Sunday, September 3, 2017

Winton Massif - Back over the top.

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Way back in 2009 while on the Wrong Way Round tour we met a big German named Wolfgang. Wolfgang became the first international member of the Winton Massif and over the following years visits were made between Scotland and Germany, but we'd been unable to sort a proper Massif Scotland trip out..... til now!
Wolfgang rode over from Germany with his girlfriend Uta's son Moritz. I'd met Moritz back when I'd ridden the ZZR back from Germany, back then he'd been on a wee 125, but he'd now got a Yamaha MT07, tricked out with a few bits and bobs including a great sounding pipe. Uta and her daughter Nina had flown over and hired a car. Wolfgang and Moritz joined them visiting some of the Edinburgh tourist attractions for a few days before it was time for us to leave.

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Glenlivet was the evening's destination. A quick blast up the motorway saw us to Perth where we headed north via Blairgowrie and Braemar. I really don't need to mention this anymore, but if you're heading north in Scotland, avoid the A9 between Perth and Inverness, just like we did.
At Braemar we stopped in at the Hungry Highlander for a bite to eat. Wolfgang, Moritz and myself had ridden up the road with Aidan and Faithir, at the Hungry Highlander we met up with A-Mac, Dave and Murray. The Winton Massif rarely ride as one big group, this time being no different with dribs and drabs pooling together for photo stops or to look at something. The route up through Glenshee and over the Lecht is a firm favorite of mine, I could ride it every week and still never get bored.
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We got set up at Glenlivet Hall, with some folk staying in the hall and others setting their tents up outside. The hall has a big kitchen so I suggested we cook a load of fajitas. Aidan, Wolfgang, Moritz and I took the bikes into Grantown Upon Spey for ingredients and beers. On the way back up the enjoyable, twisty road we bumped into Snake and Tex who had came down from Caithness for the night. Fed and watered, we sat outside talking bikes and bullshit for a while. Liam and Euan turned up and we bleathered away till it got dark.
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The following day we set off once more in small groups. I had to drop the key for the hall off so it was a solo run for me till I met up with the guys at Tiso Inverness. There’s a great wee cafĂ© upstairs in Tiso that we like to visit for a coffee or a bowl of soup. From there it’s the relatively dull run to Golspie before the twisties take you over the Berriedale Braes and into Caithness. We stopped off at Snake's place to see his bike collection then I nipped into Lybster to visit family and get a photo at the harbour before another solo run through Wick and up to John O’ Groats. Groats gets a hard time from folk for being boring and barren. I think this is unfair, the campsite gives great views over to Stroma, Swona and Orkney and the high barren cliffs give a great contrast to Sutherlands hills and beaches in the west. Tents up, we ate at the wee cabin by the harbour before heading up to the Seaview pub for a few beers.


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We said our Goodbyes to A-Mac, Dave, Murray and Liam the following day. Liam headed south for home while A-Mac, Dave and Murray headed off to Ullapool. Durness was our destination. Despite the damp conditions the run over the north coast road was enjoyable as always, with a wee detour to see Dunnet Head, the most northerly point of the Scottish mainland. We had just arrived at Durness when it started to absolutely pish it down torrentially. Tents were hurriedly erected and everyone hid inside reading or having a snooze.  


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Durness campsite is a stunning place to visit. I was a little bit disappointed for Wolfgang and Moritz that the weather wasn’t better, keeping us off the beaches the area is famous for. The shelter of the tents was traded for the shelter of the pub where faces were fed and pool balls potted.


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Luckily the weather had improved the next day. We got packed up and carried on round the coast after helping bump start a stricken GS rider who had accidentally left his Bluetooth headset charging on the bike, flattening the battery. Shoving it around the campsite several times proved to be useless so the big beemer was wheeled out to the main road. It fired up easily after getting up to speed down the hill beside the campsite and a sweaty Winton Massif headed off to Achiltibuie.

