“It was finally time to pull the throttle back, head north from London to Scotland and across to the breathtaking Outer Hebrides, with a 5-day / 1500 mile round trip ahead – does life get any better?”
I simply couldn’t wait to pack the bags and cram the panniers with all the necessary essentials and equipment needed for my next trip including pocketknife, head-torch and cooking utensils. It was everything that allowed me to set out on a mini-adventure and feel like a teenager once again. I just wanted to jump onto the bike and get-gone. Scotland, one of the most beautiful countries in the world was again in my sights and only a stone’s throw north of ‘Ye Olde London Town’. Since returning from my 2011 trip across the Americas (Los Angeles to Rio de Janeiro), l craved the freedom that the open road presented, the cleansing it gave to the mind, the escapism it delivered by simply winding back the throttle and letting loose along the motorway. It was now over a year since l had crossed the Americas and l hadn’t been able to plan any significant trips since my return to the UK. However, the Outer Hebrides had always been extremely high on my places to visit in the British Isles and this was finally my chance and not one to be missed.
The last six months had been spent working hard to keep my head above water and covering the cost of rent in London. I was hanging onto work by the skin of my teeth in an unsettled European market, constantly listening to the daily updates – was Greece in the Euro, was Greece out of the Euro, was the Euro going to crash or could we save it? ‘Really’, l thought, ‘do the average folk of England really care what happens?’ We all understand that no-matter what happens to the European market, the British Government coupled with media scaremongering are going to just love hiking-up the cost of everything taxable and nailing the peasant-folk to the wall. Britain has always loved to tax people and it makes me realize that l would have been the first man on the ship heading to the ‘Land of the Free’ a few hundred years ago. I would have gladly kicked all the English tea into the Hudson River, waved and prodded my pitchfork at any passing redcoats. Although I do have to watch what l say, it was last year in Costa-Rica l scraped my way out of a $500 speeding ticket because the local police had loved watching the royal wedding of William and Kate.
Blaggy (left) and Nick both agreed to the dates but Nick had to get a pass from his partner who was on the brink of labor.
Well, l had only managed a number of weekends away on the bike over the last year – through the Derbyshire Dales, across Norfolk, Suffolk and down to the south coast of England into Brighton for a taste of traditional English fish & chips. I realized l craved a short get-away, with only a limited budget – l still needed another motorcycle fix. Previous trips had taken me to Scotland, but the Outer Hebrides were where l most wanted to visit. It was coming up to four years since l had ridden around the Inner Hebrides from Arran, Mull-of-Kintyre and Isle of Skye and l had had a brilliant time doing so with old friends eating the best fish and sinking some of Scotland’s finest malts.
I decided to push the idea past a couple of friends, so we agreed to grab a few days from work and make the trip. Steve Blagburn (Blaggy) is an old friend of mine for some 30 years, we grew up together as kids in Nottinghamshire and had completed a number of rides over the last few years. Nick, was a friend of Blags with whom l had met a couple of years back riding dirt bikes – so l knew we had a good line-up. They both agreed to the dates, though Nick needed to get a pass from his partner who was some six weeks away from giving birth to their first child and therefore the question was raised by his fair lady – ‘Where is it more important to spend our money right now at this monumental point in our lives – on dummy’s and diapers or a new rear tire and fold-out camping chair?’
It was a good question well raised and Nick got his priorities right and we penciled the dates for our motorcycle trip for mid-May. It would have taken a better man to stay at home and do the right thing, so l welcomed Nick aboard – l knew this was going to be a good trip. I then jumped online and booked the ferries, drew together a tight itinerary to Scotland (via the Lake District) and then onwards into Glasgow. We would then proceed to Oban, where we’d catch the first ferry taking us out to the Isle of Barra and return from Stornoway on the northern Isle of Lewis. We decided that due to the distance and heavy traffic up to Scotland, it would be worth leaving the evening prior to ensure we made good ground and the lunchtime ferry.