It rained overnight at Southerness, so we had a bit of a late start to let the tent and fly cover etc dry out before we packed it away in the panniers…we were pleased that things packed away neatly again …as this was the 1st time we had used them and you know how it can be when things never seem to go back quite as compact.
We were headed for Cairnryan, where we would eventually get the ferry over to Ireland. We were unsure if we would spend the night there and travel to Ireland tomorrow or whether we would get the ferry to Larne today.
Vince had another ride from the Great Motorcycle Tours of Europe book he wanted to do….the Galloway Forest Ride and maybe go offroad on the Raiders Road. We met some riders who had just completed it and they said there was only a bit that was tricky….we had some trouble with a hill of particularly loose gravel….but Vince made it to the top safely with both of us on board….I probably needed a double scotch at the time….I find off road much scarier than he does…but he says that’s why I’m Adventure Girl…I feel the fear and do it anyway…he’s trying to convince me I’m braver than I think…
We arrived in Cairnryan around 2.10pm and decided to check out the ferry schedule before getting some lunch and working out accommodation. I did a reccie and there was a fast ferry of 1 hour at 5.30pm or the next day a ferry at 8.00am and 1.30pm both taking 2 hours and again the fast ferry at 5.30pm. I let Vince know and we decided on the fast ferry today. So we booked our tickets for two adults and a motorbike ….it was 69 pounds.
We went into the nearby town of Stranraer and had lunch at the Customs House …which claims to be the last house before Ireland. Then we had to be back at Cainryan to check in before 4.30 pm. We were at the head of lane 2 and were the first vehicle to be boarded….. this is the second ferry crossing the ANIMAL has done (the first being to Isle of Skye)….. we are getting good at this! Once on board we went to the bar and had a diet coke and some potatoe chips whilst we travelled over the Irish Sea to Larne. Happy to say neither of us were seasick…thank goodness.
It was raining when we left Cairnryan (Scotland) and when we arrived at Larne (Northern Ireland). We quickly managed to find a B&B at Derrin House, where Ivy made us welcome and it was only 63 pounds for a double. She also suggested a local restaurant for dinner ….which was Checker’s Winebar. Vince had a Guinness and made me try some …I didn’t like it. I had a very “Irish” chicken schnitzel – it was battered instead of crumbed and served with pepper sauce! Well, we are in Northern Ireland after all…..
After a wonderful breakfast at Castle Vale House we headed back to the Scottish border we had whizzed past last night and took some photos of the first and last house is Scotland. We then headed south to Beal to see the Holy Island Lindisfarne….where the Vikings first landed ….we were told it was unlikely the tide would be right until around 2.00pm ….so we through the we would only see it from the mainland. However, the planets aligned for us, and when we got there, around 11.00am, the tide was out…..so we could drive across to the Island itself….Vince loves the series “Vikings” so this was special for him.
We then headed along the boarders ride that Vince has seen in “Great Motorcycle Tours of Europe” by Colette Coleman, and we had a great ride with twisties and rollies ( our made up word for roads that go up and down like a roller coaster) including becoming airborne at one point! We spent around 6 hours on the bike today and arrived at Southernness in the early evening in time to pitch our tent for the first time …..the Mutha Hubba NX3 is a thing to behold ….easy to put up….spacious and well designed. Our research paid off and the performance of our new Thermorest Neoair Everglade pillows and Thermorest Neoair Xtherm mattresses was impressive …. I guess you really do get what you pay for. We didn’t christen our Dragonfly and cook though …we got a meal at the local pub instead and met some very colourful local characters there including Greg from Glasgow (who claims to have climbed Ben Nevis) and Peter and Sharon from Ayr who take it in turns to get drunk.
After dinner we settled in for the night cuddled up in our little tent….we like camping! And at just 14 pounds so does our bank balance! Parkdean is a holiday park and although it’s “Butlins” type set up is not really our style …the toilet, shower and laundry facilities were exceptional and the site had power – not that we needed that!
As part of the up and down day we have had ….I’m sorry to say that the ANIMAL fell over for the first time today…..no one was hurt …in fact no one was actually on her at the time….we were at a fuel stop.
Now when you are two up …there is a rider and a pillion…and who do you think is in charge of the ANIMAL?….so who dropped her?…..was it Vince or Karen?…
I know it’s unbelievable but it was me…..Vince went in to pay and I just put my hand on the softbag and over she went….it was like slow motion….nothing I could do to stop 250kg from just falling over….I thought to myself oops…no way I can hide this one ’cause I can’t lift it up myself before he gets back and pretend nothing happened…..luckily no damage was done and we discovered that we can lift the bike together (I’m stronger than I look) ….useful to know …..scared the crap out of me at the time though…and Vince is never going to let me live it down!
