We thought it was time to visit my sister and family in Cardiff, South Wales. After landing in Heathrow, there’s an express train takes you to Paddington in London (6 minutes!) and then onto the train to Cardiff, this travels at speeds of up to 200km/h.
We spent five days with my sister’s family and my cousins and their families, everywhere we went they’d bought a carton of Fosters, which I was getting quite fond of!
But how can we get a ride in? Well an old mate of mine, Ralph, and his wife have been to Australia many times borrowing one of our bikes, so he offered to lend us one of his. A 1995 BMW R100RT with only 25,000 miles on it! He’d only done 2000 miles on it in the 12 years that he had owned the bike, preferring to ride one of his other bikes instead.
Welcome news was that he discovered just before we arrived that the panniers had inner bags, even though he’d had the bike for all that time, unusual to say the least ha ha.
Ralph also put a backrest on the top box, a USB plug on the dash for our GPS as well as charging the phone etc brilliant, thanks mate.
As we were riding around the UK at the peak holiday time we’d booked motorcycle friendly B&B’s and pubs for the trip online six months before. My idea was to put in the GPS where we were staying the following night and then put in plenty of way points of small villages and towns so that we would be riding all the “B” roads and keeping off main roads, cities and motorways, and unbelievably it worked.
We left Cardiff in fine weather escorted by Ralph on his 1000cc Kawasaki Versys to mid-Wales, we said our goodbyes and headed towards the coast and then through the southern part of Snowdon to Llangollen in North Wales where we spent the night, lovely place.
Being as nearly everywhere we stayed included was a cooked breakfast, we ate that, skipped lunch and then a pub meal at night, worked out well too.
Next day we rode into England to the Lake District, we had no choice but to take the motorway between Liverpool and Manchester as its a heavily populated area, but as soon as we could we were off the motorway and back on the quieter roads.
We had a great B&B with excellent hosts, even a home-made cake as you walked in the door, unfortunately there was not much left and I missed out, we were there for two nights and when we came back the next day there was a cake with Bob’s cake written on it - I was in love again.
Windemere was busy, but the place was very nice, unfortunately it rained the afternoon we were there as we’d planned to ride to a different part of the Lake District, you couldn’t see anything through the mist so we mooched around the town.
Next day, although it looked like it was going to rain all day, it
fined up pretty quick and we had a great ride through the Lake District
and crossing the Scottish border to Ayr on the west coast of Scotland.
The roads and scenery were great and the traffic had thinned out - even better. The following day we’d booked a pub on the end of a beach on the Kintyre Peninsular, I was looking forward to this as Paul McCartney’s “Mull O’ Kintyre” was filmed around here.
To get there we wanted to take the scenic coastal route but avoid Glasgow. We could do this by catching the ferry to Dunoon. Ferries in Scotland to the various islands were treated like catching a bus. This ferry went every 20 minutes there were two of them going back and forth. We only had to wait five minutes and we were on. Nine pound for both of us and no charge for the bike.
There were another five bikes on the ferry, the roads around here being like a magnet to the motorcycle fraternity. We had a fabulous ride passing plenty of Lochs before riding down the Kintyre Peninsular through picturesque fishing villages alongside the Atlantic Ocean.
The pub (the Argyle Hotel) was right on the beach and we could park our bike in the beer garden, lovely old pub with our room overlooking the sea. During the night it had rained consistently and was still raining as we were having breakfast and packing the bike.
The Isle of Skye was our next destination and it looked like this was going to be a long wet day! When we left it wasn’t too bad, but after an hour or two the rain was heavy and it stayed like that for the next 150 miles. It was a shame as it was a bit hard to see the scenery and the roads were great with plenty of bends, but the bike handled the wet conditions well.
There were quite a few other bikes on the road and they all looked as wet as us. We stopped for fuel and coffee at one stage and the water was running down inside my leathers, my wet weather pants had decided to become a sieve.
After we passed through Fort William the rain started to ease a little and we were able to see the Scottish scenery once more as we rode closer to our destination.
By the time we got to Kyleakin on the Isle of Skye and our place for two nights: “Saucy Mary’s Lodge” the weather had fined up, but we were soaked, and we weren’t too happy as we couldn’t get to our room till 4 pm, another two hours.
But when we did get to our room we were very pleased, they’d given us the “Disabled Room” which had the biggest bathroom since we’d left home, and it had a heater, so Chris turned it into a drying room for our riding gear.
Next day we rode to Portree, the main town on the island, very pretty and a lovely road, the rain threatened, but the sun came out instead.
The next day was a long ride along the NW500 which is the coastal road around the top of Scotland taking in John O’Groats. We thought we’d leave early and have breakfast on the way, this was a great move as the roads were deserted for the first couple of hours and even more of an advantage when they are narrow with passing lanes, but the scenery was fabulous riding inland for a change.
