Dainese Search

    A ten-day journey through the natural beauty of northern Britain

    By Alberto Scotti | 10 October 2022 | 1 min
    Motorcycle: KTM 990 Adventure `12
    Mileage: 4100 km
    Difficulty: Average, depending on whether you want to ride off-road and on the weather
    Duration: 11 days
    Time of the year: April-May
    Weather: Variable
    Temperatures: 10°C - +25°C
    Essential equipment: Jacket and pants in GORE-TEX® with additional rainproof protection, GPS navigator with detailed and up-to-date maps.

    Alberto Scotti

    The Author

    Born in 1990, I’ve always loved the motorcycle world. I started leafing through magazines and brochures when I was 12, looking for the motorcycle of my dreams. Ever since I was finally able to sit on my first ‘serious’ motorcycle, an Aprilia Tuono 50, I've always kept at least one in the garage. Since my very first adventure – a complete circuit around Lake Como – traveling by motorcycle has been an essential part of my life: A way to learn and to know myself, to explore and to explore myself, to live life by living. 

    My KTM and I are at the port of Larne, Northern Ireland, after a week spent travelling through Italy, Switzerland, France and Ireland. We're waiting to board our first ferry of the day, which will set sail shortly. Across the sea, Scotland. It's a lull, but as soon as we dock at Cairnryan, everything is already planned from then on. As soon as I disembark, I need to go non-stop to Kennacraig to catch the second ferry, which will take me to the island of Islay, where I will spend the night. About four and a half hours on the road. I couldn't book the next ferry in advance – even for a motorbike there was no more space – and now the schedule is a bit tight, also because I'll have to go around Glasgow and there will probably be traffic.  

    I am midway through a round trip starting and finishing in my home town of Bolzano, Italy. The first part of the itinerary involved travelling across Europe to get a ferry to Ireland from Cherbourg, France. From Rosslare I headed for the world-renowned Wild Atlantic Way, a spectacular route that runs along the west coast of the island, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. And now here I am in Scotland, beginning the second leg of my journey. 

    After disembarking, I set off on my 'rally' of around 300 km, in which I only stop once to refuel and take care of my bodily needs. However, I immediately notice that Scotland is very different to Ireland, contrary to what the lady at the Northern Irish B&B claimed. According to her, the two countries are the same, the only difference being that the Irish people are more polite and friendly! 

    The western part of Scotland is dominated by the famous lochs, basically fjords, which remind me a lot of Norway or the north-west of Iceland, albeit on a smaller scale. The roads are full of ups and downs and there some wonderful stretches. I would highlight the run from Garelochhead to Arrochar, the small town of Inveraray, and the Argyll Coastal Route, which I am driving partly today and partly tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. But you need to drive with your wits about you. Because some of the gutters are really deep, it doesn't seem to be that uncommon for someone from the opposite direction to lose their bearings a little, encroaching on the oncoming lane, especially if they are on a slight bend; you need to be careful.   

    Classic photo in front of the Laphroaig distillery: Many thanks to the guys who advised me to park there. 
    Classic photo in front of the Laphroaig distillery: Many thanks to the guys who advised me to park there. 

    The island of Islay, my first Scottish destination 

    I manage to catch my boat and take advantage of the couple of hours crossing to Islay to relax a little. Maybe I even relaxed too much, given how as soon as I disembark I throw myself energetically (and recklessly) into an off-road route that initially seems fine, before turning into a muddy hellhole. I curse myself countless times for getting myself into such a situation, having just landed on an island, with a loaded motorbike and very limited knowledge of the area. By being patient and at least now using my brain, I get out of it without any more problems for me or the bike. I breathe a sigh of relief and we carry on!  

    Catching the earlier ferry than I intended gives me more time to explore Islay before heading to the hostel. The island is famous for its many outstanding whisky distilleries. Today, this small island has about 3,000 inhabitants as well as 9 distilleries (out of the 130 in Scotland). So you can do the math on what whisky production means to this small slice of land dominated by peat bogs.  

