Ullapool to: Durness
I KNOW you will have a good time, just getting to Ullapool,however the best is yet to come.Heading out of the village the surface is none too clever on the twisties, so canny as you go until you get to Ardmair. From here the corners start to open out, and this really is as good as it gets,sweeping left,right past moor and mountain, pushing ever harder as your confidence grows.There are a couple of nasty off camber corners between Elphin (nice coffee shop )and Ledmore junction otherwise,no problem.
From ledmore to Skiag bridge the road west takes you past Jacobite castles,subterranean cave paintings,and the fantastic Ben More Assynt( for all you Munroeists ) Stop a while at Inchnadamph hotel,renowned for its traditional fare and comfortable surroundings, ensuring that the fab bar lunch does'nt interfere with your ability to take on the next bit.Onwards and upwards to Kylesku,this section climbs to around 1500 feet,and offers some peachy hairpin swithbacks,although you will struggle to keep your eyes on the job with mountains fighting for space at every turn.On gaining Kylesku bridge,the surface improves to racetrack levels,and off the bridge, the right,left twisties up from sea level are without a doubt the best you will ever see.
From here to Scourie the designer of this road ensured that modern technology could operate at its best,no off camber corners,fast sweepers,BIG straights,plenty of room and no-one to get in your way. Scourie to Durness is about 26 miles and is a mixed bag of single track and fast A road, just watch out for the sheep (bring wellies if you must !!!) Petrol can be bought at Ullapool,Scourie,Rhichonich and Durness. (A full circuit via Tongue,Lairg can also see the purchase of fuel in both these places).No super unleaded north of Ullapool though,sorry !! Police presence is minimal north of Ullapool, however there are stories circulating that they are using a Fireblade between Inverness and the bigger towns on the west coast,they do however have some seriously powerful cars available, and are not averse to sitting in the middle of no-where ,(at any time), in order to pull you, as you get the blade up to full chat.Dont bother running, as there is only one road up the west anyway. Have fun ,just remember its very remote up here and help can be a long way off, otherwise give it some, and then give it some more, cheers
Dromara, County Down to: Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland
Last of my favourite routes, though not the least! Challenging B roads with poor surfaces in places esp. nr. Slieve Croob Essential: * Ireland North Ordanance Survey Holiday Map 1:250,000 #1. (1 + 4 miles) (or better) Nice to have: **Mourne Country Outdoor Persuits Map 1:25,000 (2.5 = Mile) . Pillion or other biker(s) to argue about the route! Routefinding will be the problem until you've done this before, or unless you can get a reasonable map. -
Start off from Dromara village (* 328, 349) in County Down. To get there,from Belfast M1 West to Sprucefield, A1 South following Dublin signs until Dromore. At Dromore take the first exit left, down a hill to a petrol station and immediately left to go due East in the Ballynahinch direction. Continue down this road for roughly 4 miles until you come to some angled cross-roads, there is a grey-painted house at the junction, with a kind of green in front of it, railings and an old cottages on the right, and a stand of big old trees, the settlement is called Ballykeel on the map. Turn right for Dromara (South).
On a clear day you should see your first destination, the 523 meter hill, Slieve Croob. Carry on down this road,a wonderful pegscraper on the sharp righthand corner at the bottom (opposing traffic notwithstanding). Unless you enjoy your beef incredibly fresh, watch out for cows crossing in 1/2 mile. Ride through Dromara and straight out the other side (great Fish & Chips incidentally). (from the Ballynahinch direction, follow signs for Dromore and then Dromara. Turn left when you reach the T junction at the end, in Dromara.) Keep going. S-Bend over a humpback bridge is a signal to gas it for a few yards afterwards, followed by a sharp left, and sweepers that open up, toclose down again (left) as you come into the village of Minnis.
Easy , now turn first left over the obvious bridge by a telephone box well before you get to the church. This narrow road carries straight on, weaving a little as it passes some cottages, until heading straight up the side of Slieve Croob. It IS straight here, but I'll bet there's a sheep or goat with your name on it waiting for you to wear it alive or dead like a jumper here if you go totally radge . Further up, the road narrows and theres some challenging bends before you get to the car park for the footpath to Slieve Croob. If you need a break you can stop here, and on a good day have views all the way over Belfast with the Antrim hills in the far distance, and Lough Neah on your left. Loose asphalt demands care unless you enjoy picking your bike off the ground (he said knowingly). Further up the road you come to a T-junction, take the left, downhill.Pass a junction to your right and you come to a sharp 'S' with dodgy road surface.When the road straightens our head accross the moorland for the trees. Speed could cause you to leave the saddle or become mildly airborne. Sharp left bend under the trees. Carry on down the hill. Some way over the brow, with a line of trees on your left, slow down for a lefthander. You're taking an immediate right (past a newish house at the bottom of a slope) for the obvious gap in the hills on your right. The surface here is cack, andthe junction doubles back on itself and is steep.
