United Kingdom 2006

Day 06

August 24


When I go out to pack my ST for the day's journey, I see Keith already out for his morning break. He appears deep in personal thought, so I leave him be.

  Most of the folks brought their camping gear, so they find a really good site on the water. I thought about camping, but I would have to bring so much extra gear that it just was not practical. Most of the campgrounds that the group stay at are really nice and have beautiful views like this one. The campgrounds are much more economical than staying in B&Bs and motels so it would be a consideration if you could sort out getting the gear over and back. I walk down to see how the campers made out during the night. Everybody seems to be doing fine except for Moff saying something about the snoring that Dave does. It goes something along the line of a very loud freight train, but I personally have no idea what he could be talking about.  

As I make my way back to the inn to gather up my stuff, a large ferry is just pulling into port. It belongs to Caledonian MacBrayne , a ferry line that services many of the islands in northwest Scotland. That is another big difference between the UK and the States - ferries are a much bigger part of the transportation system over here.

  We will be heading to Applecross today, sort of following the coast line around on a lot of single track roads today. Those of us that stayed in the Arch Inn have a little easier time of packing up than those that camped. But before long, everybody has sorted out their knitting and we are ready to go.  
  We wander south on A835 until we come to just past Braemore, where we pick up A832. Shortly after we turn on A832, we all stop for a photo-op at a high overlook. It's kind of neat to have all of the STs lined up.  

As it turns out, this particular valley we are looking at happens to be a favorite practice run for the local air base. Some how I manage to catch one of the fighter jets as they buzz us with my digital camera. Given their rapid speed and my slow camera shutter speed, I am still amazed every time I see this picture.

  The coastal scenes of Scotland are just beautiful and have practically no development like so much of the coastline in the States. What you see is basically the same scene you would see hundreds of years ago since man has not molested it in the name of progress. And because it is so sparsely populated, riding is an incredible pleasure. You can just crank the wick and let her run on some of the many sweepers. Dave and I just have a screaming good time following one another during the day.  

When lunch time comes, we find a nice restaurant right along the water. It strikes me as a bit odd that they would have palm trees this far north.



I look over the menu and I see an item that catches my eye -

"Ploughman's Lunch".

I'm not sure I'm going to do any ploughing today, but it sure sounds good so I order it. It turns out to be quite tasty - some nice cheese, a sizable crust of bread, and some veggies and pickle stuff. I don't know if I could plough all day on it, but it sure hits the spot.

At Kinlochewe where we will take A896 off of A832, we take another break. Our destination of Applecross is getting closer.

And as we approach Applecross, the terrain becomes more interesting - especially as the fog moves in to shroud the jagged hilltops. You almost expect to hear the chilling sound of the hounds in chase of some phantom prey coming from up there.
But tucked away in these hills are small seaside villages right on the water's edge. Their whitewashed walls and slate roofs are a stark contrast to the greens and grays of where they are planted.
The single track roads chose to follow a path that mimics the coast line, which makes for some nice sweepers. The challenge is to also pay attention to the sheep that have free range out here and are not used to seeing with much traffic.
As I follow Dave and Moff, I can't but laugh at these sheep as we pass by. They are just resting right off the side of the roadway, as if the roadway and we do not exist in their universe.
On the outskirts of Applecross, we stop at an old church and graveyard. This is actually one of the most important religious sites in all of Scotland. Around 673 AD a group of monks came from Ireland to minister here. In this very graveyard, there still rests one of their number. All that is left of the original monastery is an old slab of rock with a cross engraved on it.

As we make our way back to our bikes, Keith pulls up on his ST1300. We had split up a bit to ride at our own pace and had become separated. As he turns his bike around to head toward our campground for the evening, I watch as he puts his foot down into a spot that turns out to be a hole. As quick as you can say "What happened?", he, Miss Ellen and his ST1300 are laying on the ground. We all rush over to help him and Miss Ellen up, then we manage to upright the bike. Fortunately, there was not much noticeable damage to them or the bike except for usual bruised ego that results from such an event.

We make a quick stop by a local shop to pick up a few things for the evening. Bob McNeil picks up some unusually named mints that they have for sale - Pan Drops - for use at a later presentation. We make our way to the Applecross Campsite, where I will be sharing another wigwam with Gareth. After we get our accommodations sorted, we trek back down a rather steep hillside to a little pub perched near the water's edge. They have outside tables which work just fine for us. As we wait for our meals to come, the sun is slowly sinking over the Inner Sound of the Hebrides.


Once the meal is finished, Bob does a presentation to Keith in honor of his rather ungraceful exit from his ST1300, also known over here as Pan 1300. Keith becomes the first (and we hope the last) to receive a box of Pan Drops.

After our meal, we wander out on the rocky shoreline to enjoy the view. I notice some pieces of driftwood laying around and tell Peter -

"We ought to build a fire. It would be kind of nice to take a bit of the chill off."

I can see he's not quite sure how I am going to pull this one off.

"There's plenty of wood around here, I just need some paper or a little cardboard to get it going. I heated with wood for 16 years, so I've had a bit of practice starting fires" I tell him.

The group splits up - some of us wander around gathering up the driftwood, and Moff and Dave head out looking for the paper and cardboard. I find a nice big flat rock, then form up a fire ring from the surrounding stones. They hit the jackpot on the paper, and before long, to most of the group's amazement, we have quite a good fire roaring. Since the surrounding beach is all stones, I'm not worried too much about the fire getting out of control and burning down the village. Nothing better than a good fire on the beach, sitting around with riding friends after a good ride and with a full belly. It just don't get much better than this!

But before we leave, I make sure that the fire is completely out. I can just see the headlines in the daily paper tomorrow -

"Crazed Yank Biker sets fire to historic town in pyromaniac craze."

We make our way back to our campsite, enjoying the cool evening. It's been a short ride from a mileage perspective - only about 120 miles. But it has been a great day just to be alive and to be able to enjoy the experience. As I pillow my head, I once again am so thankful that I have been able to come and see the land of Scotland like few people on motorcycles ever will.