    Tomorrow I already have a visit booked to the Laphroaig distillery, but I am taking advantage of the fact that today is Sunday (now evening) to go and have a little look around. And I am immediately rewarded.  I ask two workers if I can take the bike to an area that is usually off-limits for travel/visiting so that I can get a nice souvenir photo of the moment. They look at my license plate, look at each other, and give me the go-ahead, smiling.  

    While I take a few photos, my nose is filled with the aroma of the malt from the distillery, a few lazy waves wash up on the shoreline (the distillery is on the sea front), and the sun starts to turn bright red. I enjoy the quiet industriousness of the distillery for a few more moments, and then head off to the hostel. In any case, tomorrow morning I will still be here.  

    Since I allowed myself several detours yesterday without being able to fill up with petrol (there are no automatic gas stations on the island, and yesterday everything was also closed because it was Sunday), I am pretty much out of fuel. After a minor hitch at a service station where the pump seemed to fail, I luckily manage to refuel and head back to the Laphroaig distillery. For anyone interested in the world of whisky, the guided tour is not to be missed. There was lots of interesting information, as well as the knowledge that you are visiting a truly iconic place.  


    Compounded by the fact that I arrived on Islay earlier than expected yesterday, there is not much left for me to see. The island does not have much to offer from a landscape point of view, although some sea views and coves are truly enchanting. But all things considered, if you are not interested in whisky, you might as well skip it. Anyway, satisfied with my visit here, by a twist of luck I managed to bring forward my ferry back to the 'mainland.' And that allows me to continue my journey along the Argyll Coastal Route towards Oban, where I have booked a hostel.  

    It turns out to be the right decision, as the road to Oban is unexpectedly winding – by local standards – and a lot of fun; I really enjoyed myself. As we approach Oban I catch a few drops of rain – just enough to get the bike even dirtier after the mud we got caught up in yesterday.  


    The best fish and chips in the world 

    Oban is truly a beautiful town, not to be missed by anyone passing through the area. Its main attractions are the McCaig Tower, imitating an ancient Roman amphitheater, and its beautiful harbor, a gateway to various places in the Hebrides. Last but not least, for foodies like me, it is known as the 'Seafood Capital of Scotland.' After a quick shower, I head to the harbor area, to The Fishbox, where I eat by far the best fish & chips I have ever had in my life. Oh my God.  

    Back in the hostel, happy and with a full stomach, I hear my roommates chatting about the Isle of Skye, where they have both been today. But since I am going there tomorrow, I prefer not to hear any spoilers... I say goodnight to everyone and put my earplugs in.    

    Once again I utilize my ninja-like qualities to leave the hostel room without waking the other guests, and set off.  

    I have about 400 km planned for today. After two hours I have already covered 160 km, which I approached more as a transfer so that I could tour the length and breadth of the Isle of Skye at a leisurely pace. If you organize the tour differently, it would certainly be worth exploring the outstandingly beautiful surroundings of the Glencoe area. The 'fjord-like' landscapes found from Oban up to here suddenly change as you join the A87. Higher mountains begin to appear, snow peeping out on their summits, and the valleys become narrower. Finally I cross the bridge to the island, my mind brimming with expectation. Scenes from films of the caliber of Star Wars, Prometheus and many others were filmed here.  

    I begin exploring from the peninsula in the south-east, and I can safely say that it is an area to skim over. Many kilometers have little to offer, while the small road on the west side from Achnacloich to Ord is interesting, with glimpses of the ‘high’ mountains in the north of the Island. But all told, even looking back, I wouldn't spend much time or mileage here.  

