Bournemouth & Wessex Advanced Motorcyclists

2003 Scottish Rally

2000 miles in a week, with Dave Sanford & Trevor Fairbanks

The year 2003 started with Dave Sanford and I toying with the idea of doing the big three domestic motorcycle rallies, i.e. the National, Scottish and Welsh rallies. Eventually we talked ourselves up into doing all three. The Welsh is first in May, the National second in July and the Scottish third in September. Dave to his credit did all three while I only managed the National and Scottish. You may recall that I managed to break my collarbone in April which effectively put an end to my aspirations to do the Welsh rally. Next year maybe? Anyway this article is about mine and Dave's Scottish rally.

Map of Scottish ralliesThe Scottish rally presents its own unique challenges. There were six different challenges to go for which were broadly split into the following categories:

  1. Touring awards involving visiting a number of receipt points over a period of 28 days before the finish date and time which this year was noon September 14th.
  2. Overnight awards involving visiting a number of receipt points starting 10am Saturday 13th September morning and again finishing noon the following Sunday.

The matrix of receipt points are shown on the map of Scotland. A receipt point is basically a garage which you need to buy something from to get a receipt as proof you've visited it. A complication is that only the lettered receipt points are open 24 hours. The opening times for the numbered ones may vary and you're encouraged to give them a call and check their opening times before planning your route through the receipt points.

I had planned my annual holiday around the Scottish rally so I had plenty of time available to do it. Dave runs his own business so he wasn't able to spend the same amount of time doing the rally. Consequently Dave planned to do the overnight Distance challenge while I had the time to do both the Touring and the Distance challenges. The Touring challenge involves riding 1000 miles and visiting at least 20 receipt points starting no earlier than 28 days before the finish date and time, i.e. noon Sunday 14th September. The Distance challenge involves riding 650 miles between 10am Saturday 13th September and noon Sunday 14th September. Miles were based on the designated leg distance between the receipt points plus 5 miles for each receipt point visited. My cunning plan was to combine both the Touring and Distance challenges. On the map of Scotland shown, receipt points Q through to 14 represent the start of the Touring challenge while receipt points 14 through to 12 represent the Distance challenge and the completion of the Touring challenge. The receipt points were as follows:

Receipt PointDesignationTouring Challenge
Miles
Distance Challenge
Miles
Dumfries"Q"5 
Kirkcudbright"18"40 
Drummore"17"105 
Ballantrae"16"145 
Mauchline"N"180 
Saltcoats"K"210 
Helensburgh"J"260 
Strachur"13"310 
Tarbert"14"3705
Oban"F"42560
Fort William"R"480115
Fort Augustus"20"515150
Evanton"A"560195
Nairn"22"605240
Elgin"B"630265
Aviemore"C"690325
Aberdeen"D"780415
Arbroath"E"835470
Perth"G"875510
Leven"H"910545
Stirling"I"965600
Tyndrum"12"1025660

I planned to travel up on Tuesday 9th September and make my way around to Tarbert through the initial Touring receipt points to meet up with Dave on Friday 12th September at Tarbert. On the Saturday Dave and I planned to start the Distance challenge from Tarbert. I stopped off in guest houses on the way to Tarbert at Kendall, Kirkcudbright and Arrochar. Believe it or not Dave travelled straight to Tarbert from Poole on Thursday 11th September. A distance of 550 miles in one day! He was breaking in his new Pan but I was still impressed.

My trip from Kendall was not without incident. Now before starting I was concerned about the amount of tread I had left on my tyres. The advice I was given was that the back tyre should make it and that I should try and keep the front tyre in the air! This turned out not be a joke. After stopping over in Kendall I started out the next day on very damp Lake District roads. Several unnerving front end slides convinced me of two things:

  1. I should distribute the weight in my panniers better including putting the hefty chain and lock I was carrying in the tank bag.
  2. The front tyre had to be changed ASAP. (You see I can't do wheelies).

When I got to Dumfries I set about looking for a bike shop to change the front tyre. I'm happy to say that I found a good bike shop called Scotspeed Motorcycles who changed the front tyre. My confidence in the bike's handling was immediately restored and I enjoyed a lovely ride in nice weather through Dumfries and Galloway to Kirkcudbright.

CastleWhen I got to Kirkcudbright I couldn't get to my receipt point or guest house. The main street was closed because of an overturned car. When I eventually got to the garage which was the receipt point it turned out that an 'old dear' had driven into the garage owner's parked car and rolled her own car. I also discovered that my Givi pannier frame have fractured. Inspired by Phil Chick's Stella Alpino adventure I always carry my liquid steel and nylon ties. I used these to mend the Givi pannier frame. Apart from the freak car accident, Kirkcudbright turned out to be a nice town.

