Wales a country of Whisky, Wine, Wonderful Roads & Scenery

When you plan a tour 15 months in advance and you’ve had a long winter without much in the way of motorcycle touring all you can hope for is that your first tour of the 2019 season is blessed with decent weather….. and we most definitely were with blue skies and no rain for 4 fantastic days of touring through Mid Wales, the Snowdonia National Park and the Welsh borders.

Everywhere looks better when the sun shines we know that, but with the clear skies the scenery and every changing landscapes we experienced on this particular tour were outstanding.  We took our group to a vineyard on the english / welsh border in the vale of Kerry – KerryVale Vineyard always give us a terrific welcome, the vines were low on this visit but will be in full “bloom” ready for harvest when we next visit in September, it surprised a lot of our group that wine could be grown in this area but the romans started it at Wroxeter many moons ago!  It sounds like we were on some sort of boozy tour given that the following day we visited Penderyn Whisky and had organised for our group to have a full tour of the distillery.  It was extremely informative and given that we were riding bikes, they very kindly gave everyone a taster bottle to have in the hotel later that evening (it went down well that’s for sure!!).

With the weather being so good we saw more motorbikes out and about than we have for a number of weeks, the good roads in Wales help bring riders into the country, supporting all the local cafes because of course there is nothing better during a ride-out than a brew and a piece of cake 🙂  and if you want to check out the welsh fruit cake “Bara Brith” we can recommend the one at Cafe Cletwr – a superb community run cafe / shop and meeting centre.

Our routes over the tour took us across the Berwyn Mountains, along the coast road towards Aberdovey, we passed several lakes and had a photo stop at Clywedog Reservoir which was sparkling in the sunlight for us.  Rode over the Brecon Beacons on some very empty roads as can be seen here – mind you that’s because all of the cars were crammed into one area at the foot of Pen-y-Fan where you could see hundreds of walkers making their way up to the summit – a beautiful day for it too 🙂

We visit Wales again later this year on our Lakes & Mountains of Wales tour in September, we’ll be riding through similar areas but will be further into the Snowdonia National park on that one and we have fingers crossed that the weather will be just as good on that tour too 🙂

 

A very dry Scottish Borders in May

When we plan a tour it is usually well in advance and obviously we have no control over the weather and can only hope for dry days with sunshine being an added bonus.  However, no one could have predicted the near perfect riding conditions we encountered last weekend on our tour of The Scottish Borders as can be seen from this photo of us riding away from the Talla Reservoir.

Temperatures were in the high teens to low 20’s for riding resulting in a lot of ice cream being purchased and eaten (purely to help cool everyone down of course!) We rode through Yorkshire, Cumbria and Northumberland on our way to the Borders on quiet back roads which rewarded us with some spectacular views over the moorlands and beyond.  It was a shame to ride up Hartside though and see the cafe in ruins after it sadly caught fire over the winter, there were still several motorbikes parked outside using the mobile cafe which was on site and we hope the main cafe will re-open one of these days soon.

During our stay in The Borders we visited a lot of coffee shops!  Several lochs, enjoyed the grippy asphalt which Scottish roads are known for, soaked up some stunning views, crossed the border into England on one of the ride-outs to enjoy the wide open spaces of the Northumberland National Park before returning to Scotland via Carter Bar and had a lot of laughs along the way.  Around a third of the tour group were new to us but by the end of  day one everyone had gelled and as we often say “2 ingredients needed to make a great tour are the weather and the people” – we were fortunate to have both on this.

