for clothes had been oriented toward "what do I want if it gets hot?" Of course, it never got hot but stayed on the cool/cold and very damp side. Overall, not too bad though.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
My desire to see the Scottish Highland have been on the very top of my “bucket list” for many decades now. It goes back to the days, in the early 60’s, when I was attending Canterbury University in Christchurch, NZ. There, I had many friends who were of Scottish descendants, and they all told me that with my interests in motorcycle riding, I need to visit the Scottish highland, and I would find that the countryside there will be very much like what are in New Zealand! Those comments had stuck in my mind since that time, and finally this is my chance to take action and see for myself.

I started to plan for this trip around September, 2014, with three stipulations: I need to see Loch Lomond (been singing that song ever since primary school in NZ); I need to visit the distillery of my favorite single-malt on the Isle of Islay (Lagavulin); and like all visitors to Scotland, I need to go and say “hi” to Nessie! After the seven days ride had been planned out, I did a lot of “scouting” using Google Map along with the Street View feature to scope out my riding routes. This is an excellent tool, and there were many instances when I rode up to a location and had gotten a very strong sense of déjà vu! My research also showed that the best time to visit Scotland for the best chance of encountering good weather, is during the month of May or June, and so I selected early/mid-June. Commitment to rent a 2014 RT was made by the end of December, and hotel reservations were all made not too long after, and I used the following months to monitor airfares, and jumped in right when the fares were at the lowest price level (I highly recommend flying British Airway, if you can manage to get a good discount, as I did. Excellent service and staff. Hot breakfast served on internal one hour flight from Heathrow to Edinburgh, and no-charge alcoholic beverage on the return internal return flight to Heathrow, if you wish!)

I landed in Edinburgh on the morning of June 10, and while waiting for my luggage to catch up to me, I checked my e-mail and received the first disappointment. The 2014 RT will not be available to me, because the previous renter had some “incidents” with the bike. Would I be willing to take other bike? Either a K1600GT or a 2013 RT were suggested, and of course I selected the RT, with a low seat. I just couldn’t imagine manhandling a heavy K bike over the routes that I will be riding on! From the airport, I went directly to the dealership to get all the paperwork and formalities out of the way so that I would be able to get the RT and be on my way right away, early the next morning. Mistake number one, on my part, was that while “inspecting” the RT for previous damages with the dealer’s rep., I was too casual and trusting. In hind-sight, I should have taken close-up photos of the whole bike at that time, but that is another story and I will let it pass. I had brought along my Nav V, loaded with the latest Europe map and my custom routes, with the intention of using it on the ’14 RT that I had reserved. Well, this ’13 RT had the Nav IV mount, and the dealer rep. told me that, from their experience, I cannot use my Nav V in that mount because it will jam in the mount. However, they did provide me with a loan of a Nav IV, at no charge, and loaded my routes into it.

Day 01, Thurs. June 11 - Motorrad Central to Kennacraig Ferry, and Port Askaig to Port Ellen (Isle of Islay).

Route on Google Map.



I picked up the RT bright and early, as planned, and spent about 15 minutes to load my luggage (pre-packed in two pannier liners); my SLR into the tank bag; water/windproof riding pant liner, walking shoes and rain jacket into the top-box; and then I was off. Very nice bright sunny morning, but there was a definite bite in the air, which my jacket liner did help to keep me from the chills. Turns out that this RT was the 2013 anniversary model, but I was a little surprised that it was a stripped down machine. No radio, which I don’t need anyway, but there were no ESA or ASC either! OK, so I will have to be a little more alerted in my riding, but again no big deal to me. On the other hand, after riding off, I was distracted by the most ridiculously minor things – the throttle cable had a lot of excessive slack in it, and the brake pedal position was a little low. The distractions were enough for me to miss the correct exit on the second round-about, and ended up riding around the area a little, but the GPS got me back onto my route by joining A720, Edinburgh Bypass, a little later along the planned route.

Nice 4-lanes divided highway, with 70 mph speed limit, and the traffic was flowing well. Not much further along, the traffic started to slowed down with more volume, and I had my very first exposure to “filtering”, which is quite legal in the UK. I had already noticed that car drivers here were extraordinary courteous (as compared to the drivers on this side of the pond), and when the bike about 5 cars ahead of me started to filter, I followed suit, and noted that drivers in the right lane kept their vehicles to the far right, and those in the left lane kept far left, giving us motorcyclists a nice wide passageway to filter through. Based on the many miles of filtering that I did, I think that this very considerate behavior was their normal behavior on the highway. Generally speaking, drivers over there were very polite and courteous in their behaviors, regardless of whether they were “locals” or visitors.

