Day Seven – Homeward Bound

The last night and the run home…

We had booked a table in the hotel restaurant for our last meal so at 19:45 we stroll down. The waitress shows us to a table and says “do you mind dogs?” of course we don’t and so sit next to an older couple with an old Jack Russell at their feet called Jake. We both make a fuss of him. We have quite a wait for the waitress to return to take our drinks order, in fact Kate had to go and find her… not a great start. I order lemonade and water for the table, Kate orders cider. The drinks take a long time to arrive and eventually a young lad brings over my lemonade, Kates cider and a glass of water. We say we want water for the table and he brings over another glass of water… no, we want a jug we explain again… he brings a jug of ice water this time with another glass… Things are not getting any better. The original waitress comes over to take our food order.

For Kate the Mixed Grill.

For me the Vegetarian Bobotie with a side order of chips. Bobotie is the national dish of South Africa. The hotel owners are South African. Bobotie is a spiced beef dish with fruit and covered with egg, served with rice.

We both choose the Cauliflower Cheese soup as a starter – this is delicious and very creamy served with crusty bread.

The main meals take take a long while to arrive after the starters have been finished but when they do arrive they look pretty good. Jake looks up from under his table sensing Kate may have a few scraps from all of the meat on her plate. He will not be disappointed.

I’m not quite sure how to eat the Bobotie as it arrives on a wooden platter in two dishes. Babotie in one, rice in the other with a ramekin of mango chutney. I can’t tip them out onto the wooden platter so I end up taking half a fork of rice and half a fork of Babotie until there is room in one dish to mix them together. I enjoyed it, but wouldn’t rush to have it again. Oh, and we did have to remind them about the side order of chips…

We do decide to round the meal off with pudding. A Lemon Meringue for Kate, Cheese and biscuits for me.

After we’ve finished and pay we find that they have not charged us for the chips – we consider this a bonus after having to wait so long for our drinks and dishes to arrive. We both think that had this been our first visit to the Buccleuch Arms we would not have been that impressed.

Back in our room I compile last nights blog post – I hope you all enjoyed it – and Kate reads. We do retire to bed early as we are both quite tired today and have booked an early breakfast hoping to get packed and leave straight afterwards.

We sleep really well and get up just in time to shower, dress and head over to the breakfast room. The owners son is on duty for breakfast and normal service is resumed. He takes our breakfast orders and keeps us amused with his chat.

Plain porridge, coffee and fried eggs on toast for me. Full Scottish for Kate with plenty of toast on the side. The breakfast really did “hit the spot”.

Back to the room to finalise packing, plan the route home then load the bikes. Whilst I am loading up the bikes the owner comes over for a chat and asks which way we are heading. He advises a slightly different route which sounds great and avoids a great deal of motorway. We thank him for a wonderful stay saying we will be back sometime. He tells us just to book and he will then plan our route around Scotland for us as he knows the best biking roads so well. This hotel is the most motorbike friendly place we have ever stayed. In fact I think that they cater more for motorcyclists than regular guests.

The owner waves us out of their secure compound and we set off on the 230 miles home. The first part of the journey is on the B7076 which runs parallel to the A74(M) for about 30 miles and is virtually empty for the whole way down to Gretna Green.

We join the M6 here for about 30 miles before turning left onto the A66 at Penrith. The weather is not great again today. Rainy and cold, but the worst is the wind, it is incredibly gusty today and the bikes are pushed and pulled left and right. Which can be a little uncomfortable.

The M6 is busy, so is the A66 to Scotch Corner and we are fighting the strong gusts for the whole 100 miles. We take a quick stop at Scotch Corner for a drink and a light bite to eat before joining the A1(S). Just 130 miles to go now…

The run down the A1(S) is relatively uneventful apart from the ignorant and selfish centre lane hoggers crawling past the articulated lorries.

