22nd – 29th June 2013.
One Vision, 11 Bikers, 1585 Miles
The Original Highland Riders Were
Shuggie Hoskins, Paul Woodcock, Jim Wood,
Jack Gooding, Chris Flynn, Steve Ball,
Graham Shakespeare, Davie McCartney,
Andrew Purves, Ian Dinnel, Kevin Mackie.
Late November; I had a vision -
“To Tour Scotland on My Motorbike”.
On Saturday the 22nd June
7 Bikers met at Stafford “Highland Rider” was finally happening. We headed north to junction 44 & met another 4 Riders. 11 Bikers had made it to what was going to be a memorable adventure.
Once handshakes and introductions were done we headed off towards Edinburgh on the A7, stopping at Selkirk where met Simon Shiel, who runs the Heatherlie Hotel had very kindly put on refreshments. It was a welcome stop By the way, Simon also offers any Biker a 50% discount to stay at the Heatherlie Hotel - Tel: 0175021200.
We then headed to Dreghorn in Edinburgh, which is home of 1 Scots, obtained our bed spaces and headed to the Mess for some more refreshments and a meeting with an old friend of mine Brigadier (Retd) Allan Alstead CBE DL, who has taken an avid interest in the tour since the organising phase began.
All riders wore their Highland Rider Polo Shirts which we had specially made for the trip. “They look very smart indeed” - the Brigadier’s words not mine.
It was a relaxed & enjoyable atmosphere. The Brigadier stayed for an hour and after a group photo he departed giving the riders his best wishes for a safe and successful trip in the days ahead.
Sunday 23rd June
After an early rise, we noticed that Andrew had a flat rear tyre; we got a new valve put in, and headed over the Forth Road Bridge towards Perth taking the A93 up to Glenshee Ski Slope.
All riders doing very well in the tricky weather conditions, where we stopped and had lunch. The weather brightened up, we set off for Balmoral Castle. Kind permission was granted by Garry Marsden (Royal Estate Manager) to allow us access to the castle grounds with our bikes “which is unheard off”! We had a cracking photo in front of Her Majesty’s Scottish holiday home.
One could say that “The Highland Riders were buzzing louder than their engines”
Then it was on towards Fort George and is the home of 3 Scots.
We travelled over the Cairngorms and not surprisingly it rained. Fort George didn’t arrive quickly enough, and we were shown to the accommodation and drying rooms. We then settled down for the night.
Monday 24th June
At 0700hrs before breakfast we all went for a morning stroll around the Fort George battlements and watched the Dolphins playing in the Moray Firth. We then headed off to Culloden Battlefield, where we stopped for a visit.
Then headed on the A9 towards Wick stopping occasionally to take in the lovely views and have a chat about what we had seen and done so far.
We arrived in Wick TA Hall home of 7 Scots where we were met, given the grand tour of our accommodation and obtained a detailed brief of the surrounding area. After all this we called it a day and went for some food and a beer.
Tuesday 25th June
Bikes packed up we headed off at 0900hrs and visited John O’Groats, which isn’t actually the most northerly point of mainland UK. Dunnet Head is; so we went there as well.
The weather was superb and the sights were breathtaking! Back on the bikes we headed off towards Tongue on the north road. The views were truly spectacular; we had many stops to take in the sights and sounds, there isn’t a lot of traffic or dwellings in this area.
After a fuel stop we went on through the Grampian Mountains down towards Ullapool. The weather stayed dry, visibility was great and 8 hours after leaving Wick we arrived at the Youth Hostel to settle in for the night. The common room was taken over by the Highland Riders, with fish & chips and a few tins being bought.
The banter & laughter started and didn’t stop till around 2300hrs, it was getting late and we had a long day ahead tomorrow, so we called it a night.
Wednesday 26th June
Leaving early, we set off towards Garloch on our way to Fort William. These roads were perfect for biking, very open with little traffic, again there was fantastic scenery the bikes sounded awesome and the miles were flying past.
