Changed: 10/29/2006 - 13:06:19
Tour Guide
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Scotland tour provided by: Michael Dipper

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A trip through the Highlands by ATIC #001 Michael Dipper and Christina Stumpe.

Tour outline

Stuttgart(D) - Rotterdam (NL) - Felixstowe (GB) - Newcastle - Edinburgh - Castle Trail - Inverness - Loch Ness - Fort Augustus - Gairloch - Ullapool - Durness - Stornoway - Isle Of Lewis - Isle Of Harris - Isle Of Skye - Fort William - Oban - Glasgow - Carlisle - Ramsgate (GB) - Oostende (B) - Stuttgart (D)

15 days of sun and showers

When planning the tour, we found an interesting ferry departing in Amsterdam and going up far northern to Newcastle. But this ferry was fully booked three months in advance even for such a small thing like a motorcycle (ok, fully packed a mini cooper wouldn't have been bigger :-). So we decided to take one of the shorter channel ferries. Using this way you have to drive 400km more in England but of course it is much cheaper, too.


The first day we wanted to reach the seaside which are about 700 boring kilometers from Stuttgart on the highway. We arrived in Hoek van Holland, Rotterdams tourist harbour quite early but the ferry had just left. Luckily there is a nice campsite directly in Hoek where we stayed for the night.


Be aware that there is currently a rapid change in the ferry lines because most companies switch to highspeed ferries to be competitive against the channel tunnel. So the ferry we intended to take in Rotterdam was already replaced by a cool high speed catamaran (Stena Line). It even included a restaurant of a well-known american fast food chain but the spirit of a relaxed trip on the sea, standing outsides the deck (my preferred place) got a bit lost, because you have absolutely no chance to go on deck at 80km/h :-)

Our ferry left in the afternoon and so we had time to view the area around. We decided to do a short ride to the city centre of Den Haag which is really worth a visit. It is a very clean and beautiful town with lots of foreign people (due to the EU authorities).

We reached Felixstowe in Great Britain in the late evening. The sun already disappeared and after having had my first shock with driving on the left side (after 3 days you feel absolutely no problems ...) we searched for a campsite nearby. Onfortunately campsites in England (in opposite to Scotland !) aren´t marked in any clear way and descriptions of local citiziens are completely confusing. A nice guy told as the way to a campsite about 30 miles (!) away. I was just wondering why there was nothing marked on my map but we followed his description exactly. Everything was like he described: Towns, Hills, Crossings, ... But: There was absolutely *no* campsite where he told us !
However, with lots of luck at 11:00pm at 120km/h I could detect a small, rusty sign with a tent on it and we were really happy.


The next day we went up to Newcastle in the south of Scotland. There we met ATIC Mark Hatton and his wife. They were very friendly and gave us a hot shower and a bed for the night. Additionally we got lots of tips for interesting areas and sights we had to visit in Scotland.


Our route was heading northern towards Edinburgh. After visiting famous Melrose Abbey we decided to look for a campsite northern of Edinburgh, on the other side of the giant Forth Bridge. There are nice campsites directly at the seaside, but one day visitors tend to get places directly (5m !) next to the main road. At the end we found a really nice one some miles away in Kirkcaldy ...


The campsite in Kirkcaldy is a good starting point for a sight seeing tour around the Firth of Forth. Driving on the northern coast you can visit lots of sights, like Culross Castle, Castle Campbell (great view !) and National Wallace Monument ... Back on the southern coast you can visit Sterling and Linlithgow Palace ...
Thats quite a lot, so calculate a whole day for the trip. For us the weather was horrible and so the photo stuff is very limited. In the evening we had time to visit Edinburgh and its famous castle. Both of us had visited Edinburgh before, so we kept the stay short, but in general you should spend another full day in Edinburgh to see the Scotish capital.


Northern of Edinburgh, between Perth and the coast, there is a nice area, called the Grampian mountains. You can see lots of beautiful castles there. There is also a special track, called "Castle Trail" which leads along them and is worth to ride on. In the summer there are often nice festivals and by chance we bumped into one at Castle Fraser. Additionally there are lot of Whiskey destilleries in this area, too. Unluckily it was Sunday, and so all of them were closed :-(

Ouch ! Just half another hour later we bumped into the next "event": It was a Vauxhall Astra (AKA Opel) doing a hard brake on wet road 10 meters in front of us. I realized quite quickly that the distance was too short to stop and saw us just laying on his roof when I decided to pass him on in the middle between him and the opposite traffic. Unfortunately there was a bit too less space in between and so you can see the effect of a aluminium box crashing into a car. However, the room between crash bow and aluminium boxes preserves excellent security for your feet and so all of us (sozia, me, AT) were completely uninjured.

Having relaxed from the crash we continued our trip and stopped at a campsite directly at the coast near Cullen.

The next day we were heading towards Inverness along the coast between Buckie and Inverness. It is very beautiful to leave the direct road as often as possible and drive on the minor roads directly at the seaside.

