28 Jun 2015

Wales and Scotland 2015—Part 2: Scotland

We arrived in Hawick (pronounced ‘hoik’ for the uninitiated) around 6pm that night and managed to find our friends’ ‘unfindable’ home without so much as a phone call. Their neighbour’s cottage was vacant and they had kindly arranged for us to stay in it during our visit.

After a quick shower, we went in their car to nearby town Denholm to get some take-away fish and chips which filled the void nicely. After a bit of catching up we turned in for the night for some much needed sleep.

The beautiful, cozy stone cottage—even in late June the nights are cold in Scotland.

We took a long walk around the area with our hosts and while the skies were grey, we managed to escape the threat of rain, enjoying the hidden footpaths running through the greenery.

We came across the hidden ruins of a castle, buried deep within the woods and not accessible by vehicle—even a small dirt bike would struggle with felled trees blocking the path in many places, let alone a GS or anything on four wheels. And this is how the local people like it—they do not want heavy machinery brought in to restore the castle, and as it is entirely surrounded by private land with no access rights, the castle will likely stay as it is for many, many years to come.

A Series 2 Land Rover used for work, not school runs.

On our second day we headed off with our hosts to the Scottish Borders Brewery to go on a self-guided tour. Attached was a tourist shop offering local bits and 4x4 adventure experience events, a food shop with specialties from the area including the infamous Scottish tablet—a confectionary of sugar and cream so rich it makes the teeth hurt—and a restaurant serving traditional Scottish fare.

We drove back and were greeted by Poppy, the neighbourhood stray who loves everyone, lives in a shed and eats what people put out for her. She is an old girl who’s not too quick on her feet anymore but lives very happily and independently.

That evening we were invited for dinner with neighbours living in a converted church—a crypt remains untouched and sealed off within the building, visible through a glass panel, and the yard contains the original graveyard. What an amazing home!

On our last day we toured the area and rode around Kielder Forest Park, just over the English border. A gravel toll road runs through the middle of the park—the toll machine was not functioning but we could fit past the gate, and so still had the opportunity to enjoy the endless views of the dales and the overwhelmingly green wooded areas.

As with Wales, the roads in this area have very little traffic—most of them are quite technical, narrowly twisting through the landscape, but there are a few with long, sweeping curves. There is a blanket 60 mph speed limit which basically means you can go as fast as you could ever want, since the roads themselves limit the speed you can actually travel. Much of the time 40 mph feels fast enough!

After a good day out we retired for the night, ready for the slog home early the next morning via a mix of A/B roads and motorways. After saying goodbye to our wonderful hosts, the journey was relatively uneventful—but of note was the rise in temperature from 5°C in the Scottish Borders to 32°C back in London. Compounding this was the fact we entered London during the peak of late afternoon traffic, and spend an hour and a half travelling the last 10 miles—the bike doesn’t squeeze through traffic quite as efficiently with the panniers fully extended…

I am looking forward to exploring more of Scotland—our time there was limited to the Scottish Borders and next time I intend to explore the Highlands. Maybe in 2016!