I don’t know if the A77 qualifies as ‘the low road’, but I’m in Scotland right now, on the bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond. Well, across the street, anyway. I can see it out my hotel room window. What the hell do you want?
This trip has been amazing so far. Ireland (all of it) gave me more than I had hoped for, and I wished I never had to leave. I felt so at home there. I’d have been even sadder to leave, though, if I hadn’t been looking forward to Scotland so much. Scotland, after all, was really the beginning of this trip – or, at least, the premeditation of it.
Originally, Adele suggested I tag along for the start of my friend Scott’s trip (he’s going for much longer – six months!). Scott, in turn, suggested I might want to meet him part way through, since he was going to be spending the first week or so visiting his ex’s family in England. I thought about it, and it occurred to me that I could, instead, spend that time riding around Scotland, and we could meet up when it was convenient to both of us. That was the start of the idea. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it, and thought, I might as well add Ireland, if I’m over there. And I’ve never been to Wales, either. Or to England, outside of London and a day trip to Cambridge. Gradually, the whole thing began to take on a shape very different from tagging along for part of someone else’s adventure.
So, this morning, I woke up in Northern Ireland. Looked at the time on my phone. And went back to sleep. Seriously, who gets up before six on a holiday? Eventually, I got up and set about packing up my things and loading the bike back up. I’m becoming gradually more efficient with how I load the Triumph bags, which are quite a bit smaller than the Happy Trails cases on my GS. Still, squeezing them closed is always a bit tricky.
I shaved, ate some cereal for breakfast, made some coffee, and cleaned up after myself. At a little after ten I was on my way to the Belfast ferry terminal to catch the Stena Line to Cairnryan. I stopped off for coffee on the way, and a few other bikers pulled up and we chatted. I asked if they were taking the ferry across, or just stopping for breakfast. It was the latter. They asked where I was off to, and where I was from. Essentially, they were politely sussing out whether or not I was an American. This happens a lot, and it always seems to relieve people to hear I’m Canadian, after which they mutter something about the ridiculous orange catastrophe in the White House. One of them mentioned he had relatives in Toronto. I told them I lived as far away from that as they do from Berlin, which is a pretty big understatement, actually, but still impressed them.
Anyway, they told me about journeys they’d done – the tallest bridge in the world, somewhere in the south of France – and told me I had to go to the Glenfiddich distillery. I often ignore these kinds of suggestions, but I may take this one, since it was my father’s favourite whisky.
Soon it was time for me to get to the ferry, so I said goodbye to them, put my helmet back on, and fired up the tiger. It’s an excellent bike, and I’ve largely gotten over most of my minor dislikes. I’ve learned to deal with the clusterfuck of controls operated by the left thumb, for example. I still think, given the choice, I’d pick a GS over a Tiger, but it would be a close decision, and the trade offs are real. The Tiger is just so much more zippy. Thank god for the cruise control, or I’d likely rack up a lot of fines.
The ferry ride was efficient, comfortable and pleasant, and there really isn’t much more to say about it than that. The food was far better than on the ferries back home.
Riding up the A77 toward Glasgow, I was impressed by how different the landscape and flora in Scotland are from Ireland. Scotland is just as beautiful as Ireland, certainly, but it feels more fierce about it. By turns lush and austere, there is little middle ground (in my extremely limited experience) where things are merely pretty. There were stretches that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in southwestern Alberta, if not for their proximity to a very large body of water. Others were more like my home province of British Columbia. Perhaps this is why western Canada is so full of Scottish place names. The rest of Canada, too, for that matter.
A little more than two and half hours after docking, I was here. In a hotel facing Loch Lomond. As I write, I’m watching the sunset colour the clouds in the east and cast shadows over the loch. Once again, the threat of weather hasn’t come to be. I’ve had sunshine pretty much the whole day.
A little while ago, I had dinner in the hotel bar. The most enormous piece of battered cod I’ve ever seen with excellent chips, a couple of pints of bitter, and for dessert, a dram of 18 year old Glenfiddich. Tomorrow I’ll be off to Inverness, which I’m going to use as a base from which to launch excursions into the Highlands over the next few days: to Bealach na Ba, John o’ Groats, Fort William, probably Dufftown and Tain (for distilleries) and wherever else I get a notion to go. As the signs at the edge of towns here say, Haste ye back!
P.s. – I want to thank all the readers who are following along, clicking like, commenting, or just reading. I know many of you, but there are obviously strangers in the mix – from Japan, Mexico, India, and Cameroon (!), among other places. I’m happy to get your feedback, if you feel like giving it. If you’d rather just read anonymously, that’s cool, too.