In Elgin you should have a look at Elgin Cathedral. In the south of Elgin we visited the Dallas Dhu Disitllery. It was under production until 1985 and is opened as a museum nowadays. Although the typical flair of a running destillery wasn´t there anymore, it was at least opened on Sunday :-)
The coast around Burghead is also worth a stop. Seeing the dark clouds towards Inverness we had an exhaustive break in the sun with a great view on the sea.

It is obvious that Loch Ness is Scotlands tourist aim No. 1. Lots of cars drive along the wide road along the neverending lake and tourists buy Mini-Nessies in the special Loch Ness Monster Exhibition Centre ... Additionally most of the campsites were fully booked. So we just stopped for a break at Urquhart Castle and left early the next morning being strongly threatened by the midgies.
One of the most photographed castles in Scotland may be the Eilean Donan Castle. I am very proud that I got 15 seconds of sun on it but I was too lazy ro climb up a mountain to get a better shooting position (the sun would have disappeared, too !) :-)
Reaching Scotlands west coast we continued out trip northern on cool roads getting smaller from mile to mile and a landscape getting rougher from minute to minute. The AT and we liked it very much and we arrived in Ullapool in the late evening. Ullapool ist the most northern town in Scotland that can offer a minimum of food supply or technical assistance. So fill up here and check your bike twice ! You can meet lots of tourists on the campsite in Ullapool (even some bikes !) - it is like a meeting point for a Scotland tourists.

To have more fun while riding we left our tent and baggage on the campsite in Ullapool and started for a daily trip towards the remote norhern coast on the next day. We were riding on small single roads tracks (but mostly asphalted) on the inner side towards northern and reached the coast at the far north end in Durness. There you have giant sand beaches and cliffs. Spend some hours for a walk and let the wind blow around your head !

Our way back was leading as near as possible on the west coast back to Ullapool in the south. Taking the minor roads directly at the seaside is giant! The coast mountains bring maximum driving fun and the views to the sea are excellent. But don´t calculate the time too short. More that 25 miles per hour is difficult to do ! Reduced baggage may be senseful, too .

Before seeing a beautiful sunset in Ullapool we stopped at the Lighthouse of Storr. Great view towards nearly all directions and "a bit of wind". Think about it, before parking your AT !

This day was reserved for a stay in the tent. Not for private reasons but to escape from a horribly bad weather with lots of wind and rain !

For the next days our intention was to visit the Outer Hebrides. We were lucky and the weather got better so that we could do the trip to those islands far out in the Atlantic.

The ferry arrives in Stornoway on the Isle Of Lewis. It is the biggest (and only one) city on the whole group of islands and so there is lots of life in the streets of this nice town. Another biker we met on the ferry was even talking about an internet cafe :-) which he intended to visit. Due to the harbour you can get nearly everything there (including GSM coverage !) and the city is even bigger than Ullapool. In the north there is also a small nice campsite.

The Standing Stones of Callanish are an impressive monument. They are about 5000 years old and they are exact usage is still unkown.
Our trip was leading over the Isle Of Lewis and Isle Of Harris towards Tarbert in the South where we wanted to take the ferry back to Uig on the Isle Of Skye. I would say, I liked this trip over the remote islands most. You have not very much sights to visit, but the lanscape is really fascinating although you couldn´t describe any special points there. On the inner sides you have big moores and the coast is very scattered with hundred of small islands and millions of birds. If the weather permits (could be a problem ...) I can really recommend this trip to the Outer Hebrides. If you like remote areas you will feel good there immediately. Tourists will be very seldom there. All we met there was a swiss Tenere.


Back from the remote Outer Hebrides we were travelling over the beautiful Isle Of Skye. It is much "softer" there and the number of tourists increased rapidly.

Especially the landscape in the west of Skye with the fall at Kilt Rock and the Old Man Of Storr is very nice. Around the whole isle the road leads directly along the seaside and you can get some beautiful views. A second ferry from Ardvasar to Mallaig brings you back to the mainland.

Now we were heading south quite fast. With every mile you are going south, the density of population increases and roads gets wider again. Oban is a good place for a stop. It offers everything you need and has a nice town centre suitable for a shoping tour, too.

We continued along the south coast of Loch Tay (beautiful, but very, very small road - 50 miles = 3h), cruised through the Trossachs, a famous area for weekend trips of the Glasgow citizens. Finally we had our next stop on a campsite at the the romantic Loch Lomond.

Riding through Glasgow mad a lot of fun. Although neither having a map nor a GPS we found a quick route through the city centre including a short look on the main shopping streets in less than 60 minutes :-)

Our time was limited and we continued our trip on the highway. Back in England the temperatures increased steadily (we were used rain and temperatures below 10°C) and as a solution I took a fresh shower (see pic) at every fuel station: They are really well equipped with water hoses, but I suppose the people around didn't understand me when feeling great in wet Goretex clothes :-)

In the evening we reached Ramsgate, where we took another high speed ferry to Oostende. After an odysee in finding a campsite at midnight in Oostende and 700 highway kilometers the next day we reached Stuttgart safe and happy !

If you have any special questions about this report or need further information for a trip to Scotland I would be glad to hear from you. Of course I always like to receive corrections and critics, too.


Sights in the area

WWW Links


Pictures are in the text included. :-)