Updated: Jun 3, 2019
Many of you may have already watched my motorcycle camping tour of Scotland, but I wanted to share a little bit more of the story.
Back in 2018 I decided it was finally time to do a Scotland camping trip. I had been bouncing the idea around for a couple of years, but this was the time to finally bite the bullet. There were 4 things I had to consider before committing to the camping trip. Those 4 things were money, accommodation, clothing and the bike!
These may sound like pretty normal things for everyone, but my circumstances were slightly different, lets start with the money. As I am sure most of you know, if you are working a normal job, renting accommodation, paying bills, and running a motorbike! you are literally left with nothing every month. On top of that I have another commitment - Charity! I do a lot of charity work, and that often involves travelling (sometimes hundreds of miles) to the point where my pay check is completely depleted (check out my charity gallery).
Anyway... long story short, I simply could not afford the trip. In fact the past 6 years I had gone without protective clothing due to insufficient income (and job redundancy). Now the immediate reality I was facing, was travelling over a thousand miles, with no money, no protective clothing, and a bike in desperate need of a service!
Now lets talk about the plan. Firstly I waited for a month where I had no charity events planned (July). I knew I would have enough cash to service the motorbike, but not enough for anything else. There was no overtime available at work, and no other part time jobs that could work around my night shift. It was now apparent that I had to do something drastic, if I wanted to do this Scotland trip. I gave up my apartment the month before the trip, and gave away all of my appliances (as I had nowhere to store them).
For the next 8 weeks I would be living in a small cupboard, surrounded by all of my personal possessions, and focusing on how to service my bike. With just a service manual, my tool kit, and a few replacement parts, I was confident I could carry out the service myself. Many of my subscribers may remember I released a series of maintenance videos in the lead up to the trip.
My motorbike was now fully serviced, I had saved 2 months rent to pay for the trip, I had sorted a new apartment, all that was left was the protective clothing. Just as I was set to get the clothing there was a final hurdle! My good friend Lin asked if she could tag along, and if I could help her film a few video shots whilst we are there. I "of course" agreed to this, and ended up not only carrying 2 sets of camping supplies and clothes, but also 2 large costumes. The protective clothing was no longer an option, as I would now be spending for two. The plan was set! I set out for my motorcycle camping adventure on the morning of July 14th 2018.
The trip started out from my newly acquired apartment in the New Forest. It was 10:00 on Saturday morning, I had packed all of the supplies the night before, so there should have been nothing to worry about. It was a warm morning, with a promising week of sunshine and the roads were empty. My first stop was a 45 mile detour to collect Lin in Yeovil. I took a nice steady ride through Dorchester, and hit Yeovil in around an hour and 15 minutes. Upon arrival I checked the luggage was still secure, and added Lin's bags to the bike. The next leg of the journey would take us to Glastonbury. This stop was intentional, to make sure everything on the bike was still secure, and grab a bite to eat. Climbing Glastonbury tor was a spur of the moment idea and would later put us a bit behind schedule.
We took a relaxing walk around Glastonbury before ending up at the the base of the tor. There are two natural water sources at the base. One has the taste of iron, and the other has a soapy texture. We took a leisurely walk up the tor, taking many photos and enjoying the scenery. I think we spent around 30 minutes at the top, but I really had no sense of time.
Some time later we were back in the car park and ready to embrace the enduring M5. Our first petrol stop was in Wells, and once we hit the motorway, it was hours of open road followed by service stops (and refuelling). By the time we reached Warrington, it was already getting dark, and we began to realise the Glastonbury stop was a bit longer than planned. We had no choice but to find accommodation in the immediate area.
Normally I find Travelodge's to be perfect for an overnight stop but this one really let me down. Firstly, the lady at reception told me I would need to lock my motorbike securely to stop it getting stolen. Then she told me I would need to pay £5 to park my bike on the premises, and they are not responsible for theft or damage. When I finally get to my room, I find out there are extra charges for tea, coffee and wifi. I purchased some more coffee supplies, went back to my room, and put on the television. The one night I spend at the Travelodge, and the TV signal is down in both mine and Lin's rooms. So far there has been charges for parking, coffee, wifi, and now there's no television! We even had the wet towel from the previous guests, still in the bathroom. This was followed up by possibly the worst nights sleep of the year. Constant arguments, car horns and police sirens up until 4 am, and someone being sick in the hallway.
