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West Glos & Dean Forest
Motor Cycle Club

Celebrating 65 Years of Motor Cycling 1953 - 2018

Destination: A wiz around the Scottish Islands

Words By Ian Vessey

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Scotland 2018.

To celebrate Mike's half century, a trip to Scotland was devised.

Group planning consisted of a meeting in the Tufty during which a vague decision was made to van the bikes up to Ardrossan, park somewhere there, get the bikes out and get on a ferry.

It was vague because after the second beer, the meeting descended into the usual laughter and chaos, and as most had fuzzy heads in the morning that's all anyone seems to recall.

Mike did however go away and investigate parking and ferries.

Day 1.

So, by 6:30 on Saturday 28th April, 3 vans were heading north with 5 bikes and a scooter, Mike's Vespa, Carey's RD250, Pete's GN250, Anthony's CCM Bitza, Drew's MZ250 and my old DRZ.

We arrived at the port at about 1pm, parked in the secure car park and went off in search of tickets for the ferry to Brodick on Arran.

Ferry no. 1 When it came to loading at about 3pm, only 3 of the 6 bikes were able to get on the ferry, leaving 3 behind for the next ferry. The up side to this was that the 3 remainers had a couple of hours to have a proper look at the ferry timetables to try to work out possible routes around the various islands.

The first 3 arrived on Arran, found the campsite at Lochranza, set up camp, then hid in their tents for an hour to let a heavy shower pass, before walking the mile or so to the Lochranza Hotel for food and beer.

The second 3 ate on the boat and arrived later. The campsite owner heard us coming, and having been briefed by the first 3 (who had also paid for all), kindly opened the gate and waved us through to set up camp and also walked the mile or so to the hotel for a few more beers.

Day 2.

After a cold night (frosty!!), the sun came up, we packed up and headed for the next Ferry no. 2 from Lochranza to Claonaig on Kintyre.

No problems there we had already bought our tickets when in Ardrossan.

We rode the few miles to the next port at Kennacraig to try to secure tickets to Islay where we had a vague plan to stop for a couple of nights.

The very helpful lady at the ticket office went through the options, confirmed we could all get over to Islay, then asked how we were getting back?

We wanted to go on to Oban, but were told that because of a breakdown on one of the boats this was not possible and we wouldn't be able to get off Islay until Thursday.

It was a vague plan after all!

So the plan now changed to a trip to Mull and off we went towards Oban for the Mull ferry.

A few miles up the road, Anthony decided to pull over and properly investigate a rattle emanating from behind the clutch cover on the Bitza.

In a layby, the bike was laid over and the clutch cover carefully removed. The problem was immediately visible - the centrifugal oil filer on the end of the crank had become detached and was trying to drill its way out.

The offending part was removed, cleaned (in salty water as it happens - ask Carey or Drew about that!) rinsed in WD40 and lock-tighted back on.

The remaining miles up to Oban proved that the repair was good (not slow, it seems Anthony figured it was kill or cure).

At Oban, tickets for the Mull Ferry no. 3 to Craignure were secured and off we went.

On Mull, we rolled up at the Tobermory campsite, set up, and walked the mile or so back down the hill into town.

We tried some beer in the Mishnish Hotel, then back to the Galleon Grill for an excellent steak (with some wine and beer of course), followed by a few more beers (can you see a theme here?).

Day 3.

We decided to stay a second (frosty!) night on Mull and go for a luggage free ride around the island.

The campsite owner had kindly marked a map with the available petrol stations so we plotted a route south and west to Fionphort opposite Iona via backroads as much as possible.

This started off well chasing a bread van driven by a rally driver along single track roads.

At one point where we stopped to admire the view, Drew asked Mike if his exhaust should wobble about so much. Mike replied that it would wobble as on the scooter it's attached to the engine which is effectively part of the swingarm. However, on closer inspection, it was found to only be firmly attached to the exhaust port, and the other mounting bolts were loose or missing. Nothing broken though, so soon fixed back on with some spare bolts (between us we may have had enough to build another 'bitza'). The spectators to this repair assisted by throwing mud and turf at Mike while he lay on the floor bolting the thing back on.

Also, Pete's GN started to catch a cold, coughing and spluttering for a while every time we stopped, so it seemed.

No ferries today!

Mull is a fair size and we covered over 120 miles just pottering about.

