MCN Fleet: The F800GS and the Scottish spectacular (Part 3)
The first thing I did when I got the F800GS in March was take it to a trip to the Scottish Highlands. The trouble was, with only a long weekend, I didn't get to see as much of this vast and beautiful landscape as I had wanted. I vowed to return before my year on the GS year was out, and that’s exactly what I did for a week of wild camping. And it was absolutely incredible.
I stumbled across a small hand-made sign for a lighthouse that led down a tiny road that disappeared into the distance. With the day getting on I thought it best to think of somewhere to shack up for the night, as I didn’t really fancy trying to put my tent up in the dark. The idea of sleeping by a lighthouse caught my imagination and so I took the turning.
If the roads seemed pretty neglected before, it was nothing to how this new one appeared, I was unsure if it was a public road or somebody’s driveway. I almost turned back thinking that I had turned too early or that the sign had made a mistake but curiosity led me further.
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The road had suddenly become crowded with sheep and Highland cattle and I was suddenly very aware of just how big ol’ Daisy was, escorting her calf with her not-so-friendly looking horns. If she or one of her mates decided that they didn’t like the look of this intruder passing by and thought of charging me then there would be little I could do as the track hugged the coastline quite precariously. It made me very aware that I had removed the baffle from the Akrapovic silencer and I didn’t really want to give it an accidental handful that might frighten them.
Thankfully, even with the baffle out the exhaust isn’t overly loud, nor too intimidating. It adds a nice bark over the standard silencer and lessens the agricultural hum that accompanies the frugal 85bhp parallel-twin but not in a way that will really piss-off your neighbours, or Daisy and her comrades in this case.
A few miles further on, I finally saw myself at the edge of the road and next to Stoer lighthouse looking majestically over the Atlantic and the Isle of Lewis. Not a bad place to set up camp.
That night as I was again greeted by another perfectly clear night and another blanket of stars, I also got a glimpse of what would become the highlight of my trip. Seeing a shimmer on the horizon to the north and was stunned to bear witness to the beauty of the Northern Lights.
Absolutely gobsmacked, I watched the lights from the edge of a cliff with the lighthouse gently flickering in the background pondering my journey that would start taking me back south the following morning. I felt truly blessed to have been able to enjoy such a moment, away from the confines and hustle of everyday life, with just me, my tent and the humble GS. It was magic.
The following day I headed back towards Ullapool where I picked up the A835 to Inverness from where I would head back to Glencoe on the A82. With the BMWs electronically adjustable suspension set to Sport mode I headed back south on some brilliantly sweeping roads that saw to it that I never stopped grinning all day.
The A82 back to Glencoe brought with it the realisation that I would soon be heading home and the slightly sickening feeling that I was soon to be trudging back on the motorway. Being the main route to the north meant that it was naturally busier than the other roads I’d been travelling on, even if it was quite compared to what it’s like in the summer.
With a stop-off at a relatives and a much-needed shower, it was off to Glencoe’s Clachaig Inn for a brilliant meal before the journey home in the morning. Definitely worth a stop if you happen to be passing but be mindful that it gets very busy, especially on the weekends.
The following morning I woke wishing that I were still going to be dotting around Scotland before the realisation set in that I was due to tackle the 400-mile trek home.
I started by hitting the Kinlochleven loop, where the B863 skirts the beautiful Loch Leven before connecting again with the A82; it’s a small detour of 16-miles that will bring a smile to anybody’s face.
The Michelin Anakee IIIs that I put on to replace the off-road focussed Metzeler Karoo 3s that I had on previously did a great job. When I had previously come to Scotland on the GS back in March, it was on the Pirelli Scorpion Trial tyres that came standard on the bike and, while okay in the dry, they had a distinct lack of feel in the wet, something that the Anakee IIIs suffered much less with.
When I passed through Glasgow, with a hint of sorrow at leaving the good roads behind I began the slog back to my home in Rutland. The suspension was set to comfort mode and the cruise back began. Even if uneventful, the long stint in the saddle made me glad that the GS is comfortable for when I arrived home I felt nearly as fresh as the brisk October evening.
Reflecting back as I sat in awe of the light show I enjoyed at Stoer, I couldn’t help but feel grateful to the GS for getting me there. I realise that you can do a trip like this on any bike if you put your mind to it, but the GS really embodies the spirit of adventure, no matter how small or large. It may not have the greatest motor or handle as well as a sportsbike but what it brings to the foray is limitless possibility. The GS will take me anywhere, and do it easily and comfortably, which makes me more inclined to go exploring. It doesn’t pretend to be any more than the jack-of-all-trades bike that it is, and that’s what ultimately makes it brilliant.