Life is Good!

We wake up in Carradale.

Carradale is a small village on the south-eastern coast of the Kintyre peninsula. If you look at a map, it’s not hard to notice that it looks like a limp phallus. From the Cock O’ the North to the Kintyre Cock?!

Kintyre ‘Cock’

We are greeted by the sound of mewling buzzards and the warmth of sunshine radiating through the fabric of the tent. I poke my head of the tent door and put the kettle on the stove. The buzzards seem to have a plentiful food supply in the neighbouring field, recently cut for hay. Other birds take off, demurring to the more powerful birds of prey. It’s a much nicer setting than in seemed in the torrential rain of the evening before.

Last night, I’d announced I didn’t want to stay here. Being suitably dramatic, after the trials of the day before, I felt trapped in a village with only two ‘death roads’ out of it. We’d travelled one of them, which although not as bad as the ‘Farm Track”, was a technically difficult ride. The other, going north, had been the site of a motorcycle accident the day before – a head on collision with a car, the motorcyclist had to be airlifted out with suspected spinal injuries. The news hadn’t improved my mood or the perception I had of our visit to Kintyre.

With the change in weather, my mood and perception changed. We’re on the coast, in Carradale, a village in two halves. The western half boasts a hotel, post office, police station, fire station and amazingly for us, a garage which was able to supply me with a replacement bulb for my headlamp. The eastern half has a small grocery shop and cafe. The road ends at very small, but busy harbour. We explore both halves and climb back up the hill to the west. We visit the hotel for a drink and light meal, talking to a local couple at the bar.

Otter Posing for the Camera in Carradale Harbour

Verd does most of the talking, he’s excited about what we’re doing, and loves others’ enthusiasm in return. When he gets to permaculture and the state of the world, I notice how many times people remark about how great it is to have an interesting conversation like this. I observe that small spark of awakening.

We listen to their own story. The woman has a few health problems and I pick up that he drinks a lot. There are some hints that their story hasn’t always been a happy one.

During the evening, we both note how tranquil Kintyre is. Even with the sound of a mechanic in the garage when we rested outside the Post Office and the continuous sound of buzzard squawks, there is something extremely calm and peaceful about the whole peninsula. In the village, locals stroll with their dogs, deep in conversation. Nothing is hurried. We follow suit. During an unhurried evening walk along the beach, we agree that the sand is compacted enough to run along in the morning.

Even when hard, sand running is difficult. It feels like I’m running uphill all the way and find just two miles (normally an easy, recovery run for us now), hard to complete. Later, needing some provisions, we amuse ourselves by taking the bus to Campbeltown, leaving the bikes behind.

The driver’s accent is noticably un-Scottish and on asking where he’s from, it turns out he hails from Keighley, a place not far from the home we left. After paying the fare, we’re immediately greeted with a friendly hello. It is the woman we’d met at the bar the day before. We sit in front of her to chat and I jokingly observe: “You’re leaving himself behind today?”

I’m not ready for her response. It’s a yes, I’m leaving him behind. He’d been physically aggressive after getting home from the bar and she isn’t putting up with it anymore. Her journey is to her daughter’s. A phone call later, we get the gist she isn’t free of him yet, as he’s being uncooperative about taking care of their dogs. Their story isn’t a happy one.

There is plenty of interest in Campbeltown. We watch mackerel fishing on the pier. A woman has a good catch and immediately guts and fillets in situ, throwing the waste to eager seals.

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The main attraction is 14th Century Cross, ornately decorated in celtic knots.


The town itself reminds us of those of our youth, with many independent specialist shops and a noticeable absence of any chain stores.

Traditional Shop in Campbeltown

Verd visits an extremely professional barber who uses a traditional strop razor for the finishing touches. There’s no blood, I’m relieved to report.

We visit the tourist information centre and book both a night at a hotel and ferry tickets from the port to Ardrossan on the mainland for later in the week. We’re served by a young woman who laughs when she hears where Verd had his head shaved, her father owns the shop.

Campbeltown New Quay

Most in the office are booking tickets for boat tours in the hope of seeing whales and dolphins. We learn though that no whales have been seen yet this season, but there is a possibility of porpoises. Outside a young couple play the pipes, raising funds for the coast guard.