Due to some excellent marketing the NorthCoast500 (NC500) is now on many a motorcyclists “must ride” list and whilst we are in full agreement with that, it has become difficult for a larger group to tour the coastal road mainly due to the lack of accommodation.  We have run tours in the past in The Cairngorms and also Argyll & Bute and plan to return to both of these areas at some point in the future.  The Highlands is also on our list but if you are short on time and would like to experience some of the open roads of Scotland why not visit The Borders?  Dumfries & Galloway is on your doorstep with the Galloway Forest to enjoy, the Northumberland National Park and Kielder Forest and Reservoir are easily do-able on a days ride-out or stay within the confines of the Borders themselves and you will not be disappointed.  The variety in roads and scenery is such that you need to take time and stop for photos, enjoy coffee and cakes or scones at the welcoming cafes and even if you are not blessed with as good a weather window as we had we are more than certain that you will return to the area more than once – we have and plan to run another tour here in the future 🙂

 

 

2019 Tours Update

With two of our 2018 tours completed over recent days we are already being asked what our plans are for 2019.  We already have a comprehensive schedule planned and will be updating our website over the coming weeks with more information.  If you would like any details of the tours for next year and would like to register your expression of interest please contact us at info@dragonmototours.co.uk, call us on 07816 396614 or look out for the website updates on our tours page.

There will be two tours in Wales in 2019, one in April and the other in September.  Staying in the UK we shall be running our Devon tour in May which proved very popular when we last visited this county in 2017.

A touring season would not be complete without a sail across the Irish Sea and in late May 2019 we will be doing a two centre tour of the West Coast of Ireland staying in the counties of Donegal and Mayo.

Eight of our tours will be in mainland Europe – 3 in Spain,

2 in France, 2 in Germany and 1 in the Italian Dolomites.

Our clients enjoyed our Spain and Millau tour in 2017 so much that we are repeating it next year, albeit in reverse!!!  We’ll start in France and ride south with 3 days close to the Bridge and The Tarn Gorge before crossing the Pyrenees into Spain for a few days before a ferry sailing back to the UK.  Our other Spanish tours will include a 4 night stay on the Mediterranean coast and our ever popular Flavour of Spain will run in October 2019 – although this one will have a slightly “different flavour” to the previous three 🙂

Not everyone has the luxury of a 10 to 12 day tour and with this in mind we have 3 shorter European tours scheduled, the Saarland region of Germany in early May, the Black Forest in July and the Ardennes region of France and Belgium in late September.

 

Off-Road Riding in Wales

As in previous years we will once again this year be combining on road touring through Mid and North Wales with a day off-road riding with The Mick Extance Experience team.  We have two tours this years one at the end of April and the other in early October and there is still space on both of these if you would like to join us.

The tour in early Spring will give you a good start to the touring season as it is a short tour over three days, the first riding through the heart of Mid Wales over the Dylfie Gorge which gives you the first glimpses of the Snowdonia range which you will ride through on the third and final day of the tour.

We have had clients join us on these tours with no experience at all of off-road riding whilst others range from having dabbled in the past to those who either own off-road bikes themselves or who have undertaken other courses.  It’s kind of a “one type fits all” experience.  Mick and his team not only have a wealth of knowledge between them but a huge sense of fun as well which is a great environment for learning new skills.  The forest tracks they have on their doorstep not only provide you with terrific scenery to ride through but also a huge variety of terrain, with gravel tracks, forest roads, hills to climb and descend and as many muddy puddles as you want!!!

Transferring the skills you learn on the off-road day is a key element to the reason we put these tours together with Mick Extance.  This will be our 4th year and each group who join us go away with a huge sense of achievement and a lot to smile about 🙂

If you think this tour might be of interest please check out the details on our tours page or you can contact us direct at info@dragonmototours.co.uk

 

 

Happy Christmas from “The Dragons”

Without stating the obvious!!!  it’s Christmas next week but it seems like no time since we were preparing for the festivities in 2016….. This year has certainly flown by for us, we have had a terrific season of touring having covered nearly 24,000 miles in that time each one with a smile on our faces too 🙂  There are so many highlights to the 2017 season we are working on a YouTube video which we shall be putting up on our channel in the next few days reviewing the year, so look out for that one.

Even though the tours themselves are over we have not gone into hibernation as some may think!!!  The winter months are when we plan for the future and we are already well on the way with the route plans for the 2018 touring season and deciding on where to tour in 2019 with some research trips coming up in the first 3 months of next year.

