Crocketford to John o'Groats,
via Skye, and back.

Click on a thumbnail to see full sized photo, route details are below


Grouse 1
My Honda Revere at the Grouse Distillery

As before

View over Loch Earn

Arrived at 1st stop Killin

View over Loch Tay

Second stopover, Carbisdale Castle

The Castle itself

A99 leading to John O'Groats

John O'Groats

Dunnet Head, most northerly point on UK mainland

One of many sandy bays on the A836

The Kyle of Tongue crossing

Arrived at Tongue

Sunset at Tongue

The A838 near Ben Arnaboll

Sandy cove near Smoo Cove

Looking down to Ullapool

Along side Little Loch Broom

Arrived at Torridon

Looking across to the Western Isles

Descent from Bealach-Na-Ba on the Applecross Penisular

The Skye Bridge

Arrived at Armadale

The waterfall in Glen Coe

My route started at Crocketford on Sunday 15th June 2003. I intended the whole trip to take 6 nights and 7 days riding, but I combined the last 2 days into 1 and thus missed out on a stay at Rowardennan hostel on the backside of Loch Lomond. I decided to stay in Youth hostels to keep accommodation costs to a minimum but allow creature comforts as this was the first "tour" I had done and did not know what to expect. As it turned out the weather from Thurso onwards was dreadful so the decision was justified. I decided to try and limit myself to 200 miles a day, and had specific targets that I wanted to meet, such as going to John O'Groats, crossing the Forth and Skye bridge riding through Glen Coe and travelling on a ferry. Therefore my route was planned to accomplish these personal goals

The Route

Stage 1     Crocketford to Killin Hostel via Broughton, Edinburgh and Dunfirmline
Stage 2     Killin to Cabisdale Castle
Stage 3     Cabisdale Castle to Tongue Hostelvia john o'Groats and Dunnethead
Stage 4     Tongue to Torridon Hostel
Stage 5     Torridon to Armadale Hostelon Skye via Applecross
Stage 6     Armadale to Rowardennan Hostel on Loch Lomond
Stage 7     Rowardennan to Crocketford via Ayr

Stage 1 Sunday

If you are coming from down south, turn of the M74 at Moffat (J15) and follow the A701 to Edinburgh (A far better road to Edinburgh than the A702 through Biggar). Then A720 (Edinburgh bypass) heading for the Forth Road Bridge (Motorbikes FREE). I then got lost in Dunfirmline (the only time I actually got lost on the whole trip). continued up the A823, passed Knockhill, Gleneagles and my first stop at the Distillery just North of Crieff Where I turned left onto the A85 to travel along Loch Earn. Turn right onto A827 and stopped for the night in Killin Hostel. The hostel was good and plenty of local pubs for an evening meal. Total distance I travelled 165 miles.

Stage 2 Monday

Leave Killin, heading North East(ish) along the banks of Loch Tay on the A827 and join the A9 at Balinluig. I have in the past, stopped at Pitlochry and Blair Atholl, but not this time, the Cairngorms awaited and what a sight. Next time my wife's hillwalking club go to the Cairngorms I'll tag along on the bike just to travel this area as much as I can. Across the Moray Firth, then on over the Cromarty Firth passed Ewanton then turn left onto the B9176 (not the fastest road but incredible scenery) Left onto A836, at the transport style restaurant (where I had a lovely tea and pint), I wish I could remember the name of the place. Turn left and continue for a couple of miles to find the flagship Hostel of SYHA apparently once the home of the King of Norway, it still contains original works of art, the library, ballroom are all still in use and its only a few quid a night. Total distance 162 miles

Stage 3 Tuesday

Slight backtrack to the restaurant/pub/cafe turn left toward Bonnar Bridge where I turned right onto the A949 hoping to see some of the Dornoch Firth but the majority of the road is shaded by trees, but still a nice road to travel. Turn left onto the A9 and I have to admit the next 40 miles was the most boring of my whole journey, North sea to the right, nothing much to the left , oh well can't have beautiful scenery all the time. turn right onto the A99 heading for Wick. In Wick in stopped and used the local library to contact home, oh the wonders of webmail ! Next stop John O'Groats, if you like bleak and barren landscape this is where you have to come, ruggard, open moorland. John O'Groats itself was such an anti-climax, a sign post and a few trinket shops, however I did get an excellent bowl of lentil soup in one of the cafes. Onto Dunnet Head, just a lighthouse and birds, but well worth the detour up and back. As I approached Thurso rain was threatening and the wind was increasing, on with the waterproofs and hope it doesn't last. At times travelling the A836 I thought I had taken a wrong turn on more than one occasion as the road suddenly with no warning changes to single track and back again, but incredible scenery, beautiful bays, if only the North of Scotland could get the weather, I wouldn't dream of holidaying abroad. Into Tongue (earlier than the hostel opened but I could still get to the common room to warm up and dry off). I only found to pubs in Tongue, both I considered to be pricey but I got a lovely Cumberland sausage, mash and onion gravy for 6 + 2.50 for a pint. The hostel is currently shut for modernisation (Jan '04) so what I saw will not be of much relevance. Total miles 168