We return to the pit stop armed with groceries, but disappoint a cyclist who’d hoped we’d got them in Carradale. I make us a meal, and go to the cyclist’s tent to see if he’d like some, but he’s not at home. Pity, as it’s a cooler evening, and the spicy meal is warming. We’ve no trouble finishing it off.

Our biorhythms are synched with the natural rise and fall of the sun. We’re often in bed early and wake early. Most nights I sleep soundly. Our tent is keeping us dry, the sleep system is warm and comfortable.

We wake to another warm day and go for a forest walk, stopping off at the small ‘Network Cafe’ with a varied and interesting menu and more importantly free wi-fi. I get the opportunity to catch up with the blog and update some of the picture-less posts with photos.

We arrive back at camp early to see our neighbour’s tent has half-collapsed. They are a friendly, happy family, but have gone fishing for the day. We take a look to see if we can erect it again. However, the joints between the poles have split, and to do anything could make the situation worse. Their belongings inside are well-covered and we keep an eye on things, in case it rains and textiles become exposed.

They arrive not long after and remain uncommonly chirpy when they discover their plight. They take out their belongings and dismantle the tent immediately. They hope to be able to get a night in one of static caravans or chalets, but the campsite is full. The warden tells them that the local forecast is good for the night, and they adapt with a combination of car and outdoor sleeping. Despite this, they share mackerel fillets with us and we have a wonderful fish risotto for supper.

I am absolutely grateful and appreciative for the kindness that we’ve met on the road. From help with dropped bikes, to offerings of washing liquid when I’d run out, a free hotel night (more on that in a later post) and some folk just dropping by the tent for a chat, it’s made our trip extremely rewarding and pleasurable.

Life is good!

The Other Other Day It All Went Wrong (Almost)

From Fort William, with a bike that now has an ignition that works, but is minus a low headlamp bulb, we follow the coast road south.  It’s a straightforward A road that shouldn’t present too many difficulties, except when we have to leave it in the last 5 miles or so for the next pit stop.

The ride, as planned, is smooth, but it rains heavily.  Despite missing a bulb, I still have a light that helps with visibility.  Verd compensates with his heavy duty in your face lights.  The Beast makes it known she’s coming.

Oban is a good place for taking a break from a sore bum and numb fingers.  There’s quite a lot of traffic, but we find a place to park the bikes at the edge of the town.  We opt for a little cafe called ‘The Little Potting Shed”.  It specialises in vegetarian dishes and happily caters for gluten free.  We discover we’re lucky to get a table – it’s a popular eatery and people begin to queue to be seated.  It’s raining again, so I select the soup of the day, and Verd makes an early booking for the last remaining slice of almond and raspberry cake.

Leaving Oban is more of a problem.  We need to reverse the bikes out of their parking place into a long, slow stream of oncoming traffic.

Sometimes it pays to be bolshy.  We’re bolshy, and the cars simply pull over out of the way – after all – they probably don’t want a fully loaded, heavy bike falling into them.

We’re on our way, and follow the coast road down the Kintyre peninsula.  It’s pretty, but the rain is extremely heavy, making visibility more difficult and the ride more trying.  We pass a campsite and I ask Verd if we should check it out.  I get no reply, so I comment that it does look a bit bleak and carry on.

Later we pass another smaller, and prettier looking campsite, and suggest we look at this one, but still no reply.  By now, our communication system has water affecting our ability to talk to each other.  The connection keeps cutting in and out.  I carry on.

We finally see signs to the campsite we’d planned to go to in a place called Southend.  It’s not far from the famous Mull of Kintyre.  But to our dismay, it’s not quite what we expected.

It’s static caravans only.

It’s evening time and it has been a long ride in very heavy rain.  I’m cold as the rain is starting to creep through the tourshell jackets.  I try to make light of it, but Verd isn’t impressed.  I go to a quick plan B.

“Wet? Don’t know what you’re complaining about.”

On the way into the site, I’d noticed a sign to a “holiday park’.  We go back and follow the sign to it, but it seems to be a false destination.  We find a similarly named farm, but it definitely isn’t accessible for the kind of vehicles you’d expect at a campsite.  We follow the road as there’s no way to turn round, so we keep going, experiencing more trepidation as the road continues to narrow and looks less and less like a road and more and more like a farm track.

