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.
Chippenham to: Chippenham
Chippenham / Wooten-Under-Edge / Chippenham When you leave Chippenham and head towards the M4 on the A350 dual carriageway, rest assured that the roads will improve - the best is near the end. At the M'way junction carry straight on to Malmesbury on A429. Don't go thro Malmesbury but head towards Cirencester - this gives you 2 nice roundabouts, the first one is worth a couple of laps. After the second turn left on the B4014 to Tetbury. A nice swoopy bendy road - about 8 miles. Tootle thro Tetbury being on the lookout for Royals, and turn left on A4135 towards Dursely. Straight across the T'lights and on a few miles. Now things start to get interesting. Turn left on B4058 to Wooten-Under-Edge. This road is a lovely series of lefts and rights down a hill - although they are blind they are still top corners, and a couple of trips up and down from Wooten centre are recommended. In Wooten find the B4060 to Wickwar. Good fast roads- at one point there is a shear drop on BOTH sides of the road - Quarries! From Wickwar on to Chipping Sodbury - a good place for a coffee. Take the A452 towards Bath and Stroud. As you pass a large caravan sales showroom be prepared to exceed the limit for it is worth it. About a mile on the road starts to go up hill, it also turns in to 3 lanes (a 40 mph limit). The up hill right hander is a joy at 80. Keep going and you will take a 270 degree long left - I guess it is more than 1/4 mile long! Just go for it. Straight across the A46 at t'lights. The next 10 miles is beautiful. Just ride what you see. Watch out for Yatton Kennel and go slowly back to the A420 to Chippenham. ENJOY.
Buntingford to: Newmarket
Turn off the A10 at Buntingford on to B1038 - Although this route is peppered with villages there are some opportunities to go really fast in between. Sometimes a bit mucky but a good mixture of lefts and rights, up and downhill corners and straights. At Newport turn left briefly onto B1383 and then turn right onto B1052 (Saffron Walden) and follow this road all the way to Linton. This section has some great moments with some knee down opportunities and one bit which has some smooth and fast snaking with open view of the road ahead (getting through Saffron Walden can be tricky - TAKE SIGNS TO TOWN CENTRE PAST TWO MINI ROUNDABOUTS. WHEN YOU GET TO TRAFFIC LIGHTS AT TOWN CENTRE, TURN RIGHT AND THEN FOLLOW ROAD STRAIGHT ON). At Linton follow signs for Balsham. Once through Linton its a short run to Balsham which is the living shit if you like it fast,bumpy and safely tankslappy. Follow B1052 through Balsham (slowly, I know people who live there) and stay on the same road all the way to Newmarket where, at some point, it will have miraculously cahnged into the B1061. This section has better Tarmac than the previous roads and some lovely corners but it also boasts the only speed cameras I am aware of on this route.
Alton to: Basingstoke
Ah the infamous A339. The site of several deaths lately. It's a great, technical road with a good surface, but beware. High speed corners + miscalculation = risk of severe trauma/death. If you want to do it, ride the road several times up and down below the national limit. Look for the junctions, look for cops, look for crap on the road, look out for squids riding it too: they sometimes cross the centreline oncoming. When you're sure, try it out, it's a lot of fun: but don't wind up in the Newspaper.
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