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Tim’s Site » John O'Groats to Lands End Motorbike Trip

John O’Groats to Lands End Motorbike Trip

23rd July to 3rd August 2006

My first post also describes my first ‘long haul’ bike trip. As was the case then, I’ve no idea how best to do it, but I’ll give it a go! I’m sure I have missed out lots of details, place names, roads travelled on, etc. If you recognise them, please leave a comment and let me know! I simply didn’t have time to record every single detail, because the trip very nearly didn’t happen.

It was originally planned for myself and my then girlfriend, as a birthday treat for her, leaving on the 22nd. However, the day we were due to be leaving, there was a ‘change of plan’ - she’s not going.

I knew that not doing it would be something I would always regret, so decided to make the best of a less than perfect situation and go solo.

I did mean to keep a diary, but only remembered to for the first day! Sadly there wasn’t time to take photos of every single scene I wanted to. The photos you see here are taken straight from my camera; the only difference being the necessary resizing for online hosting. They are completely un-edited in every other respect. I have tried to be selective in which I include. You can click on them for a big version. The final pictures are 1024 x 768 at maximum quality.

I’m going to say thank you to all those who helped me first, so at least if you don’t read to the end, there’s a chance you’ll see their names.

My parents - Mum for sorting out alternative accommodation, Dad for guidance help. The both of them for checking up on me, and always being at the end of the phone.
Lee and Kelly for coming to see me, the meal, and a room for the night!
Lee and Mike for the texts, phone calls and encouragement.
‘icenian’ a.k.a Tim for helping sort my bike, and the offer of a place to stay.

Thank you all. It was and is greatly appreciated.

23rd July
Destination: Newcastle

The day has finally arrived. The bike is prepped, packed, and ready to go, which is more than can be said of the rider!

Leaving the house at 9.30am, racked with anticipation, I hit the M25 and head towards the M1, eager to get out of familiar Surrey and the surrounding area, and as far north as possible in one ‘hit’.

My memory of this is blank, other than of thinking the M1 is the most soulless, depressing piece of road I have ever ridden, yet only a few miles from it are scenes like this. (My first photos of the trip!)

Unfortunately I have no photos of Newcastle, as at the time I was feeling quite lonely and was thinking “What the hell am I doing here?” With Newcastle being the club capital of England, it’s not the best place to be when feeling like that, so I ended up staying in my room. A shame, as it’s rather nice for a city centre.

24th July
Destination: Dundee

Today, I’m feeling better. Leaving Newcastle and heading towards Scotland, and now the trip seems to be real. I was recommended to head up via Berwick-upon-Tweed, and I can see why. The roads and scenery are very pleasant. Seeing the following piece of road in front of me, I had no choice but to nail it!

Landing the other side was ‘a little twitchy’ due to the bike being fully loaded!

I stopped for a break near a nice beach, with a castle looking out over the water. These pictures were taken by the roadside with all my riding gear still on. I was impressed with how well they came out!

I rode for about half an hour more, before I crossed this bridge. I don’t know where it is, but I can tell you it is exactly 20 minutes from the Scottish border, according to the file dates!

Twenty minutes later, I’m in Scotland - Here are the obligatory border pictures!

Shortly after this picture was taken, my bike had its first ‘unintentional tarmac liaison’…at a speed of 0mph! Got on one side, over balanced and ended up jumping straight off the other side!

Luckily, with no damage to rider or bike, I carry on into Dundee. These are my last pictures of the day. Travelodge’s, while handy for their intended purposes of business accommodation, aren’t set in the most picturesque locations.

25th July
Destination: Aberdeen

This is what I loved about Scotland. This picture was taken by the side of an ordinary road - I’d only stopped to take a quick leak…

Aberdeen is only a short trip from Dundee - I thought by now an ‘easy day’ was a good idea. I had a poke around and found a few tracks and trails, but not really knowing what I was looking for I decided to head to the Travelodge and relax. The rest of the day is a complete blank.

26th July
Destination: Inverness, John O’Groats, back to Inverness!

Today, I’m excited - I plan to hit John O’Groats today. I seem to be getting more and more into the right sort of mindset for this trip, and I’m thinking “Yeah. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll manage this.” The grim determination of the previous days is giving way to enthusiasm. Everything is simply starting to ‘click’. The riding is taking my mind off of my girlfriend, and onto the beautiful scenery I’m passing through. I don’t want to miss a second, doing my best to soak it all up. This is where I could have taken ten times as many pictures, and yet still not had enough.