We are relieved to see a sign for Kintyre’s main town.  I suggest we make our way there, as it would be an easy ride from there to the second of the two campsites we’d dismissed.    Seems like a good idea, but the road isn’t a convincing route to a main town.  It’s single track, and if we meet oncoming traffic, there are no passing places, it’s rough, grassy and very tight, twisty and steep.

It is times like this, I realise that we’re not such bad riders, given we only started a year ago.  I also realise that The Destrier is a very forgiving bike, and has helped me to get out of many a tight spot I don’t think either of my training bikes would have coped with.

We keep going, we’re both tense, but make it to Campbeltown where we can take a break and decide what to do next.  Luckily, the phone signal is good (it hasn’t always been on this trip) and I’m able to ring a couple of places to see if we can book in for the night.  We find a vacancy, on the proviso we make the journey straight away, and we’ve 25 minutes to get there before he closes.

It’s another twisty, windy, steep, but not so narrow road, and it takes us 40 minutes to get there.  But he’d waited for us, knowing that on such wet roads, we can’t hurry.  The worst part of the journey is the last 1/2 mile of muddy track through a verdant forest to the site itself.  My back wheel slides from side to side, and I’m sure I’m going to arrive at destination looking like I’ve been in a mud fight.  But we both stay upright and are relieved that the warden has waited for us and allocates a spot for our humble home.

Despite the fatigue of the journey, I’m eagerly cooking us something up out of the rain, and it isn’t long before we’re both sleeping away the wears of the day.

Tomorrow, we’ll found out exactly where we are.

The Other Day It All Went Wrong (Almost)

Fort William is a small town with plenty of character. There is one main street with a variety of local shops, plus a couple of the usual high street chains. Beside the sea and at the foot of the Nevis range of mountains, its setting is a blend of sparkling sunshine on water very quickly followed by cloud shadows which create an effect that wouldn’t look out of place in an Edgar Allan Poe plot.

We arrive in good weather but the night-time downpour is more monsoon than British rain. Luckily the tent holds up, but the bikes get a good soaking. This hasn’t always been a bad thing, as we’ve been able to get the worst of the road grime off and give them a bit of a clean as we go along.

The sun makes an appearance on the next day and we ride over to Glenfinnan to see the viaduct that features in ALL of the Harry Potter films. But the weather is as changeable as my daughter buying shoes, and rain comes down again. Still we brave the muddy walk to get some atmospheric pictures of the viaduct en route to a cafe in a railway carriage a couple of miles away. We get wet, but hey, it goes with the territory.

Looking Down on Glenfinnan Viaduct on a Rainy Day

Our biker gear drips into the aisle of the carriage while we steam dry with a cup of tea and scone before walking back, to only get wet again.

It’s not usual, but it happens today, I get back to the bikes long before Verd does. He senses an opportunity for photographing the famous steam train over the viaduct due to the slowly gathering crowd on the hill-side. Meanwhile, I’m reunited with the bike, fielding many tourist questions, like:

“Is this the path to the train …..?” There is always a stumble for the right word and then a fail.

Viaduct isn’t a word many tourists have learned.

“How long does it take?”

I give good advice. I’ve been up there, I know where the best spot is for a great photo to send back to your family in Japan, friends in China or bestie Harry Potter fan.


When I’m asked if this is the bus stop, I realise why it is that I’ve become such a local authority. I’m in biker gear with hi-viz. I remember my landlord’s first reaction when he saw me. He thought I was a police officer. My ego feels temporarily self-important, but I decided it’s time to ditch the hi-viz between rides – I could get accused of impersonating an officer.

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That night, our last intended night, we have another monsoon style downpour. We hole up with a good book in the cosiness of the sleep area, but are disturbed by a ‘knock’ on the door.

I’m told the headlamp is on full bright on the bike.

Now, I’m very careful about switching off the bike and putting it in full lock, so am quite perturbed by this news. I go outside, the bike is fully locked, but all the electrics are on. I manage to switch it off again, but it takes a couple of attempts.

I go back to my book.

A while later, when Verd goes out, I ask him to check the bike.

The electrics are fully on, but this time I can’t turn it off. I try starting the bike, to see if it’ll reset itself. It starts fine, and the bike switches off, but like a scene out of a ghost story, it lights itself up again.