    The beautiful bay overlooked by Stenscholl, Isle of Skye.
    The beautiful bay overlooked by Stenscholl, Isle of Skye.
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    By this point I return, disappointed, to the main road (the A87) heading north and finally begin to find something of what I had expected. The 'loop' north of Portree, which then passes through Duntulm and Ulg, has truly unmissable landscapes. There are mountains that resemble the drama of Italy's Dolomites, albeit on a much smaller scale, sheer cliffs overlooking the sea (Bornisketaig), cottages punctuating a verdant landscape framed by a beautiful blue bay (Stenscholl). What's more, you can take a few off-road adventures in this area that truly offer postcard-perfect scenery. I don't get the 'wow' factor that Achill Island gave me, but it was still seriously good.  

    I plan to visit the westernmost part of the island tomorrow, so from the far north of the island I head south again, but taking back roads. The scenery is not on the same level as the northern loop, so I concentrate more on enjoying the road and driving. I arrive in the mountainous Glenbrittle area, where I have my hostel. In some ways it reminds me – albeit at a lower level – of the dramatic landscape that I had experienced in the ring north of Portree. If you're a fan of 'Instagrammable' places, the famous 'Fairy Pools' in this area are not to be missed. I preferred to pass by and visit entirely similar geological formations close by, but which were not swarmed by hordes of tourists.  


    Chance meetings in Scotland 

    I arrive at the hostel with a bittersweet feeling. For sure, I saw some special and unique sights, but overall the island did not dazzle me with the stunning beauty I would have expected (even though by the end of the day I had covered over 520 km compared to the 400 km originally planned). I meet a German girl who is touring Scotland by bicycle and we talk about this and more; the hostel has no Wi-Fi, and no phone signal either. And so for one evening – perhaps paradoxically not far from the most photographed place on the island – there is no place for social media and virtual chatter, just for new acquaintances, real talk and tales of travel, experience and life, face to face.  

    Me on my motorbike, her on her bike, we leave the hostel together. We are going to exactly the same place, with the subtle difference that for her it will take the day; for me it will be a matter of a couple of hours. The Neist Point lighthouse in the extreme north-west of the island and the cliff it stands on are strikingly atmospheric in the early morning light. I think that with the setting sun to the west, illuminating it from the ''right'' side, it could certainly be even more beautiful.  

    From here, after visiting the last areas to the north, I head towards Bracadale, where I take the 'mountain' pass that will take me back to Portree, on the A87. And right at the top of the pass... surprise! Three fighter jets pass overhead at an impressive speed, making a deafening noise. I park the bike in the middle of the road to try to snatch a couple of photos with my smartphone, noticing that they are getting ready for a second pass. Wow, what a rush!


    Still energized by this unexpected encounter, I follow the A87 south, as I will soon leave the Isle of Skye and begin the famous NC500 (North Coast 500) route. It's a 516-mile scenic route that links the entire coastline of the Scottish Highlands – undoubtedly one of the main goals of this entire trip.  

    I start my journey on the NC500 from Loch Carron, setting off in a clockwise direction. Right away, it's truly a picture-postcard landscape. I tackle the 'Pass of the Cattle' to Applecross, stopping just before the summit to take a few obligatory photos. I look around and think that what I see is definitely how I imagined Scotland!  

    Just down the pass towards Applecross Bay – picturesque view from above – I get closer to the sea and... second 'military' surprise of the day. A submarine is cruising a few hundred meters away from me! Never before have I seen a submarine operating in regular service. We track each other all the way to a headland a few dozen kilometers to the north, me stopping occasionally to take a few photos, as I am definitely faster than him. When I arrive at the headland, I meet a guy who tells me that there is a military base not far away and he works there. Neither is it very common, but neither is it so unique to see submarines sailing in these waters. In any case, the crowd of people stopping to take photos and wave at the submarine before it disappears over the horizon suggests to me that it is not an everyday occurrence for locals either.  

