Sunday 22nd September 2019
After the Indian meal last night a few of us returned to the Antler Bar and Grill for drinks. I didn’t last long, two early morning rises at 06:00 had taken its toll, I headed to bed leaving Jules, Daz and Delie. Maja and Roey had already crashed. I was looking forward to a good sleep, we’d arranged to meet at 10:00 the next morning to leave the island.
My sleep was disturbed however at 04:00 by Maja moving about in the next room. I suddenly had a horrendous thought. The day before she’d mentioned riding Bella out to photograph her as the sun peeked above the horizon. Unknown to Maja I’d put my disk lock on her Ducati!
What was I to do? I’d never forgive myself, and I’d never be forgiven were Maja to go over the handlebars 😂. I was in a terrible dilemma, half asleep too. I could knock on her door, explain and hand in the key! Hmmm, she’d had chaps knock on her door before whilst touring Europe, I may get bottled before I could utter a word (they’d be an empty in there for sure).
I had a better idea, I separated the keys, found a cable tie in my tank bag, attached the disk lock key to it and nipped downstairs to hang the key with the door key. She’d click what that was all about!
Brilliant, a sigh of relief, I could get back to sleep now 😀. Then it started, the coughing 😷 😷 😷 😷, nothing dainty about this coughing, it was from deep within those Slovenian lungs followed by violent opening of the glottis! And so it went on 😷 😷 04:15 😷 😷 I could swear we were headboard to headboard with a paper thin wall between us 😯.
04:30 😷 😷 by 04:45 I’d put a pillow over my head, 😷 😷 at 05:00 it was a cushion at each ear and a pillow over my head. The thought of putting a pillow somewhere else never crossed my mind 😲. By 05:30 😷 😷 I’d found some relief from foam earplugs. Needless to say I was first packed to leave later that morning 😓. Poor Maja 🤗.
The crazy gang met up at 10:00 outside the Airbnb, someone shouted “where’s Jules” back came the reply “he’ll be faffing about as usual” 😂. We set off south for the Skye Bridge, it was a glorious morning, the views towards the Cuillins and across to Torridon were fantastic. Crossing the Skye Bridge was magical, especially on such a glorious day, sadly nowhere to stop for pics. We reached Kyle of Lochalsh, fuelled up and had breakfast at Hector’s Bothy Cafe Bar.
We picked up the A890 for Loch Carron, our destination for the night was the Lochcarron Hotel, we had much to explore though before then. We did however take the opportunity to lighten our steeds by dropping bags off at the hotel before heading north to Achnasheen then west to Kinlochewe. There’s a cracking viewpoint about 2-miles east of Kinlochewe with views over Loch Maree, Ben Eighe and Slioch mountains. I’ve gathered quite a few pics from this location over many years.
We had refreshments at the Kinlochewe filling station and cafe bar before taking the A896 alongside the River Torridon to Shieldaig. Our destination was Applecross, we could have taken the coastal route at Shieldaig to take the Beallach-na-ba (Pass of the Cattle) mountain road from west to east. This is the third highest mountain road in Scotland and boasts the steepest ascent of any road climb in the UK. We decided to miss the coastal route and tackle the pass in both directions. East to west is technical whilst the return from Applecross provides stunning views.
It was a fantastic climb and well within everyone’s capability, the switchbacks towards the summit can be problematic when encountering opposing traffic, fortunately traffic today was light. The descent on the west side to Applecross is just as stunning, the road is however single track all the way and not in the best of repair.
On a sharp downhill left hander I seemed to catch a rut that dragged me off the tarmac onto the offside verge! The verge was rough, bouncing through drainage channels unsteadied the bike, immediate thought was, can I recover this as there was a very real possibility I’d go down and you really don’t want to do that there 😮.
I knew not to fight the bucking handlebars as physics acting upon the spinning front wheel would work in my favour to keep the bike upright and straight. I relaxed the grip and managed to coax the bike back onto the tarmac 😅 quick mirror check, damn Roey was behind me again 🤣. We chilled at Applecross and reflected on what had been a cracking run. It was time to head back over the mountain for our accommodation, dark clouds were gathering over the Cuillins to the west.
My friends decided it’d be safer (for them) if I took a position at the rear on the return journey 🤷♂️. On the way back the views were stunning, Bella stopped for many more photographs and we all arrived safely at our destination for the night.
The choice on the menu at the Lochcarron Hotel was excellent as was the food and staff. It’s just unfortunate that was negated considerably by the standards and cleanliness in the rooms, it wouldn’t take much effort to rectify that. We had a lovely meal together, the drinks were flowing including the Talisker and Auchentoshan single malts and the evening rolled on, helped very much by our barman Gavin!
In fact Gavin turned out to be the star act of the night with his song, mime, jokes and dance. At one point we were all singing away and having a good laugh at each other’s expense, then sudden silence!
Delie just announced she was a Bluegrass girl! Now, I must have been quite inebriated, before they’d all caught their breath I had Duelling Banjos by the Billy-Bob Banjo Band playing from my phone music library 😮. The silence and stares deepened, I thought ‘what have I done’ 😂. Gavin then burst into song and dance again and we had a fab night.
That’s the end for me. The following day was stage 1 of the journey south and home. We stopped at Eilean Donan Castle, journeyed through Glen Shiel to pick up the A82 south through Fort William, Glencoe and onwards to Helensburgh for an overnight stop.
The following day I said my goodbyes and guided my friends to the A82 Alexandria by-Pass. Over 5-days I’d led them on a tour of Scotland and was first to break formation dipping my wings on the near side lane as they throttled onwards to their various destinations 😢
It had been a fab time, the weather gods had been with us, the craic was jolly and will be recalled for many years, magical moments were now great memories.
Soraidh ……………. x