Easy! Reversing this junction is nigh on impossible due to the surface and angle - a bike has been dropped here for that reason. This road is almost single track with a disconcerting strip of grass down the middle in parts. Gulp. Most of the surface is OK unless its covered in tractors, tourists from the nearby lodge, or cattle, though. Enjoy. Up anddown, quite a few narrow bends. Emerge grinning at the end of the road, a T-junction, over the other side of the hills, as the road broadens out noticably. Left, and down the hill, towards the Mournes on the far horizon. Keep going down hill and eventually over some crossroads - the road ahead seems to go straight through someone's farm! Follow the bends up the hill and through the woods. As you keep going up the hill you come to a junction with a steeper gradient to the right which is overhung with trees (is that like a hangover?). Again, someone has thoughtfully carpeted the centre line with grass, occasionally also with leaves and maybe some ice. Yum yum. This road eventually deposits you at a T-junction. Left, down the hill a few yards to another 'T', and then right down the hill. Horses use this stretch of road and may try and cut off your exit - watch for ka ka and novice riders who would love to dive onto your bike for a lift. Follow the road up to a T-junction. Right into Castlewellan. Up the hill and through the town. After much shops, a mini-roundabout is a signal to turn left, with a pub on your right and petrol station on your left. Out of the built-up area, the road is wide and mostly straight.This is the A50 to Newcastle.
Just over a mile, and you come to an obvious staggered junction with white line boxes, and a filter to turn right. Take the right turn to Bryansford ( **346 333) the B180, also signposted (I think) to Hilltown. Carry on up through Byansford and past Tollymore Forest Park with views between the trees of the Mournes on your left. Roadsigns moot the possibility of wildlife encounters, but not Volvos reversing from farms into your path. Ignore any such provocation. Keep going out of the trees, (past a turn to Kilcoo on your right) thence second on your left, maybe signposted Spelga / Kilkeel. Or maybe not. Take this lefthand turn and head for the heart of the Mournes.The map says this is the C132. Yeah, right. You're following the banks of the Shimna river into the mountains. Keep on past the pine trees before Fafanny Dam / reservoir (Ger-Granville!) under the shadow of Butter Mountain. (is this like the EEC Butter Mountain ? Hmm ?).
Crack throttle as necessary. Geddup that hill, avoiding Sunday motorists looking at scenery and trying to smear you into it.The road levels out, and starts to descend Crocknafeola Woods and ultimately Kilkeel to the South. But I've a better idea for you! And this is the real point of the trip. Turn right (B27) (towards Hilltown), almost back on yorrself, towards the woods and Spelga dam / reservoir. In good weather a van provides icecream, tea, coffee snacks ?.So if you're itchin' for a break best take it now. Bikers with custom bikes and horns glued to open-faced helments might like to stop off at the Slievenamuck woods by the Reservoir, for a quick pagan ritual or maybe sandwiches. Next is not for pussies, the inexperienced or severely myopic without rectifying opthalmic attention. Head down the Selga Pass. If you crash here, you will sculpt your own tombstone from the surrounding landscape before you stop. There are some severe changes of direction, and a steep S-Bend half way down , most bends suffering from an alarmingly tightening radius which can leave the unwary stranded in the wrong gutter. As the severtiy of the pass lessens, so the bends open up before on more tightening line on a lefthander. By the time you get to the bottom your eyes will be extruded on stalks out of your helmet like a couple of cartoon boiled eggs. Great. When you start leaving the hills with Hen Mountain on your left, I take itas a good opportunity to stop, and clean the old soiled leathers. Crackin' Grommet-cheese. Because its time to turn around and go back UP the pass. The extra weight over the driving wheel here means that one could if one were inclined (ha!ha!) lean off the bike for extra traction with much more impunity. Those with aforesaid Viking-Biking helmets will recognise the return journey as Valhalla. Now, Clive, you're just going to have to do this all over again....
When you get back to the T-junction act the top past Selga dam, you haveseveral choices. Turn right is commendable if you want to take a left after a 3.1/4 miles downhill run, singposted Silent Valley, and ultimately on to Newcastle. Returning (left) in the direction you have come (north) offers other tasty morsels. Run down past Fafanny Dam (no, I can't believe it either) past an obvious left turn brings you almost unexpectedly to a X-roads. Take the narrow road to your right under the foot of Slieve Meelmore, along the other side of the Shimna river this time. Some low-speed peg scrapers. Watch for armchair hikers in cars who will probably scowl at you. There are several public car parks on this road, and people do just pull out. Eventually come to a wild and narrow switchback over a bridge. At the T-junction turn right and back to Bryansford. When you get to Tollymore Forest Park, and Bryansford (avoiding aforesaid Volvo driver again), you can if you want turn right towards Newcastle. There's a Caf' on your left if you're with your well-behave girlfriend. If not you can huff and puff about the exhorbitant cost of entry into Tollymore Forest Park (on your right) for motorcyclists, the take advantage of dirt-cheap but basic cooking in the Caf' there. Bargain. As for the rest of it, well, Write to the Site and suggest a route home! Butyou may well be caught by the lure of the Dromara Hills from the other direction, and the prospect of those bends coming DOWN from Slieve Croob!!! Arooobah!
Wantage to: Swindon
What, another good road in Oxfordshire (see B4494)? This one is relatively slow and only a few miles long, but a real test of handling. Do not attempt to go fast on a Pan-European! The key section runs from Letcombe to Ashbury, past the famous White Horse (a great place to stop and picnic). Try it carefully on your first visit. It's VERY tight and twisty, swooping up and down enough to make you seasick, and has nice gravelly apexes, bumpy patches and barbed wire fences everywhere to add spice. But it's very satisfying when you get it right. Mid-week off-peak is best, and unfortunately should be avoided on Sundays, when the road fills up with hikers, cyclists, grannies etc.
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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