    From here on, the road continues without infamy or praise until my appointed finish of the day in Gairloch. The weather is sunny, there is hardly any wind, the sea is very calm; I almost feel as if I am not near the ocean. Arriving at the hostel I chat happily with the manager, telling him about my 'military' encounters and showing my surprise. He tells me to expect to be surprised since the next day, as I continue my route northwards, I will pass by the Cape Wrath military base in the far north-west of Scotland – the only place in the northern hemisphere where NATO land, sea and air forces conduct joint exercises. With a bit of luck, he tells me, I will see some very special sights. I will know because sometimes they even temporarily close the roads. I go to bed feeling quite hopeful, seeing how today went.  


    The northern coast of the Highlands 

    Today will take me from the west coast of the Highlands to the north coast, covering just under 300 km, so apparently quite a short day.  

    The fresh morning air wakes me up for the first few kilometers, which are not exactly exciting, until I reach the Corrieshalloch Gorge, which is one of the country's relatively few nature reserves. The stop is definitely worthwhile, as the short walk that leads to some rather impressive views is completely doable even in full motorbike gear, a not inconsiderable advantage. There are two places to reach, a platform where you can get a good view of the stream flowing through the gorge, and a suspension bridge with, in my opinion, dangerously low parapets...if you suffer from vertigo, this is not the place for you.  

    Short early morning off-road detour: Sometimes it’s good to go off-road for breakfast. 
    Short early morning off-road detour: Sometimes it’s good to go off-road for breakfast. 

    I get back on the bike and, as I am ahead of schedule, decide to take it easy by taking a few detours off the main road. I end up in the truly extraordinary Achnahaird Bay, without doubt one of the most beautiful places I have seen since arriving in Scotland. The road to get there is a blaze of yellow flowers that follow me for kilometers, and the bay has water the color of the finest sea in Sardinia. It sounds unbelievable to say – and also to see, I rub my eyes a couple of times to make sure I am seeing right – but that is exactly how it is. You just need to be lucky that the sun is shining, otherwise the emerald green hues will inevitably turn to ash grey. I take advantage of this lovely moment to have a quick snack of some questionable cheddar biscuits I unwisely bought the day before, and a banana.  

    From Ullapool heading north, the landscape becomes more mountainous and barren, the wind blows harder, the green gives way to the more typical colors of the moors that have yet to fully awaken from their winter torpor. Before I leave the west coast for good and head north, there is time to jot down a few more things in my travel notebook. The detour to the stretch of coastline between the beaches of Oldshoremore and Sheigra is a little piece of paradise, especially if you are lucky enough (unfortunately, here I was unlucky) to be able to do it with the sun illuminating the colorful waters that bathe these small beaches that are slightly off the beaten track.  

    Back on the main road, I only have to skirt the Cape Wrath barracks to reach the north coast. I can't hear any activity coming from the camp, all roads are open as usual, so I assume that I will probably not add anything to my list of 'military' encounters today. That’s no bad thing really, especially since I'm starting to get a little tired. Nonetheless, upon reaching the north coast, I couldn't help but stop for a walk on the beautiful promontory of Balnakeil Bay (with its accompanying beach). After so many small bays, finally a bay that I would venture to describe as 'Irish' in scale. For my money, it's certainly a very impressive calling card for this new stretch of coast. Back on the bike, I end my day in Tongue and can't wait to leave tomorrow to visit this area, which already seems so different to the west.     

    Yesterday's fleeting impressions are confirmed in the first few kilometers. Here the lochs give way to high cliffs, the sea seems decidedly more 'oceanic' and wild, the beaches are wide, sandy, framed by sand dunes on one side and crystal-clear waters on the other, with Strathy Bay or Melvich Bay being excellent examples.  

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    The landscape changes again as we approach the far northeast. Meadows and pastures reappear and I feel, all of a sudden, that I am back in Ireland. But this change of scenery has a few reasons behind it. Indeed, I instantly notice that the barren moors of a few kilometers earlier are now giving way to villages, towns, and even cities of considerable size (Thurso, the northernmost city in the United Kingdom, excluding the islands). I see the reason for this in a partly decommissioned military base set up in the immediate aftermath of World War II near Dounreay, where nuclear reactors were developed and tested for both civil and military use (for submarines). Dominating the base is a ‘sphere’ that can be seen from many kilometers away already, and a host of other facilities now used in ways that are decidedly different from what they were designed for, like an enormous runway used as a parking lot. I imagine how much money and employment this base brought to the local population in the 1950s and can give myself at least a partial answer as to why I have really seen a radical change in the landscape in just a few kilometers.  