The next morning I was fresh and ready to go, I loaded up the bike, woke Lin up and got back on the road. The motorway is a lot more bearable when you get further north. Once you start seeing mountains in the distance, you get a nice feeling that the end is in sight. The only annoying thing was the variable speed limits and the "average speed check" cameras. But I didn't care, we were on route, and we would be there soon!
Finally I saw the geese structure on the Loch Lomond roundabout, and immediately knew we had arrived. A local shop recommended a campsite, and it was perfect. We rolled on to the site, checked in, set up the tent and then realised we had no tent pegs. We quickly improvised with twigs, chopsticks and cable ties (locked around stones), before riding back in to town for some supplies. It had been a long day, and I had taken a wrong turn shortly after leaving the site. But it worked out well! I found a country garage to refuel, and they sold all fresh local farm produce. Within 10 minutes we were back on the site, cooking our dinner, setting up the beds, and searching for any lost tent pegs on the ground and in bushes. There was only one other tent on the field, three Polish lads who were here for a rock concert. They were the best camping neighbours I have ever had. They were playing some loud music, and getting drunk, but they were so friendly, and even asked we wanted the music turned off. They were completely silent by dark, and great entertainment to watch from across the field. We ended the night with a couple beers, and went straight to sleep.
The next morning was bright and sunny, with a fresh dew layering the grass. The tent was a good size, and perfect for the 2 of us - However I was planning to take the Slumit CUB2! Unfortunately it had been misplaced when moving in to the new apartment. I really was taking a chance with this tent, as I hadn't checked the contents or used it for a very long time. Anyway, apart from missing tent pegs, it was perfect, and fitted nicely in the top box. The day started with placing the kettle on the stove, ready for that first hit of the day, a fresh cup of coffee! Shortly followed by the morning routine: breakfast, washing up, shower, and finally pack the tent away.
We were all set for another day of riding, but we had one small problem. The camera I use to film all of my vlogs had 10% battery remaining, and no power outlet to charge it. The priority was now to get back on route and find some way to charge the battery. Even though we had just eaten, I was still hungry and could really do with a McDonalds, preferably with a power outlet next to the table (if you catch my drift). So there we were, for 45 minutes waiting for the battery to charge, whilst breaking the world record for the slowest time to eat a Big Mac. We now had a whopping 35% battery power, enough to vlog us to the next camp site.
Whilst driving parallel to Loch Lomond, we hit yet another big problem. The memory card in the GoPro became corrupt, and the backup memory card was unable to build a file database, so we no longer had a camera to film the ride. Just when we think nothing else can go wrong, the unthinkable happens! Whilst doing a very sharp U-turn in Arrochar, the "steering stopper" snapped, and we came off the bike at an incredible 2 miles per hour. Needless to say, everything on the bike was fine, we had a couple of small scrapes, but we were still good to go.
We are now about to ride past the great Argyll Forest Park Viewpoint with no GoPro (for all of you who noticed, that stretch of road is in the final video, and I will explain how a bit later). Anyway I was riding through several picturesque areas, and I had no way to film them. Eventually after miles of incredible country views I finally found a shop, a shop that thinks it is normal to charge £49 for a 32GB memory card. It's all about supply and demand, they had one and I needed it. So now the filming continues! We were riding around endless lochs, stopping at quaint pubs, and passing through great places like Inveraray. Time was now becoming an issue! We needed to find our next site, and there was only a couple hours of light left. In desperation we were considering B&B's, hotels, or potentially a wild camp!
Eventually we found a small cottage in the middle of nowhere that had vacancies. It was quarter of a mile down a stony drive, surrounded by trees, and had 2 rusty cars in the front garden. Against my better judgement I walked to the door, where I was now standing over a dead fox (it had been shot). I have watched all the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" films, and this would be the perfect location for the next one. suddenly there is a large scream from inside the house, and without waiting for me (or the bike), Lin had ran a quarter of a mile back to the main road. That is by all accounts the most creepy property I have ever seen in my life. But luckily, just another half hour down the road we found an absolute gem - Lochgilphead campsite.
