Thursday afternoon here in action-packed Inverness!!! Woke up late to find out from Moira (our lovely hostess at Braehead House) that there had been a big fire in the centre of Inverness last night (Click here for SFRS details). Across the road from Braehead House is a roofless two-storey building reinforced with scaffolding – when I asked Moira she said that it used to be a hostel until it mysteriously burnt down about eight years ago. The house used to belong to the town’s engineer, and would have been beautiful in its prime. Next to Braehead, overlooking the River Ness below, is a very stately home dating back to the 1840’s, complete with cannon in the front garden.

Managed to upload some video today of our ride to Applecross – check out the six minute video here “The Pass of the Cattle”

Had a lovely breakfast this morning (bacon & poached eggs), played with Archie a bit, and then caught a taxi to A&E for Karen’s appointment today. The decision was made to not change the dressing today, so we’ll return tomorrow to see Christine in the plastics section. Had a lovely walk back to Braehead – it’s a 30 minute stroll, and Karen had a brief rest before we wandered into town for a lunch of tomato and basil soup at a small bakery off the main street. I purchased a cheap copy of Colette Coleman’s “Great Motorcycle Tours of Europe” whilst Karen spoiled herself with a shampoo and blow dry – all carefully performed so as to not irritate her wounds. Colette Coleman’s previous book “Great Motorcycle Journeys of the World” is a great read and occupied a favoured spot on my bookshelf for years – the 2014 “Tours of Europe” is a worthy companion and possibly of more practical relevance to riders here in the UK. Having a quick look the book at the hairdressers I can safely say that we’ve already tackled some of the best roads and/or riding areas in Scotland and England, and our plans for Wales, Ireland and Europe are well placed to take in some of the best rides in the world – bring them on !!!!

We wandered past the fire crews still hosing down the smoldering building, and then stopped at the Castle Tavern on the way home for a pint of beer and some crisps. It’s almost 5pm now and Karen is in some bad pain with her burns – hopefully they’ll start to feel better soon …

Shakedown slowdown

The first month of our trip was intended to be a shakedown ride, but it’s sort of devolved into a slowdown instead. We’re currently holed up in Braehead B&B, a quaint olde home just around the corner from Inverness Castle and not far from Raigmore Hospital where Karen is receiving daily treatment for the chemical burn she received as a result of using the chemo cream prescribed in Perth before our trip commenced. Neither of us anticipated that she would have such an adverse reaction to the cream, though subsequent googling suggests that the cream often has this effect on people. After trying to manage ourselves for a while we ended up at A&E in Raigmore Hospital last Sunday morning, and the care and medical assistance that Karen has received has been exceptional. All of the hospital staff – doctors, nurses, admin people, etc have been absolutely fantastic, and have provided one of the few rays of sunshine in an otherwise dim period.

Sunday morning Karen was discharged after being strapped up with a five-layered dressing across the burn, and was wearing a hospital gown to cover the dressing as her t-shirt wouldn’t fit over the bulky padding. In need of accommodation from Monday onwards and appreciating that we needed to relocate closer to the hospital than the Clansman Hotel, 10 miles or so back towards Loch Ness, we walked through the intermittent rain and hail back towards the town centre, looking for a B&B that could take us. Dressed like an escapee from an institution with her long hospital gown flowing around her ankles, Karen turned heads in the posh Kingsmill Hotel, where we had slipped in to so she could use their toilets. She attracted a lot of looks from guests and staff but no one dare question her as she wandered through the lobby, even having a brief rest in the waiting area.

We finally found a B&B that had a ‘vacancy’ sign on display, and someone at home to answer our questions. In retrospect, perhaps the hosts at other B&B’s were too afraid to answer our door knock. Moira certainly had a puzzled look on her face as Karen explained our situation, but when she figured out that Karen wasn’t an escapee she was only too helpful in making arrangements for us for the following week. Accommodation organised, we wandered around the corner and down the short hill into Inverness, stopping at a tapas bar for a late lunch. We caught a taxi back to the Clansman, and had an early evening.

