Sunday 28th June found me and Bean Counter setting off from Edinburgh where we stayed at my brothers for the weekend. I was going to ride to Callander near Stirling and ride along the Dukes pass, the A821. This stretch of road was featured sometime ago in a programme presented by Richard Wilson of One foot in the grave fame. Prior to this programme I had never heard of the Dukes Pass or the Trossachs which is spectacular part of Scotland. It is described as 12 miles of A road with 120 bends, dips and hills in it and particularly challenging requiring concentration. As soon as I saw the programme I knew I had to do this ride some time and as I was already in Scotland this seemed like a good day to go for it.
Sadly the mist along the M8 and M9 from Edinburgh to Kilmahog was already leading me to have doubts about the wisdom of this venture. I had planned for it to be a bright sunny day with barely a cloud in the sky. As it was I could hardly see in front of me although this was down to mist condensing upon my visor and was soon wiped away. It took just over an hour and a half to reach our designated starting point and before long we were on the trail haring around bends (responsibly of course we would never break speed or safety limits!) I am incapable of describing how beautiful the place really is despite the fact that visibility was very low and at one point a loch disappeared before my eyes as the mist rolled down from the mountains.
As fantastic as the pass is there was one really special gem that I did not know about and that is the trail around the Achray forest. At the entrance to the trail is a sign announcing £2 per car but it said nothing about motorbikes and there was no one to take any money off us and I did not see anywhere to leave any money so we rode straight through the gates. It is approximately 7 miles maybe more of rough road alongside three lochs. The road is unsurfaced and although not off road as in green laning it is a challenge on a motorbike and I saw more than 1 four wheel drive vehicle struggle with the mud and gravel tracks. The scenery is simply stunning and I will go back there hopefully on a sunny day.
There was the possibility due to the inclement weather that we would not make it home that night but we decided to give it a go anyway. At around 5pm we set the untrusting satnav up to take us home to Hiredew because I could see no signs to anywhere that I recognised and so it was that it took us into the heart of Glasgow and on to the M8. It was plain sailing from there although the satnav threw a wobbly and decided it did not know where it was and lost all of my recent finds and routes. I have ranted about this Garmin in the past but I will do so again. It is SHITE do NOT BUY ONE OF THESE!! As a by the by 3 people have all taken a look at it and all said “well mine does not do that” but each recognises that is it the single most useless piece of crap they have ever seen. By comparison a Stylophone was a marvellous piece of electronic engineering. Why do I still use it you ask? I can’t afford an upgrade!
At Gretna Green it started to rain and we pulled over for an hour until the worst of it had passed but by this time it was almost dark. After a few petrol stops and rest breaks we finally landed home at 2-30 am. I had completed 356 miles since we set off from Edinburgh and this was the most I have ever completed with a pillion. It was the furthest BC had ever gone on a bike period. It was hardly a trip around the Andes or Patagonia and seasoned riders will laugh at the distances involved but I was exhausted by the time we arrived home. My legs, hips and shoulders all ached. I guess old age really is settling in. Was it worth it? You bet and I will do it again.