Scotland 2019 - But won't it be raining?
I'm a fair weather rider and happy to own up to it. But, I'm also a British rider and have had many a weekend away in the pouring rain, own all manner of wet weather gear and been caught out on numerous occasions when I'd thought it would be fine out. What's the saying - there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing?
Within a few hours of leaving London, I realised that my textile suit was no longer waterproof, a puddle of rain growing in my lap as I rode up the M6, giving the unmistakable sensation of having wet myself. My rain-suit was safely sat under the stairs at home and too mean to buy another, I continued up to Scotland praying for fine weather.
The Highlands trip was instigated last year, when a few girlfriends from UK & Netherlands suggested a Scottish trip and, though having done it before with Gareth, I was keen to go again and put my hand up straight away. As we got closer to the time though, 6 became 4 and eventually became 2 - a few being put off by 'the weather'. So it was, that Jill (an American, living in the Netherlands) and I met at the Bikers Cove at the Forth Road Bridge, Jill just off the ferry, docked at Newcastle and myself having ridden up from London and stayed the night with the parents in Glasgow.
The weather from Glasgow, through to Edinburgh and all the way up to Pitlochry was glorious, and Scotland doesn't look finer than on a sunny day, even the car laden A9. The forecast for the next 5 days though was looking fairly grim - or in plain English - wet.
The weather had a profound and positive impact on our route planning for our 5 day trip. Out of the window went any ideas of doing the NC500 (or parts thereof, as we were staying in 1 place for 4 nights) and instead we followed the weather forecast for the best weather - and on a few occasions, we looked up at the sky and selected our direction based on the cloud formation. I found this method of navigation quite liberating, made easier by modern sat nav and traffic free back roads.
For most of the 5 days, we avoided the rain and with temperatures in the low 20s, the riding was really pleasant and the views magnificent - threatening skies in the distance often making them look all the more dramatic.
When Gareth and I did the trip back in 2014, the ''North Coast 500" route (NC500) didn't exist, though that is pretty much the route we took then. Now you can pick up stickers, mugs and postcards at places on the route and many are doing the circuit and certainly most people ask if that is what you are doing. Many of the best roads this time were those that weren't on the route - because they were so much quieter. The roads from Lairg in most directions were great and we did most of them whilst dodging the weather. Having said that, the A837 from Ledmore, past Loch Assynt to Lochinver (part of the NC500) was spectacular - rivalling the German B500 for me as a beautiful, sweeping road through glorious countryside - catch that with little traffic for what biking dreams are made of.