Rode on the A720 bypass to near the end, then changed over to the M8 motorway for a short distance, and to M9 motorway north and west. At 70 mph +/- speed, the miles melted away very quickly, and soon I was taking the exit off M9 to head west onto a very nice 2-lanes secondary road, A84. Speed limit on A84 was 60 mph.

Let’s pause and talk about speed limits for a little bit. In general, the “national speed limit” is 60 mph. As one rides along on the secondary and smaller roads, one will often see the traffic sign showing a white circle with a black diagonal line across it. This is the sign that tells you that the national speed limit applies. Generally, when one starts to enter the area of a village, or small town, one will encounter a speed limit sign, which over-rides the national speed limit. There will be plenty of warnings (no speed-traps like what you might find in the US), and it is usually a 40 mph limit. If the village is large enough so that the road passing through it is long enough, you may encounter a further reduction to 30 mph. At the other end, regardless of the size or condition of the road, one will usually see the national speed limit sign again. Another thing that I like about the traffic signs over there is the “///”, “//”, and “/” count-down symbols that are used along with the speed limit signs warning you that you are approaching the point when the limit will apply. The same symbols are also used on the motorway to apply to exit markers to alert drivers as to how close it is to the actual exit point.

A84 was a very nice 2-lanes major thoroughfare road, which leads into the eastern end of the Trossachs National Park, a very popular recreational area. As I rode away from the motorway, I noticed that the countryside was wide open with estates and farms alongside bracketing the road. Maintaining the 60 mph speed was no problems at all, even with the light traffic on the road.

A84, entering Doune. Note the “///” of the 30 mph sign, indicating the first warning for the pending lower speed limit:



Although the scenery along A84 was very nice, the road wasn’t that exciting for motorcyclists, and so I just rode along enjoying the scenery. So far, everything that I had been looking at could have been anywhere in the US. Very nice, but nothing really special yet. Proceeding along A84, deeper into Trossachs National Park, and away from the villages, the road narrowed down and started to get a few more curves in the road. Sheep makes their appearance in the pastures and on the hillside. The thing that I noticed right away, once we had gotten into the winding parts of the road, was that car drivers will assume that we, the motorcyclist, will want to ride unhindered! This showed itself by having the car in front of me (and I wasn’t even close behind) signal left-turn on a straight section of the road with no visible ways for the car to turn left! Then, it dawned on me that it was a signal to me to say “OK, you can pass me now!” Sure enough, I was to encounter that signal again numerous times. In addition to that, slower driver of cars, campers, or truck, will often pull aside whenever possible to let the line of traffic behind them pass. Very civilized driving!! It is not uncommon to pass several cars at a time on these narrow and twisty road, and one will find that the car drivers will make room for you to come back into your proper lane in the event that you might have misjudged the distance to the next curve, or oncoming vehicle. You ALWAYS signal your intentions while driving in the UK, without exceptions! One rule that I had learned (by watching) was that when you pull out to overtake on these 2-lanes roads, you signal right, as you would here, but you keep the signal on for the whole time that you are in the oncoming lane, and switch the signal off only when you actually pull back into your own lane. I assume that it is to give maximum visibility of your move, to oncoming traffic.

Another thing that made its frequent appearance were signs warning that speed camera are, or may be in used! I never worried about those, since 60 mph in the twisty sections on the narrow roads is plenty fast enough for me, and I did want to take in the sights along the way as well. Hint – one can tell where a camera is actually set up by seeing series of short horizontal painted white lines in the middle of your lane. The speed camera uses these lines to determine the vehicle’s speed, based on the time to traverse these markers.

A84 turned into A85 at Lochearnhead (Loch Earn), and I started to see more motorcyclists on the road. Later along A85, the countryside started to look very much like parts of the north island of NZ! Some of the taller mountains (hills?) started to become visible, and there were still patches of white snow on those peaks!



At Crianlarich, I turned left off A85 and turned onto A82, heading south-west toward Loch Lomond. Here is a snapshot off my helmet-cam taken just outside of Crianlarich. It is clear from this picture that many cyclists and motorcyclist uses the roads in this area, especially heading into, and out of Loch Lomond:



A82, heading down to Loch Lomond was still a 2-lanes road, but narrower than A85 that I had just left, and this is where the fun ride starts! As I headed south, I started to encounter campers, motorcyclists, and cyclists using the road.



There were also the occasional trucks coming up the road as well. Once the road started to run alongside the River Falloch, which empties into Loch Lomond, the road narrows down to just two narrow lanes with very little edges, and it also starts to wind in series of curves. I was just riding along, stuck (or so I thought) behind a van and a couple of cars ahead, but I was enjoying the views, when a pack of motorcyclist came up from behind and zipped right by!