    At the tip of Great Britain 

    I leave this rather sinister area behind and continue my journey eastwards. After passing through Thurso I reach Dunnet Head, the most northerly point in the British mainland. Aside from the geographical importance one may or may not attach to this place, a visit here is certainly worth the detour. The lighthouse seems to be watching the archipelago of the Orkney Islands, just to the north. The ocean roars below it, crashing onto high dark cliffs, where many seabirds build their nests, including the beautiful puffins I was able to admire. Now if that’s not a postcard image, then what is?! On top of all this, a rather interesting side note is that this lighthouse (like many others around here) was designed in the early 19th century by the grandfather of the famous Robert Louis Stevenson. I was an avid reader of this ''classic'' author during my school days because of the crazy adventures he took me on with his pen (author of masterpieces such as ''Treasure Island'', ''The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde'' and ''The Black Arrow'', among others).   

    Pondering life's incredible coincidences, I move on to John o' Groats, a village in the far north-east of Great Britain. I soon realize the utter confusion of this place, a pretty poor compromise between a tourist trap (with the classic signpost showing distances to other places in the UK and around the world) and a five-star luxury resort. Essentially, you won't miss much if you don't stop here.    

    Quickly back on my bike. I head to the far northeast corner of Scotland, Duncansby Head. In some ways it reminds me of Dunnet Head, but with some interesting quirks. First of all, because of its location and the 'clash' of currents here, there is very often an highly visible current flowing northwards at a speed of around 10 knots. It is striking to see – it looks like a river flowing into the ocean. Imagine what it must have been like to cross this headland upstream in a boat without a motor. Looking southwards from this cape, you can also admire the 'Duncansby Stacks', natural rock formations 'planted' just a few meters from the shoreline. They are dramatically and remarkably beautiful. I start towards my bike with my eyes still full of these wonders and a woman informs me, out of nowhere, that killer whales are arriving from the south. They are expected to pass through here in the next 15-20 minutes, so if I want to see them I'd better stick around. The nonchalant way she tells me this leaves me momentarily bewildered, but I decide to stay. Groups of cars arrive non-stop on the headland, and fully-equipped photographers rush to the edge of the cliffs. I deduce that yes, something major is about to happen.  


    I pass the time by making small talk and asking people for information. At last, a pod of 4-5 orcas appears, swimming northwards, with their water spouts and fins always clearly visible. They slip into the current I noted earlier, heading towards the Orkney Islands. What can I say, yet another ‘first’! Never before had I seen orcas in their natural environment, from a relatively short distance. It's a natural wonder – perhaps trite words, but their literal meaning perfectly describes what I have before my eyes.  

    I get back on my bike again, still in disbelief, and start my descent south towards Helmsdale. The beautiful coastline continues, and I think these landscapes are much more interesting than those I saw in the west. I mentally rewind the day; I've been on the road for almost two weeks, but I've still had so many surprises.  And who knows what awaits me in the coming days. That’s the beauty of travel.   


    Starting out southwards 

    I start the day a little melancholy, thinking about my last day on the NC500. Today I will arrive in Edinburgh, a city I am very curious to explore, but which inevitably marks an important point in terms of the end of this trip.  

    Fortunately, the scenery south of Helmsdale quickly revives me. Yet more huge beaches, stretching as far as the eye can see, escort me southwards. If I had to choose one, I would say that 'Embo beach' is definitely one of the most striking.  

