Scotland 2009

1,650 miles / 2,655 Km by Motorbike

During the summer of 2009 I took a trip on my bike around Scotland, the first two days I was joined by my Dad and his friend. We set off from Sheffield up the A1 to Edinburgh via Berwick, staying our first night in a B&B just outside the city. The next morning we took the M9 and A84/5 through to Oban, then headed back south past Loch Lomond to spend the second night in Largs.

On the third day I headed north again, meeting a friend on the M80, joining the A9, stopping in Perth for lunch. We followed the A9 through the highlands to Inverness and spent the night camping in Foyers on the side of Loch Ness. The great thing about Scotland is that you have the right to go wild camping.

In the morning we cooked breakfast and headed back along the edge of Loch Ness, calling in at the Dores Inn before continuing up to Inverness. Rejoined the A9 and continued heading north. We followed the A9 north up the coast, taking the A99 up to John O’ Groats. While trying to find a place to camp we wound up at Dunnet Point, the most northerly point on the UK mainland. Pitching our tents beside the lighthouse by the cliff edge.

Heading west along the northern coast of Scotland, we followed the A836. The views were amazing, hills, mountains and moorland punctuated by picturesque bays, beaches and lochs. When we arrived in Tongue we stopped to stretch our legs and enjoy the view. The road winds down to the Kyle of Tongue, and then crosses the bay.

We stopped again a few miles down the road in Heilam to put on waterproof clothing, when the weather changed briefly, when we noticed this cottage on a little island on Loch Eriboll. Our next stop was for a toilet break, we spotted a sign for the toilets and pulled into the car park. There were a few tourists around so we decided to look around. It was at this point that we stumbled upon Smoo Cave and went to explore. Back on the road we headed south through Unapool. There are lots of stopping places in the highlands. Most of them are located in great spots for taking pictures. It can be easy to forget how rugged the landscape is because you are always on the road. But when you look down across a valley it shows you how tiny the strip of tarmac is through the beautiful highland landscapes. We arrived in Ullapool and set up camp on a ledge with a view across Loch Broom. Rising early we headed to Drumnadrochit beside Loch Ness, then down to Fort William.

When we arrived in Fort William it was mid-afternoon. We headed straight to Ben Nevis and set off towards the top. As we reached the shoulders of the mountain the views across Glen Nevis became more breathtaking. The track winds gently up the slopes but the local climbers take short-cuts, cutting across the older paths which are shorter but steeper and the walkways are more worn.

As we approached the summit a mist blew in, which just served to add to the atmosphere while wandering through the ruined buildings. Even though the it was a beautifully warm summers day in the glen, there were huge piles of snow as we got closer to the summit. We reached the summit. At a height of 1344 meters Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the UK. As we had set off a little late in the afternoon, the light was starting to fail. Lingering only briefly to take some photographs, we started back down into the glen and set up camp before night fall.

In the morning we headed along the banks of Loch Linnhe to Lochaline. Again this area was amazingly beautiful. Small cottages and houses along the edge of the loch, a really great stretch of road. When we got to the ferry port we got the ferry to the Isle of Mull. We stayed a night in a Youth Hostel in Tobermory. While there we met an interesting old man who had retired and now spent his time travelling around Scotland. He told us that there are some great hostels that are part of YHA called rustic hostels out in the middle of nowhere for hikers. He had been to some amazing places. We also went to a great bar on the sea front for surf and turf and a few well earned pints of ale to recharge after the previous days climb. We spent the whole of the next day driving all round the island. Following the road down the east coast and round to Iona then back up the west coast. We took some time to wander through Tobermory, home of the kids tv show Balamory as well as whisky distilleries and a good selection of bakeries, cafes and restaurants.

We drove to Calgary Bay to set up camp for our final night. This was a strange experience for me as I had spent summers here as a young child. This bay had barely changed at all. We picked up some firewood from the post office, as it is prohibited for you to collect wood from the nearby woodland, and relaxed next to the camp fire for our last night of camping.

We awoke our final morning in Calgary Bay and packed up camp. Taking some time to walk along the beach and take some photographs before setting off back home to Sheffield. The final leg of the journey was the longest. We got the ferry back to Lochaline, drove through Fort William, down to Glasgow, across to Edinburgh then took the A68 and A1 back to Sheffield.

Other useful links:

Scotland Photo Gallery
Scotland Youth Hostels
Scotland Tourism

Tony Gahegan