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Be you an adventure seeker or a treasure hunter, chances are you can tick both boxes by strapping on a bike helmet and heading for the North of Scotland. I recently made the trip to the beautiful Arisaig peninsula, which sits on the western coast of Scotland before it gives way to the sea and The Small Isles of Eigg and Rum. The journey itself takes in the untamed wilderness of Rannoch Moor and Glencoe; which is where we find our adventure, navigating the serpent-like roads, the treasure is found when the clouds break and spill light across the ferocious looking mountain tops. We have had a fairly exceptional summer in Scottish terms, bright blue skies and warm, balmy nights. Sadly it was back to normal business when I set off from my home in West Lothian, under oppressive grey clouds.
Scotland is not all Lochs and Mountains as seen in postcards, the lowlands are much more gentle and the hills tend to leisurely roll from east to west. That said, it is not without its beauty, just more subdued. Around Perthshire and Stirling the landscape has to first flex its muscle and begins to show off, the hills give way to stark mountains and deep valleys. The roads begin to ascend and my road began to veer me to the north-west, through Loch Lomond and The Trossachs and onward beyond the picturesque Callander. A vital stop for any traveler but in particular those on two-wheels is The Green Welly Stop were you can drink terrible coffee and "carb-up" on breakfast rolls! Soon after the road forks, west to Oban and Inner Hebrides, or north to The Highlands. Adventure can be found in either direction but only the north road takes you to Rannoch Moor and the unsettling beauty of Glencoe.
"Cruel is the Snow that sweeps Glencoe, and murdered The House of MacDonald," goes the song. Deep within the fissures ripped from the mountainsides by their perpetual war with nature you can almost see the ghosts of the men; massacred after the Jacobite uprising and left to eternally seek shelter upon the unforgiving landscape. The peaks rise and rise, often lost within the clouds as the waters tumble and crash down in a great cacophony, wearing away at the roots of these solemn yet brutal mountains. Be aware, as a biker, that the road also wears scars from the continual frost and thaw leaving a dangerous surface. It pales in comparison to the danger of other road users, however, so spectacular the views people often forget to keep even one eye on the road! Be mindful of sudden breakers and even oncoming others drifting into your lane. Do yourself a favor and stop off at one of the various parking spots. It may save your life, if not from the other road users, then potentially from the inspiring views!
Onward, I rode up the spine of Loch Linneh, a wonderful busy wee Loch with plenty to observe casually from inside the private world of your crash helmet. At The Corran Ferry, you have the choice again to take a short hop across the water. This leads to subsequent single track roads via Strontian and Salen up to Loch Shiel where you rejoin the main A830. Totally worth it if you have the time and the riding constitution to take on the winding roads with passing places. Having cracked that route before and not one to retrace my steps, or tire-tread as it were, I took the route that takes you through Glenfinnan. Beautiful Woodlands of tall pines, great odors, and sudden flashes of purple heather that add to the sense of tranquil freedom. This takes you parallel to Loch Eilt, past The Prince's Cairn and alongside Loch Nan Uamh to Arisaig.
"Arisaig" sounds like the Elvish word used to describe a glorious kingdom, at least to my mind! Truth is it's not too far removed from the reality. Between Arisaig and Morar, you can find the twisted beach kingdom, stalwart breakers, and patches of silver sands. It was here I found my private bolt-hole for the night. Tucked up against a hardy clump of woodland I pitched the tent, built my wildfire and cracked a beer. I was just in time for the feature presentation from nature, a rolling thunderstorm out across the water which seemed held in place by the isles of Eigg and Skye. The clouds and the Islands played for around forty minutes and I had the theatre to myself until I was joined by four Collie dogs, Taigh, Tess, Beth, and Jess. We played stick on the beach while I chatted with Pete the owner. Couldn't get any better than this I thought, but then like all adventures, I had the journey back again to look forward to.