    From there, the road leaves the coast and heads further inland, offering very little to remark on. However, the road veering away from the sea inspires me to detour a little from my original route, taking the opportunity to pass by the famous Loch Ness and the so-called 'snow roads' of the Cairngorms National Park. What to say about Loch Ness? It's definitely not a standout place, but can you say you've been to Scotland without at least passing through? I also have to say, while it may be the overcast weather that colors its waters grey, there is a certain aura of mystery about it. I pause on the banks of the loch, taking the opportunity for a morning snack and to add a down layer to my jacket. The very high humidity in these inland areas means I am suffering more than I should from the 10° C atmospheric temperature.  

    Dressed up and ready for anything – I might even get a bit of rain – I head for the Cairngorms National Park. To cut to the chase, this is the most beautiful Scottish landscape I have seen. Not only are the roads a lot of fun, but some of the views are truly exceptional. the section from Ballater to Spittal of Glenshee is uncommonly beautiful, somehow reminding me, from afar, of the insane landscapes at the top of the Albulapass in Switzerland. At every turn I just keep repeating ‘Wow!’ under my helmet.   

    Killer whales seen from Duncansby Head headland. 
    Killer whales seen from Duncansby Head headland. 

    And then, unfortunately, the national park comes to an end. I continue towards Perth without anything much to report, so much so that from here I even decide to take the motorway which will lead me straight to Edinburgh. By arriving a little earlier than planned, I will have more time to walk around the city. Arriving at the hostel, the owner (who is also a motorcyclist) makes me park my bike practically inside the building, out of fear that it might be stolen. I could explain to him that I doubt the situation could be worse than some Italian cities I have been to, but I follow his advice/orders without question.  

    A shower, I put on my 'civilian' clothes, and I'm off to explore beautiful Edinburgh in no time. I walk more than 10 km, treat myself to a nice dinner and a few hours less sleep, taking advantage of my last evening in Scotland. Indeed tomorrow, after a quick drive, I'll be waiting in Newcastle for the ferry that will take me back to ‘Europe’, so to speak. That means  my journey is nearly over.  

    I wake up a little earlier than planned and search Google Maps for something I could do or see on the way to Newcastle. I discover that I will pass right by the 'National Museum of Flight' and – nice surprise – they have one of the Concorde planes there.  

    That will do for me. I get dressed in a hurry, load the bike and off I go, towards East Fortune Airfield. Caught up in the excitement of this unscheduled visit, I realize that I did not look at the opening hours. And indeed, I arrive at the museum gates 45 minutes before opening time. I take the opportunity to do a mini-service of the bike – check engine oil and chain – and to walk around the airfield a bit. When the ticket attendant arrives – voicing his astonishment at seeing me outside the gate like a fan queuing for a concert – I buy my ticket and rush to the Concorde hangar.  

    For 10 minutes we are alone, me and this incredible machine ( aside from the museum attendant). It's an amazing thing today – and quite miraculous if you think of it in the post-war context. A metallic beast in which every rivet, button and surface screams of a dream come true, embodying the genius and accomplishment of the human race. The impossible made real. Although the museum has a few other fine exhibits (an Avro 698 Vulcan that served in the Falklands War, for example), nothing can come close to the Irresistible allure of the Concorde.  

    I finish my visit to all the hangars and get going again. From here on I have no stops planned, heading straight to Newcastle to board the ferry. I am swept along the road as far as the border between Scotland and England and from here I decide to join the motorway. In no time at all I'm at the port. Once aboard, as usual I climb to the highest deck to watch the moorings being loosed. It's time to say goodbye to Great Britain. From tomorrow I will be closer to home and, above all, there will be no sea between me and my journey back. Tomorrow I will get to Amsterdam and take a three-day break from the bike to do some sightseeing. The bike tour is pretty much over, but not the holiday.  


    Amsterdam and the return journey 

    After three beautiful days in one of the most enchanting cities in Europe – I am adamant that Amsterdam in sunshine even ranks among the most beautiful cities in the world – I hit the road. Breakfast in Amsterdam and happy hour in Bolzano – that's the goal. At 7 a.m. I set off and began my tedious drive south. The only 'thrill' I experience is being stopped by the police near Düsseldorf. Evidently believing me to be a drug addict, they subject me in the middle of a car park to tests like standing on one foot with my eyes closed, touching my nose with my eyes closed, and walking along a line. If nothing else, I can use the opportunity to stretch my legs!  

