Every year HOC East Midlands branch arrange a touring holiday and as with any group holiday it takes some effort to plan and arrange, but each time the investment has paid off with an enjoyable time had by all. The tour for 2020 ended up being significantly different in some respects.
First the dream was to catch a ferry to Santander, ride through the Pyrenees and South of France to spend a week enjoying the fantastic roads, culture and locations in the Maritime Alps. The “dream” evaporated due to a lack of suitable ferry crossing places. Undaunted, the dream evolved into a 11-day trip to the Rhone Alps again drawn to the fantastic roads, etc and culminated in everything being booked for ten intrepid club members. Alas the “dream” turned into a “nightmare” when the COVID-19 pandemic threw the whole world into chaos. With some perseverance refunds and vouchers were obtained, but the itch to tour remained.
With travel restrictions being highly volatile we reluctantly concluded that a trip to Europe was too risky so turned our thoughts northwards; yes to Scotland, our very own Alps (albeit a bit smaller). Using several sources (previous rides, local knowledge, Biker’s Britain book) an 11-day tour of Scotland was hatched with stops in Selkirk Edinburgh, Inverness, Ullapool, Isle of Skye (for 4 nights), Oban and Carlisle. Whilst the roads and countryside in Scotland is predictably amazing, the environmental conditions (weather, midges, etc) can be less so!
Setting off in two groups, the first group decided to set off a couple of days early for a leisurely ride to Inverness with one night in Newcastle and two in Edinburgh. The second group decided to take in the fantastic roads north of Barnard Castle, staying in Selkirk on the first night then a detour South West to Moffat, before turning North again to Inverness. The road between Selkirk and Moffat was a real rollercoaster demanding full attention and the roads between Perth and Inverness riding heaven.
Setting off from Inverness in the pouring rain the full group made our way North to Tongue, West to Durness and then down the coast to Ullapool.
Arriving at the hotel in Ullapool we all looked like we had been “jet washed” luckily they had drying facilities as well as specialist warmers for the gloves.
The next day the trip to Portree on the Isle of Skye continued on the same theme; riding on twisty roads sneaking glimpses of the gorgeous scenery and thankfully the weather was kinder to us in fact there was sunshine and blue skies.
Three days in Portree gave us an opportunity to unpack and relax, but the itch to search out more great routes resulted in a tour of the island and another which included taking the ferry from Armadale to the Scottish mainland. A couple of us took a boat trip around Portree’s beautiful coastline culminating in a spectacular display from a huge pod of dolphins.
After leaving Skye the trip to Oban was again a great day, which included a trip around Loch Levin which was a real joy, especially following a local van (racing) driver. Oban to Carlisle via the Trossachs and Ayr was well worth the additional miles.
A trip from Carlisle to home through North Yorkshire Moors and the Peak District finished off a fantastic tour.
In addition to the great company the main theme throughout was the joy of riding great roads through beautiful countryside even when the weather was not so good. We all arrived home safely, having thoroughly enjoyed the sense of freedom and challenge that riding such roads bring, but tired from the mental attention that such riding requires. Having said that after a few days recovering we started taking about the tour for 2021…bring it on!