I have a new favourite hobby.
It is crossing the sea on a motorbike.
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is accessible by road, but only when the tide is low. Some days the window is very limited and cars become flooded in the rush back. Today, the window is from 9:30 am – 4.30 pm. The sun is out and it’s a perfect day for a ride out and a picnic. We plan a coastline route on minor roads, stopping at Bamburgh for a photo stop.
When we visited Bamburgh last, the castle had become the setting for scenes in the new Macbeth film starring Michael Fastbender. The car park was covered in marquees and horse boxes and we had the fortune to see some special effects smoke and model bodies falling from the parapets. We never caught a glimpse of the man himself, I’m sad to say.
I wear a hi-vis vest over my bike jacket and I’ve learned it has a disadvantage. There’s a particular species of fly that are very drawn to it and when we arrive, I’m in a swarm. Taking the vest off helps free me of the pests for taking photographs and they disappear before the next leg of the journey.
Crossing the sea at low tide isn’t quite as exciting as it might seem. With tourist season in full-flow, we cross at a leisurely pace and park up. A brief stroll to the beach and we set up a camp stove. I love the picnic on the beach. We quickly cook up a three-cheese toasted sandwich and gaze out over the ocean to see Bamburgh Castle from a Viking perspective.
The tides not only affect the accessibility of the island, but also those who prefer sails.
We wander around the not-so-photogenic Lindisfarne Castle (it is being restored/repaired and so is covered in scaffolding), and decide to leave well before the tide is due to come in, in case of a last minute exodus from the island. It’s a good plan, as Verd can’t get the ignition to start on his bike! I’m immediately going into plan B mode, thinking breakdown might not want to come visit with the tide due to turn and we might need a change in sleeping plans for the night. There’s no reason for it not to work, so I turn my bike around and wait.
We escape the island in plenty of time; the problem being one of the biker and not the bike. We take the less scenic, but quicker route back, just in time for a party with our very interesting camping neighbours, Michael and Finn. We torment Michael to forecast the weather for us – he’s a meteorologist.
We wake up to sunshine (and a pile of alcohol bottles to dispose of). Today is the first that we pack without having to try and keep everything dry. We’re able to air the sleeping bag and mattresses, dry the footprints and take our time getting the bikes ready for the most adventurous of trips yet.
Alnwick to Loch Rannoch in Scotland.
We first take the A1 towards Edinburgh, but take a detour to Dunbar for fuel. It’s the first of three stops we make. It’s a little seaside town, and we consider stopping for lunch, but we weren’t sure where would be convenient to park or safe for our load, if we leave it. We carry on, and shortly make our second stop, when the fuel needed is for ourselves. My hands are glad of the break. Even though I’m more relaxed than I’ve ever been on the bike, some of the slower parts of the journey have put pressure on my thumbs and wrists.
Back on the A1 we round Edinburgh and follow signs to the Forth Road Bridge over the Firth of the Forth.
Enter sea-crossing number two:
It’s a huge suspension bridge. This is far more exciting than a low tide crossing. The view is stunning and I’m able to fully take it in as the traffic is going slow. Unfortunately, there’s no stopping point for a good photograph; both sides of the bridge are undergoing roadworks and we have to keep going in the continuous line of slow traffic.
Once over the bridge, the countryside changes and you know you’re in Scotland. We pass from a motorway to the A9, a reasonably fast, but very pretty road. Nearing Pitlochry, we flow into meandering B roads. I’m glad of the two practice ride outs we did in the Dales, now coping better with bends and blind hills. There’s a supermarket van tailing us, but the driver in front likes to take the difficult terrain as carefully as I do. The van driver is becoming impatient, but I don’t sweat. We’re riding deeper into forest with the road following lakeside contours. It’s amazingly beautiful.
[map of journey – work in progress]
Tired and hungry, I’m very happy to see the sign for the campsite.
Three minutes before arrival, it begins to rain. We pick our spot and become a slick camping team: the tent took about 10 minutes to erect. I sort out bedding, while Verd completes the guy ropes. The rain is coming down and the famous Scottish midgies are swarming. We’ve got head nets, and don them while we cook a risotto in the rain. We’re still in our biker gear and standing in the porch out of the weather while eating a somewhat basic, but never-tasted-so-good hot-pot of a meal.
Clambering out of wet gear, we snuggle in the warmth of the sleeping part of the tent and listen to the rain on the canvas. It’s not long before we’re asleep.
I leave Verd at base to do his thing, and take a 6 mile walk to meet the local inhabitants and document their flora and fauna.
I discover a hidden loch ‘beach’, and see two stags. I have a friendly chat with a fisherman and another former teacher. The two stags were formerly part of a group of about 40 which had come down from the forest, but these two didn’t return with them. As far away as they were, they seemed to sense us talking about them.
On return, I encourage a frozen frog across the road before it becomes a pancake.
Life is good!