A Travellerspoint blog

Our West Coast adventure begins

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IMG_0449.jpg Our hotel for the Saturday night after our trip to The Orkneys was a Scottish version of the Grand Hotel Budapest. It reminded us also of The Parco Del Largo where we stayed in Italy last year. This once grand, and still in very good nick hotel, faced west overlooking a small bay and beaches. We watched a farmer and his dog heard a flock of sheep that were in a pasture across the road. There was the makings of a housing estate there too but this had suffered from the GFC and plots had not sold yet. Funny to see sheep settling down for the night on bitumen.
180_IMG_0448.jpg Our formal dining room, tables set with silver cutlery, overlooked the inlet and we watched as the sun set over the water and the tide came rushing up the narrow neck. Fantastic sunset, yes you heard right SUN. The riding was truly amazing on the Orkney islands and the Scottish northern mainland. The 30 mile ride from the ferry to our night's stay was breathtaking and even though we were tired from our day's outing we sparked up and hooked into our final riding for the day. Long sweeping hills and straight stretches in a barren, wind swept landscape. We passed the local nuclear reactor as well as several small fishing and tourist towns.
Sunday morning was bright and shiny as we headed off to Poolewe after yet another delicious highland breakfast, mine being porridge with whiskey and honey. Our plan for the day was to ride the A838, A894, B869 over the Bealach nam Bo, A837, A835 and then finally A834, all a part of the NC 500 route that the Scottish are promoting as their answer to Route 66. We had looked at the map at dinner the previous evening and had seen a minor coastal road that looked interesting so when we came to the turn off we took a right and headed off on a single lane road that took us over, around and through some of the most striking landscape we had yet seen.
We rode through Drumbeg where we got fuel and had a chat to a guy from Poland, Stoer where I took a couple of scenic pics and the beach of Clashnessie where there were many sun loving locals enjoying the warmer sea provided courtesy of the Gulf Stream. The road was about 40 miles of winding roads that showcased the coastal region of the far north and was quite busy with tourist traffic doing exactly what we were doing. At one point the GPS told Jim to take a right and we road down this very narrow shitty road. I mean it! Cow, sheep, horse dung, you name it it was on the road. Yes, we were off course again but we soon realised and spent a little while going around in circles till we referenced the compass and headed south again. We took a break for lunch at a fishing village Lochinver and spoke to a guy and his pillion riding a BMW Tourer who said "found you!" He had been talking to another BMW rider who had told him about two Australians riding Indians and he had been on the lookout for us.
Back on the main drag we headed down to Poolewe with the weather changing about an hour from our destination for the night. At Ullapool we met up with Jim Lambert, a resident of Glasgow and an Indian enthusiast who had offered to come riding with us and show us around for a couple of days. We made a decision to ride fairly directly for the pub with the two Jims leading. Deep narrow glens and lochs were the order of the afternoon for scenery and again the British airforce flew overhead, giving Jim L a bit of a start as he had not ever had that experience before. Once again the hotel was brilliant and we enjoyed a good meal, company and restful night's sleep.

Posted by lyndel.hebden 23:46 Comments (0)

The far, far North and the Orkneys

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IMG_0343.jpg An early start Saturday morning as our ferry to Stromness, Orkney Islands departed at 8:45am and we wanted to be there in plenty of time to board and get a cappuccino. The included cooked breakfast at the hotel included haggis which was not to Jim's tastes but the eggs and bacon were and so with satisfied appetites we rode the short distance to the Scrabster wharf. The ferry crossing took 90 minutes and, according to the locals we spoke to, the morning of 1st August was the best they'd had all summer. Once disembarked we set off to ride the roads of The Orkneys. The purpose of our trip was so Jim could see Scapa Flow, the stretch of water between the islands where his father had been on convoy duty with the Australian navy in WWII. We rode down the west coast of Hoy, over The Churchill Barriers and around South Ronaldsay. We stopped at the Italian Chapel that had been built by the POWs who built the Barriers and then rode back to Kirkwall for lunch at St. Ola hotel.
After lunch we rode north along the East Coast of Harray and found the Ring of Brodgar (standing stones' circle dated around 2500 BC and the Standing Stones of Stenness 3100 BC. Jim happy, Lyndel happy, Frank happy too. It was only as we were riding back to catch the 4:45pm ferry that the weather changed with the rain and blustery winds starting just as we had parked the bikes in the queue for check in and were walking into the terminal to wait for loading time. The weather misbehaved for 30 minutes and then passed. The ferry ride back was clear and smooth and the ride of about 30 miles to The Bettyhill Hotel was a perfect end to another day in paradise.