Monday morning we packed up our gear and I reloaded the bike. After a quick breakfast Karen arranged a taxi to take her to Braehead, and I followed behind on the bike. Moira helped me get the bike into the backyard, safely hidden away from inquisitive eyes, and Karen and I caught another taxi to the A&E department at Raigmore Hospital. Another dressing change – a 30 minute challenge involving many dressing packs, bandages and rolls of adhesive tape, and another doctor (the very pleasant Dr Mike Wells – ex-Perth and all!) and we were sent home with instructions to return again on Tuesday morning.

Monday afternoon involved a lunch of cornish pasties and diet coke, a browse through WHSmith to get a couple of books to read (Uneasy Rider and The Tao of Travel), and then purchases for dinner – cheese, a long bread roll, a bottle of cheap Australian red wine, and some M&M’s. Dinner in our room was very enjoyable, but the rerun of ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ was a bit long-winded, so it was another early night to bed, made somewhat more exciting when I fell through my bed (twice actually). Mattress placed securely on the floor I slept well that night.

Tuesday as a virtual repeat of Monday, though we now have an appointment to see a burns nurse tomorrow. Coincidentally – the burns nurse is the sister of the taxi driver who took us to hospital this morning (and through a complete fluke I also flagged down when looking for taxi to return to Braehead after our hospital visit today), and Moira from our B&B knows both the doctors at Raigmore that have seen Karen, so Inverness seems to be the place where everyone knows everyone – and it’s lovely.

We stopped in the Nero cafe for a coffee (me) and diet coke (Karen) and watched people walk past outside for a while. A lady came in with a dog (a cockerpoo she told us later when I asked – a cross between a cocker spaniel and a poodle) and she said that Inverness is only just starting to have dog-friendly shops. Archie, Moira’s seven-month old golden retriever is an absolute delight – he was playing with us at breakfast this morning, and again when we were chatting with Moira later in the morning. Gigi – her 12 year old golden retriever is happy just to lay on the floor near the doorway to the front room and raise an eyebrow when people walk past, but Archie follows us everywhere, waiting to be first into our room when we open the door, and jumping onto the bed for a pat when he comes in.

Anyway – that’s about enough from me for the moment. More medical appointments for Karen are scheduled for tomorrow and Thursday, and we’ve made arrangements to stay at Braehead for next week as well, just to give her injury a chance to heal a bit before we restart our ride. She’s just turned to page one of The Tao of Travel, so that’s my cue to do some reading of my own – ciao !!!

Easy riding day today – about 100km and 90 minutes from Ullapool to Drumnadrochit where we’ve booked four nights accommodation (at the bargain price of 201 pounds for the four nights, breakfasts included).

Karen helped me get the bike out of the pebbly driveway at Creagan’s Guest House and onto the footpath so I could load it up – it takes me about six trips every time to load and unload the bike.

Karen had a simple porridge breakfast but with all of her tablets that wasn’t going down to well. I read the other day that on the St Kilda Islands the locals used to add flavour to their porridge by adding a puffin (bird) to the porridge whilst it cooked 🙂

Refueled the bike in Ullapool – Karen walked to the servo which was just around the corner from the guest house as mounting and dismounting is painful. One pound 32.9/litre for 98 RON super unleaded. Had a beautifully sunny and warm ride from Ullapool to Drumnadrochit – the sun was shining and it was a magical day to be on the bike.

On arrival at the Drumnadrochit Hotel their reception didn’t know anything about our four-night booking, so a frantic phone call from them to the Clansman Hotel a few miles down the road secured a room for us, and the Clansman is right on the shores of Loch Ness – we’ve been watching tourist boats departing from the jetty across the road every hour on the hour this afternoon whilst we waited in the cafe for our room to be prepared. Had a good chat to Alisdair – the car park attendant here – very thoughtfully he pointed out a tarred bay I could park the bike in – a welcome change from all the pebbles we’ve had to negotiate in other car parks. Alisadair is an ex trails rider, keen quad rider and sidecar rider (but doesn’t have his road licence), and provided some good suggestions on places to visit both locally and further north of here.

