Motorcycling in the Scottish Borders

Picking up on our previous blogs about our motorcycle tour of Wales and Ireland in September 2013, we crossed from Belfast to Cairnryan on a very calm sea for the final part of our tour and were able to ride the through the New Galloway forest on dry roads.  We arrived at Clatteringshaws Loch for a leg stretch and photo stop before riding on to a very interesting encounter with a herd of cows!!!!  DSC08283They had made a sharp exit from a field to our right, bashing down the gate in their haste and we had no option but to park up and try and herd them to safety (no farmers in sight…..).  We managed to get them into a field a bit further up the road and carry on with our ride……….but just imagine the farmer arriving later that day to check on his herd to find that not only had they escaped from one field but had got themselves into another and had locked the gate behind themselves 🙂

This diversion had delayed us slightly but we arrived in Moniaive for a late afternoon tea in The Green Tea House – great welcome and worth a stop for any motorcyclist on their travels in this part of the world.  Unfortunately the weather turned whilst we were enjoying our coffee and cake and the ride from there was not as pleasant as we would have liked.  Such a shame as we had a cracking route passing Drumlanrig Castle and across into the Scottish borders, the twists and turns were there to enjoy but on a damp road surface and mist hiding the views it was not the best way to start our sojourn into Scotland!

Next day was far better though and we set off on our ride-out for that day with the sun shining and dry roads – it was a perfect day for being on two wheels and enjoying the stunning scenery that the Scottish Borders has to offer.  We stopped for morning coffee at The Glen Cafe, St Mary’s LochSt Mary's Loch – beautiful views over the loch to be had and the cafe is regularly used by both local motorbike clubs and riders touring through the area.

From here we had fantastic roads to ride towards Moffat and into the Eskdalemuir forest – stopping at Kagyu Samye Ling, a very peaceful Tibetan retreat in the middle of nowhere.  The serenity of the location is wonderful and a perfect place for a light lunch and a chill out after all the thrills of riding open flowing roads.

We continued our ride-out back to the hotel for our last evening meal together of the tour.  The weather forecast for the return into England on the Sunday was not good, the first storm of the autumn was promised and boy did it deliver!!!!  We woke next morning to skies as black as night and as we set off the storm began and stayed with us for the remainder of the day.  At first we stayed away from the motorway network but had to join it south of Lockerbie, if for no other reason to be able to use the services as we were like a bunch of “drowned rats”.

It was not the best way to end our 10 day motorcycling tour but did not dampen the spirits of those who joined us on some of the best roads to ride in the UK and Ireland and we are looking forward to touring on them in the not too distant future……. 🙂


A motorcycling story to inspire

What better way is there to spend a wet January evening than getting together with a group of motorcyclists?  Well last evening we did just that when we joined Warrington Motorcycle club and even better we went to listen to a talk given by Bernard Smith who, together with his wife Cathy as pillion, toured 25,000 miles around the world in a year – not that out of the ordinary???  well yes in fact as Cathy was blind.

This was an adventure that Bernard in particular had wanted to do having ridden motorbikes all his life, he turned to Cathy one day and said “I want to take a year off and ride around the world” and before you know it Cathy had said she wanted to go too!

We all know that when you tour on a motorcycle you take in the scenery and views on offer, visit and look at places of interest, but we are also able to take in the smells of the countryside as we ride along (although some of them may not necessarily be that “fresh”…), and you also feel part of the scenery much more than when you are in a car for example.  So whilst Cathy may not have been able to physically see the views etc., Bernard could describe them to her and she would be able to let her imagination run riot and take in the sounds and smells and as their book title says she was “Touching the World”. 

Bernard’s talk was excellent as he not only showed us some video footage and photographs from the tour, but he was able to give advice on how difficult it can be sometimes to cross borders and ship your bike etc.  Things we can take for granted like a petrol station not being that far away could become a challenge and he highlighted that it is essential to know your tank range if you ever do embark on such a trip and not only that but get used to filling up when ever you get the chance.

We often think that things don’t happen quick enough for us these days, but Bernard described how sometimes when they may have had a problem with the bike they would have to wait upto 3 weeks in one location for a part to arrive from the UK and had to “go with the flow” of whatever country he and Cathy found themselves in at the time – more time to explore and take in the local customs and sights and sounds though 🙂

One of his video clips was particularly hairy showing riding conditions in built up areas of Pakistan and India – health and safety kind of goes out of the window when you see mopeds darting in and out of traffic at night with no lights on!!!  Hats off a) to Bernard for riding those roads at night and filming it and b) to Cathy for riding pillion and hearing all the engines and horns blaring – pretty scary, but one of those life experiences that you have when taking on a tour of the world such as they did.

Cathy and Bernard visited many places on this tour and everywhere they went they were welcomed, partly due to being motorcyclists and the fact that they had travelled so far with their trust motorbike, but also because they were so impressed when they saw Cathy get off the bike and have to use her stick to get about.  Bernard described how one lorry driver in Australia who stopped to help them fix the bike on a road in the middle of nowhere, had been talking to Cathy for a couple of hours and had no idea that she was blind such was her skill for communicating with people.

We understand that the talk is to be continued, as time ran out such was the enjoyable nature of the presentation and we very much look forward to catching up with “part 2”.  In the meantime why not visit Bernard and Cathy’s website or even better buy the book and get your motorcycle touring juices flowing over these winter months…….. It inspired us so much we took a short ride-out today to Lynn’s Raven Cafe in the winter sun 🙂A winters ride-out   (not quite the 25,000 miles they did but…..!)