Posted by lyndel.hebden 12:18 Archived in Scotland Comments (1)

The East Coast to the far North

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90_IMG_0363.jpg Thursday 30 July dawned rain free which augered well for a dry journey to Strathpeffer just a few miles north west of Inverness. We rode on some fabulous roads through the ski fields and mountains of the Cairngorms National Park. As we were meandering along a gently sweeping road between the steep mountains two Eurofighter jets buzzed us with the most incredible noise echoing all through the valley. A thrilling sight and I don't just mean the jets! Lunch was at Blairgowrie and afternoon tea at a pub in Tomintoul. With the weather holding we rode the last hour or so to our digs for the night in sunshine.
We arrived at The Strathpeffer Hotel at 17:30. The night's lodgings were akin to Fawlty Towers in the staffing... but a brilliant location and building. We had a good meal (highland chicken stuffed with haggis and creme brûlée), a few drinks and then bed.
The Murphy's had a second night booked so they could tour the local area. Jim, Frank and I had a trip planned to the far north of Scotland to visit the Orkney Islands, where Jim's father was a crew member on various Australian war ships on convoy duty in the North Sea during WWII, and then ride the North Coast 500 road along the west coast back to meet Conor and Kay in Fort William on the following Tuesday night.
The newly formed trio of riders set out under clear skies heading for Thurso, a comfortable 250kms along the East Coast road, visiting Dunrobin Castle (continuous family ownership since 16th century) and lunching at John O'Groats at the Seaview Hotel. Our ride then took us past Mey Castle where the royal standard was flying as Prince Charles was in residence. It is in this region that Prince Charles has an arm of his organic food enterprise and Jim partook in some of the foodstuffs from this region for lunch - Mey Selection steak well done with hand cut chips. Mey Selection means the beef has to be grown within a 100 mile radius of Mey. A quality piece of meat said Jim.
We continued our coastal ride with Frank and I deemed to have left the tour at Dunnett Head as we wanted to ride out to see the headland we had seen on the much studied map of Northern Scotland we were carrying. A great little road, a lighthouse and a walk to the summit. Time poor we took a couple of pics and continued onto Thurso where we caught up with Jim and booked into The Royal Hotel on the main drag. Thurso dates back to the time of The Picts (late Iron Age) and its Viking name means Thors river. The three of us wandered the town for about half an hour but as the weather really wasn't conducive to a summer evening's stroll so we stopped in at a local bar and had a light meal and a couple of pints of Kronenborg.

Posted by lyndel.hebden 12:15 Comments (0)

North to Scotland!