Our 2018 tours are booking up quickly and if you are interested in any of them please get in touch so we can advise on availability.  We’ll be starting the season off in the Emerald Isle revisiting County Donegal.  When we were there in early May this year we had wall to wall sunshine so we are hoping the leprechauns are going to be on our side again in April 2018!

We have three tours next year in Spain, the first starts at the end of May when we are repeating our Northern Spain tour  which we first ran in June of this year – 8 riding days through a region of contrasts from lakes and mountains to gorges and valleys.  We then stay in Spain for a new tour  – the Spanish Spa and end our 2018 season as we did this year with our Flavour of Spain tour in October.

Also during 2018 we are touring through France, Wales, Scotland, Germany, Luxembourg and Austria so a lot to look forward to and for those of you who have already booked and for those considering joining us we are very much looking forward to riding with you.

We would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a very happy Christmas and a healthy and enjoyable 2018.  

 

 

Our 2017 Motorcycle Touring Season continues

We find ourselves in early July having completed eight of our tours for 2017 – quite where the time has gone who knows!!  Our most recent tour took us through the UK and Ireland with 11 days of terrific riding and a change of scenery at every turn.

Our tour was called  “WISE” which stands for Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England and was run in that order.  We started the tour in Wales at the tale end of the very hot spell which the UK was experiencing during the middle of June and the weather show cased the countryside superbly.  Day 1 we concentrated on the roads in Mid Wales, particular favourites of ours which we regularly ride on our On & Off-Road tours.

Lough Doo

Achill Island

Whilst the colder air and some rain came into the UK we managed to time things just right and crossed the sea to Ireland staying for one night on the east coast before riding across via the Marble Arch Caves in Northern Ireland which we visited and experienced the underground caverns complete with stalagmites and stalactites – we’d recommend a visit if you are ever passing that way.  For the following three nights we headed to the West Coast and took in many parts of the Wild Atlantic Way around Achill Island and the Connemara National Park – hidden treasures around every bend with variety from the crashing waves of the Atlantic on the rocks to calming loughs such as Lough Doo.  The people in Ireland are so very welcoming and never more so when you stop for a coffee – if we’d had a penny for every time we heard “will you be having a scone with that….” we’d be very rich indeed, their hospitality holds no bounds and incorporating that with great riding roads and terrific scenery it is no wonder we keep returning to the Emerald Isle (and on both visits this year we’ve had dry weather!!!!)

Scotland was our next port of call and after a promising calm sea crossing to Ayrshire the weather turned somewhat “dreich” as they say there.  Our group were determined not to let the weather beat us but it was something of a shame when we rode to the Mull of Galloway only to encounter so much fog you couldn’t even see the lighthouse 🙂  Still our second ride-out into the Trossachs National Park was significantly better and we enjoyed some of the best motorcycling roads in the area, stopping off at Loch Lomond Shores where we are always made to feel very welcome – they even let us park in the coach bays!!!  This area of Scotland is often referred to as “The Big Country” and with these high trees skirting the roads you can see why 🙂

Riding out of Scotland through the Borders into England for the last leg of our tour was a little challenging, the roads were some of the best transition day routes we run under normal weather conditions but we encountered driving rain and high winds across the open landscapes of the Dalveen Pass and through the border towns of Moffat and Selkirk passed St Marys Loch which was commented on as “exhilarating” by one client but maybe not one of those days you would ordinarily associate with riding a motorbike on!!!  Still the warm welcome at each of our cafes in Thornhill, St Marys Loch and Cornhill on Tweed more than made up the poor conditions – nothing like a toasted teacake and a brew to bring a smile back on any motorcyclists face……

The challenges on our England leg continued when a tree fell across our path on our ride-out through the Kielder Forest National Park – it was not even particularly windy that day but no doubt the lashing rain the day before had soaked the roots of the said pine tree – luckily the first van which turned up had a saw in the back (what are the chances of that!!!!) and the road was cleared in no time.  Fortunately for our last day of the tour riding through Northumberland, Durham, the North Pennines, Cumbria and Yorkshire the weather was once more back with its sun hat on and boosted by an excellent lemon drizzle cake at the White Monk tea rooms in Blanchland we all enjoyed the roads across the open moors.

