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14th October 2016

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Sunshine in Scotland, Part One

After the deluge in Deeside, Stuart Urquhart was understandably nervous about organising another ride through Scottish scenery on classic bikes. But it turned out nice again...

As soon as the beer-infused words drifted from my mouth I knew I’d set myself up. ‘You should come over to Scotland sometime and borrow one of my classics – we’ll have a ball!’ We were all in LOUD party mode, celebrating with my Danish friend Jens Kongsvad and remembering our previous trip to the North West 200 some 25 years earlier. Jens’ wife Trine had far sharper ears than her inebriated hubby, and contacted me three years later to suggest we surprise Jens on his coming 55th birthday. How about a midsummer motorcycle tour of Scotland, on guess who’s bike!

‘Well of course, what a great idea!’ I agreed. My first thought was I could take my Commando and Jens could borrow my Hinckley Bonneville – except that I’d recently sold the Triumph. But I didn’t let on. I assured Trine I would organise a short tour, but one based around the Scottish Classic Motorcycle Club’s Autumn Gathering in September rather than midsummer, when Scotland is often wet and midge-infested. By contrast the mid-September Autumn Gathering has a good record of fine weather and an amazing turn-out of classic motorcycles – so plenty interest for our Birthday Biker Boy.

I was left to get on with the planning, with the nagging doubt that the Scottish weather never goes in accordance with anyone’s plans. A key element of our scheme was touring with the same old gang from the NW200. Fortunately all agreed to come along for the ride – Fred, Tom, Ian, Robin and me, plus Jens would make our group of six.

Classic Motorcycles - Sunshine in Scotland Jens, poised for action but with a worried frown

Five months flashed by and September arrived to find me a nervous wreck. Scotland had just experienced one of its best summers and the Gathering was only weeks away. Yet, I still had no loan bike for Jens. Sadly one of our group suddenly died and another two couldn’t make the whole tour. Thus our tour group was reduced to just three, including Jens. Thankfully, RC regular Ian decided to join us and kindly offered his spare Enfield for use in the event that I couldn’t supply a loan bike for Jens. A few days later another friend asked if I knew anyone who’d be interested in his Enfield Bullet 500. As I was already searching for a Bullet for my daughter, I killed two birds in one deal and Jens had a loan bike!

With just days before our departure, insuring Jens to ride the Enfield proved to be a walk in the park. But after another friend, Allan, joined our troop, finding a hotel to sleep our expanding party of five drew a blank. However, my lucky streak was on a roll as the Killin Hotel called me back to offer a cancellation for two twin rooms – whoopee! Then on the same day the BBC forecast popped up with bright yellow suns for the week leading up to the Autumn Gathering. I relaxed for the first time in months. Jens Day finally arrived and, with a fixed grin from ear to ear, I headed to Edinburgh Airport to pick him up. Everything was going to plan.

Classic Motorcycles - Sunshine in Scotland Loch Voil

For Jens the next morning was a crash course on how to start a 500 Enfield Bullet without breaking his ankle. Fortunately the left-footed Jens mastered the art of starting far better than he coped with the bewildering one-up, three-down, right-side gear shift. We packed light and awaited Allan arriving on his recently purchased Hinckley T100 Bonneville. A quick introduction and 1900cc’s of masquerading Indian and Taiwanese iron thundered through the back roads that led to Crieff. Progress was pitifully slow until Jens became familiar with the eccentricity of his Indian Bullet – this learning curve from BMW K-RS to Enfield Bullet took approximately 12 miles before we could comfortably up the pace of our Enfields to that of the Triumph.

The plan for the first day was to meet up with Ian at Monachle Mhor Hotel for a free round of coffees, courtesy of his delightful daughter. The day was already warming as we passed through Comrie and reached the first jagged mountains that signal the approach to Loch Earn and the venue for the Autumn Gathering in just a few days’ time.

Classic Motorcycles - Sunshine in Scotland Rob Roy's grave
Bonnevilles (old and new) on Now...

We turned south at Lochearnhead and followed the A84 to Callander before taking the exit to Balquhidder, final resting place of Rob Roy, the ‘Scottish Robin Hood’, who also fought the English during the first Jacobite rebellion in 1688. But before our meeting with Balquhidder’s ancient robber’s bones we followed Ian along Loch Voil’s shoreline-hugging road for our arranged brunch at Monachle Mhor. I was soon lagging behind with frequent stops to take pictures of the utterly stunning panoramas that opened up around every bend – the lads returning expectantly to see at which point on the treacherous single track road, I’d tumbled into the loch!

If you ever tour the Trossachs, do not pass Loch Voil. You can follow our wonderland route by taking the B-road to Balquhidder, immediately opposite the Kingshouse Hotel (sign-posted) and enjoy a well-earned pint of ‘Bitter and Twisted’ at Monachle Mhor. Refreshed by our B&T, we headed back to salute Rob Roy before taking the north road to Killin.

Once entrenched at Loch Tay our evening was spent enjoying some traditional haggis overlooking Killin’s beautiful Falls of Dochart. The haggis was soon chased by more than a few pints of the aptly named Schiehallion ale – a superb end to a very pleasant first day.

Classic Motorcycles - Sunshine in Scotland Killin’s beautiful Falls of Dochart

Next time: would the weather stay set fair? Would the Enfield agree to start first kick?

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