That night we returned to the town, this time for a curry. And more beer/cider/whiskey.

Day 4.

First was Ferry no. 4 from Tobermory to Kilchoan, then a ride up to Mallaig.

There we had a long wait for the Skye Ferry no. 5, then a wet ride up to Portree, followed by a hasty dive into a Hostel, no camping that night.

The highlight of this ride was watching Carey on the RD, accelerating hard from behind us all, and as he overtook, seeing everything behind disappear into the huge cloud of two-stroke smoke swirling from the old stinker (or was this on Mull?).

We were a bit late going into town for food, but managed to get into the Caledonian Hotel Cafe just before they shut for an excellent burger, followed by beer in the very 'local' Tongadale hotel bar.

Day 5.

Ride around Skye.

The hostel was warm and dry. The room was a bit cramped and all available radiators were covered with soggy gloves and socks. In the morning after refuelling we stopped by an outdoor shop for various items and while waiting, a van driver pulled up and referred to Mike as a deck-heed after he had pulled out a bit sharpish from the fuel stop in front of him (the van driver obviously had no idea about the awesome acceleration of a Vespa, and the skill of its highly trained pilot). Unfortunately for the van driver, calling Mike a deck-heed only caused much amusement.

We toured the north of the island, stopping at the MacKenzie Stores in Stenscholl for bacon butties.

Then over the hills at Sartle stopping to admire the views and west on past Uig, and further to Dunvagen for coffee.

Heading south, we were stopped taking pictures of the Cullins, when Mike opted for a bit of off-road on a small bank in a layby.

He never made it over the bank, then got the Vespa stuck coming back down backwards when he ran over his own mudflap. Nobody laughed. Much!

A long search for a suitable campsite eventually took us to an Eco campsite - next to port at Armadale as we had a 8:40 am ferry next day. Interesting site, we couldn't get the bikes close to the pitches - wheelbarrows are provided to move your gear!

A short walk took us to the newly re-opened Ardvasar Hotel for food and surprisingly, some beer.

Day 6.

Ferry no. 6 from Armadale took us back to Mallaig.

The weather started to turn, low cloud and drizzle.

The fuel station at Mallaig wasn't open when we arrived. Looking at the map we said "There'll be fuel somewhere down here", so off we went.

When we got "down here" we had coffee, but there was no fuel.

It was 100 miles by the time we reached fuel, the Vespa had run dry and needed to be fed the spare litre Mike carried.

Then onwards to the Coran Ferry no. 7.

Southwards from there, it started to get a bit damp and this turned out to be a long ride.

Navigation was interesting. We were largely relying on a 1:500 000 scale touring map which didn't show all the fine detail. So when we started along the B845 thinking we could take a cross country route around Oban, we were a bit puzzled to find it ended in a loch (Loch Etive) a few hundred meters short of Taynuilt and the expected juction with the A85. Never mind, we had a nice little ride along the loch to Connel for a bit of lunch before joining the A85 to then rejoin the B845 on the south side of the loch. Worth the effort though for a cracking back-road ride to Loch Awe.

After a fruitless search for a campsite around Lochgilphead, we ended up in a wooden lodge near Tarbert.

This was good, hot showers and we dried out all our gear (after Carey fixed the heating - so that's why we brought him along).

Pub food and beer was had in town in the Frigate Hotel and more beer in the Corner house which was reached by a cheap and efficient minibus taxi.

Day 7.

The next Ferry no. 8 went from Tarbert to Portavadie where we had some proper back road fun which caused the Bitza to lose its camping kettle.

We then had another "There'll be fuel down there" moment, and the Scooter later ran dry again. Good job Mike refilled his bottle.

A short Ferry no. 9 crossing from Colintraive took us to Rhubodach on Bute

Then half an hour to get to Rothesay and catch the next boat.

Finally, there was Ferry no. 10 from Rothersay to Wemyss Bay on the mainland.

On the way back down the last few files to Ardrossan, the MZ ate its plug.

Home

Home via motorway on a bank-holiday Friday was without delay apart from the speed limits on the roadworks.

Glad we weren't going to Blackpool or the lakes though.

10 ferries and 734 miles. A few miles were a bit boring, but not many, and a few were damp, but that didn't seem to slow us down.

It was a hoot, and smaller bikes are definitely the best to get around all the nadgery roads.