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90_IMG_0397.jpg Tuesday 28 July saw us leaving York for Leith, Edinburgh in light rain. We had put in an order for sunshine or at least just cloud cover but we had to put up with the ongoing weather pattern that hovered over our route to our next destination. Bikes loaded, we were on the road by 9:40 and out of the city environs after about 40 minutes. For the next leg of the journey we were accompanied in a Morgan by Claudia and Matthius, our German friends and fellow Indian riders. The ride from York to Edinburgh was about 350kms so we got on the road as early as we could... well it was still raining and the weather forecast was grim so we took our time over breakfast. With the GPS set to "small roads" route, which is for all intents and purposes scenic, we headed for John Wright's house in Cullercoats North Shields. Our aim was to be there about 1:30pm to have lunch.
We went via Ripon to locate the Ure Bank POW camp where Matthius's grandfather had been held during the latter stages of WWII. Unfortunately we did not locate the camp now the site of a caravan park. We rode through steady drizzle at about 55 mph arriving at John's at the time we had estimated. A walk to the local for lunch and the back on the road after Matthius and Jim had a fiddle with the tight throttle on my bike making acceleration so much easier.
At a town called Wooler just south of the Scottish border Jim and Karen (GPS) had a communication breakdown causing the group to head off up Brewers Lane and down a private road that was not designed for our bikes or the Morgan. Jim headed down the track and Kay and Frank followed. I had a feeling this was not going to end well so I stayed where I was, as did the Morgan. When I saw Kay had dropped her bike in the muddy ruts I knew the decision to stay put was pure genius! Frank helped Kay get the bike upright and then we helped her turn it around. Two local ladies came over the crest on a five mile walk and when I asked which way to Edinburgh they pointed back the way we had come! So Frank rode off down the track to locate Jim who by this time had toppled over a couple of times too. In fact the two ladies helped to lift the bike up as they ambled past on their walk. Eamon and Conor also helped get Jim's Chief up and he finally headed back to where the rest of us were waiting. He had burnt out the clutch so adjusted it, got it running and made the 120 kms into Edinburgh where it started slipping again in the traffic. The "short cut" had put us back about an hour so a quick call was put through to the hotel to explain we would not be there till about 8:30pm. This meant that the final leg of our journey was in colder conditions with several showers of rain chucked in for good measure. Suffice it to say we were in need of a hot shower and food when we got to our hotel. We parked, checked in, locked up the bikes and arranged to meet at a local hotel recommended by our hotel host Alan.
There is a licensing law in Scotland that says that under 18s are not allowed in hotels after 10pm, so as we did not get to the hotel till 9:45 this meant that the Murphys and Frank ate at a local pizza joint while Jim and I continued to stay at The Nobles.
Wednesday we put on our tourist hats and went into Edinburgh by bus and visited Edinburgh Castle. Jim got in contact with Alan Forbes who lives just out of Edinburgh and he went to his place, rummaged through his stuff, found a full set of NOS clutch plates and repaired his damaged Chief. "On the road again!" Dinner that night was at the local recommended hotel with Claudia and Matt who we had to say goodbye to at the end of a fun and early night. We were heading North the next morning and they were heading West.

Posted by lyndel.hebden 12:05 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Luvvly Jubbly. Heated riding gloves and off we go to York