Out of 11 days of riding we experienced 2 wet days and in anyone’s book for a motorcycle tour that’s pretty good going 🙂   We’ve got our Belgian Ardennes tour coming up in a few days followed by a 12 day tour of Spain and France where we take in the Millau Bridge.  As ever we are very much looking forward to all of our tours and will keep you updated with photos on our facebook page and gallery.  Enjoy your summer of riding – we know we will 🙂

 

Touring in Wales April 2017

We are well into our touring season now having completed the first two tours of 2017 and for both we had terrific weather to show off the stunning scenery and roads of Mid and North Wales.

Our first tour was in early April when we once again combined On and Off-Road riding in conjunction with Mick Extance and his team.  We rode through Mid Wales on day 1 stopping at the Elan Valley Visitor Centre for lunch and the waters of Caban Coch reservoir were flowing over the dam giving a great backdrop for lunch outside (who’d have thought we’d be eating al fresco this early in Spring!).  The route continued over the Dylife Gorge and into the borderlands of Mid and North Wales for two nights at The Lake Vyrnwy Hotel where we had a terrific sunset as we dined overlooking the lake.

Next day it was off-roading in the Tanat Valley.  This was our 7th tour working with Mick, both of us had seen the benefit riding off-road can have on your on-road skills, gravel on tarmac pales into insignificance after having a day on the forest roads 🙂

Snowdonia was our region to enjoy on the last day of this tour and once again the weather played its part with clear views of the mountains and very little traffic on the roads for the majority of the day.

We didn’t think the weather would hold for our second tour of Mid Wales which started a week later, but how wrong were we!!!  The ride over Dylife (in the opposite direction to that undertaken a few days earlier) was nothing less than sublime – the views back towards the mountains of Snowdon were stunning.

And it continued throughout the 4 days of the tour, when we rode through the Brecon Beacons National Park, stopped with Penderyn Whisky for an extremely interesting tour of the distillery – no sampling though!!!! we were all given minatures to sample at a later date 🙂

We rode through the Elan Valley from the direction of Aberystwyth, the 5 reservoirs were all glistening in the sunlight and the open moorlands gave for a great ride – check out our latest YouTube video and enjoy some of the road with us.

These tours were a fantastic way to not only start our season off but to showcase Wales.  We next head across the Irish Sea to the counties of Mayo and Donegal taking in some of the Wild Atlantic Way – lets hope the skies are as blue as they were in Wales!!!

Motorcycling in the East of England

In 2015 we announced that we would be running a motorcycle tour to the counties of Norfolk & Suffolk in the east of England with the most common comment being “we’ve never been there….”.  Within a few short weeks of that announcement the tour was full and carried a reserve list, such was the interest in riding in this part of the UK.  Whilst there may not be dramatic mountain scenery and passes to ride, there are several interconnecting B class roads which flow through both counties taking you passed windmills, through thatched cottage villages, open countryside and along the coast with so many interesting places to visit – we only scratched the surface over the 4 days of the tour.

We stayed close to the seaside resort of Cromer for 3 nights right at the most north east tip of Norfolk.  Riding through Thetford ForestOur location gave us lovely routes to ride through both the Thetford and Kings forests and we were only a short distance for a ride-out on the Sunday morning to the Norfolk Motorcycle Museum at North Walsham.  A real treasuretrove of a place to visit and the owners have a strong passion for motorbikes.  It does have a feel of stepping back in time, a lot of the bikes are fully restored whilst others are what you might call “work in progress”… Norfolk Motorcycle Museumand we would like to take this opportunity to thank George and Valerie for making us so welcome.