Downloaded the GoPro video to the Mac and had a quick look at that – the video of the Pass of the Cattle enroute to Applecross worked out well so I’ll try and post that up tomorrow. Had a drink in the bar overlooking Loch Ness where we finally managed to get the wifi working, and now relaxing back in our room, watching the 1960’s movie “The Lost World” – quite fitting given our current location.

Wednesday 8th April was an easy rest day in Ullapool, intended that way to give Karen a chance to rest up a bit. The highlight of the morning was walking down to the local laundromat and doing a load of washing – I was quite keen to keep on wearing my ‘Dakar’ t-shirt for another three weeks before even contemplating a wash for it but Karen insisted, so now it’s clean again – at least for a day 🙂

Wandered down to the park overlooking Loch Broom whilst our washing was being done, and then shopped for a few nibblies in the Tesco across the road from the laundromat whilst it was being dried, and then wandered back to Creagan’s Guest House for a bit of an afternoon nap.

Woke up mid afternoon and went for a walk along the Main Street of Ullapool, past the ferry terminal where a large ferry had just docked and was unloading cars and trucks, and down to the Arch Inn where we grabbed a couple of drinks and sat on the benches overlooking the water, enjoying the afternoon sunshine and watching some dogs playing in the water.

Another early night – BBC One just can’t retain my interest past 7:30pm, so we drew the blinds and had an early night in preparation for moving on again tomorrow morning.

07042015 – Applecross and Ullapool

After two nights in our luxurious loft room in Ose it was time to move on as we had two nights booked in Ullapool, about 3.5 hours north and back on the mainland. After another fortifying breakfast cooked by Kenny, Karen packed the gear bags and I loaded up the bike ready for the day’s ride.

Originally we’d planned to travel to the northernmost tip of the Isle of Skye on our way out as that would of taken us past the ‘Old Men of Storr’ – a stone outcrop used in the opening scenes of Prometheus (for all you Alien fans), but Karen wasn’t feeling too flash so we turned south instead and made for a quick exit off Skye.

A few days earlier we’d been chatting with a few riders waiting for the ferry at Maillag to take their bikes across to Skye, and they were all planning to tackle the mountain pass to Applecross, just north of Kyle of Lochalsh. Top Gear have rated this mountain pass road as one of the best drives in Britain, and warning signs at the start advise against learner riders, caravans, or winter crossings. The pass is single lane only, very twisty, about 20km in length, and has passing bays every 50m – 150m to allow traffic to pass. In places the gradient is 20% – and the final few turns of the twisty track are very tight and steep, and were wrapped in fog as we rode up to the snow line.

We stopped for a brief photo opportunity in the snow at the top of the pass, the bike shrouded in fog as we walked across the small carpark to a memorial plaque, and for a brief moment the fog lifted revealing blue skies and allowing us to see all the way down to the coast and across to Skye, before it closed in again. Karen was keen to play in the snow for a while, and took good aim at me with a couple of snowballs, but it wasn’t long before she started to feel the cold. We remounted the bike and rode down the single track to the tiny coastal village of Applecross, and popped into the even tinier Applecross Inn for a warming lunch of garlic mushrooms for Karen, and green Thai chicken curry for myself.

We left Applecross bound for Ullapool via the “coward’s way” – the northern coastal road that was only slightly wider than the mountain pass and certainly not as steep, but still very scenic and a pleasure to ride. We passed a lot of sheep in the fields with many lazing right next to the road, and some wooly highland cows.