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Yes, I heard it! The breakfast waitress asked us if we would like a full English breakfast and when we said yes please she replied "luvvly jubbly". Great start to another good day at the rally - the visit to the Morgan factory on Friday 26 July.
The ride left at 9:15 so we went out to start our bikes about 8:30am. Jim and I both had trouble starting our bikes so Conor helped us out. When he got back onto the Harley he is riding he started the bike as you do with the modern variety and then did an "air" gear shift to put it into gear. After starting the Indians he subconsciously went to put his "Indian" into gear!
We got to the site about 9am with Frank, Eamon, Conor and Kay, who will now be affectionately known as "The FECKers". With bikes assembled we set out under inclement skies to the factory in Malvern taking about an hour to ride there. By the time we did arrive the skies had opened and it was clear to me that my waterproof pants were not waterproof and I had a wet tail. At least my mind was taken off that uncomfortable feeling as we had a guided tour around the production plant.
Best paid car manufacturing workers we were told but the expectations are high for the quality of work they have to produce. A waiting list to get a 5 year apprenticeship but a job for life after that. We saw how the wooden frame was made from English ash (originally Belgium ash was used but it had to much shrapnel in it from the two world wars to be of any use), how the aluminium body was hand formed onto the frame, the range of leather colours you could choose from (150) and the colour of the upholstery stitching you could choose. We saw the Aero and classic models being built and the three wheelers too. I spoke to one of the 5th year apprentices who agreed it was a "mad"place to work. This apprentice, when the factory closed early as it does at 1pm on Fridays, drove off in a late model E series Mercedes coupe. Best paid workers as I said.
Being lunch time and wanting a good pub lunch we set off to The Kingshead at Upton on the river Severn with Claudia and Matthias from Germany. Yet another wet ride back to The Premier Inn for a rest, shower and a minicab ride to dinner and entertainment at the rally site. Dinner was Shepherds Pie and some sort of pudding hiding under custard and then the band started. Lady and the Sax- female singer and male sax/ singer/ harmonica/ great dancer/ red 1950's suit. They were swingin' it so I thought it was time to dance and grabbed Jim to start the dancing. He baulked when he saw it was only us getting up but saw Bof out of the corner of his eye so ran around and pushed him onto the dance floor with me. That started the whole place dancing and it was only because we had a return taxi booked at 11:45pm that we stopped. Great night. Everyone had loads of fun!
Saturday's ride out was under sunny skies to Bourton on the water, 21 miles away in a south easterly direction. We were each given a map that used tulip symbols. The map is divided into squares of sequential directions using special symbols for road intersections and features and the idea is you read each square with the symbol as you travel along the road. We Australians are not used to this type of navigation and it looks like the other riders, even the organisers, were not either as every group got lost. We knew there was something awry when we passed the lavender farm once, then twice then the third time in the opposite direction...We were in a group of about 80 bikes and the other groups, a total of over 250 Indians at the rally, were having the same trouble. In fact Kay and Conor were given a different map and landed up at a steam machine museum!
GPS enabled we made our way to the lunch stop. Sunny weather and a home made ice cream in a waffle cone made amends for the morning's mess up. We rode back to the rally site along tiny stone fence lined lanes passing small villages, a massive manor house and rolling meadows. The Slaughters (Lower Slaughter and Upper Slaughter) were the most fascinating villages and so was Winchcombe where our riding skills were tested as we has to do a tight blind right hand turn from a tiny steep lane. But once past that it was a sensational end to another great day riding our Indians. As we were leaving for York Sunday morning we only stayed at the rally site for dinner and quick drink and then, as the rockabilly band was firing up, we said goodbyes to our friends till we see them in Germany next year.
Sunday morning RAIN! Oh well, we had 250 miles to cover on his M5, M6 and M62 across The Moors to York via Hebden Bridge - a place I could call my own, literally!
We loaded up the bikes with all our luggage for the first time, Jim placing bags on the bikes I ways that would not tip us over. Then the 6 of us, The FECKers, Jim and I set off about 9ish.
90_30FDEA76E5B9D3589DFA1D10FF3DB905.jpg Riding at about 50 to 55mph we made good time and arrived, still in the rain, at Hebden Bridge, about 1ish and headed for a cosy place to eat. The White Lion, for traditional Sunday roast beef and Yorkshire pud and a drop of the local brew. I then walked the township, bought a tea towel and then we took some photos. On with the wet gear and off for the last 70 or so miles to Blossoms of York.
The location of the B&B in York is less then 5 minutes work from the old city walls and so as we were riding to the guest house we were able to put on a bit of a show for the tourists visiting York.
We parked the bikes with the assistance of one of the staff as the car park was full and we had to cram the five bikes to one space, unloaded and settled ourselves in to our rooms. BTW still raining...
Team meeting was convened in the bar about 7pm and consensus was reached to walk down the street to find a pub to eat at. Mission Possible! The Exhibition hotel provided good food, cold beer and conversation. The males in the team befriended a Swiss Canadian man and his wife and talked motorcycles etc. for a couple of hours.
Monday 27 July dawned and you guessed it... rain... but not to worry, on with the raincoat and off to visit the old city. A tour of York Minster for Kay and me to learn the difference between a church, a cathedral and a Minster, and a coffee and French pastry for the others. Claudia bought a gorgeous waxed cotton jacket and Jim and I bought a Cornish pasty for lunch.
30E2A58494D8DF88BA070AC894955909.jpg We then walked (still raining) to the National Railway Museum for a short visit and then back to our digs as by now we were absolutely sick and tired of the rain...
Presently we are sitting in the bar having "pre's" - pre going out drinks. The destination is somewhere inside the old city that serves good food and ale.
We set off tomorrow for Edinburgh. Let's hope there is sun forecast.

Posted by lyndel.hebden 00:06 Comments (0)

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