Whilst on the subject of warm welcomes…… we had these at all of our coffee and lunch stops in both Norfolk and Suffolk and had a particularly good welcome from the volunteers at 100th Bomb Groupthe 100th Bomb Group Memorial at Thorpe Abbotts.  They had even thought ahead and cordonned off some hard standing for us to park the motorbikes on as their usual carpark is gravel 🙂  The museum is housed in the original airfield control tower and is a moving testament to the Americans who came to Thorpe Abbotts in Norfolk to fight alongside the allies during World War Two, well worth a visit should you find yourself in this part of the world.

On the Saturday ride-out we had one eagle-eyed client who spotted that one of the tyres on another bike looked “soft” – as it turned out when we got to our lunch stop there was only 9 psi in the tyre which then drew us to find a rather large nail embedded in the rubber!  Geraint managed to plug the tyre and after a couple of phone calls we were able to source a new set of tyres for the bike from Orwell Motorcycles at Ipswich.  Thanks to everyone at Orwell who provided excellent customer service.  Geraint rode with Martin to Orwell’s to make sure that everything was ok on route there which meant that Jan had to take the lead on the afternoon leg back to the hotel!!!!!  It doesn’t happen very often and everyone played their part in the corner marking with a special thanks to Bill & Janet for stepping in and being the back marker for the afternoon 🙂

We had started this tour on Friday 13th which is considered an unlucky day in some parts of the world and although we had a random road closure to contend with on the morning leg, we felt it was a lucky day for another one of our clients who spotted a nail in their tyre at morning coffee only to find that it had gone into the sidewall only and they were able to continue on the tour, so tyres had been a bit of a theme over the weekend!

We will certainly consider returning to the east of England to run a motorcycle tour in the future so keep checking our website for future dates….

 

Our 2016 Motorcycle touring season begins…..

It is great to be out and about again on the bikes Elan Valley visitor centreand our 2016 touring season started this last weekend with our 3 day On & Off-Road Riding tour through Mid and North Wales, hard to believe that it has been 6 months since we last did this tour back in October 2015!

It was a chilly start to the tour riding to our meeting point on the outskirts of Shrewsbury with 1 degree showing on the temp gauge and frost on the parked cars we rode passed…… but by the time we came to setting off it had warmed up by 6 degrees and we took in the Shropshire Hills under blue skies.  The wind picked up as we climbed through the hills on the Welsh Border (probably why we passed a new site for wind turbines..!!), but everyone was still able to take in the stunning views as we made our way to lunch at The Elan Valley visitor centre pictured above.  The waters were coming over the dam which is quite a spectacle and does not happen all that often, the wind picked up at one point as can be seen from the spray rising at the top of the dam wall.  Day 1 then continued with a ride passed Clywedog Resevoir, quick fuel stop in the “ancient capital of Wales” before arriving at The Lake Vyrnwy hotel which was to be home for the next couple of days.

A great dinner was had by all in the Tavern Bistro that evening overlooking the lake with the same views being enjoyed over a hearty welsh breakfast on Monday morning before we rode a short distance to our venue for the day with The Mick Extance Experience.  glove wringing comp!!The weather “gods” seemed to know which day we were on as they provided a decent amount of rain for the morning session but then we were off-road riding so it just added to the number of and depth of the puddles to be negotiated…… or in one guy’s case – swum!!!  He came out laughing and after a bit of wringing of the gloves was raring to go for the next session.  The basis of these tours is to give riders more experience of off-road riding which then aids them on the road – we’ve all come across gravel at some point during our road riding but after a day with Mick and his team it gives you more confidence on how to deal with it.

The riders on the tour had a wide spectrum of experience from those who have ridden off-road before and even entered competitions, to those who had no experience at all and yet everyone rode around in the same group, 3 instructors were out with the group of 11 riders and Geraint played sweeper and photographer for the day, capturing some great pics of the laughs, the mud and the trails as can be seen if you visit our facebook page or the gallery on our website.  After a short ride back to the hotel a few took advantage of a sauna in the hotel spa before dinner which was followed by a talk from Mick about his 7 times Dakar experiences.

