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Kilts Castles and Clutch Cables Scotland 2014

After a long wet winter and trawling through the tour brochures , Carole said ' what about Scotland?’.
Mmmmm sounds a bit damp to me and what about the midges?

So off I went to the PC and after checking out a few Scottish web sites and Google maps, over the next few days, also getting some encouragement from a good friend Lindsay McBryne (who incidentally comes from Edinburgh ), I'm thinking not a bad idea.
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Yes loch Lomond looks good and we could get the ferry over to Skye, and the pass to Applecross looks great. Ok all we need is a start date. Everyone I spoke to said June is good, so I booked the first hotel on Sat. 31st May.

After checking the Tiger over we loaded the usual 100wt of gear on board and we were ready to go.

It was a 6am start leaving Tunbridge Wells, M25, M40 & M6 toll road, and the first night was booked in at Killingdon lake services. Not very glam, but the object being to just get the first 320 miles out of the way.
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The next leg was to Glasgow. It was a brilliant morning misty and sunny and being Sunday no traffic "perfect". The scenery was starting to change, so it felt like this was the real start to the tour.

We came of the M6 at Gretna Green and headed for Dumfries, a quick breakfast stop, then on to the west coast to Girvan(great views of Ailsa Craig) then on to Prestwick finally up to Glasgow

Only one night in Glasgow so we hopped on the bike had a quick wiz round the City and found a great Italian restaurant for dinner. There was plenty of time for Haggis at future stops.
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Day three, I was looking forward to this. Was about 220 miles to Skye, the ride took us up through Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park ,brilliant riding and very little traffic. Then, on to Fort William, via Loch Linnhe. The views of Ben Nevis were limited as it was foggy.. (or was it Scotch mist??).
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The last part of the day was to Arisaig then Malaig to catch the ferry over to Skye. Caledonian Macbrayne run most of the ferries in Scotland. The service is great and the guys In the hold couldn't have been more help full in securing the bikes properly. Its only about 35 minutes but the views are fantastic and the water crystal clear.

We departed the ferry at about 5pm and headed to Portree around 40 miles. At this point I started to have trouble getting some gears. This was the wrong time to have gearbox trouble, so after about twenty miles, we stopped for a quick check. I adjusted the clutch cable and found that it was frayed at the leaver and hanging on by a thread. "Bugger" it couldn't have been at a worse spot.
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The road was quite fast and hardly any junctions so I decided to head for the hotel. This was a good move once in top gear it stayed there for miles. When we arrived at the hotel I had a quick chat with Ewan the owner, and in a strong Scottish accent he said, "you'll not be getting any bike spares here the nearest bike shop is in Inverness about 130 miles away".

Ok so It looks like we could be here for a while!!! So off we went to the pub for dinner. The next morning I was awake around 6am wondering what the next plan was. Off I went checking out the dustbins round the back of the shops seeing what I could scavenge to repair the bike.
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I came across a bicycle shop, no old bikes round the back. So I went back at opening time to see what I could find. As luck would have it he had a 2m cable, all be it thinner but the fitting on one end was almost the same as the Tiger. I fitted it on and threaded it down to the engine leaver. I had a nose round Ewan's garage and found a 13 amp plug, removed the earth pin cut it in half and bingo a solder less nipple. It all fitted like a dream, and we only lost about two hours. (Thanks to Ewan Mc Donald of Portree Skye).
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The next leg was to Inverness via the mountain passes to Applecross. This was a spectacular ride through Kishorn up over the pass, which is only passable in the summer, to Applecross. Heavenly views & terrific bends. Back out of Applecross, around the peninsular coast road, past Loch Torridon back to the A82. Then, alongside Loch Ness, around a 24 mile ride. Just us on the road with the odd camper van, the view of the loch is stunning. The Clansman Hotel at Brackla is situated on the banks of the Loch it couldn't have been a better stopover.
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The next day we headed for Inverness then up the A9 to John O' Groats around a 100 mile ride up the east coast. Then along the Cromarty firth up to Invergordon, (where the best smelling whisky distillery was on the trip). By this time it had started to rain so it was a wet 40 miles to the top, was it worth it? mmmm well it had to be done. 3 cafes and a souvenir shop and lots of wet tourists, including us.

We sat in the cafe dripping in to our tea, still laughing renaming it John O' Grots!!! After about 40 minutes riding back through Wick the sun came out and we were dry in about half an hour.
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The next day was to Edinburgh a great ride along the Caledonian Canal, down through the Cairngorms national park, Perth, Dundee over the Tay Bridge then down across the Forth Bridge, into Edinburgh around 235 miles. Then off for a hearty meal and some local beer in one of the pubs in Rose Street.

It's Friday morning and brilliant sunshine, off we went to Edinburgh for the day. Sixty quid gets two of you, all day on the open top bus and entry to the castle. Well worth it. The guys on the buses are like the ones in New York, full of facts wit and enthusiasm for their city.
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I can't say I blame them. Edinburgh is a fabulous city, surrounded by extinct volcanoes split in two new and old towns, and the castle, dominating the whole skyline. Well worth a visit. But time to head out of Scotland. We were amazed by our trip. Scotland was beautiful, full of wonderful colours &smells. Highlands and lowlands that reopened our eyes to how much beauty we have on our doorstep. The isolation at times reminded us that only 5 million people live in Scotland and 65m down here. Towns we had heard of with big names, turned out to be no more than large villages to us. So many historic towns, beautiful castles and abbeys. A reminder that they did not suffer from Henry the 8th’s wrath and bombing in the war. The people were lovely, friendly and helpful. They certainly are a proud race the Scots and they have every right to be so.
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Day 8 we head for the delights of not so sunny Scarborough. Its about a 230 mile ride over the Northumberland national park, through the north Yorkshire moors national park, to Whitby for lunch, then in to Scarborough. (Scarborough is Scarborough its Blackpool on the east coast need I say more).
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And what better to finish off the day with fish and chips and a beer on the beach. Early start today, Sunday morning back to Tunbridge Wells, down the coast and over the Humber Bridge. Through Lincoln then we hit the A1, M11 across the Dartford crossing and home.

All done in just under 2000 miles. All in all a great trip and not a red squirrel harmed on the whole tour.

P.S. The next tour is South Africa down through the free State, Swaziland and the Kruga national Park watch this space.

Mark Stone.
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