We left the Habitat Bunkhouse in Ballanter after we made our own breakfast of cereal and milk (purchased the night before from the local Co Op) and headed for Aberdeen to visit Vince’s relative. Whilst there we met Derek and his Harris Hawk, Zeus. They are one of two falconers working in Scotland as part of a Seagull control program. The Harris Hawk ( who originate in Argentina and are purchased by the falconer at 26 weeks and then become food imprinted) just fly around and their presence has two effects, firstly if a Seagull is carrying an egg and it gets frightened the egg dies, and secondly if nesting the egg must be incubated constantly, if left for more than 30 min it will die. So the bird of prey just by flying around scares the Seagulls and helps control the population. It was very interesting to talk with Derek who told us it takes 10 years to become a master falconer and he has been doing it for 3 years, he has had Zeus for 1 year. Very cool!
We arrived in Aberdeen about 10.30am and left about 2.30pm heading south towards Edinburgh via Perth. Unfortunately the motorway did not pass through Perth itself so we didn’t stop off and the traffic for Edinburgh was so horrendous we decided to by pass it as well. As it was the A1 had a truck break down and it took us over 2 hours to travel just 8 miles…..very scary on a bike in such heavy traffic …. and testing of our patience as some drivers got so close they were almost touching my left leg….I gave him an Aussie one finger salute and told him he was an idiot!
We had intended to camp tonight for the first time, but by the time we arrived in Berwick Upon Tweed it was around 7.30pm and we were very hungry as all we had eaten all day since breakfast was a Mars Bar at a fuel stop ( more about that in the Ooops post) . So we eventually found a B&B at Castle Vale House, run by Margaret and Justin…who kindly gave us a reduced rate for the night (of 60 Pounds instead of 80) as we arrived so late. We took a walk along the river and found that most places were closed for food …it was around 8.15pm…but we eventually found an Indian place ….very expensive at around 45 pounds for two dishes and drinks and some papa dams ( which we thought were bing offered complimentary!) ….any port in a storm.
So all in all an up and down kind of day today!
We got up early and sneaked down to the sign for John O Groats….and got a photo of our bike there ….which you are not really suppose to do …but hey ….I won’t tell if you won’t!
We left JOG at 8.30am and went to nearby Duncansby Head where we saw the lighthouse and the Old Stokes (rock formations). The wind was howling and very cold. Next we visited Dunnet Head which is the most Northerly part of the British mainland, whilst JOG is generally thought of as the most northerly point…it actually isn’t ….so we walked to the top of Dunnet Head and although you had an almost 360 degree view it was so windy and cold it made it impossible to stay there very long.
Either way you call it …we have been to the top of Scotland!
We headed westward back along the North Coast and then turned inland and went back along different back roads until we eventually met up with the A9 and travelled back via Inverness, through the Cairngorm National Park…along the Malt Whiskey Trail to Ballater in Aberdeenshire. It’s near Balmoral Castle and has a very Royalist feel about it. We have come this way to enable us to visit Vince’s Aunt who lives in Aberdeen ….as we try to get back on track with our schedule as best we can.
We were hopeful to be moving on and said our thanks and goodbyes to Moira and of course Archie and Gigi ( the golden retrievers). After Dr Mike Wells gave me the all clear and discharged me from Raigmore Hospital (he was so impressed as he thought I would be at least another week) we were finally back on the road …..
Off to John O Groats …we left Inverness and headed North on the A9 and then went inland to Helmsdale and explored the back roads up to Melvich on the coast…from there we turned eastward travelling through the various small villages along the coastline through Thurso, Dunnit and finally onto our destination of John O Groats. We were very excited as ever since watching Borman and McGregor it has been a goal to tick this box! Whilst there we met another biker rider, Wil and a hiker, Andrew. We ended up all having a meal together and sharing stories of our travels. It was a really special time for Andrew who had just finished walking from Lands End to John O Groats….so we were thrilled to help him celebrate….CONGRATULATIONS on such an achievement! It’s lovely when people make their dreams come true!
After our distillery visit, Gordon the tour guide at Dalwinnie, suggested we explore the Funicular Railway in Avimore that goes up Cain Gorm Mountain as it was such a beautiful day and the sun was shining so the views would be spectacular. So in true Vince fashion ….we decided to “Give it a Crack”.
