Ex­plore the Board­ers’ roller-coaster thrills p22

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Contents - By Si­mon Hargreaves

Once the Angel Of The North has risen above the tree­line like a gi­ant rusty bill­board and the stop-start te­dium of the A1 has driz­zled out into a pedes­trian slog around New­cas­tle and over the Tyne, two-wheeled sal­va­tion ar­rives at the junc­tion with the A696. Be­cause this road, and the A68 it bleeds into, is as su­perb a stretch of black­top as you’ll find south of the bor­der. Its long, lan­guid high-speed curves and roller-coaster fun through conifer plan­ta­tions and moor­land serves as the per­fect sharp­ener for fur­ther de­lights later on in the ride.

The A696 peels off the A1 at the sign­post for New­cas­tle In­ter­na­tional Air­port. You might want to stop for fuel at the air­port’s Shell fill­ing sta­tion be­fore tramp­ing on – if Wetherby was your last fill-up, you’re 90 miles into your tank; stick with the A696 and A68 and your next fuel is an­other 50 miles away (lo­cal ser­vices along the route at Knowes­gate never seem to be open).

Clear Pon­te­land’s town cen­tre (pro­nounced Pon-tee-lund, just so you know) and the na­tional speed limit sign is at the exit of a long right-han­der – just af­ter a farm en­trance, so pay at­ten­tion (Google Streetview shows what can hap­pen at that point).

For the next few miles you pulse rhyth­mi­cally through low coun­try­side – a fixed speed cam­era sign af­ter a few miles is fol­lowed by a yel­low box on a stick just past the High­lander pub; but af­ter that, you’re in the clear un­til the 30mph vil­lage of Bel­say. Fur­ther on, drink in the long, steady straights climb­ing to a peak at Ot­ter­cops.

The land­scape is now the brown and pur­ple patches of open high moor ap­proach­ing the Northum­ber­land Na­tional Park, and this is where the road gets re­ally good, drop­ping in a sud­den rush of fast cor­ners get­ting tighter as you de­scend. Be care­ful at the 90-de­gree right at Monkridge Hall – once it was Shell­grip, now it’s a patchy mess. Slow for the vil­lage of Ot­ter­burn, then merge with the A68 – and go deeper into the Na­tional Park. At Rochester you’ll find Camien Café, the self-pro­claimed last café in Eng­land.

On­wards, sweep­ing past the rip­ples of Cat­cleugh reser­voir on your left, glit­ter­ing flashes of light re­flected be­tween fir trees, and then start the climb up to Carter Bar – the bor­der be­tween Scot­land and Eng­land, at 1400ft. There you’ll find a layby, mag­nif­i­cent views into Scot­land, a big rock with the coun­try of your choice painted on it for a selfie and, if you time it right, a burger van for a brew.

Roller­coaster your way through the conifer plan­ta­tions as you head north

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