As an MCN road tester, journalist Adam Child has been fortunate enough to ride some of the best roads on the world, on some of the best motorcycles out there. But, as he says, some of the best of the best can be found right on our door step, in Scotland. So which does he rate as the best? Take it away Chad…
So many of us choose to ride south and head towards Europe, with its sunnier climates and the ever-changeable environment and roads. Some of the passes are indeed breathtaking, especially in northern Italy, Germany, Austria, where you’re spoilt for choice. But there are downsides, it takes two long days of mostly boring roads to get there, and you have the hassle of crossing the channel. Plus, you have to take out extra roadside assistance, exchange money, and then there is the language barrier as well.
However, here’s a thought, why not head north to Scotland? I’ve toured Scotland many times and I’m always taken back by its beauty. Stunning landscapes, diversity, challenging roads and a friendly welcome are right on your doorstep. I always return thinking ‘I should do this more often, it’s the perfect weekend getaway’.
If you’ve never toured Scotland you’re sadly missing out. Trust me, take a few days off work, have a long weekend up north and you won’t be disappointed. In autumn it’s breathtaking. Remember, as the Scots say, there is no such thing as bad weather, just unsuitable clothing, so why not try out some of these five fantastic routes?
A708 Selkirk to Moffat (33 miles, 50 minutes)
With fast sweeping curves and tight technical twists, this road is a great ride in either direction but plays out better from a start point in Selkirk. The nearest filling station is on the A7 at the southern end of town, however, there’s another in Moffat so top up as needs be. The scenery is spectacular – the route runs along a narrowing glacial valley surrounded by purple peppered peaks and skims along the unbordered edge of St Mary’s Loch and Loch of the Lowes. Between the lochs, there’s a great pit stop in the shape of St Mary’s Cafe, where it’s worth taking a break to enjoy the view before tackling the narrow pass that precedes the descent into Moffat. It’s popular with both cars and bikes, so awareness is essential – weekdays are best when it’s likely to be quietest. Moffat is very biker friendly and a great place to stay is Buccleuch Arms Hotel.
A82 Alexandria to Glencoe (68 miles, one hour 40 minutes)
The A82 runs from Glasgow to Inverness and is a sensational ride in its entirety, but as an introduction to the Highlands and a gateway to the Islands, the ride to Glencoe ticks all the boxes. Fill up at the services on the dual carriageway section out of Glasgow and you’ll be good to go. Long lazy curves mark the first stretch along the banks of Loch Lomond, which grow twistier through the Trossachs until the road reaches Tyndrum, where food and fuel can be found at the Green Welly, a popular biking hangout. A series of graceful bends lift the road to the wilds of Rannoch Moor, before diving amongst the mountains to reveal the true majesty of Glen Coe itself, a spectacular volcanic valley with utterly breathtaking views. It’s one of those roads where it’s almost impossible not to stop and take pictures every five minutes. From there it’s a blissed-out twist down to Glen Coe village.
A87 Invergarry to Kyle of Lochalsh (49.5 miles, one hour 10 minutes)
This marvellous ribbon of tarmac has more curves than you can shake a stick at and views that are guaranteed to knock your socks off. It’s a lithe, serpentine blacktop that flows almost effortlessly from apex to apex, surfing through turns as it rolls between the glass like lochs and glen. Fuel can be found at the start near the junction with the A82 as well as along Loch Duich, where you’ll also find Eilean Donan Castle, the one time home of fictional Highlander, Connor Macleod and an obligatory selfie stop – there’s also a couple of good spots for coffee and cake thereabouts. Once you reach Kyle of Lochalsh it’s just a short hop across the spectacular bridge to Skye, or push on up the wild west coast to Applecross and beyond.
A832 Kinlochewe to Stalkers Cottage (63 miles, one hour 35 minutes)
If you need just one reason for riding the North Coast 500 then this could well be it, a stunning stretch of tarmac that explores the remote and rugged terrain of arguably the best section of this now world-famous route. It’s a wise move to set off with a topped up tank as filling stations are few and far between, but luckily there’s a one at the start in Kinlochewe. For the most part, the A832 is two-lane where each spectacular twist is answered by a sensational turn, however, bear in mind that it can get narrow in places. The scenery is captivating, but it’s a route that demands attention. Why not consider a coffee in Gairloch or Poolewe to take in the view?
A939 Bridge of Gairn to Grantown-on-Spey (36 miles, one hour)
The Cairngorms offer a different spin on Scotland’s awesome scenery and this old military road blazes a trail through some of the best to be found, rising like a liquid black ribbon among the green and purple of its organic surroundings to a height of 637m. Fill up, if needs be, in nearby Ballater, but as the route is fairly short and there’ll be gas again in Grantown. One of the greatest aspects of this route is the wild isolation that instills such a wonderful sense of adventure. It’s one to savour, so there’s no need to rush. The region is also subject to extreme weather, so pay close attention to the road surface as it can be broken in places. Pit stops are few en route, but that only makes Grantown even more welcoming with plenty of places along the high street to grab a bite and a coffee to warm up.