Next morning I left Kirkcudbright in the rain and made my way to Drummore which is about the most south west of Scotland you can get. The roads were lovely and gave me a taste of what was to come. I made my way up the coast crossing the river Clyde west of Glasgow on the Erskine bridge. I'll never forget that bridge. The rain was of the monsoon type from about 20 miles south of the bridge and seemed to climax as I crossed the bridge. I must admit this did dampen my spirits a bit but eventually I got to Arrochar and dried off. The next day it was dry as I followed the banks of first Loch Lomond and then Loch Fyne to Tarbert passing through Inveraray on the way. Once again the roads were a delight to ride.

Tending to the bike in a car parkWhen I got to the hotel at Tarbert there was Dave out front with a bucket and sponge washing his pride and joy. It seemed to be a bit of an anti-climax riding all that way through beautiful scenery to witness such a domestic scene. The spooky thing about the hotel is that it's owned and run by a couple from Bridport who are good friends with the same 'Frenchie' who serves us up tea and chips from his hut at West Bay. Small world! Dave was keen to go for a ride so he headed down to the Mull of Kintyre while I explored Tarbert by foot. That night Dave and I had a few drinks and a meal at the Hotel and tried to get some rest. Unfortunately the locals seemed to be having a good old sing song with someone banging the woodwork to keep time. I don't think either of us slept well that night.

Fishing boatsNext morning ready or not we loaded up and started the Distance challenge at 10am on the dot. The plan was to get to get to Aberdeen before dusk which involved covering some 400 miles taking us:

  1. North along the west coast through Oban to Fort William.
  2. North east along the banks of Loch Ness to north of Inverness.
  3. East along the north east coast through Nairn and Elgin.
  4. South down to Aviemore.
  5. East over the Cairngorms to Aberdeen.

Scottish countryside with mountainsThe weather at Tarbert when we started out was not looking promising but it turned out to be a lovely day reaching 20 Celsius. The scenery was fantastic and the roads were very seductive. I can't recall better riding conditions. On the ride to Aviemore it reminded Dave of riding through France. The ride over the Cairngorms was certainly exciting. It slowed us down a bit when we got to the top and nearly got blown off the road. I didn't think there was such a desolate place in these isles. I am glad to say we made to Aberdeen before dusk. As a riding day it's going to be hard to beat!

Disconsolate DaveWe came across a bit of rallying phenomenon on the way to Aberdeen. A guy I shall refer to as 'Burg Man' as he was riding a Suzuki Burgman 400 scooter. I don't know how many times we zoomed past him but we just couldn't keep ahead of him. While we stopped now and again to have a break he just kept going. In the end we had to admit defeat. You can see from the picture that Dave didn't take this too well. It did humble us to have him wave to us after he had visited the receipt point we were on our way to and still quite a way from. Burg Man apparently originates from Basildon and does all three domestic rallies each year. I can't recall how many of the challenges he had entered for but it may have been all 6. Hail to the Burg Man the non-stop rallying phenomenon! (Aggressive filterer from what we saw. IAM training for scooters? Just a thought.)

On arriving in Aberdeen we were a bit tired. Dave and I almost collided as we side-by-side emerged from a garage. He started to go right and I started to go left. Later on one of the other guys on the rally said it was the funniest thing he had seen. Anyway we decided to look for a place to eat and perhaps a place to sleep for a few hours. After having fish and chips in a little town around Arbroath that I can't remember the name of we tried to book into the Arbroath Travel Lodge. No rooms in Scotland unfortunately. I did the usual and let Dave Boy do the negotiating. Before I knew what was going on the guy behind the desk was offering to let us get some kip in his back office. It was a very kind offer but as tired as I was I couldn't bring myself to take him up on it. So we went to Perth where we met some other people on the rally and rested for a couple of hours in a 24 hour garage with a coffee bar.

Scottish countryside with riverWe left Perth around 4am and went on to Leven which again was another 24 hour garage receipt point. While we were standing by our bikes a lady we met at Perth came riding by us shouting at us to tell her if we could hear anything wrong with her bike. The sound coming from her bike was awful so we shouted at her to stop. The chain was so loose it was just about to jump the rear sprocket. Now guess who out of the three of us ended up adjusting her chain at 5am in the morning on the garage forecourt? To be fair Dave did supervise me quite well and gave me clear concise instructions as I grovelled about with spanners in hand. Several locals tripping their way home from their Saturday night out also offered to help. I declined their help in the nicest possible way. The chain on her bike was basically knackered with so many stiff links that it was impossible to set it correctly. Anyway we set it as best we could, lubed it and told her to get the chain and sprockets changed ASAP. Turned out she was a member of East London AM.

