Since we had a few days until the Overland Event we chose to ride to Scotland again. Taking the overnight ferry from Hook of Holland to Newcastle upon Tyne we arrived and headed immediately to the Isles of the west coast. Wandering around on the back roads we went from Ben Nevis along the Road to the Isles headed toward the end of the road at Mallaig. We stopped briefly to see the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
This iconic 1901 railway viaduct with a curving, 21-span was featured in several Harry Potter movies. We arrived just as the train was crossing the viaduct, to late for a picture. The parking lot attendant told us to ride further up the road to another place that we would be able to see the train. The steam train we wanted to see was called the Jacobite and runs along what is considered the greatest railway journey in the world. This train looks quite similar to the infamous Hogwarts Express. It is, in fact, the train that was featured in the Harry Potter films. The train was out of site as we blasted down the road, hoping to get ahead of it. When the tracks reappeared, there were some cans waiting also to get a photo. I crossed through a bog and over a chain-link fence to get a viewpoint past a small tunnel with a walking path above while Melanie climbed a hill to get another advantage. Soon you could hear the chug-chug of the steam locomotive and see the billowing smoke from it’s smokestack. After the train had passed, we continued to Mallaig, had a coffee overlooking the bay, some fish for lunch and turned around and headed to Oban, in the rain.
When we got to Oban, we found out they had the Highland games going on. Since it had been raining, and was going to rain for a couple days, we decided to find something with a roof. Everything was full. We finally found a campground with one small place with bunks available. It was cute with a hotpot and a heater. I was able to cook under the trees with an umbrella, so all was good. The following morning, we rode to town for the Highland games parade. A policeman pointed to a great spot just off the route to park the bike within sight of the town square where we could sit with a Cappuccino and watch the short parade before heading to the fairgrounds. In between periods of short, light rain showers we enjoyed pipes, games and beer.
The following day we rode south along Loch Linnhe to catch the ferry to the Isle of Mull. Riding the road around the island in the hourglass pattern of the island was fantastic, no traffic. At the ferry crossing in Tobermory we visited the Tobermory Distillery. This Tobermory distillery was established in 1798 and is The Isle of Mull’s only whisky distillery and one of the oldest commercial distilleries in Scotland. We asked about the film crew making the movie “The Water of Life”, visiting here. They were quite chatty and excited that we knew and supported the makers of the movie. After I had purchased a couple sample sized bottles, they invited me to taste a couple others. Ya gotta love Scotland.
The next day we started our return to Oxford, and one of favorite overlanding events, The Overland Event. Since it was a beautiful day, we headed south following the shore to Campbelltown, where we would catch the ferry to Ardrossan. We found a campground later that night, paid at the bar and set up in the dark. Melanie had chipped a tooth and it was really bothering her so the next day would be spent finding a dentist to the south of us.
Finding a dentist in Dumfries was easy, fairly painless and inexpensive (compared to the ridicules prices in the US). The people at the Hazelbrook Dental Practice were great. They asked for a small fee up front, which I thought was the down payment. Checking with the receptionist on where to find an ATM for more money she said what I paid was more than enough to cover the work that would be done.
We found a nice AirBnB, the Caledonian, for the night with a secure parking area, with a cable. I took of looking for something to eat and saw a small sign pointing down a side street advertising fish and chips. The Balmoral Fish and Chicken bar has been serving takeout only from this same stop for over 100 years. Somethings never change as they would pick up the battered, deep-fried fish with their bare hands, wrap it up in paper, take your money and give the supper to the next person in the long never-ending line. This was definitely a local’s place as most of the people were smiling and being greeted by name. I found a couple beers that I haven’t had before and added them to the mobile app Untapped.
We ended up at The Overland Event a couple days later. This is one of two events run by Paddy Tyson of the Overland Magazine and his fantastic crew. There are always so many really, great overland motorcycle travelers here with too many names to mention. The authors tent is packed and is the pub with many hand-picked English beers and ciders from local brewers. I have made so many friends over here that this event continues to be one of my favorites. The presentations were top notch and the overland quiz presented by Austin Vince was hilarious. If you ever get a chance to attend this event the first weekend in September, please do. And order the magazine also, hands down the best one out there.
After the event we headed south to spend a couple days with our friend “Sir” Nigel, and his wonderful wife Debbie. They are storing Yellow Donkey for a bit until we get back in March to head to Morocco. They showed us around their quant, beautiful town. Nigel took me to the Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum where I got to meet the famous Sammy Miller himself. The museum was filled of so many old bikes and the owner’s bikes also with a history of his career and wins. Very impressive.
Our time with our hosts went way too quickly and it was finally time to head back across the pond again. Nigel drove us to the airport and that night at the hotel a couple on a Ural sidecar showed up from Canada. We had a few drinks, told a few lies and had supper together. They were “Nowhere Fast Everywhere Cool”. Thanks for a fun last night, Dan and Sam.
Until next time…