    Back in the saddle, the hundreds of kilometers separating me from Italy pass as expected. Ten hours after leaving, I am home.  

    My brain goes into overdrive thinking about what I've experienced over the past three weeks. I think of the places that disappointed, the ones that lived up to expectations, those that surprised me. I feel gratitude for having been able to experience the moments I did, the bike that never flinched in more than 7000 km (Ireland + Scotland). And I say a mental 'thank you' to those who I felt close to me even from afar, since 24 April was also my birthday and I still have to get back properly to a few people. But above all, as at the end of every trip, the brain commands the eyes to the map and throws out the question of all questions, ‘Where next?’.  

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    General thoughts on organizing my trip to Scotland 

    • To get around and find my way – on this as on all my trips – I used a Garmin GPS on which I preloaded (a) the most up-to-date topographic maps available when I set off, including contour lines as an additional layer; and (b) the gpx tracks of each day's route.  
      Topographical maps provide very detailed knowledge of your surroundings, wherever you are. Mine also accurately shows any dirt tracks, and even whether the dirt road is more 'road' or 'path' - an undeniable advantage when travelling in unfamiliar territory. Then, if you also superimpose the contour lines, you can see any gradient that you will need to negotiate on the dirt track. Without taking too many risks – and considering that I was always carrying a full load – I was able to really enjoy a few off-road stretches.  The .gpx tracks attached to this article are the original ones I used during the trip. Some detours reported in the story are not shown because they were ‘improvised’. However, you can glean the information from reading the text.  
    • By planning the itinerary in advance (and generating the .gpx routes to upload to the GPS), I booked all the hostels where I stayed before I set off. If you've read the story, you'll have noticed that this still allowed plenty of room for maneuver and impromptu detours during the day, but in my opinion there were considerable advantages to doing it this way: 1) If you don't have an overseas internet phone tariff, as in my case, then you don't have the stress of having to search for a place to sleep in the late afternoon; 2) my travel period coincided with some national holidays in both Ireland and Scotland: If I had booked on the day, I would have had to make do with what I could find, probably having to radically alter my travel plans based on where I would find accommodation. The same goes for ferries to the Scottish islands: they absolutely must be booked in advance; and 3) in the evening, there is always someone who knows that you should arrive at a certain place. If travelling alone, this can prove useful in case you encounter unforeseen events during your trip.  

    • On the bike, I opted to fit semi-treaded tires just before setting off – the classic 80/20s. This meant that I could handle both motorway 'mileage busters' and also do some easy off-roading, even managing to get through some pretty muddy situations like on the island of Islay. Looking back, it was a wise choice. As for me, choosing the right clothing was vital for a trip like this. During the first day of the trip, crossing Europe towards Ireland, I faced a temperature range of 35 °C, which was definitely out of the ordinary. Yet I was comfortable throughout the day. The key is modular clothing, which is absolutely essential for this type of trip. You will also have noticed that I have hardly mentioned rain. That is because, somewhat uniquely, I never encountered rainy weather, apart from a few scattered drops at times.  That was an unlikely assumption  to make when travelling at these latitudes, which is why (along with the Gore-Tex® suit I wore) I always carried an additional rain suit, packed in an easily accessible area in my suitcase. An extra little note I paid attention to when I divided my stuff between the suitcases on the left and right: since in Ireland and the UK you drive in the left-hand lane, it could prove more convenient to load quick-access items into your left suitcase.  

    Essential equipment


    Flip-up helmet

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    Gore-Tex Jacket®

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    Gore-Tex pants®

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    Winter gloves

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    Waterproof boots

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    Back protector

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    Waterproof suit

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    Backpack with water bag

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