24th September 2012
Roy and Chris Workman take a two-wheeled trip up north and discover a wealth of motorcycle-friendly amenities and hospitality...
This trip all started at the BMF Rally at Peterborough earlier in the year. In one of the undercover halls I spotted a lady selling deals for a stay in the Portsonachan Hotel not far from Oban in Scotland. The deal was £99 per person for three nights bed and breakfast, making it £66 for Chris, my wife, and me per night. The deal was that you had to pay for your stay there and then, but you had 18 months in which to organise your holiday. I had seen this stand at previous BMF rallies, but this time I decided to go for it.
Chris decided that it would be sensible to go sooner rather than later, so the wheels started to turn.
I had also read, maybe some 18 months ago, about Motorcycle Scotland, which is based around Moffat, and is run by Dave Smith and his family, who also run the Buccleuch Arms Hotel. They have designed route maps for scenic rides around the area; these maps are available in the hotel reception. As we were heading up beyond Glasgow, I felt that Moffat was worth a visit en route, and we spent a couple of nights in the town. We found a good B&B at 29 Well Street, very close to the hotel. We received a very warm welcome there, and later on, chatting to the owners, they told us that they can arrange for secure bike storage for their guests. We also had a couple of evening meals at the Buccleuch Arms.
Dave and his family are seriously into bikes, and we were told that a couple of the wives ride as well. The hotel has secure parking for twenty solos -- they have ten metal bike sheds that take two solos each, plus a secure yard for putting outfits in. In the yard there is also a 'bike assist shed' which contains chain lube, battery charger, engine oil, buckets and cloths to clean your motorcycle; if you have got your bike seriously dirty there is even a jet wash that you can use.
Dave told us that in the four years or so that they have provided this facility, it has never been abused. If there are too many bikes for the hotel to safely store, then they move their personal bikes out to two B&B establishments close by (one being Well Street, where we stayed). It was nice to see that the local businesses work so well in conjunction each other. (We also got a 10% discount voucher from our B&B for the meals at the Buccleuch Arms.)
Dave has ridden a Matchless outfit twice; if you ever get to meet him ask him about it. It's a great story!!
The hotel now owns a disused barn at the rear which they plan to turn into bunkhouse-type accommodation, which will give the hotel two levels of accommodation; hopefully this will be ready by the end of 2013.
For those people who prefer to camp there is a biker-friendly campsite in the town itself, about a hundred yards or so from the shops.
Whilst staying in Moffat we had a run out to Hawick Museum, where the entry is free. The museum is open for most of the year, except between Christmas and the New Year. There are rooms dedicated to local riders Steve Hislop and Jimmie Guthrie. The Steve Hislop display is on the ground floor, with three motorcycles on display, plus memorabilia, racing leathers and trophies. Steve won 11 TT races including one riding a rotary-engined Norton. He was also double British Superbike Champion.
Jimmie Guthrie developed his motorcycle skills during the First World War, when he rode as a dispatch rider. He returned home in 1919 and when the local motorcycle club got going again he was a regular competitor. He first rode in a TT in 1923 on a Matchless and he was sponsored by his local club. Soon he was riding an AJS, tuned by his brother. He did not ride in a TT again until 1927, when he came second. The local club had a dinner to celebrate his placing and there is a card signed by several notable people of the time including, Joe Craig.
Jimmie Guthrie was a superstar in his day; mainly riding Nortons. However, between 1927 and 1935, in all the races that he entered, he never finished lower than second place. There is a nice display of age-related memorabilia, including some motorcycles. The rest of the museum is also worth a look, as are the beautifully-maintained grounds which include statues of both riders and a nice little café.
The next day we headed on up north to the Portsonachan Hotel, which is situated on the side of Loch Awe. The hotel was excellent; luckily we were given a loch view room, which gave us breathtaking views of the local area. The staff were friendly and breakfast could sink a battleship if that was what you wanted!
This is a serious area for touring by motorcycle, and there were plenty of bikes around, particularly in the local main towns of Inverary, Oban and Fort William. The scenery is wonderful, and Ben Nevis is close to Fort William -- what better could you get than that?
Would we go again? Yes I think that we would, but you would need to get a hotel deal like we did. However, Chris and I both said that we would like a couple of extra days in Moffat to take more advantage of the road maps provided by the hotel.
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