Typically, I would see riders that came in packs of four to ten bikes, and very rarely would I see a lone rider like myself. This portion of A82 have a lot of curves, and as I said, was very narrow with large campers and commercial trucks using the road as well. So, you do have to be careful with passing, and even when you have clear road ahead, you cannot be too aggressive in taking corners without seeing what may be approaching. The big trucks, campers and tour bus will often intrude into your lane, because of the narrowness of the road and the sharp bends. There were times when I rode hard and fast around these twisty sections, but had to slack off some, especially when I was leaned hard over, on a right bend, only to see a big truck coming around the corner with its right front fender well inside my lane…..banging into that with my head would be a little painful, I thought as I eased off the throttle and brought the RT a little more upright! When that first pack went by, I eased out onto the oncoming lane and tucked in right behind the last bike and followed their actions. That’s how it’s done!

Then, suddenly, what a view….there it was, the north end of Loch Lomond!







I had a blast playing “tail-end Charlie” to this pack of bikers, and rode right by my planned pit-stop, where I had previously planned to stop for a break and take some pictures of Loch Lomond. Turning around on this road was impossible, especially with the increased traffic as the morning wore on. Nothing to do but to continue for another 10 miles or so to the intersection where I would leave A82 and Loch Lomond for A83 and points west. I also knew that there was another parking area that might be suitable at the intersection, and if not suitable, it would be a good place to turn around and backtrack to my original planned pit-stop. So, I rode on and caught up to the pack again.
 

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I turned into the parking area at the mentioned junction, but the lot was fairly small with a couple of tour bus and some campers crowding the place, and so I exited the area at the far side, onto a small road that connected onto A83. Stopped at the intersection, and waited for a car to pass, and then turns right onto A83. My conscious mind was occupied with trying to decide on whether to continue on A83, or get back on A82 and back-tracking the 10 miles or so to the planned pit-stop. That was a very bad thing to do, since my conscious mind was busy, the mechanic of riding was assigned to the sub-conscious mind, with this result:



Whoa! Luckily, I was right next to the road’s center line, and it was just a quick flick of counter-steer to get me rapidly onto the correct side of the road! I thought that I had resolved this riding-on-the-left issues, but clearly it was a mistake to take my mind off riding even for a minute. From that point on, I always paid particular attention to making right turns, and very conscious to make sure to go to the far lane whenever I did make such turns!

After that little excitement, I back-tracked the 10 miles or so back to where I had intended to stop to use the facilities and to take some photographs. Loch Lomond:



Soon, I was back on the road and off again. I wanted to make sure that I got to the ferry at least an hour before departure time of 3:30 pm, and not knowing the conditions of the road or traffic ahead, I did not want to waste any time. Retraced my route back to the junction of A82 and A83, then headed west on A83 toward Loch Long. Initially, I had planned on stopping at Arrochar (on Loch Long) for lunch, but I was not hungry at all, and so kept on riding through town. A83 was a very nice road, with lots of high-speed curves once the road cuts away from Loch Long and into the hills. The Nav IV yelled at me a few times when I was riding a little fast or was accelerating hard in areas that were tagged in the GPS map as being speed camera areas, but it was very hard to resist accelerating up these up-hill sweeps with clear road ahead. Too soon, I was on the downgrade behind a line of traffic leading into Cairndow, on the shore of Loch Fyne. A83 exited Cairndow and made a loop around the north end of Loch Fyne, and I caught sight of Loch Fyne Oysters, a purveyor of oyster, salmon, and other seafood, with onsite restaurant. I made a promise to myself that the next time that I pass by, I will stop for a meal!



I was so engrossed with absorbing the view and looking at the restaurant (right), that I didn’t even see this guy who had come up fast behind me! No, that was not a legal pass, and this was only the second time that I had witness a motorcyclist behaving in this reckless manner! Reminds me of the “squids” that we have here, but this riders did have good riding skills and wore the proper riding gears (vs. no-helmet, shorts, t-shirt, and flip-flops!) On second thought, this may have been the same guy that I had seen earlier on A82 along Loch Lomond!

A83 follows the western shore of Loch Fyne for many miles, and passed through Inveraray, a small picturesque town:





A few miles past Inveraray, A83 started to angle away from Loch Fyne, and headed more in the westerly direction, but only to angle back to the shore again around the town of Furnace. In actual fact, A83 runs either along the shore of Loch Fyne or parallel to it. Note: Loch Fyne is a salt-water loch, and extends about 40 miles inland from the west-coast of Scotland.