You’re getting the eerie setting? Dark looming clouds over an oversized rock called Ben Nevis, casting its own shadow over a ‘normal’ campsite. Alfred Hitchcock couldn’t have portrayed the ghostly goings on better.

Now I’m worried about a battery drain, and we’ve planned to move on the next day. We consider disconnecting the battery, but the manual warns of all kinds of damage we might do if we try to disconnect with the ignition switch on.

We call break-down services.

Our bikes are under two year warranty and have a breakdown service plan included. BMW services send a local guy to take a look. He does, but can’t do anything but disconnect the battery (we note that he does this even though the ignition is still on).

The next morning another local guy comes to examine the bike, load it into a van and takes it off to a BMW dealer in Inverness, back where we came from. We decide to make the most of it, we’ve been nowhere near Ben Nevis, so we start small and take the cable car up Aonach Mor, Ben Nevis’ little sister.

We’d been given the impression you could walk from there to the summit. Don’t believe any Scottish gentleman with a white beard, strong accent and definite mischievous sparkle in his eye who tells you this. You cannot walk to the summit of Ben Nevis from Aonach Mor. However, if you’re a mountain biker, you have your pick of dangerous rides back down again.

We walk to the two viewing points and take a chair lift a little higher. The quiet (and cold) of this journey is startling. There isn’t even the sound of bird song, just the breeze through the moors.

While we’re doing things the lazy way, our camping neighbours, a family of three plus son’s best friend since nursery, have picked the best day of the week to actually scale the summit. Armed with a map they don’t need, they follow everyone else up the path. They did have a scary moment when they got near the top and the fog became so thick they couldn’t see anything in front of them. They rode it out by having lunch and an hour later the mountain cleared again.

It did make them realise how quickly you could get into trouble up there. There’s a 24 hour coastguard helicopter on alert. We heard and saw it many times, wondering the circumstances behind their patrol.

24 hour coastguard duty around Ben Nevis

I mention our neighbours as I find them inspiring. Alise dropped out of school early with no more ambition than to have a family. She had two children, a girl and boy. When pregnant with her son, she decided to turn around her life. She took up education with a babe on her knee and later, at 18 stones in weight decided to lose some. She discovered the great outdoors and with her husband (who boasts a hearty smoker’s cough), son and son’s best friend since nursery are scaling the highest peaks in Britain and in between go geo-caching.

It’s been a good day all round. Having become emotionally involved in the personal challenges of the family next door, I’m relieved they make it back safely. The weather turns and we all duck for cover in our tents.

Later, I get a call from BMW saying they’re unsure when my bike will get fixed as they have two motorcycle technicians, but one is having an operation and the other is on holiday, do I want a courtesy car instead?

Nice offer, but if you’ve been following for any length of time at all, you’ll know I don’t drive. Verd does, but that’s beside the point, he can’t ride a bike and drive a car at the same time.

We decline, and decide to stay put in Fort William, unsure of how long it will take before I can be reunited with The Destrier.

The next day I get a call saying that one of the car technicians has looked at The Destrier and it needs a new starter, which should arrive the next day. Not only that, it will be installed and I will be able to pick up the bike in person. It’s 65 miles away.

I can’t pillion on The Beast as the passenger seat is taken over by Dennis. So Verd goes on his bike with my riding gear, and I go by bus. We get to the garage just before it closes. The bike works, but later we discover the shortcomings of a car, rather than bike technician. The battery isn’t fully connected, and a head lamp bulb has also blown. Fortunately we’ve subsequently fixed both issues and The Destrier is good as new.

Now we’re on Kintyre, but that’s a whole other story….


Cape Wrath

You know how authors of novels sometimes write a novelette as an aside?  This is a kind of aside post about a trip we took before leaving Durness and making our way to Fort William. 

Today, we’re unsure of what we want to do, so we look at the map for a possible ride-out on the bikes, but I feel I need a walk.

We set off with no particular destination in mind. Verd suggests we go towards the ferry for Cape Wrath. I say “ok’, remembering that it’s only about 2 miles to get there. When we arrive we join the ferry queue. There’s a small dinghy by the pier and metal hull of something you could call a boat about 10m out.