It didn’t take us very long to get there back along the A9 and once we purchased out tickets we went and had some lunch. The funicular carriages ran every 15 minutes and it took about 10 minutes to get to the station at the top. We were surrounded by skiers and snowboarders of all ages and there was a chairlift operating in the background. Across the piste we could see a track leading up the mountain towards the summit…..and you guessed it ….Vince decided to “Give it a Crack!” . I swear he thinks I’m Tomb Raider Material…..dam near killed me and I thought I might not make it several times…as it just went on and on and on…..but Whoo Hoo! What a feeling when I finally did reach the summit to meet Vince…. who was already there ahead of me…..1245m high and what a view ….awesome!
Coming down was easier on the heart but harder on the knees and I made it back ahead of Vince to hold what we thought was the last carriage (it was actually the second last)…until he got there….all good!
All in all an amazing and enjoyable day….we got back to our B&B in Inverness around 5.30pm and headed off to the Castle Hotel for a well earned Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding dinner….yum!
Things went okay for me in my riding gear …maybe a bit more padding required to cushion those few areas still tender and healing over…..but a moving forwards day….we are now planning how to get back on schedule!
I had to put some dressings on a few areas to be able to wear my bike riding gear ….but all good!
After breakfast we saddled up and set off for a day trip to Dalwhinnie Distillery …the highest distillery in Scotland …and the coldest with avg temp 6 degrees C . We took a tour with Gordon, who was extremely knowledgeable and engaging. We got to sample the 15 year old Whiskey and got a keepsake dram glass. Afterwards, as I was not driving …I sampled the The Four Dalwhinnies along with their accompanying award winning handmade chocolates by Ian Burnett, chocolatier to the Queen …exquisite! Vince got to have the smallest sip of each, as he was riding …and we both picked the Distiller’s Edition as our favourite and treated ourselves to a bottle (at almost 60 pounds its a special treat for a special time).
The Distillery is quite small and set in the little village of Dalwhinnie itself. It was all very professional and I convinced Deborah, who explained my tastings to me in intricate detail, to let us go pro her in action …she’s a legend!
Vince will put a link to the video here….
Well, after being pretty much incapacitated, constantly in pain and miserable for the past couple of weeks…..I’m finally starting to feel human again! Today, I could have a proper shower for the first time in almost a week and I managed to get through the day without painkillers or dressings – other than moisturising cream cause I’m peeling and scabbing now ….who would ever have thought I’d be so happy to scab! I have an appointment with the burns unit on Monday which I hope will be my final visit and we can get back on our bike again …..I miss the ANIMAL.
This down time in Inverness has been difficult and put our schedule way out …..so we will need to relook at things but that’s all good….when life gives you lemons learn to make lemonade!
We have got to explore Inverness in ways we would not have if I had not needed to be at Raigmore Hospital every day…the staff were simply amazing and I received the very best of care….we also met some lovely people who helped us along the way ….the kindness of strangers renews your faith in the human race.
All going well we want to try a shakedown ride to the Cairngorms and maybe a whiskey distillery tomorrow to check out my pain levels and abilty to get back into my riding gear ……wish us luck!
Friday 17th April here – waiting for some photos to upload so just punching out a quick blog.
Karen saw the plastics specialist nurse this morning and she seems to have turned the corner towards recovering from the chemical burns across her chest – now the area is just a bright pink rather than the vivid glowing and weeping red it’s been for the past week or so. Wednesday’s dressing was replaced with a fresh, smaller dressing that just covers some as yet unhealed areas on her neck, and hopefully she will be fine til Monday when we go back to see Dr Wells in A&E. She’ll be able to have a shower tomorrow so that will be a real treat for her.
We had a lovely walk back into town from hospital, and sat down on a bench in the high street listening to a boogie busker battle it out with someone banging on their bagpipes for a while, before we stocked up on peanut M&M’s from the Pound Shop and then went for a walk across the road bridge, down past the old cathedral, and along the banks of the fast flowing Ness River. We crossed back over a pedestrian suspension bridge, couldn’t find the toilets for Karen in the luxurious ‘Abstract’ restaurant, so popped into the more down-to-earth Watershed next door for lunch and a pit-stop.
Karen is laying down now reading “Uneasy Rider” by Mike Carter, and she’s having fits of hysterics as she reads about his adventure-riding antics 🙂 It’s a very entertaining book – I’m sure I’ve got it in my collection somewhere back in Perth but this is Karen’s first opportunity to read the book and she’s spellbound and speechless with laughter as Carter ricochets from one funny experience to another!
No hospital visits this weekend so we may lash out and visit a laundromat instead. Hope to be back on the bike next week so watch this space !!!