At Lochgilphead, I stopped to refuel. Kennacraig was not far away now, and I wanted to make sure that I arrived onto Islay with the maximum amount of fuel in the tank. My first experience with fueling in Scotland! At the pump, there were three separate hoses. The black one was for diesel (I had been warned about this one!), and the other two were green with one marked for “Unleaded” and the other one marked “Supreme Unleaded”. Of course, the last one is what I used for the RT, but it should be noted that this was the very last time that I will encounter the “Supreme Unleaded” hose! All of the other stations that I was to stop at, for the next six days, had just diesel and unleaded!

After refueling, I followed A83 through town, and followed it as it turned left down the coast of Loch Gilp (pretty much an extension of Loch Fyne). Shortly after heading south along the coast, I made a short stop in the little village of Ardrishaig, to take some photographs.



Looking back at Lochgilphead:



Somewhere, on A83 north of Tarbert, I departed from A83 to take a short-cut to bypass the little town completely, and hence encountered my first exposure to single-track road – a logging road! I did not encountered any oncoming traffic until very close to reaching the other end.



 

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Soon, I was back on A83 again. In hind-sight, I should have gone into Tarbert and spent some time just sightseeing! I was far too early for the ferry, having missed stopping for lunch and had made a very good time with the “spirited riding” along the way. It was barely 1 pm at this point, and Kennacraig was just a couple of minutes away. I arrived at the ferry terminal before 1 pm, and the 1 pm ferry was still at the dock, about to depart!









Motorcycles got to board the ferry first, and are one of the first to get off at the other end as well. At Kennacraig, the ferry docked bow-in, and on boarding I was directed to park at the stern of the boat. I was the only motorcycle to board. The RT was parked on side-stand and in 1st gear. A crewman placed a thick pad over the rider’s seat, and strapped the bike down with a single strap over this pad. Just before departure, there were a few cars and a couple of motorcycle that tried to leave on this ferry on stand-by basis. They all made it!

The trip over to Port Askaig (Isle of Islay) took two hours, and the sea was dead calm. Not even rolling swells. Here, the ferry docked stern-in, and so all the vehicles can simply drive straight off.

Port Askaig:





Disembarking was fast, and I was third off, after a big truck and a car from the center of the boat had gotten off and left room for me to back up and leave. The ride to the Islay Hotel in Port Ellen was fairly quick, with just one car ahead of me off the ferry. The time was just after 6 pm, and the weather was excellent with bright sunshine. The road leading from Port Askaig, A846, was a narrow two-lanes country road, but it was in fair condition considering the amount of traffic that must have gone over it every days. I rode on that road for about 9 miles, before branching off to the left onto B8016, a 10 miles stretch of single-track road that led directly to Port Ellen. There were quite a bit of traffic on this road, and I had my chance to practice the rules of riding/driving on single-track roads!

The car in front, on the single-track road, pulled over into a passing place to let me pass!



The general rule on single-track road is that, the one who reaches a passing place first is the one who gives way by pulling into the passing place if it is to one’s left or stop beside it, if to the right.



Overall, it had been a wonderful day!
 

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Day 02, Friday June 12 – Isle of Islay.

This day was supposed to be a relaxing day, with the only thing that I had planned was to visit the Lagavulin distillery, less than five miles away, at 9 am to register to attend a “nips and nibbles” session (pairing Lagavulin’s different single-malt with food) at 4:30 pm, and to tour the distillery at 9:30 am. Good opportunity to try to catch up with the time difference between EST and GMT! At this time of the year, sunrise was around 4:40 am, and so the sky had gotten quite light very soon after 4 am, and there were no ways that I would be sleeping! Therefore, I was one of the first one to be in the dining room for breakfast. Knowing that I will be relaxing and will have plenty of time to have a good lunch as well as dinner, I decided on a smaller breakfast, and ordered the very classic smoked Scottish salmon and scrambled eggs. That turned out to be fantastic! The smoked salmon was very much like our Nova Scotia lox, but just a little saltier. A fold of the salmon on your fork with a clump of scrambled eggs was quite exquisite!

View of Port Ellen Bay at low tide, from my hotel room windows:



Got on the RT a little before 9 am, and rode over to the distillery, along the small country road, A846.

Just past the Islay Hotel, along the waterfront of Port Ellen Bay:



Lagavulin is a small distillery with just 4 stills. Two for the primary distillation, and two for the final.



After the distillery tour (no pictures allowed), and a tasting, I got back onto the RT, and planned to ride to the westernmost end of the isle, to a little town of Portnahaven, to have lunch at a little pub (An Tigh Seinnse) that I had scouted out online. So, backtrack on the little A846 back to Port Ellen, and then north toward Port Askaig along that nice single-track road, B8016.

