Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Scotland 2014: Day 3, 4 and 5

We have been so busy and without Internet one night so time to update you on the last 3 days!

Scotland: Day 3, 31st August 2014
Edinburgh - Dundee (66 miles approx.)
Petrol Stops: 1
Time: 2 hours approx.

Leaving at 9.30am we took the slightly more scenic route to Dundee, riding over the famous Forth Road Bridge and leaving the motorway for the A92. We then came off at Redhouse Roundabout to follow the A915 to St. Andrews and then onto Dundee via the Tay Bridge.

The ride was fairly straightforward, little traffic and some lovely views of mountains on the left and every so often you can see the sea on the right. No challenging bends on this route, but we wanted to arrive in Dundee relatively early as we were spending time with family.

I had a few issues with the bluetooth connection between my sat nav and headset and as we passed over the Tay Bridge,looking at the old bridge on the left, we had to partly guess our way into the city. The connection came back however so I over took Emma and led the way. The view over the river tay from the top of their road is fantastic, complete with a park at the bottom.

My aunt must have heard the bikes as we pulled up as she came outside to meet us. Emma and I had a lovely day being shown views of the River Tay, the old bridge and a walk around Broughty Ferry. She pointed out where my Grandad and her were brought up, my dad's drinking spot (Cookies) and took us up to the top of Law Hill to show where they played as kids.  We also went round to see family and Emma volunteered my services to repair their laptop riddled with viruses.

Scotland: Day 4, 1st September 2014
Dundee - Brora (191 miles approx.)
Petrol Stops: 2
Time: 6 hours approx. (with stops)

Now I just need to make sure I don't get too muddled with my days as Day 4 and 5 have been long riding days so here we go...

This was the beginning of our scenic rides - steep hills, mountain views, lochs and rivers and so on. The main thing was getting into Cairngorms National Park which lies inland between Inverness and Dundee. Before this however we filled up at a Tesco Petrol station despite only doing around 50 miles since our last stop. Prices can be expensive in Scotland's national parks and remote areas and large supermarket chains tends to be pretty good so its probably worth bearing in mind.

The A93 runs almost through the centre of the park, through the town of Braemar. It's a lovely flowing road with fantastic views of the mountains. There are plenty of great bends but few that will actually catch you out which makes this a really enjoyable ride. 
From the A93 we took the B976 road that leads to the A939. I'd recommend both the A93 and A939 if you go through the park or looking to get to Inverness. You can following the A939 to the A95 or A96 and either will be a great ride. We stopped somewhere along the A939 I think for lunch after climbing a 20 degree hill!

Our next petrol stop was on the outskirts of Inverness at another Tesco. It was a good job as my bladder was about to burst and being in the national park (with very few trees...) I had to wait over a hundred miles before I could go! From here it was the A9 along the coast with views to the North Sea on the right. Weather was still pretty good, although it was getting colder the further we headed up.

We arrived in Brora (Emma's family) just before 4.30pm. They live in a great spot with views of mountains either side. Next on the to-do list was John O'Groats and the ride along the northern coast. But that was for the following day...

Loch Broom, Morefield, Ullapool

Scotland: Day 5, 2nd September 2014
Brora - Ullapool (via John O'Groats) (207 miles approx.)
Petrol Stops: 2
Time: 7.5 hours approx. (with stops)

I think this has to be my favourite day so far...

So our first mission of the day was getting to John O'Groats - the north-east peak of Scotland. Most bikers have done it and some have even rode the entire length of Lands End to John O'Groats in a day - not an easy task at 874 miles!

We were told that there was a Tesco with petrol station at Wick so we headed along the A9 north. The landscape was mainly open and although we had to overtake a few cars it wasn't too bad. Having arrived at the garage at around 11.40am we decided we would find some food at John O'Groats for lunch, which from here was only around 15 miles.

The A9 follows onto the A99 just before Wick and you follow this all the way into John O'Groats. There are two signposts here. The original one apparently had been erected by a photography company. The first sign post we saw however was the newer one and a couple with a dog took our picture near the newer sign. There is a notice by the fish bar stating that you must ask permission to take pictures by the original sign as the sign was erected for that purpose. Anything to make money I guess!

We stayed here for lunch where I had fish and chips and Emma a chip batty. We could see Orkney quite easily from where we were sitting as it was only 8 miles away by ferry. We where there for almost 2 hours but never saw a ferry coming or going. There are also little grey buildings dotted around the area that seem to be for people to stay in and take in the sea views.

Continuing on our journey we stopped at the Tesco in Thurso for a toilet break and then headed east to west along the north coast. It is after Thurso where the views get really exciting. The further west we headed the further into the mountains we got. The mountains in this region are really brown and the roads we particularly fun to ride.

Heading left onto the A836 was very cool. Although mostly a single track road with plenty of passing places the landscape was spectacular. We stopped quite a few times to take pictures. The weather was gorgeous, the loch's a dark clear blue and mountains displaying a mixture of greens and browns. I said to Emma as we stopped next to Loch Loyal that I'd love to live up here. I wanted to just stand for a while and take in all the views, but we still have a fair way to go to reach our overnight stop so back on the bikes we went.

Loch Loyal, A836
Unfortunately there were no more supermarket petrol garages so we had to fill up at a Gulf for our second stop. With about 40 miles to go we ended up stuck behind a coach all the way to Morefield. As these were single track roads we couldn't really overtake and it the driver didn't want to pull in so that we could. However, I decided not to let it bother me and just take in more of the view.

The B&B in Morefield has a lovely spot overlooking Loch Broom. We walked into Ullapool to find somewhere to eat and decided on a small bar/restaurant that overlooks the ferry port. As we were eating Emma spotted a dolphin and a seal at the surface of the water and tried to point them out to me. Unfortunately I missed the dolphin, but did spot the seal poking its head out of the water.

Routes are below. The A836 from Coldbackie to the A839 is particularly stunning.

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