Across Scotland on a motorbike: The start of a spectacular journey

Country Life's Steve Ayres has long had a dream: to traverse Scotland on a classic British motorbike. Now, he's making that dream come true.

Back in 1995 I spent a delightful week traversing Scotland from west to east. It was a journey I took with a friend in my faithful Fiat Punto – but as wonderful as it was, I kept having a recurring thought on seeing the countless motorcycles that passed us. Wouldn’t this be even better by bike?

Fast forward 22 years to Autumn 2017 and I found myself sitting in an armchair putting serious plans into making that thought into reality. And on 1st June 2018, I left the urban sprawl of North Kent sitting atop a beautiful British motorcycle – a shiny new Triumph Tiger 1200 XRX – alongside Steve, my friend of 25 years, riding his own machine.

Steve Ayes Scotland trip - bike and kit

Steve and his bike, fully loaded, at the start of the trip

It wasn’t exactly an easy first day. At 3.40am that morning Steve and I set laden with enough clothing and camping equipment to see us through a full fortnight, and heading for our intended first overnight stop: the campsite at Oban, 526 miles away.

Steve Ayres Scotland trip

Setting off early proved a good idea. By 10.30am we had already covered 360 miles, stopping briefly for fuel top ups and welcome coffee breaks. The ease with which the bike covered these miles was impressive, having achieved a very respectable average of 51mpg at a speed around 70mph.

The fun was only just beginning, though, because negotiating the M25, M1, M6 and M74 isn’t what this trip is all about. So it was a delight to reach the A82 at Dumbarton and be on the final stretch to Oban, arriving after such a lengthy ride to pitch up at a wonderfully situated campsite with breathtaking views worth every mile travelled.

Steve Ayres Scotland Trip - Oban

Stepping off the bike I patted the fuel tank, thanking my new found companion for making the journey so much more enjoyable than I had considered possible.

It really is a heck of a machine – in 30 years of motorcycling I can I honestly say I’ve not had the pleasure to ride a bike that is so competent, sure footed and economical over a long distance. And so much cooler than a Fiat Punto.

Tent pitched and suitably refreshed, we fought the expected army of midges and settled down for a well earned sleep.

Saturday morning saw a welcome break from two wheels: a two-mile stroll along the picturesque coast road into town, where ferries putter in and out of the harbour alongside dozens of beautiful sailing boats.

It’s a delightful little spot, full of interesting nooks and crannies. There’s a museum dedicated to the townsfolk, sharing the tales of local people and service personnel at the nearby Royal Air Force base.

The stories of the Sutherland flying boats of the Second World World and the first transatlantic cable – laid in the mid 1950s, and making landfall here – really caught my eye.

After a fish supper and a decent bottle of white we called it a day and hailed a taxi back to the campsite. In the morning, the Islands of Mull and Iona await and the next leg of our journey will continue.

Steve will be blogging for throughout his journey across Scotland.