Tin Tub to Cape Wrath

The metal boat is a ferry that takes about 10 people at a time across the loch to a somewhat uninhabited peninsula the other side. The 10 people then wait for another 6 to join them and get on a rickety mini-bus that travels a very slow, bumpy road to the most north-westerly tip of Scotland. It takes about an hour to travel 11 miles, but Paul, our driver, keeps us entertained with anecdotes about the region and points out features we are otherwise likely to miss.

Most of the land is owned by the military and is used for tactical practice. We learn that as the terrain is very like that of the Falklands, it was used for practice before troops were dispatched during the Falklands War. He warned us against picking up any debris, as they did once have a visitor who decided to bring a live mortar shell onto the bus, much to the dismay of its travellers.

We pass a ruin that was once a school and Paul has had the honour of meeting one of its former pupils, who used to walk about 5 miles alone at the age of five, with a big stick to remove the adders from the track. There were only about six pupils. Paul later shows us her former house, to illustrate the extent of her journey. It’s a desolate place and I think everyone empathised with her former plight.

Paul points out vehicles parked on a hillside, saying that they are used by the military for target practice. School children had painted one of them pink and had attached party balloons to it. The military apparently saw the funny side, and when they later accidentally damaged one of the 11 mile stones along the route to the most north-westerly point in Scotland, the school was asked to design a new milestone, which they did with a simple picture of a puffin, a favourite visitor to the north-western coastline.

We continue bumping along the road until we finally stop in front of a lighthouse. The lighthouse has one occupant, John who has to have provisions ferried in to him. It’s isolated and one winter, his deceased wife, went shopping for Christmas, but got stranded due to snow and ice, and they spent a bleak Christmas separated.

Cape Wrath Lighthouse

We have an hour to explore this most north-westerly tip of the country, and for the first time in my life experience a fear of heights as I near the edge of one of the cliffs.

Cape Wrath

We then make the bumpy ride back to the ferry, and Paul still has a few more tales in store for us.

The area is often used as a bombing site for aircraft. He points out some of the craters, but notes that the moors are quite resilient and quickly restore themselves. In one such practice, the target was an island off the coast, and the people monitoring the practice didn’t obtain a reading of a successful bombing, despite the claim of one pilot to have successfully deployed. It turned out that he’d bombed the wrong island!

We arrive back at the ferry port and as the sun comes out, decide, much against Verd’s wishes, to take the coastal path. He doesn’t trust my navigation skills much. When we run into some hefty cows blocking the path, we scramble up a cliff and subsequently lose the trail. I trust that following the coast would get us back to base, and it eventually did, but it was more than double the length of the road version of the route.

I’m going to sound like an advert now, but there is one purchase I’m exceptionally pleased with. We went to a small company in North Yorkshire, Alt-berg, that specialises in making walking boots, including custom sizes. The owner, is also an avid motorcyclist, and also specialised in motorcycle boots also. We invested in “dual-purpose” boots. They are designed for motorcycle riding, but also for walking too. I have to admit I was sceptical, but they’ve now taken me up and down mountains, not only on the bike, but on foot and are extraordinarily comfortable to walk in for an armoured boot.

Have to say, all this fresh air, exercise and exhilaration from being exposed to the elements on the bike, dun ‘arf give you an appetite!

The Day it All Went Wrong (Almost)

After a week in Durness, we make our way south again, but take a different route, to see the REAL Loch Ness. The early stages of the journey are slow, on a narrow, single lane road with passing places. We’re fortunate that the traffic is light and don’t have to pull over too much. The scenery is fantastic with ever-changing mountain-scapes and blue lochs. I’m enjoying myself.

I think I’m out of my terror zone now, just every now-and-then get to feel outside of my comfort zone. I learned a lot with the BMW guys way back in Kettlewell and the trips out with them helped a lot with confidence. And while I still don’t like hair pin bends into steep uphill narrow roads, I know I have the skill to do it, even if I hold my breath the whole time! Mud, wet grass, gravel – phuh, no problem! Ok, I still avoid having to turn on gravel.

We meet the dreaded motorhome and I pull over into the nearest passing place. Camber isn’t great and as Verd pulls up behind me, I hear his cry of dismay as the bike tumbles on to its side. The couple in the motorhome don’t realise that I know what has happened, and wave at me like crazy. As it takes time to dismount a loaded bike safely, they jump out of their house-on-wheels to help. The additional muscle power is very welcome as it means we didn’t need to unload any of the baggage and with four of us, it lifts surprisingly easily.

