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 🙂

 

 

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 🙂