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NW500 2018

Created: 29 Jul 2018
Jul 29

Had a brilliant tour to the Scottish Highlands with a few new hotels to add to our list of ‘fabulous’!!

Thanks to Alison and Roy who once again ran a brilliant tour. Here is her blog.

"Our first night was in a four star hotel on the outskirts of Carlisle where we met the group just before dinner. After breakfast on Monday we had a short section of M6 before heading for Dumfries and the Galloway Forest. We then rode through to Girvan and kept to the coast passing Ailsa Craig, the Turnberry Golf Course (owned by US President Donald Trump) and the Electric Brae. The group kept together on the first day … I supposed they just to see what it was like riding in a group of people they didn’t know!! The weather was pretty good for the first leg of the journey but came in to rain as we took the Clyde ferry to Dunoon, and then all the way to Inveraray. The mist soon lifted over Loch Fyne and it turned into a pleasant evening.

On Tuesday we took ‘the long way round’ to Fort William. We headed south to Lochgilphead then north on the coast road, stopping at the Bridge over the Atlantic and one of our favourite coffee stops on the Island of Seil. The weather was beautiful and so relaxing looking out over Insh Island and Mull. We had a chill out couple of hours basking in the sunshine before heading up to Oban and through to the Green Welly for lunch. It was then a short hop over Rannoch Moor and through Glen Coe to our next 4 star hotel in Fort William. As this hotel was booked as B&B only, Roy and I walked into the town for fish and chips (to give the stomach a bit of a break!). The pipe band (pipes and drums), consisting of youngsters, marched up the High Street and into the Square before giving us a lovely rendition of Scottish music.

On Wednesday morning we packed up again and headed for Ullapool. This was quite a long day mileage-wise and also where we joined the NC500 route. We had a quick stop at the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge before continuing on, passing Loch Garry, Loch Loyne and Loch Cluanie and another coffee stop at Eilean Donan Castle where a lone piper played the bagpipes. Next stop was Applecross … the weather was beautiful again so there was no excuse not to go up over the Bealach na Ba and down into the village for another coffee stop! We then followed the coast through to Ullapool.

Thursday was our hardest day as it was over 250 miles around the very top of Great Britain to our next hotel. The weather was absolutely glorious,temperatures reaching 26/27 degrees but with a bit of a side wind blowing! Beautiful white sands, cosy little bays, loads of people at the beach dipping their toes in the water. We stopped for lunch at Bettyhill … I’ve never travelled that section of road before but WOW, I don’t want to miss it again! We then stopped at John ‘o Groats. The most northerly point is actually Dunnet Head but everyone knows of John ‘o Groats and the group were keen to get their photo taken underneath the signboard. Our next fabulous hotel was situated in Brora overlooking the golf course and North Sea.

Friday saw us heading south. We called in at the old railway station in Strathpeffer for our usual coffee break before joining the queues of traffic trying to get over the bridge over the Moray Firth at Inverness. The weather was still hot and sunny as we rode down the A9 before heading for Grantown-on-Spey and the Cairngorms. We had lunch at the Old Fire Station in Tomintoul and then we rode on to Balmoral, Braemar to our overnight stop in Blairgowrie.

After breakfast on Saturday morning, many of us donned our waterproofs … the weather forecast was really bad with torrential rain on the cards for the next two days. Some of our group went off on their own, some to Stirling Castle, others to the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies. Three of the group decided they were going to head for home as they only wanted to get wet the once!! We were ok as we rode through to Crieff, Gleneagles and Knockhill, but after that the Heavens opened. It was so bad that the tail-enders missed the marker for the M90 … you just couldn’t see what you were riding on as the rain was stotting off the ground and running down the roads in rivers!! We managed to get everyone turned around and, as we joined the motorway, Roy had pulled up on the hard shoulder with the rest of the group on the on-slip as he felt it was just too dangerous to go on. We literally had two minutes there when the rain eased slightly so we continued on to Edinburgh. The rain stopped, the sun came out again and we dried off before we reached the new Queenferry Crossing … what an impressive bridge. Everyone decided that they didn’t want another soaking so, by popular demand, we took the direct route to our last, absolutely fabulous, hotel in the Scottish Borders. You definitely saved the best till last again Dave!! Such a shame that the ones who cut their tour short missed this one!!

And all too soon it was the end of another fabulous tour. Thank you all for your very good company. I hope we’ll meet up again soon! "

Sounds like they had a great tour and I am deleighted that they had such great weather with which to enjoy it.

Unfortunately the Scottish Tourist board have been victims of their own sucess by promoting the NC500 , which as led to some congested roads and lack of accommodation, hence we have stepped up to even better quality hotels (hence Alison's comments), but of course this comes as a price, but one we think is worth paying. We are aware that there is the odd weak link, but we continue to modify things to try and get everything perfect.

We will not be doing the NC500 next year, however, our 11 day  'Outer Hebrides Tour'  Sat 8th June - Tuesday 18th June 2019 will follow much of the NC500 route with the bonus of being able to tour the Isle of Skye and isles of Lewis and Harris - definately one not to miss. 

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