We eventually arrive back home and Conor makes us a cup of tea. The cats might be glad to see us back, but you can never tell with cats. I’m pleased to see them though…

So, the bikes are unpacked, the clothes are in the washing machine and we are sat back in our front room. Total mileage – 1202 miles…

We feel a little cheated by the Scottish weather having to cut our NC500 road trip short, but we have already agreed we want to go back and try again… And we now have advance knowledge of some great hotels and B&Bs.

My job for the next couple of days is to clean the bikes… they are filthy… Joy!






Day Six – Back in Moffat

It’s raining again…

We wake up in a most comfortable king size bed in the Croft Na Coille B&B after a good nights sleep. I can honestly say this has to be the nicest B&B I have ever stayed in. Eunice and Gordon are lovely hosts and very attentive and accommodating. Their lovely home has only recently opened for business as a B&B and I would not hesitate to book to stay there again. For our biker friends they have a secure area of hard standing available and provide amazing breakfasts…

Talking of breakfast, Eunice’s veggie breakfast is the best I have ever tasted with eggs provided by their three chickens. My breakfast included vegetarian Lorne sausage and vegetarian Haggis (Eunice was kind enough to let me have a pack to take home with me) which is most tasty, along with mushrooms, hash brown, grilled tomato, veggie bacon and a tatty scone. My fried breakfast was preceded by a large bowl of creamy porridge too…!

Kate said her meaty breakfast was delicious as well with bacon, eggs, sausage, mushrooms, hash brown, grilled tomato and a tatty scone too. Kate preceded her fry up with fresh fruit and homemade natural yogurt.

And, I can’t not mention the two gorgeous dogs Yogi and BooBoo who were sadly not present at breakfast… probably for the best! When I did see the pair of them later whilst loading the bike they were a lot calmer, though Yogi did “tell me off” when I stopped fussing him…

As we left Pitlochry it was drizzling but as we rode down the A9 it became progressively heavier – Joy! Not quite as bad as Friday but still made riding unpleasant. We only have about 100 miles to do to Moffat so decided to take a more scenic route. I tasked the SatNav with providing a route avoiding motorways and it sorted a great route on A and B roads.

We hadn’t planned any sightseeing stops today bar one as Kate just wants to head south and try and get away from the poor weather. So we head down the A9 to Gleneagles and onto the A91 -> A977 -> A876 and over the Clackmannanshire Bridge over the Firth of Forth and on towards Falkirk. As we ride down the A905 we can see The Kelpies to our right. Kate wanted to see these but didn’t realise just how big they were. We ignore the SatNav and follow signs to the Helix Park and Kelpies.

We arrive and the car park attendant charges us £1.00 per bike even though we will only use a single parking bay. We park up and walk to the huge sculptures

Check out image 6 above for scale with Kate standing underneath them…

We leave the Kelpies – this being our one and only touristy stop today – and the SatNav directs us up and down a tight B road and through the middle of a housing estate and town centre before we join the A801 and then onto the A706.

The A706 is a very weird road… not only does it run smack through the middle of a wind farm – we have never seen so many, so close to the road – but it undulates like a “roller coaster” and the side gusts are challenging to say the least “catching” my panniers and top box and pushing me sideways.

The rest of the journey is pretty uneventful we simply follow the SatNav along a series of A Roads until we pick up the A702 and B7076 which both run parallel to the A74(M). These lead us to the B719 – a stunning road into Moffat.

We arrive in Moffat safely despite the strong winds and heavy rain that has plagued us for most of the ride today and fill the bikes up before dumping the bikes in the secure parking at the Buccleuch Arms. We check in, book a table for tea and then unload the bikes before having a shower to freshen up, changing our clothes and walk through the town to find an open coffee shop.

Just 130 miles covered today, but we’re a step nearer home.

We have about 230 miles of major A Roads and Motorways to do tomorrow to get home, but at least the forecast is for dry weather – fingers crossed everyone.

Day Five – To Durness (Not!)

