Wednesday, July 22, 2015


My last day in Ireland, I ride past a rather large prison. I ride around the security fences for quite a substantial distance and imagine what it must be like to be inside there. On this side of the fence life is good and it's a reminder of the freedom that I am lucky to have on this bike journey.
Once off the ferry it's straight across to York on major roadways. I've organised to catch up with my work mates from back in Golden Bay, Richard and Matt from NZ. Richard grew up here and his folks still live here and allowed us to crash at there sweat pad for a couple of nights. We had a great walking tour of York and all the interesting history in this old city.
Richard and Janet, the kids Lou and Rosie and Matt

Walking the old fortress walls in York

Stonemasons are working full time to repair the massive Cathedral in York

The Doc workers reunited in York

The detail in the stone work is simply incredible

From York it was time to head north and check out the Highlands. A few days in Edinburgh and a night out camping before making Inverness where I stayed with Adv rider inmate Ian. Ian gave me some great pointers on places to see in the north of Scotland.

Scotland has some fantastic roads in the north, not much traffic on them and they're not the best kept, just the way I like them. The highlands and the coastal area in the west has really been impressive.

Entering Scotland

Edinburgh has a lot going on 

Heading out of Edinburgh, all stocked up with massive amounts of supplies thanks to some friendly French fellas who had just finished up a week long trip and donated all of there left over supplies. 

Took a bit of a liking to the bridges in Scotland

I turned into a bridge bagger!!

This ones a little special, It's in Stirling, it's about 500 years old and is located close to the original wooden bridge that was strategically destroyed during the Battle of Stirling and helped William Wallace and the Scots trap and defeat the larger English army in 132..something.

Just like Ireland, lots of great "single track" roads

This bay on the east coast was full of drilling rigs, the north sea is full of them

Fantastic landscapes on the north west coast
you see a lot of this in Scotland and Ireland
Some amazing beaches up in the north west corner
Called in at the Glenmorangie Distillery in Tain. Had an interesting tour of the plant and got the low down on how to produce good whisky
The stills in Tain are the tallest in Scotland
This ones on the Isle of Skye
visitors welcome.... come and spend some money!! I just looked from a distance at most and enjoyed the nice aroma!!
more stunning coastline
Pass of the cattle near Applecross is one of the most spectacular in Scotland
Castle Eilean Donan is rather spectacular
Camping with John and Harley in Glencoe with there recently purchased Harleys
Nearing the summit of Ben Nevis with Fort William in the background. At 1300m Ben Nevis is the UK's highest peak  
As a track builder I was impressed the stone work on the Ben Nevis track
While in Scotland I wanted to try and find the "Devils Staircase" which is an iconic part of the old Scottish Six Day Trial event which is the oldest motorbike event of it's type in the world and has been running since 1909. The SSDT was first introduced to me by my good friend Jeff Allen who had some fantastic movies of the event during the 50's and 60's. Ever since seeing those films I decided I would have to have ago at riding the staircase.
The event is a trial of the skill, consistency and endurance of the riders, as well as a test of the durability of the motorcycles. It requires riders to cover large distances to special sections that are observed by officials. The special sections require great skill to traverse cleanly. These days much of the early sections are no longer used and the improvement of the modern specialised trials bikes means that riders are now traversing insane terrain.
It took a couple of days to locate the Devils Staircase, firstly I went to the wrong "Staircase " which had the same name and was in the rough area, it's part of the West Highland Way hiking route. I walked it and compared to the old footage  I've seen I knew this wasn't it. I went back to Fort William and further research lead me to Loch Moidart near Kinlochmoidart. So the following day I head out to Loch Moidart and thanks to some good info find the very obscure start of the old track on the side of the Loch marked by a small rock cairn.
On walking the track it's obvious that it doesn't get much use, just some light foot traffic and certainly no sign of any bikes. It's over grown and muddy in places, after about 500 meters or so I come across a series of steep switch back turns with some great old stone retaining walls. I analyse the surroundings and conclude that yes.... under the new forest is in fact the renowned Devils Staircase more or less just as I had seen it in the movie clips over 70 years ago!! This is really, really cool, a bit like rediscovering the lost city of the Inca's I have rediscovered the legendary staircase of the SSDT and the birthplace of off road riding !!!
I spend some time taking in the surroundings and imagine the spectators here cheering on the riders  back in the 50's. Looking at switch back two on the climb I doubt that I would get the my bike up it, it's steep and slippery with a step in it. I've dreamed of riding the staircase for a while, on walking back out and piecing all the obstacles together  I release that it will be to hard to even get to it, steep slippery rocks, mud, and two trees across the track will make it too difficult. I tell myself to just be happy to have seen it on foot.
Two days later I'm back, spent all day yesterday climbing Ben Nevis and couldn't stop thinking about the Staircase, I have to give it a go. I've brought a cheap hand saw to clear the trees and I've also packed all of my gear in case I get stuck, which is quite likely and has me a little concerned as I ride the 100km of highway back to the track start.
Gearing lowered, tires aired right down to nothing and I hit the track, I'm surprised as I claw up the first slippery section and through the ferns, I'm stuck in the muddy climb though that I thought might give me some problems, I hit it a few times and eventually after a lot of pushing I'm up it and at the next obstacle, the tree. My saw works well on the small branches but not so well on the larger trunk, about now as I'm struggling away amongst the mosquitos I wish I had paid the extra bucks for that damn axe! Eventually I give up on the trunk and decide to build a rock ramp up and over the two trunks. It works well and I'm off through the undergrowth again. I'm committed now as I go down a steep sort section that has me most worried as it's likely to get me stuck in here. Actually the most worrying piece of track is a slippery section with a rather large drop off the side!!
A litte further on and holly shit I'm riding the "Devil's Staircase". Round the first corner without too much problems but the next as suspected is just too slippery and steep to ride. I'm not going to make it up the staircase. I'm happy enough to just get to here and although I'm just brushing off the moss with my spinning rear tire out of respect for this magnificent piece of track I don't push the idea, anyway I still have some work to do just to get out.
Battling the undergrowth on the way to the Historic Devils Staircase
The Devils Staircase 1948....
.... and here we go 2015

After frist considering it too hard on my own I'm over the moon to be living a dream of riding the Staircase
This shot shows the steepness
I couldn't ride up this corner on the big Dr650, a bit too slick....
... Sam Millar makes it look easy. Although I have to say I think the conditions back then may have been a tad easier, well that's my excuse anyway!
After surviving the Devils Staircase I thank the gods and take some time out at the great Oban Backpackers. A week of rain and it was nice to dry out!
Having a quick look for a monster at Lock Ness
My favourite ride in the Highlands, Corrieyairack Pass, an old military road built during the Jacobite uprising in the 18th century. It had some steep sections and great views from the summit.
Yes, another stone bridge, and that is a "Bothy"(public hut) that I stayed the night in, was great to unexpectedly come across it 
Mick and Graeme who I stayed with in the Bothy, good fellas.
The William Wallace monument in Stirling
the Wallace sword, it's freaken huge.
Robert the Bruce at the battle fields of Bannockburn. I've spent a fair bit of time clambering around in heavy, restrictive motorbike boots and gear while off the bike and it really slows you down. Can only imagine how these guys got on in their battle armour!