My loyal steed waits patiently while I indulge in the nicest fried breakfast I have had!

I’ll be doing big mileage today, so naturally I order the GutBuster!
I don’t remember where this beach is. I’ve included so if anyone does, I can piece together my trip a bit more thoroughly.

I check-in at the Travelodge and leave the top box behind.
This picture shows the bridge on which (I believe) the A9 crosses the Moray Firth

Across the bridge and onto the A9, I end up taking a random turning off onto the ‘A38-something’. It is quite possibly the best snap decision I have ever made. I end up on an absolutely stunning road that leads all the way across the Highlands (I have to admit, I have no idea if it was the Highlands or not. I don’t even know what/where the Highlands are. I just couldn’t write this without using that word at least once.)

There are a lot of pictures in this section. I don’t think they need a commentary.

This is where the road starts to get interesting! I very, very nearly lost the bike on a corner that jumped out of nowhere. Crisis averted, I decided to slow down and let the journey take as a long as it will take.

Yes, I was tempted to have a brief ‘dabble’ in the stream with the ‘Twin!

A cemetery that is on the road I was on.

A long abandoned farmhouse.

The remains of what I assume was once an out building.

This section of road is amazing. Fast and open, yet dusty and surrounded by suicidal sheep! I had to be careful, but still managed to hit ‘over 60mph’ in most sections…

I thought I’d taken photos of it, but I must have forgotten. I did do a video though, which although lower quality gives an idea. (WMV, 4Mb)
Highland Video (Large File)

The next photos I have are of Dunnet Head, ‘The Most Northerly Point of Mainland Britain’ - I had done it. I was halfway there!

The Dunnet Head bagpiper!

The view from below the bagpiper. I don’t think I was meant to ride down here…

The Dunnet Head lighthouse and foghorn.

I tried to perfect the photos of the view out from Dunnet Head, but they kept looking over exposed.

950 hard ridden miles, and she didn’t miss a beat. Well done girl.

The view as I left Dunnet Head

Assorted pictures from the ride back to Inverness.

I had to take the bike for a quick ride on the beach…turning round fully loaded on the boat ramp was a bit scary!

The next pictures I have are of nearly an hour later. It was scary how quickly the weather can change; I’d hate to be out on a boat or walking and have that happen.

Yet, half an hour later, I found myself presented with this. There was no option but to stop and take pictures! Some of my favourites of the trip.

I arrive back at the Travelodge exhausted but satisfied.

27th July
Destination: Originally Gateshead, changed to Isle of Skye.

I’ve decided that Travelodge’s really aren’t the best accommodation when spending days by yourself, so I eschew the delights of yet another Travelodge for the Broadford Youth Hostel on the Isle of Skye. Thanks to Mum for booking this for me.

I take the scenic route to the Isle of Skye. I couldn’t tell you what it was now, but as you’ll see, it was very scenic!

I believe this is the view of and around Loch Ness.

These next pictures are also favourites of mine. I can’t remember where they were taken exactly, but it was en route to Skye.

Some assorted pictures of the Isle of Skye. I would like to go back here when the weather is nicer.

The Youth Hostel - Click here for the website.

The view from where my bike was parked. You don’t get this at Travelodge’s!

28th July
Destination: Minniegaff

For some reason, I have no pictures on my camera today. I stayed at a Youth Hostel in Minnigaff, Scotland. It was an old converted school building, and rather nice. Click here for the website.

29th July
Destination: Warrington Lymm

A busy day today - I am meeting up with Tim, a member of the Honda Africa Twin site Honda Trail Bike Forums and his mate, for a ride around this part of Scotland, before meeting a friend and his girlfriend at Warrington.

Unfortunately, my second accident wasn’t as uneventful as the first! Riding down a lovely ’swoopy’ road, I realised I was taking the corners slower than was possible, saying to myself, “Come on big girl, you can do them faster than this”. You can guess what happened! I went into a corner too fast, and though I tried to fight the instinct, I couldn’t stop myself reaching for the brakes. The bike straightened up mid-turn, and we headed off into the undergrowth! As soon as the front wheel hit the grass, the bike went down. If I’d have stayed off the brakes and really counter-steered, I think I would have just made it round.