The “fields” on both sides of the road are actually peat bogs, where peat is dug up and dried to provide fuels to dry and gives that characteristic smoky peat aroma to the barley malt that is used in Islay whisky making. Many of the Islay homes had also reverted back to be heated by peat fire, due to the rising costs of petroleum fuel oil over the past several years:



B8016 met A846 again just south of Bridgend, and I was supposed to turn left onto A847 just a little further north of Bridgend, to head toward Port Charlotte. Missed the turn! Darn! Fortunately, since I had scouted out the area on Google Map, I knew that there was a tiny little road just a hundred yards or so, that would lead me into an area marked on the map as Islay House, and from there I should be able to exit on the other side onto A847, where I wanted to be. I did find that tiny road, which looked like somebody’s driveway, but I was fairly confident that it was a public road. It was indeed a road, but in a fairly bad state of repairs. I was dodging potholes all the way, but did finally emerged onto A847, and was on my planned route again.

Tight squeeze:



You definitely don’t want to try riding this road unless you are comfortable with extensively riding and maneuvering the RT at low speed, and riding on gravels and rocks at times!

A847 was a very nice 2-lanes country road that hugs the seashore as it wound its way through the little village of Bruichladdich, and Port Charlotte. At some point along the way, after Port Charlotte, the road turned into a single-track road and stayed that way all the way into Portnahaven.

A beautiful day, just entering Bruichladdich, with people having early lunch outside a mini-mart, to the right:



Entering Port Charlotte:



Typically, one do not pull into a “passing place” on one’s right, but sometimes judgements have to apply! In this case, I pulled into the right passing place to let the big truck drive through:



Entering Portnahaven. Beautiful little harbor to the left:


 

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The end of A847! This tiny road was actually a lot steeper than it looks in the photo. That clear patch at the end was where I had planned to park, but I was to see that it was far from flat! The slope of that spot was in the same direction as the slope that I was riding….toward the sea. I feared that if I was to point the RT down there, and didn’t have enough room to turn around, I would be completely stuck unless I got some help:



So, a quick decision…..turn left at the bottom and get out of there!



Talking about small, narrow and steep road! This left turn was actually a lot steeper than how it looked in this snapshot:



In hind-sight, after looking at the video, I could have parked where I had originally planned, and would have been quite fine! Oh, well, those are the things that one only see later with the kind of technology that we now have! So, it’s back-tracking out of Portnahaven, through Port Charlotte, and so on. Plan “B” was to find a place for lunch in another town that I had planned on visiting as well – Bowmore.

One thing that I have to say about transportation in the UK is that, no matter how remote one might be, there seem to be public transportation! I had followed this bus out of Portnahaven, and here the driver had found a spot where he politely pulled over to allow me to pass!



On the other hand, much further down the road, there was this one local who firmly stood her ground and looked at me as if to say “hey, you are disrupting my lunch!”



Bowmore “Round Church” (built in 1767). The story goes that the church was built in a circular shape to make sure there were no corners for the devil to hide in”:



Picturesque Bowmore harbor:



After lunch, and after looking around Bowmore to take some photographs, I rode back to Port Ellen. Clouds had started to accumulate, which fits the forecast of potential wet weather for the next day!

Approaching Port Ellen:



Got back to the hotel with a couple of hours to spare before returning to Lagavulin, and decided to use the time to pack up, since I expected to be up very early the next morning to catch the 7 am ferry from Port Askaig.
 

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Great write up. Makes my mouth water.
 

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Great write up. Makes my mouth water.
Thanks! Much more to come yet. Gotta ride when I can, rather than sitting inside compiling ride reports!! :)
 

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Looks looks like a great trip, thanks for the photos. How long did it take to get use to riding on the left side of the road.

Gerhard
It was fantastic! I am still working on day 3 through 7, which were a lot more exciting than the first couple of days.

Learning to ride on the left is not hard, BUT as I mentioned in my day one write-up, at my age, I have to pay attention to riding at all time, in particular while making a right turn at intersections!
 

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Day 03, Saturday June 13 – Islay to Glenuig (The Roundabout Way!)

Route on Google Map.

Route from Kennacraig Ferry terminal to Glenuig:



I had a ticket for the first ferry leaving Port Askaig at 7 am, and so I had gone to bed fairly early the previous night. I had left my window curtain fully open to make sure that the morning light will rouse me, and it certainly did. Sunrise was around 4:40 am, and so by 4 am there was enough light to wake me up! Originally, I was planning on getting up at 4:30 am and be out of the hotel by 5:30 am at the latest, but I got out of bed as soon as I was awake, and was away by 4:30 am! I am the type that prefers to be early for anything that were scheduled for me!