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The previous two day’s rides from Inverness to Groats and on to Durness were part of the famous North Coast 500 or NC500. Our route from Durness continued along the NC500 before we turned off to Achiltibuie at Lochinver. There’s lots of people ranting on the internet that the NC500 has ruined the roads and the place is now swamped by caravans and campervans. Sure, there’s a little bit more traffic than there used to be, but it’s hardly hoaching with folk. A few extra overtakes or friendly beeps of the horn to remind visitors to let faster traffic pass is all that’s needed. Remember to keep an eye on your mirrors too, while you may be riding along taking in the scenery there could be local person behind you trying to get somewhere.  The fast, open roads from Durness turn steep, tight and twisty at Kylesku, following the coast round to Lochinver through Drumbeg and over to Achiltibuie. This is my favourite area of Scotland. The dramatic scenery of Assynt and Coigach is sensational, unfortunately for us though, some thick cloud obscured our views of the famous hills in the area. I was disappointed but Wolfgang was grinning away. He said he liked the rain and the cloud! At Altandu, just round from Achiltibuie, we met up with Egor on his F800GSA and our usual evening of food beers followed along with half of us getting roped into a pool competition which the local guy who set it up won. Every think you've been conned?

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Conned or not, it was a great laugh and a good night was had by all. The following day we said our goodbyes to Euan, who headed home while the rest of us headed off in small groups to Applecross. I rode for the first part of the day with Aidan. All was going well until we stopped at Laide to refuel the bikes. It turned out my hairy backed friend had lost his phone and bank card. After a few phone calls and some panicking both the phone and the card were found safe and well in the campsite's wee building. Aidan set off back the way we'd came to retrieve his stuff while I carried on in the Gairloch direction on my todd. It's a brilliant run around the coast to Kinlochewe which I really enjoyed despite the damp conditions. By the time I arrived at Kinlochewe I had one in the bomb bay, while I was in the bog I heard some bikes pulling up. Wolfgang, Moritz and Egor welcomed me on my toilet exit and the four of us rode round to Shieldaig where I split from the group to ride over the Bealach Na Ba while the other three took the coast road to Applecross.  At Applecross we met Carina and Maw. Aidan arrived a bit later, his calamity prone day carrying on with a jar of jam bursting open over his top box. Never mind, he said he'd had a perfectly dry run and even a jam spillage didn't dampen spirits, we had our usual enjoyable evening in the Applecross Inn where Wolfgang and Moritz samples some proper Scottish produce. As usual, we followed our evening in the Applecross Inn with a morning at the Waterside Cafe in Lochcarron where a few of us attempted the Challenge Breakfast.

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A great run down Glen Garry on the A87 took us south. We were heading to another Winton Massif favorite, Sunart Camping at Strontian. Rather than cross the Corran Ferry, Aidan and I rode around Loch Eil and down the A861, a nice wee singletrack road.

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We met up with Smillie at Strontian and had a great evening with a barbecue on the campsite. Tim who owns Sunart Camping rode with us to Ardnamurchan Lighthouse, another cracker of a run. It's only around 35 miles but the twisty narrow singletrack road means it can take over an hour to get along it. We had a wee look around the lighthouse before getting the ferry over to Mull from Kilchoan. It really started to chuck it doon while we were sailing over, Luckily we were staying at the Tobermory Hostel that evening, only a few hundred meters from the ferry. 
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As always, Tobermory was a good night out. Unfortunately the Oban ferry the following day was fully booked apart from the 7 am sailing. Aidan and I decided to get the later ferry over to Lochaline but everyone else opted for the early Oban boat. Still, a great night was had by all. The weather had been a bit crap, but that's not unusual for June and it didn't get anyone down. Everyone had a great trip, especially Wolfgang and Mortitz. We'll just have to do another trip next year and book some sunshine.

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More soon.......

Mike.


3 comments:

  1. Good writeup....I must say though, the Scottish Highlands, I find them more pleasing to the eye....

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    1. a confusing entry by me....more pleasing than the flatter portions of the land I meant to say.

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  2. Next time I'm up there I must take on thon big breakfast at the Waterside...

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