Stage 4 Wednesday

From Tongue, all the route planners I tried took me South on the A836, however I wanted to travel the top of Scotland which with the use of a few "vias" I accomplished the desired effect. Along the A838, stunning scenery (what I could see of it) passed Smoo Cove up to Durness down to Scourie. onto Ulllapool. After Ullapool I had to decide inland (A835/832) or coastal A832 bearing in mind I had already nearly been blown off my bike twice and occasionally had to ride leaning over to remain in a straight line. Never to be called cowardly (only foolish) I decided to go coastal, and turned right for Gairloch. I had a bowl of soup in Gairloch, pricey but very good and warming. fully refreshed I set out for my night stop of the hostel at Torridon. On arriving I didn't find a local pub, so had a can of soup and a pot noodle from the hostel shop. The hostel is pretty modern and very comfortable, but again beware of opening times! Total miles 182

Stage 5 Thursday

The journey around the Applecross penisular had been reccommended to me, so I checked the weather forecast Wednesday night, it didn't appear to be as bad as the weather had been during Wednesday so I planned to go around, up and over the Applecross Penisular. This decision was a good one although the mist and rain obscured most of the views which could have been seen, what I did see was breathtaking. The photograph of the view from Bealach-Na-Ba is not from the top of the descent but what a road to come down! After turning right off the Applecross road onto the A896, I turned right again onto the A890and right again onto thee A87 heading for the Skye bridge. After the previous nights tea I decided that I would buy some provisions in Kyle of Lochalsh for the nights tea, but I needn't have worried as their is a a couple of eating places near the Armadale hostel. I crossed the Skye bridge about 2 pm with the high wind warning signs displayed, great fun ! Having time to kill before the hostel opened I decided to detour up to Portree with the intention to cut across Skye on the B885 and back down the A863. But about two thirds of the way to Portree on turning a sharp left hand bend I was greeted with torrential, horizontal rain, so I decided to about turn and head for Armadale. On the way back I stopped at Skye Jewellery in Broadford where I purchased a very nice present for my wife. The A851 heading down to Armadale is again a very good road to ride, providing the wind is not to strong. Armadale hostel is small but comfortable and modern although the drying room did not manage to dry out my boots for the next day. Whilst chatting with an American on Thursday night it turned out the Mallaig ferry had been tied up for the previous 2 days because of the winds ! Total miles

Stage 6

Friday became my last stage although I had not intended it to be. I had intended to stop on Loch Lomomd but in Glasgow I started to feel tired and knew that my own bed was only an an hour and a half away so Friday became my last leg.
I caught the first ferry to Mallaig (13.70 as opposed to 2.40 over the bridge) had a detour around the B8008 because they were finishing off the A830 improvement. I had breakfast in Fort William and intended to go and see some friends in Port Appin, a place I spent many a childhood holiday. But unfortunately they were in Orkney until the next day so a 30 mile detour for nothing, well not quite I became quite nostalgic travelling along Loch Linnhe, ah !!!!!!!!! Back to Ballachulish Bridge and on to Glen Coe, what a road ! I fully intend to take a couple of trips up to the area this summer as it has to be one of the best roads in Scotland. At Chrianlarich I would normally head for Lochearnhead on the A85 and down to Callander on the A84, but as I was due to stop at Loch Lomond I took the A82 down the west bank of Loch Lomond, not a particularly good road when cold, wet and tired. I stopped for a rest and yet another bowl of soup on the banks of Loch Lomond. at Balloch I turned left onto the A811, but it was along this stretch of road I started to have doubts about going back up to Rowardennan hostel. I pulled into a garage and filled up, taking the decision to return home by the most direct route, into Glasgow onto the M8, M73 and onto the M74 and turn off at Moffat. The journey down the motorway was easy, the tiredness had left me, I was on my way home. This day turned out to be a total distance of miles but on reaching home I did not feel exhausted.

Would I do it again

YES

Would I change things

YES
Go with company
Spend more time in the north, get there quicker, stay longer there and get home quicker

Would I use hostels again
YES
But remember to take coffee and sugar (not all provide these) and verify opening times

My next major excursion, The Alps in June with Bike tours UK