Go to Glen Coe for great rides

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week -

‘Ex­plore an area the size of Wales with the pop­u­la­tion of Dover’

There’s a scene in Sky­fall in which James Bond elopes to Scot­land, like we all do at some point or an­other, with his boss, which we gen­er­ally don’t. Bond gets out of his car and stands alone, star­ing into the silent, mist-shrouded moun­tain dis­tance of his child­hood. But you don’t need to be a fic­tional or­phaned se­cret ser­vice agent for the majesty of the Scot­tish High­lands to swal­low you like a maudlin du­vet. Any­one’s who’s tra­versed the sky-blown empti­ness of Suther­land, Scot­land’s most north­west­erly county, will share a spe­cial thou­sand-yard stare.

Sky­fall was filmed in Glen Etive, just off the stun­ning, but touristy, A82 into Glen Coe. But if you’re after gen­uine soli­tude, you’ll need to head fur­ther north than gimpy, wimpy old Bond – right to the very top. Dur­ness is one of a num­ber of small vil­lages ly­ing in the north­west cor­ner of the High­lands. It’s on the A838, the main loop run­ning around the top of Scot­land and part of the North Coast 500 route. From an overnight stop at the Smoo Cave Ho­tel, head east to­wards John o’ Groats. The road jinks and un­winds past in­cred­i­ble beaches – all snow-white sands and crys­tal blue sea – and low, rocky hills.

Even­tu­ally the A838 crosses a low bridge and cause­way over the Kyle of Tongue, into the vil­lage of Tongue. Rid­ers fol­low­ing the North Coast 500 will pass straight through and carry on to John o’ Groats. But if you turn off onto the A836 and head due south in­stead, a dif­fer­ent kind of drama awaits. The High­lands re­gion, which you’re bi­sect­ing, is an area the size of Wales with the pop­u­la­tion of Dover. And as you ride along the A836, you’ll be as re­mote as it’s pos­si­ble to be on the UK main­land (even though it’s only 40 miles be­fore Lairg).

The A836 isn’t a clas­sic in terms of ac­tual rid­ing; it’s sin­gle track, patchy in places, with nadgery hump­backed bridges and hid­den cor­ners. Any sort of speed is likely to end in a one-on-one sheep/bike in­ter­face.

But the real joy is the mag­nif­i­cent iso­la­tion – as you head to­wards the banks of Loch Loyal, strad­dled on ei­ther side by the knob­bly peaks of Ben Loyal on the right and the flat top of Beinn Stru­manadh on the left, an eerie still­ness de­scends. The black wa­ter of Loch Loyal, lap­ping up to a strip of peb­bles just be­low road height, is bleak and malev­o­lent; some great, pre­his­toric, ten­ta­cled horror prob­a­bly sur­vives by drag­ging dawdling bik­ers into the murky depths.

After a while the road strikes out into wilder­ness, wind­ing through conifer plan­ta­tions, be­fore pass­ing through Alt­na­harra; a col­lec­tion of a few houses and an inn.

The road con­tin­ues, wind­ing and leap­ing to­wards a seem­ingly un­reach­able hori­zon. You’ll pass the re­mote Crask Inn, still up for sale if you fancy carv­ing out a liv­ing in the wilder­ness. Great fir tree plan­ta­tions come to dom­i­nate the hori­zon and, as the road nears Loch Shin and the town of Lairg, the odd low stone wall and field. The road re­verts to two-way; it’s only been 70 miles since leav­ing Dur­ness, but it feels like 700.

This ride leads you far, far away from civ­i­liza­tion and it feels bloody bril­liant

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.