Damned rain!

We were supposed to be riding up the North West coast to Durness today. But we have decided that due to the deteriorating weather conditions the further north we go we are going to curtail our NC500 road trip.

This is very dissappointing as we were looking forward to The Kylescu Bridge, The Rock Stop, Durness, Smoo cave, Cocoa Mountain, Dunnets Head, John O’Groats, etc.

We checked the weather forecast for the next few days at various points where we were headed and there is a massive wet weather front coming in from the north east. See below, under the mass of blue is Northern Scotland.

So, we have brought forward our last nights stay in the Buccleuch Arms, and cancelled our nights in Durness, Wick and Drumnadrochit. Though we will most likely lose money on these bookings as it is such short notice but we really can’t get wet again like we did yesterday. Riding in heavy rain all day is not fun, and trying to get the kit dry again overnight in little B&Bs is not going to be at all easy.

I suppose it just means we will have to come back. We have learnt a lot on this trip and have found some great places to stay.

Today was our final morning with Babs and Roly as they had always planned to head back down south today. They have split their journey home into two days with an overnight in Newcastle. Something like 360 miles to Newcastle then 320 miles the following day back to Kent… Rather them than me…

We awoke about 07:00 o’clock after the best nights sleep of the trip so far. We had arranged to meet Babs and Roly for breakfast at 08:00. The girls went one way to the walkers kitchen for their Continental style breakfast, and me and Roly headed to the restaurant for our fried breakfast. Both breakfasts were excellent, we didn’t expect anything else from this fab hotel. After breakfast we checked on our gear in the drying room. It is all pretty much dry except for my boots and Kate’s gloves are still damp. I’ve never had any problems with my boots before but I suppose three days of constantly getting wet, and riding for 8 hours in heavy rain will take its toll on any suede boot. I can honestly say that I have never ridden for so long in such appalling conditions.

We return our dried gear to our room and start packing. I bring the bikes round from their secure undercover parking so we don’t have so far to walk with the bags.

Babs and Roly are ready to leave so we head out to wave them off and wish them a safe ride home. We return to our room to formulate a plan going forward, and where we go today. We do have to vacate the room at 10:00 so we complete the final packing and get our bike kit on. I can’t bear to put my bike trousers on just yet so wander around the car park in my “Dance Tights” (Men’s wicking running trousers that I wear as a base layer) and bike boots. It might have made somebody smile… Bike loaded we head to the hotel reception to ask if it is OK to plant ourselves in their bar area whilst we try and book the next two nights accommodation. The owner suggests we sit on the comfy leather sofas in the restaurant as they are about to vacuum the bar.

We plant ourselves on the sofas as he has suggested and I log in to the laptop and fire up The owner comes over to add his input and suggests Perth, Blair Atholl and Pitlochry as a good mid point between them and the Buccleuch Arms. He also provides us with two filter coffees “on the house”.

I really can’t recommend the Aultguish Inn highly enough, the owners and staff have gone above and beyond for us in every way. If you are in this area and looking for accommodation you could do far worse than booking in here.

We find a B&B that has a King Suite available tonight in Pitlochry so we book it via Kate phones the Buccleuch Arms and rearranges our booking bringing it forward. Sorted, we have two nights booked heading homeward. Now what shall we do today?

The forecast for today is dry, if a little overcast and grey so we decide to do some sightseeing on the way. As we are only 10 miles from Corrieshalloch Gorge we take a detour there first, even though the owner of the Aultguish Inn says it is not really worth it. It seems daft not to go as we are so close – even if it is in the opposite direction from where we need to go.

So we ride back along the A835. This road is very different in the dry and we soon cover the 10 miles. We pull into the car park and dump the bikes in front of a closed burger van and walk down the path to the suspension bridge across the gorge. Kate does not like the bridge because it moves, and there is a sign above allowing a maximum of six people on the bridge at any one time.