The ride north to Port Askaig was very peaceful. The sun was rising over the hills, and the morning was very quiet. I did not think it unusual to have encountered a couple of cars heading south, as I headed north on the single-track road, B8016, as it nears the intersection with A846. I was really enjoying the serene morning, and some of the wildlife that I saw alongside B8016 – a couple of little fallow deer. I knew that I was really early, and so I just rode along quite leisurely. Port Askaig was quite deserted, when I arrived at 5 am, but I figured that I was very early for the 7 am departure. It was a little strange though that the ferry boat was not at the dock! I pulled into one of the staging lane for boarding vehicles, and stopped at the front end, and parked. The ground was slanted to my right, and when I put the side-stand down, the RT seemed to be sitting a little too upright, but sufficient stability was achieved when I turned the handlebar to the left lock, and so I dismounted. As I did so, I saw a car pull out from the overnight parking lot, and pulled in behind me. Another fellow traveler who also liked to be early, and apparently had been waiting in the parking lot. A very nice couple who had been staying at Portnahaven. At this point, we all should have been suspicious as to why there were no other vehicles there waiting for the ferry. No trucks. Nothing! The terminal office was dark and appeared to have been unmanned.

Thinking that I had plenty of time on hands, I took my SLR out of my tankbag, intending on walking over to the docks to take some pictures. Another car drove up, but went toward the office, and a woman got out. “Are you waiting for the ferry?” she asked. “Yes, I am”, was my reply. “Well, the ferry had been rescheduled to leave from Port Ellen this morning!” she said. It seem that all of the other passengers had been contacted with the information, and apparently they had no contact information for me (another strike against Rentamotorcycle.co.uk, who had made the ferry and hotel reservations for me). Fortunately, there were plenty of time to make it back to Port Ellen, but I was a little flustered by all this unexpected change. The other couple got in their car and quickly pulled away as I walked back to the RT. Put my SLR back in the tankbag, and put my helmet and riding gloves back on. Unthinking, I made the mistake of straightening the front wheel before swinging my right leg over the RT to mount. That was when my left inner thigh just nudged the RT, and it went right over with my right leg high above the saddle! Damn! That’s going to cost me, I thought. Got the bike back up onto its side-stand, and this time got on without any incident.

The ride back to Port Ellen was uneventful, and I was sure that I was riding a lot faster than the ride earlier on. The ferry terminal at Port Ellen was literally just a couple of hundred yards down the road from the Islay Hotel, where I had been staying! In any case, I made it there with plenty of time to spare, and even though I was the last in line at the staging area, I was called up front to board first, when boarding time did arrive. They always board motorcycles first.

Departing Port Ellen:



Last look at the hills of Port Ellen:



The ferry arrived at Kennacraig around 9:45 am. Since I was the first to board, I was also one of the first to disembark, right after the front of the center aisle of the vehicle deck was cleared:



Note how the RT was tied down – just a single strap across the rider seat, with the bike in 1st gear and resting on side-stand.

Very soon I was on the road, taking A83 northward, back the same way that I had taken just a couple of days ago. However, at Lochgilphead, where A83 took a hard right into town and back toward Loch Lomond, I continued north onto A816. The sky was overcast, and it looked as if it could rain at any moment. I had the waterproof liner in my jacket, but kept the mesh over-pants without its liner to keep cool.

Northbound on A83, catching the first glimpse of Loch Gilp – what a beautiful morning:



I stopped to refuel at the first station on A816. From this point on, I will be refueling whenever I can get the opportunity, because I will be riding in fairly remote areas with fueling opportunities far and few in between, at times. No premium gasoline either. Just plain unleaded or diesel! I couldn’t help but think, with amusements, about some of the heated discussions about using “only” high-octane fuel that had been debated in the forum. I guess that those people won’t be riding here!! Oh, and the price per gallon? Let’s just say that I won’t even look! (Just for reference, looking at the video, it was $7.23/US gallon at this station).



A816, at the beginning, was just like any country roads that one might find here in eastern Ohio. Then we started to gain some elevation, and started to encounter some nice sweeping curves. The traffic was light, and there were enough straight sections for me to pass slower traffic and fairly much maintain the 60 mph speed limit throughout. The curves got tighter as the road gained elevations, and it was perfect for a very enjoyable motorcycle riding! There were two factors that inhibited my riding somewhat. The first was the nature of the road surface. This surface looked like it was made of shards of stones embedded, perhaps loosely, in hot tar. It was hard to tell if the stone shards were loose or, more likely, firmly embedded. I didn’t feel any slippage, but took it a little easy on the sharper curves, knowing that the bike didn’t have ASC. The other factor was that the suspension, as set up, was somewhat soft. Not having ESA on this bike was a little bit of a handicap, and I did manage to get used to the softer ride, but only after a few hundred miles!



