Glencoe to: Glencoe
Throughout its length from Glasgow to Inverness the A82 is a joy. An A-road metelled for bikers - it doesn't so much change direction as gracefully sweep with a confident camber and no road furniture. It's almost as if you'd laid the tarmac yourself.
The bonnie bonnie banks of loch Lomond set the tone for the whole route as the road clings to the magnificent landscape. On through the splendour of Glencoe and past loch Ness (an opportunity to spot some of the more elusive wildlife such as Nessiteras rhombopterix) on to Forts William & Augustus - no boring straight Roman road here. Here you can see so far ahead it's unreal. There's nothing, absolutely nothing coming. Just breeze by and smile. During the summer the A82 is littered with Germans and the Scot's old ally the French. They come here in droves - well, cars and bikes. Perhaps they are overawed by the Alps and come here for scenery that's a bit less severe. Even with holiday traffic there's that sense of freedom, a feeling that simply glides you along this ride to remember.
The highpoint of the A82 is the stretch Bridge of Orchy, over Rannoch Moor through Glencoe to Ballachulish. Reverse the trip to double your pleasure. From the Bridge of Orchy the snaking black ribbon climbs rapidly as the Moor opens out before you. 1000 metre peaks fence in the vast, intimidating bog. Don't hang about as it could be Scotland's own Area 51. Lean and flow quicksilver across the elevated expanse of peat and rock. The Three Sisters wait to swallow you into fast approaching valley. As the sides begin to loom now you ease off. The roadside crash barriers give away the vital sign. Find your religon and pray to the great god Michelin as the clear opening bends invite you and your bike to shine. You're bathed in stunning landscape with heather, bracken and conifers partially clothing the huge great lumps of towering rock. Fresh mountain air and that immense feeling that the bike is part of the road. That big grin creeps over your face and sets hard.
This is perfect for that long get-away-from-it-all weekend. A chance to clear the lungs and recharge the head. Whether you're a bumbag or tank bag or full panier kit biker there's no problem finding a place to kip & scoff as the area is dotted with B&Bs, guest houses, hotels and hostels and of course - campsites. Grab petrol at any one of a number of modern or quaint stations. This is where they make Scotch Mist so check with Bill Giles first. The Ballachulish Hotel and The Kingshouse Hotel afford more comfort than most around here - and the Youth Hostel in Glencoe is spot on. The Clachaig Inn serves good food and decent ales - but won't serve Campbells!
In Glencoe stands a stone cross to commemorate the MacDonald's massacre by the Campbells. Down the road in South Ballachulish is a monument to James Stewart who was wrongly hanged for his alleged part in the massacre. If the tales of blood, guts and betrayal in the Visitor Centre don't put you off your food then head for the Fish & Chip caravan or local Spar. The Thunderace's brakes are tested just once as a deer bounded into the road - at least the flat cap in the Volvo is half predictable. After all this is sheep and deer country. It's also skiing country - either the dry or the snowy variety - we could try anything once. Whisky distilleries are scattered here and there to tempt you once the bike is tucked up safely.
Once you head has cleared the A82 has tributaries that each in turn lead to something special. And for my next trip... Wonder up to Ben Nevis or nip over the Corran Ferry to Strontian & Ardnamuchan? Twist down the A828 to Oban and perhaps a ferry to Ireland? Whistle up the A87 over the sea to Skye or catch the A830 to Mallaig? The strange roundabout at Ballachulish could prompt a few circles whilst you decide which way to go. Sod it! Let's go back up the glen just one more time.
Crianlarich to: Glencoe
This is one of many absolutely brilliant runs for those of us lucky enough to live about the middle of Scotland. It's a favourite circular run for locals, but can be done one way if you're touring or visiting. Best to avoid the main summer months, since it can get a bit busy with cars & coaches, and watch for Mr Plod (unmarked cars & bikes). Total distance as described below is about 120 miles I think. The route's all single carriageway A-roads, mainly good surfaces, with decent grip - not too many muckspreaders around, but watch for loose gravel at farm exits.
Starting at Crianlarich, the A85 to Tyndrum is a fairly quick, wide, road with some good open bends. Tyndrum has a couple of decent eateries, plus what's reputed to be the most expensive petrol in the universe. Take the A82 to go over Rannoch Moor and on through Glen Coe itself - if you don't have to stop and look at these hills, you're not human! Do watch out for hillwalkers wandering about on the road, though. Once through Glen Coe, there's food and fuel at Ballachulish. Take the A828, which is an interesting twisty road along the side of Loch Linnhe. Last time through (November 98), the surface was starting to break up in parts, so a bit of care was needed with cornering lines. At Connel, take the A85 along the side of Loch Etive and Loch Awe to return to Tyndrum & Crianlarich - again, a decent bit of road with a mix of tight corners in the first half or so, followed by more open straights and bends later.
Corran Ferry to: Fort William
OK so the A82 from Dumbarton up to Fort William is one of the most scenic roads in Scotland but the wee detour will add enourmously to your journey. Take the Corran Ferry, just past Onich, 7 miles south of Fort William, over to Ardgour and follow the sign for Strontian. Fabulous scenery, quiet single track roads. Good food at Strontian, Salen Acharacle. You could go the whole hog and turn left at Salen for Ardnamurchan Point, the most Westerly point on the UK mainland. Fantastic beaches at Sana, Ardtoe. Castle Tioram just past Acharacle is worth a visit before they restore it. World class resteraunt at Kinlochmoidart. Epic road from Strontian over to Polloch. YOU WILL NEVER HAVE BEEN ON A ROAD LIKE THIS ****EVER.
Helensburgh to: Helensburgh
Leave Helensburgh on the A814 heading for Garelochead. This is a collection of 30's, 40's and 50's with the occasional watchful cop so don't go too mad. Turn right at the first roundabout at the north gat eof the Faslane Naval Base.This is where the twist grip starts to get abused. This road is'new'and offers drag racing or sustained wheelying opportunities. Go straight through the first rounabout and turn right at the second onto the A814 again, known locally as the Arrochar road. This beauty follows the contours of Loch Long and is a mad selection of sheep, blind crests and jumps which are guaranteed to test your suspension and bottle. Your arse will be pulling the buttons out the saddle by the time you arrive in Arrochar.
Stop at the Pit Stop Diner for a decent scoff and bullshit with other bikers. Take the A83 over to Tarbet and then the A82 to Crianlarich. This is a peach of a road, nowhere for the cops to hide with twisties all the way to the Drovers pub at Inverarnan, another good stop. Head up to Crianlarich and go left for Tyndrum. This is another fast section but watch out for the big right hander before Crianlarich, you may be going a tad fast to get round it. The Green Welly shop in Tyndrum offers, fuel, scoff and even a dedicated bike park!
Take the A85 to Dalmally through Glen Lochy. This is a real fast bit of road with sweeping bends and a good surface. If you feel like stopping, the views are spectacular. Beyond Dalmally, take a left onto the A819 for Inverary. The first section is along the banks of Loch Awe, mostly blind twisties with the odd dodgy surface so beware. The second section is up along the top of the hills. This section is resurfaced every year it seems so watch for loose chippings but apart from that it is a fast sweeping road with plenty of long straights too. Stop in Inverary for lunch at the George Hotel or shoot the shit with other bikers down at the pier. Take the A83 back to Arrochar. This bit has some good fast sweepers too, namely round the head of Loch Shira and Loch Fyne and a good surface. Watch out for cops at the Dunoon turn off and up over the 'Rest and be Thankful'. Back in Arrochar, take the A814 back down the side of Loch Long watching for the sheep you missed on the way up!
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