We set off again, and although Verd is physically fine, I can tell he’s disappointed about the fall and he’s replaying it in his head, working out how he can prevent it in future. It’s not a good thing to do, so we’ve become accustomed to saying, “It’s alright, nobody died,” so we’re focused for dealing with whatever the road throws up next.

We decide to stop for lunch in Inverness and take a longer break. However, Inverness isn’t pleasant, with general stop/start city traffic, we don’t really know where we’re going, car parks are all multi-story and there’s nowhere else convenient for the bikes. We change the plan, to get out of here as fast as possible knowing there’ll be an eatery along the road shortly.

Seems like a good plan, but Verd doesn’t have the new postcode on his SatNav. I give instructions through the intercom system, and we clear the first roundabout successfully. The next roundabout I tell him third exit, but he’s in the wrong lane for a right turn. I’m in lane. I watch him spin off before me, but it’s not safe for me to go. I don’t see where he turned off. I count for the third exit, hoping he got it, but there’s no sign of the Beast. I know he must have gone off at the second exit. I decide best option is to wait for him in the nearest lay-by. I figure he’ll have left me a message, but my phone is out of battery.

Now the night before, we were packing the technical gear, and I says to He: “I’ve only got 4% battery left on my phone, I need to charge it in case we get separated tomorrow, or one of us breaks down.”

“We’ll stay together, the intercoms are fully charged, it’ll be ok.”

Half an hour later, there’s still no sign of the Beast, so I have to second guess what he might do. I decide the best option is to continue to destination, based on how I know he predicts my bike behaviour in such circumstances (just go home).

However, “home” hasn’t yet been designated, it’s roughly “a campsite near Fort William somewhere”. I have the postcode for just one. I follow the SatNav to that.

The SatNav sends me on a cross-country route into some very bleak wilderness. The weather turns from sunny to windy, wet and cold, but the mountain views are dramatic. I want to stop to take pictures, but now feel obliged to keep going until I get to Fort William. Eventually, I’m on the faster A82 and beside a loch, but to my dismay, I recognise the viewpoint we’d stopped at when we went north and realise I’ve missed Loch Ness again!

10 miles later I’ve looked in every carpark in Fort William for a motorbike with a large load on its back. The Beast is still missing.

I take a much needed loo break and try to congratulate myself on my longest non-stop ride so far, but I’m getting worried.

I go to the Tourist Information Centre and ask them for the postcodes of every campsite in the area. I walk back to the bike, but as I get ready to leave, it occurs to me he’s possibly doing the same and we’ll be going round in circles missing each other.

I go back to the Tourist Information Centre and ask a very pleasant, friendly and helpful girl to ring all the campsites in the area asking if there is a distressed man on a big motorbike looking for his girlfriend and if there is to tell him NOT to move! Third phone call – we get a ‘Yes!’ I nearly cry with relief.

It’s not easy to hug in full motorbike gear, but we do our best. We are VERY happy to see each other. The night could have been very bleak. I carry the tent and mattresses, he carries the sleeping bag!

The tent is pitched, the sleep area is comfy again, and we celebrate by going out to dinner in a pub at the foot hills of Ben Nevis and the surrounding range. Don’t think we’ve had a pitch that wasn’t worth it for its setting. Even a mile from home we were close to the nest of a rare woodpecker.

We share our respective journeys and I groan – he had followed the signs to Fort William and rode the full length of Loch Ness!

P.S.  Internet access has been very limited, so a quite behind.  We’re further south now – but more about that in the next post.


Onward we go, to the sound of applause from the Cock o’ the North.

You wonder why the applause?

The packing takes six hours to organise.

Six hours!

I say packing, but the packing is thwarted by a couple of mishaps.  A security cable is stuck in the brake disk of Verd’s bike.  The second is a packed pannier bag that refuses to go into the pannier.   Our first thought is that we’re going to have to get rid of the axe (we need an axe?)  However, the obstacle is a previously unnoticed dent in the pannier caused by the dramatic toppling of The Beast before we even left the house.  The Cock o’ the North is not only attached to a micro-brewery, but to an engineering company.  Hans comes to the rescue with a car jack and irons out the dent.  We also have to adjust the suspension on The Destrier so that she doesn’t become too fond of wheelies all the way to the next stop.