As we rode closer to the beautiful small town of Ullapool, the road was smooth, bend after bend, but for a lot of the time devoid of trees. We liked Ullapool, although not sure if it was the harbour or the fabulous breakfast we had. But anyway we were ready to ride through the sparsely populated area of northern mainland Scotland. I say mainland as the Orkney and Shetland Islands in particular are much further north.
The scenery was great, but for hours on end it was single lane roads with frequent passing bays, drivers were very courteous letting us through all the time. There were also a lot of bikers on the road, its obviously a popular destination. Before long we were at John O’ Groats with the Orkney Islands in the background and we could see them with the fine weather. After a cuppa we headed a short distance south to Wick our home for the night.
This B&B was originally the Harbourmasters house. We wandered around the town in the evening ending up at an Indian Restaurant for a change - nice too. I was looking at the bald back tyre in the morning and so we went to the local bike shop for a 120-90 18 tyre, but no luck.
We were riding down the coast past Inverness and I thought they would have one, still no luck either, everyone rides sports adventure bikes around here not older BMW’s.
I eventually managed to find a tyre place in Crieff which is west of Perth in Central Scotland, the weather looked good, and they would get a tyre in overnight and I would have it put on the next morning.
To get there we had a fabulous ride down the east coast of Scotland before turning inland after Inverness through the Cairngorms and Grampian Mountains.
These roads are brilliant. It was a perfect day's riding, good weather and bend after bend and bikes everywhere. I also noticed that all the riders waved, whatever they were riding, something which is dying out in WA.
There were signs pointing to Balmoral Castle on the way to our bed for the night in Blairgowrie where we had scones, jam and cream and tea of course laid out when we arrived. The hospitality everywhere was exceptional.
Every evening on the trip we would explore the town or village having a look around and figuring out the best place to eat, it was always interesting.
We were sitting a pub having a beer and these two blokes came over and asked if we were on the road today? One of them taken a photo of us and he recognised my beard, gave him our email address and he sent us the photo - amazing. They were on Triumphs.
In the morning it was time to head for Crieff (apparently where Ewan McGregor comes from), the back tyre by now had little tread and luckily it wasn’t raining so we could enjoy the windy, scenic road as we headed inland to the little Scottish town.
New tyre on and we had a long day in front of us crossing the border into England and staying at Whitby for three nights. To avoid Edinburgh we had no choice but to take the motorway for a short distance. An advantage of being on a bike was that if there were tolls for bridges or tunnels, bikes were free, excellent.
We then rode along the picturesque North Coast of England, taking some smaller roads again we ended up in a village with a huge castle, Bamburgh. Chris said we have to look at one castle, so trying to find a place to park we were told to ride through the witches hats right up to a side door of the castle and parked next to an Aprilia, free too.
If you were in a car it was expensive to park and you had a long walk, great isn’t it! I must admit the castle was interesting and we spent a fair bit of time there, so when we came out it was straight to Whitby, there’s only one road, but we managed to avoid Newcastle Upon Tyne and Middlesborough, arriving at our B&B for three nights in Whitby at 6.30pm.
The town was humming with a folk week and regatta. We found the best pubs to go to and one night there were 27 musicians jamming on violins, mandolins, Celtic drums, harps, everything you could think of, it was great. A guy was trying to teach Chris how to play the spoons, but he didn’t last long before he recognised a lost cause ha ha. There was also a bike display on the weekend which was interesting. We had a nice break in Whitby, but it was very busy.
We were looking forward to the next day as we were riding all the back roads to our next stop just west of Donnington Race Track. We took some great roads avoiding traffic and towns. It seems strange but as we were taking the quieter roads sometimes I was concerned about getting fuel, as like WA smaller fuel stations in the country are disappearing being taken over by the bigger companies in larger towns. We did go on reserve three times over the trip.
It was also difficult sometimes to find somewhere to have a coffee, we brought a thermos for our morning stop, but there were a lack of parks or even benches where we travelled.
Our room tonight was a converted stable at the back of an old pub in the country - lovely. Next day was through the picturesque Peak District before riding back into North Wales, we rode through Snowdonia to the west coast of Wales and a place called Barmouth. Our B&B was right on the beach, the rise and fall of the tide was 9.5 metres, it was interesting to watch.
Next day we met Ralph at Aberystwyth where we rode through the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons, fabulous roads and back to my sister’s place in Cardiff.
We had a great trip (just under 4000kms), and except for one day the weather was brilliant. The roads in Wales and Scotland are excellent for motorcycles, we reckon they were some of the be some of the best we’ve ridden. Other road users are very courteous and would let us through etc all the time, nobody tries to cut you off or tailgate you.
Also everywhere we stayed, even though we’d booked six months before,
they were expecting us.
The bike didn’t miss a beat, many thanks to Ralph.
Now it was back at my sister's for another round of socialising before
heading back to Australia.
I love going on these bike trips with Chris, she’s very easy going - where next darling?