Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Ireland-UK Trip: Scotland Day 5 - Riding in the Highlands

Today was day one of two days in which the plan was for me to go riding on a BMW F800R from, and for Martha to do some further touring on her own.

I went to catch the #3 Lothian Bus from the North Bridge, but picked the wrong one due to being rushed.  I quickly realized it was going in the wrong direction so I got off at the next stop and was directed by the driver to the right bus stop.  Doh.  Oh well, it cost me 1 pound 60 pence, that lesson but its all good.  It beat the expected 26 pounds it would have cost had I taken a taxi.

Less than 30 minutes later, I was in the town of Dalkeith, and after a few minutes walk in the nice soft sprinkling rain, arrived at the location of the rental company, which is also a BMW motorcycle dealership.

I was early but the garage door was open and Greg, the rental rep greeted me and got the process started to rent the F800R.  Paperwork was a snap, the instructions on the motorcyle and panniers was thorough and he even outlined a scenic route for me on a provided map.  I didn't get a GPS unit because they didn't have a mount that worked for the motorcycle I'd rented.

Still, Greg gave me pretty clear directions and I only got turned around a couple of times on the way to tonight's destination of Fort William, on the eastern shore of Lock Eil, which puts me in striking distance of tomorrow's riding.

Getting away from Edinburgh and the congestion between it and Glasgow was not a hard task, just a bit unnerving as I was at the same time, learning a new motorcycle, trying to navigate unfamiliar roads and of course driving on the "wrong" side of the road.  This is where the time with the sidecar rig in Ireland paid off and I remained safe and sound.

The route was basically the Edinburgh Bypass Highway A720 to the Forth Bridge, onto the M90 to junction 4.  From there, head to Crieff via A823, then to Tyndrum on the A85 road.  I skipped stopping there for lunch as it was really busy.  Next it was the A82 road to the Glen Coe National Park.
Before the Glencoe National Trust for Scotland

There was a section just before Glencoe where the winds really picked up, which made things a bit tense since I was riding on wet roads.  Still, it didn't last long and it served to wake me up via the extra adrenalin that got pumped into me!

Glencoe is where one enters the Scottish Highlands I believe.  The scenery became very beautiful, very fast and I found myself stopping every chance I got to take pictures.  Mind you, it had been pretty scenic before as well.

Along the side road that leads to the Glencoe Mountain Ski Resort

 Lovely Scottish mountains frame the highway

Just a mile or two down the road, beautifully green 
mountains caused me to stop again.

The rest of the ride was at lower elevations and the views of nearby hills and mountains were blocked by vegetation.

By 2:30 PM (about 5.5 hours of riding), I was in the outskirts of Fort William and with 65 more miles to go before Inverness, I decided to find a B&B in Fort William and call it an early riding day.  It's good that I did because it proved slight difficult to A. Find a room and B.  Having booked the room online, find the B&B using google maps directions on my helmet earphones.

The directions proved lacking.  Had to stop, look at the map to get an idea what googlemaps meant.  Of course, some of the road names were a bit confusing when pronounced by the phone.

Still, found the place and shed all my slightly wet riding gear.  The FroggTogg rain jacket and pants did their job, only my boots were soaked.  No big deal.

Got dinner via a short walk back into town along the shores of Lock Eil, dining at the Grog and Gruel Pub in the city center area.  

Some notes on riding a motorcycle in Scotland:

Speed limit signs are in MPH, as are distance signs.  Greg, from the rental office, made sure I was aware of the difference since in Ireland the speed limit and distance signs are in kilometers.  I guess the UK stuck with miles instead of kilometers.

The roads are very pretty good, though there were some bumpy patches out in the country away from the cities.  I've not run into really narrow country lanes like I did in Ireland but there's always tomorrow!

The F800R is a nice motorcycle.  Fast and torquey.  Its got all the nice farkle, heated grips, gear indicator, digital fuel gauge, ABS, mileage computer and who knows what else.  My only complaint is the high position of the rider pegs, though not really uncomfortable, I prefer my feet a bit lower like on my R80 Beemer.

Not much in terms of wind protection so I "enjoyed" the rain and cold wind, glad to have the froggtogg riding gear keeping me dry and mostly warm by blocking said winds.

Saw lots of other riders out riding in the wet, some waved, some didn't.  No cruiser riders though and the majority of the motorcycles I saw were GS Beemers or similar.  Everyone was fully ATGATT and wearing rain gear of course.  Something tells me Scottish riders get their money's worth out of their wet weather gear.


Gigi said...

Great photos, thanks for the post!

redlegsrides said...

Thanks for your comments Gigi.

da12ask said...

Love the pics and the sexy rental scoot. You should upgrade when you get back. ;-)

redlegsrides said...

This is just an overseas fling, Oscar....I'm quite happy with my rigs and my R80 back home.

RichardM said...

Beautiful photos. I love the mountains, clouds and the green. I think that riding in traffic would really bother me...

Unknown said...

"Not much in terms of wind protection so I 'enjoyed' the rain and cold wind..."

Dom, with weather like that, you're gonna return to Colorado with moss and shamrocks sprouting behind your ears--a real touch of the Irish, er, Scottish, er, Irottish, er, Scottrish... (sigh)

I give up.

redlegsrides said...

The highland's stark beauty is quite entrancing RichardM, the riding in traffic to get to it is the price one pays.

redlegsrides said...

Ry Austin, I think my riding gear will prevent such growths...I'm more concerned about forgetting which side of the road I'm supposed to be on.

Trobairitz said...

I am so glad you get to do some riding in the highlands.

I follow Mike's blog and the pictures from there are always stunning.
as are fj_Stuarts

Thank you for sharing more beautiful pictures.

Anonymous said...

Great images - we lived in Scotland for 2 years and enjoyed it. It's a beautiful country, even if the weather is depressing quite often. How does it feel riding without a sidecar?

SonjaM said...

Love the Highlands despite the weather. Great pics, Dom. I hope you enjoy your lil' Beemer adventure.

redlegsrides said...

Thanks for the blog links Trobairitz!

redlegsrides said...

Thanks moto ventures, took a while to "get into it" but quite fun when road was dry. Sure made the narrow country lanes seem wide enough!

redlegsrides said...

I did, SonjaM, thanks.