Barton le Clay, Bedfordshire to: Hitchen, Hertfordshire
Take the B655 out of Barton towards Hexton and Hitchen and as soon as you come out of the village it's into a slightly curved open blast of countryside. As you come up the slight rise a lovely right hand bend (be careful of the drop on the left!) takes you down into Hexton. It is here where it is worth slowing down to the 40mph speed limit for the 150 yards through the village as the bottom of the hill into Hexton levels off very quickly and sports bikes nearly ground themselves!
After going through the bottom of Hexton the road rises steeply and comes out of the 40mph limit, opening the throttle again sees a flurry of trees fly by before dropping round a fast left hander before rising again into a fast rising right before slowing to a 3rd/2nd gear sharp left hander. Opening the throttle again blasts you down the flat straight out of the trees and up the hill through a fast right hander and into another fast left (watch the rough tarmac!). A little wiggle left takes you onto the flat and round the fast slight left hander and onto another fast straight. Going back into the trees takes you into a quite fast right (be careful as it is on a deceptive slight rise making the bike very light!) and then into a good series of fast lefts and rights finsihing with a slightly sharper left. The trees then open as you blast along the last curvy straight. Caution must be taken towards the end of the straight due to a right hand bend with roads joining on either side, after which another quite sharp left takes you up the hill and into the 40mph which starts the slow down into Hitchen.
A cracking 4 mile ride which you can keep going over getting faster and faster with no reported police presence (after 4 years of riding the route) and not too much traffic. Bliss!
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.
Morpeth to: Lowick
I was heading up from London, on a break in Northumberland, heard it was a lovely place and I had been recommended an Inn, in a place called Lowick nr Berwick upon Tweed. Just North of Newcastle upon Tyne, I took the A697 off the drudgery and speed cameras of the A1, still heading North, it was a beautiful day and the dramatic Northumberland landscape opened up in front of me. (This section to the Wooler B6525 junction is approx. 50-60 miles) There are some wonderful long straight sections on this road mixed up with swooping bends and tight hairpins. The landscape is breathtaking and rugged, but beware, although a good surface, at fast speeds the road demands all your concentration. I did only notice one camera and that was a 30mph through one of the small villages, Long Horseley. North of this village is probably the most exciting and fastest (if you're so inclined) sections. Eventually, I came into Wooler and, took the B6525 East back towards the A1 and my destination. Again this road was outstanding, with even less traffic, apart from the odd car and tractor. Approximately 8 miles to Lowick now and after negotiating and absorbing, possibly the most outstanding ride I've ever had, I turned off at Lowick (B6353) and was ready for the wonderful hospitality I received at The Black Bull, Lowick. The entire trip is very much recommended.
Ashbourne to: Cowers Lane
The great things about this road is there little traffic and no feds.Plus it's mix of tight bends, sweepers, blind crests and flat out straights.Once you get to the traffic lights at Cowers Lane,turn left on to the Wirksworth road (B5023)which is more of the same and a much better route if you are going to Matlock.
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