Before we knew it we pulled up at Garloch and had some long awaited breakfast. Then all too quickly we headed off to the Isle of Skye.
On our way we pulled up at some road works. The camber of the road was left to right, so left foot down and lean the bike into it.
Chris decided to use his right foot and his bike tipped over, the next thing he was rolling down the hill as if he had just been shot.
There was no damage to him or the bike so we laughed and Chris became the focal point of our jokes for the rest of the day. You can’t beat good biker banter.
We continued to the Isle of Skye, then onwards to Fort William and a visit to the Ben Nevis Whiskey Distillery courtesy of the Distillery Manager Colin Ross. After the lads enjoyed an education and a very small dram we left heading to our accommodation, The Farr Cottage, Tel: 01397 777315. We were met by Cliff and Kirsty who gave us the run down on the place.
It was the same routine, sort out our admin, get some food and then have a night at the onsite bar which became another night of laughter and jokes poked at Chris for dropping his bike.
We had a lovely night at this accommodation very clean, cheap with plenty of facilities. It is well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area.
Thursday 27th June
Later start due to bad weather, we got breakfast and headed off to Glencoe. Not much scenery to take in due to the low cloud base. We continued to Callendar and Doune and visited Sir David Stirling’s Memorial (The founder of the SAS).
This is a very quiet and sombre place in a remote area, which like the SAS, is mysterious and silent.
After this we headed to the Sir William Wallace Monument just outside Stirling, and were given free passes. At the top with bikers out of breath, we then had to climb up the inside of the monument to see the outstanding 360 degree panoramic view of Stirling and Bannockburn.
With this done we headed to Stirling Castle and then onto Edinburgh via the Kincardine Bridge into Fife and back over the Forth Road Bridge.
Our destination was Glencorse Penicuik, the home of 2 Scots. We were shown to our accommodation, got showered, changed and headed for some long awaited dinner and a beer.
Friday 28th June
Early breakfast brought our departure time forward and we headed down the A70 towards Ayr. It was clear to see the difference in the countryside. Gone were the mountains and spectacular scenery, it was rolling countryside and roads which had a lot more traffic. We travelled, to The Robert Burns’ Museum gaining free entry and the lads enjoyed an in-depth education about “The Bard”. We visited his cottage which is still kitted out with old fashioned artefacts’.
As we headed back to the main museum we were greeted by the sound of bagpipes. It was a wedding party arriving at the Brig O’ Doon Church, we all stopped to listen and watch the piper doing his bit which entertained us all for ten minutes.
Then it was a thank you to the staff for the visit, before weheaded for Dumfries down the A76. After an hour and a bit we arrived at Dumfries TA Hall, home of 6 Scots and got sorted out into our room for the night.
After a shower, it was on with our Highland Rider Polo Shirts and off down town for a dinner and a beer or two in the 'Hole in The Wa' pub which is said was well frequented by Robert Burns himself.
“Whas’ Like Us?” Naebody at Awe!
Saturday 29th June
Morale didn’t quite seem the same this morning, all riders seemed very quiet and a bit nostalgic - oh yes, we were heading home!
The tour was nearly over, albeit we were starting our journey southwards. We had about 220 miles of motorway riding to cover; we left Dumfries and headed along the A75 onto the M74, then the M6 southbound stopping at Junction 40 Penrith for breakfast and fuel. We caught up with Chris Flynn’s son, Shayle and A friend of mine Chris Hallam, who had both arranged to meet us to hear about our adventure.
After breakfast and a long string of stories with farewells said, we got on our way and started the long road home. Our adventure was over; the Riders all had a fantastic tour and in true military style bonded with each other and worked as a team throughout our memorable adventure.
It might be over, but the memories will live with us all forever, as will the new bonds of friendship that have been made by us all.
We will always be the “Highland Riders”. A very special word of thanks to all the units which I have mentioned, for their support, hospitality and friendship.
Highland Rider Motorbike Tours.