There had been many discussion as to what to wear winter gear or airflow, as Saturday morning was pouring hard when we left Telford the decision was made Winter gear. We were having a new tyre fitted before the trip so that is why we left on Saturday to stay overnight at the Brecks Premier Inn .
We left Rotherham at 8.30 with Ian and Denise and soon picked up Rob and Karen who were slowly cruising along waiting for us to catch them up. The weather was fine so we had a pleasant trip up towards Northumberland, then we saw the clouds building on the horizon in a threatening way Soon we were caught in a rain shower just as we were searching for lunch, the road was wet cobbles so we decided to park just out of the town centre and walk back ( we walked a lot this day). After being fed and watered we were on our way again, through bands of sun and rain into the beautiful Borders of Scotland. For the tea stop Ian pulled into the narrowest of car park entrances, to a Morrison store. We then had to walk to the store; Rob and Roy were convinced we could have caught the shuttle bus which was operating!! (We had actually parked in the wrong car park, it was for Taxis and small buses!!!
We arrived at Bo Ness in bright sunshine, booked in at the hotel and then went to meet new comers Gerard and Siobhan. Siobhan had flown over from Ireland as the weather had been really bad, Gerard had braved it on the ferry, what a man! Siobhan had also bought her cousin and husband for support, as she did not know what to expect from us, two heads etc. But I am pleased to say that Siobhan really fitted in well and stayed the course, so she is not the fair weather biker, she said she was.
Dave and Meg arrived later on, Meg thought Dave( well known for going for just the basics) had upgraded their room, as she entered as it was full of brooms mops and buckets !! She had walked into the cleaners cupboard !! Dinner was spent catching up on the past months
Norman and Ireen, led us off on the first stage of the trip, we stopped at the new Falkirk Helix Park and viewed the magnificent Kelpies. The figures are massive and beautiful to look at, I wanted to stroke the nose of one of them and feed it some sugar lumps: They are lovely. Don’t drive pass them on the M9 motorway, turn off at junction 5 and spend some time taking in these fantastic structures. Once more on the bikes we headed north past Stirling and into the Cairngorms and down the beautiful Glen Shee pass, and onto the Cock-Bridge to Tomintoul road, with its incredible views, the weather was clear so you could see for miles. It was a brilliant riding day. When we arrived at Inverness we were booked into the Best Western Inverness and they had arranged parking spaces for us, which made life very easy unpacking etc. The meal in the hotel was excellent with a good choice. That night Ireen did the first two of her infamous quizzes which was won by Rob (?) who received a watch and Roy and I somehow came second without cheating and were awarded 2 “jimmi” hats, we are so lucky!.
Today we were joined by another new comer Cliff Piper, who lives near Elgin. We set off in the sun again, towards Ullapool, heading further North West than we had been before. Again the scenery is beautiful with white sand bays , blue sea and sheer rugged rock faces, to see them we had to ride along single track roads with passing places, this was the main road!. One sign said “ Not suitable for caravans” but as there were caravan sites along the road we met a caravan or two! Some of the villages were so remote we wondered where they shopped and where the children went to school. These are places I would like to revisit again one day. As always Norman had arranged excellent breaks with good food. The ride took longer than planned so we were not able to stop at Seal Point.
Tonight’s quiz was won by Dave, and Meg and Siobhan won second prizes. Ireen was wearing a very scary hat, which must have had the coach party very confused.
It had to happen, it was predicted it was going to rain today. Again Cliff joined us, as he said he was used to the weather. We set off dressed for the rain which as yet had not started to fall. Norman led us down another narrow road to cross a dam, which I understand his Dad had a hand in building for the Hydroelectric Co. we then went to a prearranged pub for coffee who had laid on all you can eat coffee, tea and cakes, for a price. Everyone tucked in even though it was only an hour or two after breakfast. The route took us through Glen Docharty, around the coast to Gairloch, with it’s views of Skye ( not available because of the low cloud) and on for lunch at Inverewe Gardens, it was drizzling and very humid, so as soon as we stopped at the gardens the midges attacked!!.
Roy, Ian, Denise and I bought some “smidge” spray, which has been developed to combat Scottish midges, so we sprayed our faces , necks and arms. Ian’s eyes bulged and turned red, my and Denise’s lips were stinging!! We then read the instructions” DO NOT SPRAY ONTO FACES KEEP AWAY FROM EYES AND LIPS“, we should have sprayed it on our hands and then rubbed it onto our faces. Still it did keep the midges away and we did have a look around the gardens ( well those of us who could see!! Ian was struggling) the midges were that bad even the gardeners wore beekeeper like hoods to keep them at bay.
The route home again went through beautiful countryside but the rain was setting in and 100% waterproof trousers were slowly leaking so a quick sprint home. Luckily the hotel had piping hot radiators so we were able to get clothes dry. Rumour has it that Gerard arranged to have his dried in the hotel boiler room, we should have thought of that! Dave won the quiz again !
What a difference, the sky was blue and the temperature mild. No Cliff to day, he was working, he is a Reverend and we were visiting the Dallas Dhu Distillery, which is near where he lives. The Distillery is a museum, where you walk around with hand held recorded guides telling you about the history and making of the whiskey. Karen asked Rob, “Where are all the workers?”
“Having a tea break” Rob replies
“Oh thanks “said Karen, believing him!!!
Karen it’s a MUSEUM there are no workers! After the tour we had a film show and a quick nip or two of the whiskey. We then went on to the Culloden Moor battlefield and had an interesting time walking around the site and being stunned by the brutality of war and the numbers killed in so short a time. Nothing has changed as a species, we will never learn.
A really restful day, with lovely weather. We even had a stroll around Inverness and walk along the river Ness.
Roy, Denise and Meg won the quiz tonight!
Today was forecast very wet, so Roy and I decided to have a day wandering around Inverness. We waved off the others, Cliff was back for the ride and Siobhan showed us she does ride in bad weather. I understand that the promised views of Skye did not appear, low cloud blotting them out, everyone made Applecross safely and Ireen lead the procession along the narrow passing places roads by pointing and gesticulating at the oncoming motorists to keep over and let the bikes pass. Gerard had not seen anything like it before and was crying with laughter. They stopped at the all you can eat pub again for afternoon tea and arrived back full and safely at the hotel, not too wet as the forecast was slightly wrong.
That night we were joined by Cliff and wife Sue for dinner. Cliff must have put in some miles that day to go home and back to Elgin. Sue does not ride the bike but loves horse-riding. We said good bye to Siobhan, who was leaving early to fly back to Ireland and we gave Gerard his birthday card (his birthday was on Saturday) but we were not sure we would see him in the morning as he was off early as well to catch the ferry. I hope that Gerard and Siobhan and Cliff all enjoyed their first trip out with us and that we see them again very soon.
Time to head off back to Bo’ness again the weather was not too bad and Norman had planned a good route back, a lot of it was on the A9 with its traffic cameras but this is the only way to get about in Scotland but the views were lovely. We stopped to take pictures of the Forth Bridges and marvelled at the new one in the process of being erected.
Once back at the hotel, in Bo ness we settled in and then had dinner joined by Ireen and Norman, so we could say our goodbyes.
Once again thanks to Norman and Ireen for planning a fabulous trip, it is not easy and takes a long time to organise, especially when you are not always able to check out the stops beforehand. It was great and for once the Scottish weather was kind to us lots of dry roads and a few showers .
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