The road twisted and weaved around the shores of a loch, rising and falling like the waves. The scenery was spectacular with snow covered peaks visible in the distance. Rejoining a more major road we stepped up the pace a bit and were making good time enroute for Ullapool when, 20km short of our destination, Karen was feeling so ill from her treatment that she needed to pull off and have a break for a few minutes. We’d stopped near a shallow stream flowing through the fields so I took a few quick photos whilst Karen gathered herself for the last push into Ullapool. The GPS directed us right to the front door of Creagan’s Guest House, and Harris the collie came and supervised me as I parked the bike down the driveway, a pebble strewn challenge to finish the day with.

Karen introduced herself to our hostess Kathleen, and upon mentioning that she was feeling ill Kathleen made an appointment at the local doctors for Karen, and we walked around the corner to see him, before racing down to the pharmacy on the high street to get some scripts filled before they closed for the day.

Dinner that evening for me was four shortbread fingers, liberally covered in Nutella, which I’d found on the Isle of Skye, and we were in bed by 7:30pm. Some exhilarating riding today, quite challenging across the mountain pass but also very rewarding, but the enjoyment of the riding was offset by the knowledge that Karen was in extreme discomfort from her treatment.


We reluctantly left the comfort of Sconcer for the unknown ….we thought of moving on but my discomfort is now extreme from my Chemo so Vince insisted we stay and rest up a bit…. He’s so good to me. So we needed to find accommodation for a few days to let me rest. It was an effort to pack up and move on but we managed to find a B&B in Ose for 85 pounds a night and they had a couple of nights available. As our room would not be available until after 4.30 (it was only around 11.00am) and we had discovered everywhere (accommodation and Pubs) on Skye deal in cash …we needed to find a teller machine (only available in the capital Portree).  We also took the time to go to Dunvegan Castle where Vince joked about a family discount and they (Malcolm) actually gave us one! A lovely young man in a kilt also came out to look after my helmet which he promised me he would not try on nor take the ANIMAL for a spin! I was also advised to ask to sign the family book as the Chief likes to see where family are coming from….so I did. Vince was impressed …especially by the dungeons and the idea that the early Chiefs just either had their wives beheaded or put into the Dudgeon to die of cold or starvation and take a new one ……hmmmmm….a lot cheaper than divorce I guess. Hope he’s not trying to tell me something LOL. Luckily I don’t think the Partridges have a castle or a dungeon so I think I’m safe.




Despite the loss of my battle with a chest cold (so I think I am dying now!) that Vince caught on the plane over and now has shared with me…..and my chemo treatment (day 9) has kicked in well and truly so I am nauseous, can’t eat and my chest is now blistered and raw so I am in constant pain…..we are keen to keep moving. Our original booking for the Isle of Skye was canceled on us due to a double up and there is a music festival there this weekend for Easter…so we are winging the accommodation option and if the worst comes to the worst I plan to knock at Dunvengan Castle and demand my family rights as a McLeod…LOL. Seriously we could camp wild if it got to that ….but given the coughs we both have a warm bed would be nice.

We travelled North and the weather was the best we have had in Scotland…..even the sun came out now and then….and we were mostly dry.  We travelled past Loch Lomond onto Fort William and Ben Nevis…we saw snow at ground level and I was tempted to get off and play in it …but it was such a mission to get on and off the bike fully loaded and geared up I gave it a miss for now.

We arrived in Mallaig to get the Calmac Ferry to Armadale (around 21 pounds) …as we hadn’t booked the next one leaving at 1.45pm was full but we could get on the 3.15pm …. so we went to Mallaig for afternoon tea. We met fellow traveller, Alex, a Russian from Ireland, who gave us some helpful hints and was an all round nice guy who travelled over with us. At the port in Mallaig our bike proved interesting to a number of people, Cameron, a rider from Yorkshire and fellow Horizons Unlimited member, and John, a local. Everybody loves the ANIMAL.

