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.
Banbury to: Stratford on Avon
This road has a good mix of long straights, twisty bits and several drops and climbs. Not a great surface but that just adds to the excitment - about 28 miles in all and passed through some nice villages with decent pubs. From Banbury follow the signs for Stratford and beware of a couple of Gatsos until u get out of the town. 3-4 miles out of Banbury is Wroxton - keep you speed down (30mph) and stop for a pint or grub (there's a couple of places on the main road and a nice traditional pub in the village centre).Heading towards Edge Hill the road is good for 100+ but as you approach EH itself there are a couple of sharp twisty bends that can catch you out. Watch out for Volvos and Sunday drivers especially in summer. Going down Edge Hill fast is a challenge (hairpin) and if u do wring it's neck watch out for cars crossing over as you come out of the dip at the bottom. Great view over the countryside as u descend by the way.
Futher on towards Pillerton Priors it's twisty and fast. Just before u get there u can do a left on to the Fosse Way and head for Cirencester but that's another story. Cross the A429 (roundabout) and blast through more twisties followed by some sweepers with good overtaking opportunities. As you come into Stratford beware of plod and tourists. Head for the river and on Sunday you'll find a shed load of other bikers have a fag and a choc-ice. Stratford itself is full of the usual tourist tat so it's good to make loads of noise and generally play. There are tons of other good routes around the area and if you want to meet loads of other bikers on a Wednesday night head for the Watermans Arms on the A4177 at Hatton near Warwick (about 10 miles). Enjoy...
Stamford Bridge (Yorks) to: Helmsley
From A166 York to Bridlington road head east towards Stamford Bridge. Either 1/2 mile before S/B or 1.5 miles afterwards, take the unclassified road off left to Buttercrambe. Quaint village.. Head North out of Buttercrambe following signs for Malton. You now embark on a cracking 9 mile run up t'hill and down t'dale as the road repeatedly climbs to a crest and then you see it drop away for 2 miles in front of you. Lovely bends and visibility miles ahead.. Watch out for the odd blind crest with a mini crossroads just over the brow.. It may be only 9 miles but you can do what I do and turn around at Malton and do it all again...luurvely. Once into Malton / Norton, follow signs for B1257 Helmsley and have fun on this seldom monitored 'blatter'. Stop off in Helmsley for 'tea & stickies' before heading home or going onward.
Braco to: Comrie
This is a fine little stretch of high level(ie up in the moors) twisty stuff. It can be got to from the A9 just N of Dunblane. It climbs quickly up the side of a pleasant strath before hitting a series of bends and straights. Watch out for a couple of narrow bridges on near 90 degree bends, and also the carriage way is pretty narrow and sometimes no road markings, most of the way. There is a terrific open view much of the time, so easy to spot traffic despite the twisties. A great set of switchbacks drops you down into the lower ground outside Comrie. Gas up there if you need to. For an alternative return route, head along the A85 thru St Fillans and a lochside blast past Loch Earn to join the always entertaining A 84 at Lochearnhead. Snoot presence is minimal, if present at all, except perhaps in the 2 main villages.
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