It’s amazing how easily it is possible to pick up 250kg of bike, fuel, and luggage when you really have too!

The visor was ripped off of my helmet, but apart from bent (But useable) handlebars, a small dent to the tank, and the crash bars being bent, there wasn’t much damage to the bike. I was lucky as I was wearing my motorbike jacket but just normal jeans. I was lucky to not suffer any injuries apart from a sore head!
I had to buy a new helmet and get the bike straightened up - due to this, there wasn’t really much time for me to go riding with Tim. I saw enough to be seriously impressed with his riding though!

The journey down to Warrington was sheer hell. The only helmets sold locally were Nitro branded - It was the worst helmet I have ever worn; I was in agony by the time I reached Warrington.

Nitro - why would you put a sharp right angled protrusion right next to where the ear goes?! Idiots.

To top it all off, when we go to check-in, Travelodge have decided to cancel my room, and they are full! If I hadn’t been able to share Lee and Kelly’s room, I would probably have jacked the whole thing in and gone home at this point.

After a delicious Italian meal and a few pints, I’m feeling a lot happier; especially when they tell me there is a bike shop up the road with helmets for sale!

30th, 31st July
Destination: Monmouth (2 Nights)

Today, I’m £200 lighter but with a much more comfortable Shoei helmet on my head! We head off up the motorway and split at the M5. I arrive in Wales at about 4pm, and happen to ride past a bike meet! I pull in for a break and to have a look at the bikes. There’s quite a lot of pictures!

The most insane motorbike I have ever seen! Every time I thought I had enough photos of it, I saw something else!

Cracking little supermoto

Look at the state of the rear tyre! Someone’s been enjoying the roundabouts!

I got chatting to a Triumph owner, who kindly offered to show me around. I went on a great ride around the local area. I didn’t get a chance to stop and take pictures! I still have another route he recommended to me that I’d like to do, around Sennybridge, Bullith Wells and Llandrindod Wells. I planned a route but didn’t get a chance to do it as motorway riding and the bike being fully loaded has finished off the front tyre. It wasn’t perfect when I left, I should have changed it first!

A good omen?

1st August
Destination: Cornwall

Today I’m heading to Treyarnon, in Cornwall, staying in a Youth Hostel. It is one of the nicest places I have ever stayed. It was the closest building to the beach - apparently the YHA bought it cheaply after the war. I dread to think how much it would be worth now!

My first stop is Polzeath as it’s my favourite beach in Cornwall.

Then to Padstow

Then finally to the Youth Hostel! The view was stunning.

This Youth Hostel is obviously popular. The inside is bright and vibrant - there is even a bar! I try some Cornish Lager - highly recommended! Very refreshing.

2nd August
Destination: Boswinger (Cornwall)

Today I will be doing Lands End! Boswinger is on the South coast of Cornwall. I am staying in another Youth Hostel, with a very scenic beach close by.

I leave for Lands End at about 5pm, reaching there by 7.30pm. As I left in the evening, I was riding into the sun the whole way; not pleasant, even with sunglasses!

After phoning everyone to let them know I’d done it, I have a look around Lands End, and take the obligatory pictures.

3rd August

Today I decide to head for home. I have another night booked at the Youth Hostel, but I have done everything I wanted to, and am basically killing time. I’m ready to go home now and see everyone again. I go for a walk down on the beach first, to relax and get some photos.

I walked out further around the headland, to get some more photos.

I decide to leave at about 3pm, and am back in Surrey at 8pm. By 9pm, I’m enjoying a well earned Guinness! I’m not sure how I feel. Sad to be home, yet glad I’m back. It hasn’t sunk in yet that I have actually done it.

I would definitely do this trip again, but not by myself, at least not at the moment. I’ve always scoffed when people come back from trips saying that they feel different and it has changed them, yet I do feel different. A very subtle change that I’m barely aware of, but I know it’s there. I don’t regret going for a second.

 

The bike performed superbly, never once causing me even slight concern.

Trip Facts

Bike: 1998 Honda Africa Twin (XRV 750)
Distance covered: 2800 miles
Average daily mileage: 233
Average MPG: 50 (Approximately a tank a day)