Tuesday we headed into the Snowdonia National Park for the last day of the tour – sublime conditions for riding with drying roads from the start, hardly any traffic, wide open roads and the splendour of the mountains to enjoy throughout the day. Riding through Snowdonia The only slight disappointment was that the peak of Snowdon was in cloud, but then as long as it was being kept on the mountain tops it meant that we had great conditions at road level to enjoy 🙂

We have 2 more of these tours this year to look forward to with details on our website – one in June and the last one of the year in early October – we are looking forward to them already!!

What would be your best motorcycle “Groundhog Day”?

It’s the 2nd February which is celebrated as “Groundhog Day” in some parts of the world, you may also be aware of the film made in 1993 starring Bill Murray who played a character who got caught in a timeloop and ended up reliving the same “groundhog” day over and over.  This was not a particularly good day for the character in the film but just imagine you could relive some of your best motorcycling days – what would they be and why? 🙂

We’re going into our fifth year of DragonMotoTours and as you can imagine have covered many thousands of miles in that time and enjoyed some of the best days of being on two wheels so it’s pretty difficult trying to say what our best “groundhog” day would be.  We’ve come up with a few below and it would be good if you could let us know what yours would be and why:-

  • In July 2012 we took a 17 day break to Colorado and Utah and would relive each day of that tour. Riding to Monument ValleyRiding to Monument Valley was something particularly special as you can see from the photo here.  We’d hired a couple of GS’ from Denver and covered over 4,000 miles each.  This was the first time for Jan riding in America and with the roads being open, flowing and traffic free it made for perfect  motorcycling with stunning views at practically every turn.  A day we would not mind being “time looped” back to……
  • Our first European tour as DragonMotoTours was through France and Italy and on the 6th September 2012 the weather conditions were perfect for riding, good temperatures even in the highest points of the Alps, blue skies and clear air.  Top of Col D'IseranWe set off from the Aosta Valley in Italy to ride over the Petit St Bernard pass, a technical climb to the cafes at the top was followed by a stunning ride down into the valley towards Val D’Isere, through the town famous as a ski resort but thankfully clear of snow!!  We then ascended the Col D’Iseran which is 2,770 metres at it’s peak and is one of the highest paved roads in the Western Alps.  We took this photo of our Versys from the top looking towards Lanslevillard where we had a lovely lunch by the river side before running a return route back to Aosta.  Riding the roads both ways was brilliant as we were able to appreciate the stunning views from all angles whilst riding two of the best passes in that part of the world……. certainly up there in our “best groundhog” days 🙂  We have been lucky enough to relive this route on other tours and would certainly recommend it.
  • In August 2013 we toured closer to home in South Wales and on Sunday 11th we visited the Rhossili BayGower Peninsula and the stunning beach at Rhossili Bay.  Again a picture perfect day for being on two wheels, not a cloud in the sky all day, flowing roads through South Wales and onto the Gower.  The pace of life on the Peninsula is such that a “saunter” through the back lanes down to the Bay was all that you wanted.  Certainly a day we wouldn’t mind reliving…..
  • In August 2015 we were in the French Alps again for another day which we hope will become a brilliant “groundhog day” as we return to the Col de la MadeleineCol de la Madeleine in August this coming year.  It started off with the sun rising over the Bauges mountains, white wispy clouds soon disappeared and this azure blue sky stayed with us all day as we rode not only over Madeleine but also over the Cormet de Roselend.  On the descent from the top of the Col de la Madeleine we had stunning views of Mont Chamonix which was about the only alpine peak with snow on 🙂  We had lunch that day in a pretty little auberge who could not do enough for you and served all 20 of us in no time (and we hadn’t booked!).

We’ve picked just 4 rides out of hundreds that we could have wirtten about and it has been hard to pick these.  We can’t wait to find out what your best “groundhogs” have been……