Riding down a hill and looking at Loch Craignish. The cloud cover seemed to have broken up…..for now:



At the head of the loch, the road straightened and I was able to pass slower traffic and had the road in front of me clear as it again gained elevation and enters long series of nice high-speed curves. Lovely ride up and down the Scottish hillsides. Soon, I was riding along the shore of Loch Melfort, heading toward Kilmelford, as the gray clouds started to gather overhead. By 11 am, I arrived at the outskirt of the city of Oban, where I would pass through to take A85 northward.

Oban city center:



Oban waterfront. It could have been a nice place to stop for lunch, but I decided that it was much too early, and kept riding on:


 

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Rode to the other side of the city and turned onto A85 north at the roundabout. A85 was a nice two-lanes highway with moderate traffic, and the road was winding enough to be moderately entertaining. It was not too long before I arrived at the village of Connel. If I was to take the shortest route to my destination, I would branch off here and take the Connel bridge via B828, but my pre-planned route had me staying on A85 to take the very long way round to Glencoe. The sky was looking more ominous!



The road was quite scenic, with lots of fast sweeping curves. Nothing challenging, but enough to keep one amused on the ride, as I swept down this valley toward The Bridge of Awe!



OK, so the name fascinated my imagination, and I didn’t even noticed going over the bridge when I had gotten across! This was just a little stone bridge that took A 85 across river Awe. A85 continued with river Awe on the right in the south-easterly direction until the river emptied into Loch Awe, and A85 followed the western shore of the loch northward. The views of the river and the loch with the surrounding hills were quite something else, and it was very clear that this was one of the area’s vacation spots. A85 cut east again at the north end of the loch, until it met A82 at Tyndrum, and that is where A82 ended. My route would have me taking a left turn onto A82 northbound, but I had planned for a pit-stop at this point, and so I turned right instead. A hundred yards or so, there was a service station with some shopping areas, and I pulled in to top up the RT’s tank. Rest stop? It seem that scores of motorcyclists had the same idea, and the place was simply packed with motorcycles and cars, and so I just filled up and continued on my ride. Fortunately, it seem that all these motorcyclists were heading south! I turned right off the parking area to head north on A82, as a big pack of bikers were milling around the exit, presumably waiting for their mates, and they all turned left to go south.

A82 turned out to be a very nice two-lanes road, with excellent surface, and was fairly heavily travelled. The northbound side headed up the hills had just a couple of cars ahead of me, while it seemed as if the traffic on the southbound side was quite heavy. The sky was fully overcast now, and I was able to feel some moistures in the air. Then it started to rain, just outside the little village of Bridge of Orchy. Just lightly, and it wasn’t really unpleasant, even though I still didn’t have the waterproof liner zipped into my mesh over-pants. As I rode by the Hotel of that village, I noticed a couple of bikes pulling into the front of the hotel, probably for a lunch break:



I opted to keep riding! I am the type that like to stay in the saddle, once I had gotten rolling, and I decided to skip lunch all together and ride on to the end. The rainfall got heavier as I rode along, and the excellent fairing of the RT kept my pants completely dry! I was able to feel water accumulating on the upper part of my jacket liner, but was unable to feel nary a drops on my legs! A82 followed River Orchy north until it emptied into Loch Tulla. By this time, I had managed to pass some cars and a camper in front and had a fairly clear road ahead. The rain was light but steady, and the road was steadily rising in elevation into the hills of Glencoe mountain, with some very nice fast sweeping curves. The views from this road (looking behind me) must be very nice on clear days, since I had passed several parking spots that were fairly full of cars even on this cloudy and rainy day. Then the rain started to come down heavier! No problems. Legs still dry. Road surface was good, and I was still able to (cautiously) pass a few more cars along the way.

One thing that I had started to notice was that, wherever there were open space anywhere along the road, it was quite acceptable to pull over a camper or pitch a tent for the night! This observation was made at different times throughout my ride through the highlands.



In descending the other side of the hills, I looked at the scenery in front of me, mostly hidden in mists, and can’t help but to think that I want to ride this road again on a clear day!