Finally, we’re on the road (hip, hip, hooray!) and The Destrier and its rider are extremely happy.  Not quite so heavy, beautifully balanced and in complete control.  Verd and The Beast are little wobbly and top heavy, but not so bad that we have to spend another six hours addressing the difficulty.

We have a good and faultless ride.  Stop-start traffic in urban areas are challenging, but we remain in control.  We enter a dual-carriageway and reach the speed limit with little effort; both bikes pull well.  They are built for this kind of journey.  The Yorkshire Dales presents very narrow and windy roads –  fun – even with a load.

The final challenge is getting into Kettlewell campsite itself, undertaking its rough stoney track and wet grass to the tent pitch.  By the time I dismount, I’m feeling very pleased with myself and now more confident about the feasibility of the trip.  Verd is happy too, but still feels he has some weight distribution to sort out.  I’m sure this is going to be another 6 hours of pain when we we’re packing up again in 5 days time.

Happy arrival at Kettlewell Camping Site

The campsite is a field with 5* shower facilities.  After 5 nights with only pub toilets and basins for basic sanitation, I wallow in the luxury of a hot shower that’s better than many hotels I’ve been too.  It is set in a valley between limestone hills and is beautifully peaceful.  Swallows are gliding over the grass catching midgies with incredible aerobatic accuracy.

We soon make friends with Mick, Tim and John, and accompany them on a ride that takes me a little beyond my comfort zone for hills, blind bends, blind humps and general adventure bike-ness.  But I’m really happy with how I’m managing the new terrain, although I don’t keep up with the leading bikers, who’ve been riding since they were nippers.

John, Mick and Tim (left to right)

We go to Skipton first for some provisions, then make our way to Ribblehead Viaduct.  I’ve only ever seen the viaduct from a train window before and it always looks magnificent, but to see it on a bike ride is just exhilarating.  We do a circuit, stopping briefly at a cafe where I break my decaffeination regime – I’m with dedicated tea drinkers and it rubs off.

Ribblehead Viaduct and Looming Threats of Rain

Back at base I draw a laugh from the newly arrived BMW riders – my hands have cramped and I’m cursing as I try to get the blood circulation functioning normally again.

The next ride takes us up over Nidderdale.  Mick promises there’s nothing more to cope with than experienced on the previous day.


This is an outright deception!

Only a couple of miles into the ride and the lead rider has missed a hairpin bend into a very steep hill.  The next two riders go for it.   I follow.  With some help from my guardian warriors, we make it up that hill and I’m whooping to celebrate the success.  There isn’t anyone going fast on this road and we manage to stay together.  The scenery is magnificent, with 360° views.  Not that I can fully enjoy it.  My eyes are firmly fixed on the road ahead and I’m learning to look further than I normally would for clues as to what hidden obstacles it presents next.


The road presents a herd of hefty cows.  With calves, I’m aware how quickly they could become aggressive.  We pull up and wait, but they don’t move.  Mike braves the challenge and presses slowly forward.  We bunch up into an impenetrable line, hoping that no calf becomes separated from its mother.  We are all holding our breaths.

I’m relieved when the herd thins out and we finally cross a cattle grid.  I sense the communal exhale of breath as the bikes are revved and those wheels begin to gain distance.  It’s not long before we hit another hairpin bend into a steep hill.  A car occupies the road leaving little room for manoeuvre.  It’s a nervous moment, but we all make it up safely, although I can’t say that it was the most graceful of feats.

We stop at Jervaux Abbey, a former Cistercian monastery, for tea (of course).  The monastery is quite close to my heart, it being a sister monastery to one in Ireland, Mellifont, where I was once employed as a tour guide.  The cakes look more than tempting, and I opt for a gluten/dairy-free lemon and blue poppy seed variant.

The club member regroup for a meal at a pub in Kettlewell, conversation is good and we’re given good tips for the road, including ditching the 21st century technology!  Most are taking off this morning for home, I’m taking a hormonal break from anything adventurous.  It’s necessary – or it could be a conversation with an officer of the law: “sorry officer, it’s me hormones.”

Not sure they’d buy it.

Next stop: Alnwick Rugby Club.

It’s in Northumberland, beautiful countryside and a place where we spent one of our first romantic weekends.  Looking forward to exploring further.