The half our ferry ride was calm and uneventful….given our history of sea sickness we were grateful. We rode on and off the ferry 2up easily and turned left in Sleat (My Great Great Great Grandmother Peggy/Margaret McLeod was born in Camus Cross in Sleat, and my Great Great Grandfather, Angus McLeod was born there too.) passing the Clan Donald Centre and headed up the east coast. Most accommodation was NO VACANCY but we tried a few B&B’s along the way but the first only had a single, the second had just sold their last double, but third time lucky in Sconcer at Loch Aluinn for the night only. Marjorie and Eric Jagger were great hosts and at 60 pounds a double including breakfast it was a bargain. The decor was very quaint and nothing a traveller could need was overlooked. We would have like to stay longer but they didn’t have a vacancy.  We had dinner at a local pub, the Sligachan Hotel, and although I still can’t really eat we both tried a dram of the local whiskey, Talisker….which Vince assured me would either cure my cold or put hairs on my chest. Sadly and gladly…. neither eventuated.


The weather was still not ideal but at least no gale warning so we decided to make the 160km trip from Gretna Green up to my home town of Greenock by direct route just to be safe. Arrived in Greenock at my relatives for a couple of days to pay respects and put some daffodils at my Grandparents graves and catch up with some relatives. Enjoyed the hospitality of my Uncle John and and Aunty Margaret (on Dad’s side) ….they really looked after us. My cousin Caroline (on Mums side) organised a trip up to Inveraray and we visited our first Scottish Castle (Where Caroline’s daughter works and got us a family tour free!). We also went into the Village itself where I met some “inlaws”, bought some treacle toffee and liquorice toffee (memories of my childhood)….yum! and saw some landmarks. The weather was not the best but we made the best of it. Thanks to all the family and it was great catching up….if you post the link below in the browser it will show you some general info on my home town.

It has been touch and go on whether or not we should try to get to Greenock today….but gale force winds, torrential rain and hail and local advice from other riders is to wait it out. So we booked another night at the Days Inn at Gretna Green and have had a relatively veg out kind of day….it has also given us a chance to let things dry out a bit. We did venture a couple of miles down the road to the Famous Old Blacksmiths Shop at Gretna Green famous for civil elopement marriages ….we thought it apt that we have a picture taken with the anvil showing our wedding rings…..I also decided to represent Scotland on my pandora with a silver anvil…quite unique……..  We are hopeful that the forecast for tomorrow and the next few days will be more promising…..fingers crossed we aim to be in Greenock by early afternoon……we will leave late in the morning due to the ice warnings.

We woke up this morning, in our two single beds, in the loft of the 150 year old farmhouse to see snow on the ground….how exciting! I rushed downstairs and raced outside to take some photos. The ANIMAL was covered in snow! It was awesome…..I was like a kid in a candy shop…..I love snow! After breakfast we packed the bike got dressed in our wet-weather gear and Vince let some air out of the tyres before carefully getting the bike back down the hill to the road…I chose to walk down as we were both concerned due to the boggy nature of the land, as well as the increased challenge of the snow and ice. Once safely at the bottom, I mounted and we rode into Falstone where Vince got out the 12v compressor to pump up the tyres…all a bit of a mission but very necessary. We went to Chesters Fort – a Roman fort and bath house on the River Tyne (inc a small section of Hadrian’s Wall) not too far away and we had a good look at that. Then we rode a few miles further west and stopped at Housestead’s Fort and had a good look around that – which included a long walk (about a mile and a half) up a very, very, very steep hill from carpark to the ruins…. that was hard work with all our riding and wet weather gear on…at one point I thought I might have a heart attack! We then watched a short video on the history of Housestead’s Fort and Hadrian’s Wall before inspecting the ruins. We walked further up the hill to the actual section of Hadrian’s Wall that you can walk on….amazing….we came …we saw….we conquered!!! The weather deteriorated further when we left there and the wind had picked up making riding quite unpleasant and dangerous…I had to press my weight down on the left peg and lean over to help Vince keep the bike upright against the cross wind… we revised our plans, which were to go to Greenock……and just aimed to get to Gretna Green for the night instead. We were welcomed into Scotland after 1503km in England to hail, gales  and freezing cold! Welcome HOME Karen!