With the bikesThe next receipt point was Stirling our penultimate receipt point where we met up with our lady again. She managed to do two receipt points to our one. I put this down to Dave's obsession to take us to St Andrews. (It's nowhere near Stirling.) It was now 7am and some drunks returning home wanted us to give them a lift home on our bikes. I always leave it to Dave to handle difficult situations and I thought he handled it well. (The force is strong with Dave and he's my Yoda when it comes to learning interpersonal skills.) I was glad when a taxi turned up and took them away. After a bit of a rest the three of us rode together to Tyndrum the last receipt point and the finish at the Suie Lodge Hotel just outside Crianlarich. We got to the finish between 9am and 10am. Time was never really an issue.

At the hotel we met the rest of the people doing the rally. Dave made the analogy with a Trekkie convention as it seemed all the hard core UK motorcycle tourers were there discussing touring strategies. There were certainly some different people there. A guy with a thick Yorkshire accent wearing a wide leather belt and welder's boots sticks in my mind. He sorted of grunted at us when we said hello. There were only a 100 people who did the Scottish rally as compared to the 1000+ who do the National rally. When I registered my paperwork a guy referred to me as little envelope and all the organisers laughed. I wasn't sure how to take this? It turned out that the small stamped self-addressed envelope I had sent them had been the subject of much discussion. Not a lot happens in the remoter parts of Scotland I guess? We did meet a nice bunch of people I have to admit and after a good breakfast Dave and I started back. The plan was to stay in the Lake District for a couple of nights before getting back to Poole. The Lake District was a 200 mile ride away.

Foggy moorlandNow I've always said that I wouldn't travel too far after the end of a rally and I should have kept to this. Trouble was there was nowhere to rest at the end of the rally and it was raining outside by that time. After travelling down the motorway towards the Lakes it was becoming obvious that I needed to sleep. We pulled off the motorway into a service station and the two of us crashed out on the grass verge for a couple of hours sleep. It made all the difference and I felt fine to continue after that. We came off the M6 at Penrith and followed Ullswater lake to Ambleside where we were staying. The last part of the ride was down a narrow winding steep road with high stone walls both sides called "the Struggle". It was a brilliant ride and Dave was up for doing it again straight away. Oh yes, an Ullswater duck glanced off my helmet which amused Dave. We got to our Ambleside guest house which turned out to be very comfortable. A few drinks, an Ambleside curry and I slept like a dead man that night.

Bikes among the heatherThe next morning we explored Ambleside which we thought was a very nice town. Later on we went for a ride through the Lake District including crossing the infamous Hardknott pass. (Phil, good training for the Stella Alpino rally I feel.) More good weather and ace riding conditions. The fine weather continued as we returned home to Poole the next day, Tuesday 16th September. We stopped off in the Potteries at Stoke-on-Trent to get some gifts. (Dave felt it would be worth a few brownie points when we got home.) While parking up on a service station forecourt I clipped the billboard with one of my panniers. It was advertising an eye test to prevent accidents! We got back in time to get mixed up with the yahoos heading for Poole Quay. I must admit to not appreciating their antics after all that riding.

Poster: Having an eye test won't hurtSome people doubted that Dave and I would manage to stick together on the rally as we do have different approaches to life but we proved them wrong. This was mainly down to Dave's ability to have a fag while riding the motorway. He would chill and hang-back having a fag while I chugged steadily onward. After he finished his fag he would then catch me up. Having caught me up he would light up his next fag and so on. Dave and I would like to announce our patent for the Fag Riding System. It involves keeping the smoke of the following rider in sight at all times.

In summarising the Scottish rally experience we both would have to say that it was a biking experience we wouldn't have missed for the world. "A good crack" as my Scottish mate would say. Scenery overload, nice people, a lot of good weather and, most of all, lovely clear winding roads. From Tuesday to Tuesday my trusty CBR1000 covered 2131 miles and it didn't even need its chain adjusting. Dave's new Pan covered a little under that mileage and by the end Dave and Pan had firmly bonded. Just to remind you again that Dave and I not only did the rallies for our own personal enjoyment but also to raise money for Cancer & Leukaemia In Children (CLIC). If anyone would like to contribute please get in touch with Dave or myself. Our thanks to the people who have already sponsored us.

Dave Sanford & Trevor Fairbanks

< Back to articles