Across Scotland by motorbike: The beauty of Skye, hangover cures and noisy neighbours

Country Life's Steve Ayres is taking a trip that's a biker's dream: touring Scotland on a Triumph Tiger XRX 1200. In his latest dispatches he camps on Skye, tackles the local mountain range and learns how to manage the neighbours.

“Isn’t it supposed to rain up here?” I hear from my wing man ( so called because over the years and thousands of miles ridden we telepathically know where each of us will be on the road).

I looked up at the sky and mumbled an apology to the Almighty – if ever there were a jinx, Steve just invited it upon us – and yet no, no one drop fell from an overcast sky and ever decreasing air temperature during the ride from Oban.

In fact this was the single occasion I felt the need to pop on the heated handlebar grips. They come with three settings; ‘gloriously warm’, ‘toasty’ and ‘just enough to take the edge off’ (as I decided to christen them) and settled for setting two, a handy icon appears on the excellent 7” display letting the rider know.

The route that took us to Sligachan climbed even higher than previous roads and into a wonderful arc, glancing to my right I could see ahead as it curved around the head of Loch and took in yet another visual postcard. Finally dropping in altitude the campsite which had been recommended to us, while we paused at the Commandos memorial with fellow travellers, came into sight.

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A large, open expanse of relatively flat grassland with a single building housed the facilities – tailor made for our needs. Climbing off the bikes we exchanged a grin at our surroundings and set about pitching up home for the next few days. An office colleague who hails from the area once told me of Skye’s beauty and I have to agree that it does live up to its reputation.

Around Scotland by Bike

We’d soon set up, paid our dues for three nights when eyes turned to the the only building across the road, aptly named Sligachan Hotel. Time to address grumbling stomachs and some livation. Attached to the side is Seumas’ Bar, our home for the rest of the day where postcards to my children were written and dispatched and we enjoyed several of the beers on tap, including a particularly decent local IPA too.

Over a bite to eat we reflected on our travels so far. I’ve ridden on the continent through various countries and covered similar mileage, but here it doesn’t feel quite so tiring – it’s something I couldn’t quite put my finger on during the entire trip – either way it was a welcome quandary rather than a troublesome one.

Around Scotland by Bike

Returning to the site I noticed an almost identical bike to mine – just two years older – and struck up a conversation with its owner. Now here is a character I will remember for some time. Iain was ex-military, an engineer, and waxed lyrical about his machine comparing the two bikes together.

It was the first time I’d spoken to an owner of the Tiger family and I found myself nodding in agreement to his praise and the odd gripe. A hip flask was drained with stars overhead – cheers Iain – and I wish I could say I remembered getting into my sleeping bag that night!

Around Scotland by Bike

Morning broke and the age old cure for a hangover was in order, black coffee and two sausage baps courtesy of the hotel and a stroll back to the site. Clothing washed and dried in a steady breeze, the bikes were washed down and polished back to their former (midge-free) looks. I spoke to the Sandy the site caretaker about a good route through the hills. His faithful dog Sally, as deaf as a post, enjoyed every second of attention I gave her as I took note of his route and we headed off.

When touring on a motorcycle, space is a real luxury and there simply isn’t room for the kitchen sink! However each of the Triumph’s side panniers swallowed up all my kit including walking boots. Making our way around Red Cuillin I felt a sense of how this land would have looked long before roads were built. The route was just as Sandy said and with streams crossed and calf muscles given a thorough workout, we worked our way back to the site with a thirst on.

Another evening in the bar and an earlier night followed as Rasaay was our next destination at dawn. Returning back to the campsite we were surprised to find that a large number of single man tents had appeared, all identical, and a mixture of accents chattering away. We waved good evening and slid into welcoming sleeping bags for a good sleep – at least that was the plan.

Around Scotland by Bike

Around 1am Steve’s patience finally broke and unzipping the tent, I heard in his own inimitable style “I say, would you mind keeping it down, it’s awfully poor form to disturb one’s neighbours at such an unholy hour!”. It had the desired effect and raised even a few guffaws of laughter from fellow campers.

Daybreak brought a miniature swarm of our least favourite friends and starting up the Tiger we rode just a short distance to Sconser, eager to board the ferry and explore the tiny island of Rasaay.

Steve will be blogging for throughout his journey across Scotland – read his first piece here, and you can see more of his pictures on his Instagram page. His bike around Scotland is a Triumph 1200 XRX – see