Lochgilphead was situated close by a loch (as the name suggests), and was the perfect quaint small town. There was a petrol station, post office, village store, camp site, and great views! We rolled in to the entrance of the camp site, and was greeted by a large building. There was a gentleman reading his newspaper behind the reception desk, and he said the 2 things we were were hoping to hear "Yeah, we accept bikes, and there is plenty of room".
Once we had secured our pitch, we took a walk back in to town. It was now quite late, and the only shop open was the petrol station (but to be fair they did have a great selection to choose from). Once back on the camp site, we began cooking! Tonight it was pork steak, green onions, chilli and mushrooms. A perfect meal to end the evening, washed down with a couple of cold beers.
The next morning was yet again another warm start. The kettle was on the boil, and we were just about to start breakfast. Since Lin had been the head chef, in a couple of 5 star restaurants in The Netherlands, there was really no need for me to touch any of the cooking equipment! After breakfast, Lin began the washing up whilst I took a shower. Then we alternated, Lin went for a shower and I packed away the tent. It was a pretty good routine, and was "time" effective. The owner had kindly given us use of a small building that was being renovated, so we had access to a microwave and power points, perfect for charging my camera. It wasn't long before we were back on the road and heading for Oban.
Oban was yet another wonderful place, a small town and port with a real Scottish feeling, shadowed by the great McCaig's tower. The weather at this point had now taken a turn, and we were preparing for rain. We stopped at a traditional Scottish pub restaurant, grabbed a burger and drink, then began planning our next move (in case the weather got any worse). As we were walking along the gravel beach we noticed something very strange, the water was entirely covered by Moon Jellies, an incredible swarm of purple jelly fish. This was a very rare and incredible sight, and was published in the all the local newspapers.
We were now approaching the final leg of our journey: Oban to Fort William and Glen Nevis! We were completely surrounded by mountains at this point, as we passed through small towns, villages, and crossed bridges. There were several castles on this route, one of which we attempted to access, but unfortunately it was completely surrounded by water. We were just a few miles away from Fort William as we were counting down the signs. Then Finally we had reached our destination, as the big welcome sign greeted us. From Fort William, it seemed like only a couple of minutes riding to the Glen Nevis campsite. There was an overwhelming feeling (almost as if I had just completed a huge achievement), but the real challenge was still to come.
Since we had arrived at the site early, we had plenty of time to relax and take in the views. There was not many campers on the site, so we pitched our tent directly facing Ben Nevis (with an unobstructed view). In my opinion this was the ultimate camping experience! We went in to the "on site" shop and bought some more supplies. This was by far the most advanced campsite I had ever seen, with It's large shower block, cleaning areas, charging facilities, launderette, and amazing recycling facility. After only 3 camp sites, we had managed to find a complete set of random tent pegs, and acquired 2 new gas cylinders. We now had everything we needed! The evening was slowly setting in, as we enjoyed a nice walk along the river to create a perfect end, to an imperfect day!
The next morning we woke up to the relaxing sound of rain tapping on the tent, it then became apparent that we had a leak. This was quickly and easily fixed with the roll of 3M aerospace tape I had taken with me, but now we had to decide if we should climb Ben Nevis in the rain, or wait another day. Luck was on our side, and the rain subsided. It was now midday, the perfect time to eat one last meal before climbing Ben Nevis. Today I was cooking, I prepared a steak and kidney pie with a serving of baked beans.
Off we went, leaving the tent and motorbike behind, to endure a climb that would take several hours. We walked past several people carrying tons of equipment, and at the time I really couldn't understand their logic. I was thinking a warm coat, survival blanket and water would be enough, but these people were carrying 80 litre backpacks, in several layers of clothing, and they were walking at quarter the speed of us. I was travelling very light, I had a waterproof coat, one can of Irn-Bru, one plain bread roll, and my camera.
It was an incredible walk/climb across the mountains! We took our time, and enjoyed every minute. You really can't appreciate the beauty of this mountain, until you step foot on it. I won't lie, it is a fairly challenging walk, with many people turning around at the half way point. If you are completely new to climbing mountains, and you are thinking of taking this challenge on, my advice is: it can take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours to climb to the top, depending on your health and abilities. My walk took 4 hours on the way up, with plenty of stops for Lin.