The noise and ferocity of the waterfall after all the rain we have had over the past few days is quite impressive. I use my action cam to take a quick video. After taking a few photos we drag ourselves back up the steep path back to the car park – wearing bike gear makes this a warm job… When we get back to the bikes a French camper van has parked across us making leaving a little awkward. We head back the way we came travelling the same 10 miles of road for the third time in two days and pass the Aultguish Inn heading towards Inverness. Kate’s bike needs petrol and we are hoping that there is a petrol station open in a village 25 miles down this road. There is, so we pull in. Did I mention that it is much cooler today? I don’t know whether its the cooler temperature and the sound of all of that rushing water at the gorge but both me and Kate need a “comfort break”, fortunately this little village petrol station has a disabled loo we can use.

So with the bikes refuelled Kate can relax and stop watching the “Range” figure reducing on her dash.

It’s 38 miles to our first stop of the day – The Loch Ness Visitor Centre in Drumnadrochit – and the roads are sublime. The A832 takes us through Scottish heathland and through villages such as Muir of Ord, Beauly and Kiltarlity then on to the equally stunning A833 which twists and falls (quite steeply) through woodland.

We arrive at the Loch Ness Visitor Centre and we are impressed with the amount of motorcycle parking bays they provide. We visit its cafe first for a light bite (No cake eaten here today Babs) before entering the exhibition. Well we would have done had it not been £8.45 each to enter… we leave and jump back on the bikes and head to our next stop.

Just 2 miles around the corner is Urquhart Castle. The car park sign says  “Full – No Queuing” I ignore it and ride in and park up, Kate parks in the same bay. This is an attraction we don’t mind paying for – but £12.00 each does sound a bit steep… even the lady selling the tickets thinks so too and says that they have put them up quite considerably this year. She does try to help by asking if we are members of English Heritage. Kate is a member through work but her card does not specifically say English Heritage so the ticket lady cannot provide us with a discount today. We purchase two tickets and enter. This castle and its position on Loch Ness is quite stunning. I didn’t realise that there had been a defence here since about 580 AD. Please see the gallery below of some of the pictures we took. Click on an image to see the larger version.

I have to climb to the top of the tallest tower of course, Kate does not…

It is starting to drizzle now so I suggest we make a move and head to Pitlochry to find our B&B for the night. We have just over 100 miles to cover. First riding along the banks of Loch Ness, then battling our way through Inverness to pick up the A9. The A9 is an uninspiring road which alternates between two way traffic and dual carriageway. It does wind its way through the Cairngorms which provides some decent scenery and you can see the impressive Ruthven Barracks from the dual carriageway.

It also passes through places we know like Tomatin, Aviemore, Kingussie, Blair Atholl and the Dalwhinnie Distillery. It also runs passed the amusingly named town of Killiecrankie…

We entered Pitlochry opposite the Blair Athol Distillery. Its car park did have a large number of bikes in it. Drinking and riding is “bad form” in my book so I hope they didn’t sample too many single malts…

We did initially struggle to locate our B&B for the night as I think I may have put the post code in the SatNav for another B&B we were considering, once I’d realised my mistake the SatNav delivered us to the Croft Na Coille B&B no problem. This B&B is in a gorgeous, old, large detached house. The owners also own two fabulous dogs. They are both Briards, an older male called Yogi and a three year old female called BooBoo. They are both very excitable and totally gorgeous. We are trying to work out how to fit them on the bikes…

Eunice, the B&B owner, kindly books us a table at a local restaurant called “Victoria’s” for tea. The food is very good, if more expensive than we have been used to on this trip.

We’ve covered 165 miles today which has brought us closer to home. I am disappointed that the Scottish weather has prevented us completing the North Coast 500 at this attempt, but I know we  have made the right decision. Today’s route map below, as ever clicking it will take you to Google Maps.

Tomorrow we head back to the Buccleuch Arms and from there the following day we head home bringing an end to this road trip…

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