The rain had started to slacken off as I descended off the mountain and into the town of Glencoe. I was cold (10.5 ºC, or 51 ºF), and somewhat miserable from riding in the rain, but it wasn’t too bad. Some water had managed to get into one of my Gore-Tex riding boots, or perhaps that was just condensations. On the other hands, my pants and gloves were fairly dry!

Rode pass Glencoe and along the shore of Loch Leven:



By this time, the rain had stopped completely and the road was dry. A82 crossed over a bridge, to the northern shore of Loch Leven, into North Ballachulish. From there, it headed west and then north, where I left the highway to take a little ferry across Loch Linnhe to Corran. Both Loch Leven and Loch Linnhe are salt-water lochs in that they are actually parts of the sea.

Waiting in line to board the little ferry, which was just about to dock after its crossing from the far side (Corran):



Boarding the ferry. The tide was running quite strong across this narrow gap:



I couldn’t believe that the fare for myself plus the RT came to only £2.50! Disembarking on the Corran side:


 

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On the other side, I took A86 south-west from Corran, following the coastline of Loch Linnhe, and around Inversanda, A86 headed inland westward. I was hoping to get a fill up for the RT at Strontian, since the next day (Sunday) was looking to be a long exciting day with very few fueling opportunities.

View of the ride along the coast of Loch Linnhe. In the distance, one can see where the loch opened out into the sea:



It is obvious that I was riding into more of the urban countryside now, with the roads passing through farms, and of course June is the lambing season!





I was following a camper and three cars that were ahead of me in the ferry, and I rode along quite peacefully behind them as I was enjoying the coastal views. It wasn’t too long before A86 cuts inland, and I was quickly reminded of my riding days in Wellington, NZ – the small country road, the farmland with sheep in the paddock, and the cold damp weather! As the road wound its way up the hills, I used every opportunities to pass all of the slower traffic in front, and soon had the road to myself. Then, it started to rain again! Just lightly, but the road surface was excellent, and so I was not slowed down at all. I can’t say that I kept to the speed limit as I rode up that nice winding road! Before long I was descending down the other side of the hills toward Loch Sunart, and the little village of Strontian.



The sun tried to peek through the clouds, but without success! The rain kept coming down, on and off. It was raining fairly hard as I reached the beginning of Loch Sunart. In the village of Strontian, I rode by the general store (and post office), where the single fuel pump was located, slowed down, but did not feel like stopping in the rain. The fuel pump was out in the open beside the store building. I rode on, knowing full well that the wasn’t another fueling place before my stop for the night, and that the next day was Sunday! Not a smart move, but I guess that I like living close to the edge!

On the other side of the village, A86 turned into a single-track road. The national speed limit of 60 mph applies (see the signs in the photo below), but one would have to be crazy to ride or drive anywhere near that speed on this road.



The road surfaces were quite good right after Strontian, but as I rode further along A86, I started to notice that the condition of the road was slowly degrading until the surface was rather bumpy from years of patching. Around the tiny village of Salen, A86 cuts straight north inland for a few miles, and then again west around Ardshealach. A86 gained some elevations, and at one point there was a scenic parking area…..or, rather, it would have been quite scenic if it wasn’t for the rain and mists obscuring the hillsides! I do want to repeat the ride of this day again at some future times, but in nice weather! On the other side of the crest, A86 descended fairly steeply. The road on both sides of the summit were two-lanes road, and the surface was quite good, even though it was very wet. Then I rounded a corner, and I saw that I was descending toward Loch Moidart. Not very far now before I would be arriving at that day’s destination, Glenuig. A86 returns into a single-lane road again just a few miles down from the summit, and it was to stay that way for a distance until it ran along the shore of Loch Moidart, where it was to open up into a very nicely surfaced two-lanes road again. At Loch Moidart, the road was completely dry. There were no signs of any rain, and the sun was trying very hard to break through the thin clouds above. What a change in less than 10 miles! I was able to really wind up the RT again, as I rode the last few miles of the day along this beautiful roadway.

A86 heading down a hill, after cutting across the headland from Loch Moidart toward Glenuig:



Glenuig Inn:



Apparently, Glenuig Inn is a popular place for sea kayakers and motorcyclists. Looking at the big bay outside the inn, I can see why I might want to get into a kayak and do some exploring of the shoreline!

Looked like I had made good time getting here, considering all the rain. It was barely after 2 pm, and even though I did not stop for lunch, I must have gone over the speed limits somewhere! My room wasn’t ready, and so I spent an hour or so enjoying a couple of pints in the pub while waiting. In the pub, a young lady asked me as to how was the ride, and I said that it was great and would have been much better if it wasn’t for the rain. What rain? Apparently, they had not seen any rain there at all!

A panoramic view outside on Glenuig Inn:

 

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