After crossing wooden bridges, gravel, and finally a waterfall, we had reached the final section of the walk. Lin could not go any further and wanted to take a rest, but she was happy for me to continue. I jogged the last 30 minutes of the walk, taking me across the zig-zags and up in to the clouds. The visibility was now restricted to around 25 meters and I was solely relying on following the stone markers (cairns), which were barely visible in the distance. I was now walking across a bed of snow in the middle of July, and was moments away from the summit. After a very long day of walking, I was finally standing next to the stone marker that I had travelled so far to see. I had reached the top, and within a few moments I managed to film one last scene before the battery finally died.
I ran back down the mountain, and was shocked to find Lin half way up the zig-zags. She had continued at a steady pace and was now ready to go back down. We are non-smokers, as we gave up several years ago, but when I got back to the waterfall Lin pulled out a pack of cigarettes. We sat down on the step and smoked a single cigarette, staring down the face of the mountain, it created a somewhat surreal moment where time just stopped!
It was another 2 hour walk back down the mountain, and we were absolutely starving. The shops would all be closed, and the only food in the tent was a chicken and mushroom Pot Noodle. The night was upon us and we had just got back to the main road. We passed what I remember was a hotel restaurant, as they were just locking the doors. Food was now my biggest priority, and within 10 minutes of returning to camp, we grabbed the helmets, put on our waterproofs and headed in to Fort William. Eventually I found a Chinese restaurant as they were about to close, so we had to act fast! We ran inside and ordered £29.98 (kept the receipt) of amazing food. I had sweet and sour chicken, salt and pepper chicken, ribs, rice, and chow mein. We took all this food back to camp, and we were eating under the dim glow of my little lantern. It was a little bit awkward, but none the less another memorable moment.
The next morning was wet and very humid, with the fresh smell of cut grass. It was another early start as there were many things to do. Lin went to the shop to get ingredients, and then began cooking, I went straight over to the shower block and took a welcomed shower, before shortly returning for breakfast. After breakfast Lin went for her shower, and I had time to take the clothes to the launderette. After charging the camera for an hour and waiting for the clothes, Lin had finished the washing up and we both returned to the tent. It took another 30 minutes to pack everything on to the bike, before finally waving goodbye to this absolutely amazing place!
We visited the old Inverlochy castle on the way out of Fort William, before heading to our last planned destination "Treasures of the Earth". This is a place I visited many years ago with my family, and I've always wanted to go back. It was the same as I remembered, full of mysterious treasures, stones, gold, and huge amethysts. I would liked to of spent more time there, but quite simply put: it was going to be a long ride home.
Now it was pushing on for 2 o clock in the afternoon, and we had barely left Fort William. We headed back down through Oban, passed through Lochgilphead, and finally back to Argyll Forest Park. I dropped Lin off the bike so she could change in to her costume, whilst I went and filmed the stretch of road I had wanted to film from the start (the one where the memory card packed up). Finally my tour was complete, I helped Lin film her video shots and then we returned to the Loch Lomond campsite. The owner was surprised to see us again, and we enjoyed one final nights sleep (the memory card was full, so it never made it to the final video).
The next morning was the same routine: breakfast, shower, washing up, and pack the tent away. It was a boring ride back, with many stops at service stations & refuelling the bike. By 9 o clock at night, we weren't expecting any more problems. We were 20 miles from our junction off the M5, and the motorway was closed for maintenance. We had to make a detour! Unfortunately our alternative route was also closed. It was now a matter of "hit and hope". The sat-nav kept redirecting us to the closed routes and I had no idea where I was. The sat nav had taken us on a strange route in to Shepton Mallet. But finally after an hour and twenty minutes of complete disorientation, we were back on familiar roads. I arrived back home just after midnight - completely exhausted!
Well, that was my tour of Scotland, and the story that goes with it. I have posted a few more pictures below! You can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7M7CyM6fwL4
Thank you very much for reading! Please give the video a like and let me know if you want to read more of my adventures.