Well, after a few beers in the pub at the start of April, it was decided that we should start scratching our itch to take the Westfields further a field than a weekend blat around the lake district.
Destination - Scotland. Where in Scotland - Who Knew!!
Date - 17th April and return sometime after the bank holiday weekend.
@Bigchris092: 91 Westfield Seiw // 1660 Crossflow // Bike Carbs
@Brad Stone: 06 Westfield Sei // 2.1 Ford Pinto // Weber 45s
Joe Ashworth: Passenger & Media Extraordinaire (tech geek, who also likes road trips & motorbikes)
Day 1: Manchester to Carnforth:
Figure 1.1 - My route through the Forest of Bowland National Park - It only seemed right to take a photograph.
We decided to originally set off on Thursday 18th April in the early AM, but realising exactly how much mileage we had to cover over the somewhat limited days we had available meant that we took the last minute plunge to get some mileage in the night before. My route was slightly different to Chris & Joe (C&J), taking the more scenic route via the Forest of Bowland national park - Arriving in Carnforth at around 7pm. The route itself was absolutely fantastic, and given that my Westy hadn't had much of a run since a minor rebuild, I was quite happy to arrive without a hitch! Phew. C & J took the more direct route from the other side of Manchester, going directly counter clockwise around the M60 and then straight up the M6 to the lovely caravan park up which was to be our home for the night (Alan and Maggie, Thanks - A very comfy night's sleep!). We then made our way to what seemed to be the only pub anywhere remotely close to the campsite - The Limeburners Arms. This pub was quite different to what the majority of us are accustomed to today, a real pub some would say. No gaming machines, no jukeboxes, just a bar, dartboard and some good ale. Oh, and all the drinks seemed to be £2.50 no matter what was ordered.
Miles Completed: 70
Day 2: Carnforth to Dunoon (Via Lockerbie)
Figure 1.2: Packed up and ready to take the long stint North.
Day 2 involved an early start from the campsite with the absolute intention of getting as far north as possible. We loaded up the absolutely fantastic app: Kurvager, which Chris and Joe advised me is heavily utilised by motorcyclists (I can now understand why!!). The app, for anybody who is not aware, costs around £9.99 for the pro version and is essentially google maps but for driving enthusiasts. It finds routes that would be enjoyed by vehicles that love a corner / single track lane / alternative route to the monotonous A-Roads and Motorways. 10 Miles after setting off, the first slight hitch (although somewhat expected) - Chris' thermostat cap leaked somewhat under some slight enthusiastic throttle, throwing a raft of steam outside of the bonnet. A quick fettle and a muttering of "Be reet", and we were soon on our way again. We seemed to make great progress on the first day, eventually joining up onto an B road that runs parallel with the M6 just shy of Carlisle (B7076 IIRC), eventually ending up at our first planned stop of Lockerbie. For any Air Crash Investigation enthusiasts, I was quite keen to visit the Lockerbie Air Disaster Memorial and we paid our respects in the memorial garden along with a very in depth conversation with the visitor centre assistant. I would highly recommend a visit here if anybody is passing.
Figure 1.3: Lockerbie air disaster memorial garden - An eerie but peaceful place of rest.
We had made probably one of the only conscious decisions of the trip on this day, deciding to head for the Dunoon Ferry Terminal to avoid the s****y roads around central Glasgow. This would also set us in good stead for our planned Blat up the West Coast. After a number of Fuel Stops (My Pinto was particularly Thirsty, averaging 25 MPG on A & B Roads, and around 15-17 on the roads which required slightly more strenuous usage of the gearbox and rev range) we arrived very wearily at the ferry terminal. A short wait and £20 lighter in the wallet, we made the short crossing across to the small town of Dunoon. Right on cue, the first technical hitch of the pinto powered Westy: Prior to the trip, the pinto had been fouling the plug on number 3 cylinder - a quick change prior to setting off solved this issue. However, the slow roads leading up to the ferry terminal had caused a build up of fuel and black soot on the plug, causing it to run on 3 cylinders. I think this car has probably been set up for the track in a previous life, and so is planned to go on the rolling road in the not too distant future for a tune and carb setup more suited to the road. The issue we had in this instance is that we had forgot to pack a spark plug spanner and wire brush (Doe!). At this point, we had had a very long day in the cars and were somewhat tired. We found ourselves sat in the cars on the sea (loch?!) front pondering what to do, it was 7pm at this stage and thought all garages locally would be shut on bank holiday.
Figure 1.4: Dunoon ferry crossing - A highly efficient service and would highly recommend if a trip to Scotland is being planned.
We hadn't planned anywhere to stay for the evening in advance as we didn't know where we'd end up, unfortunately we had rang around the campsites local to Dunoon on the ferry with no luck (Surprising given that it wasn't bank holiday yet!) and started looking into hotel or b&b's in the local area. It was at this current moment that a local hotel manager came out of his hotel and asked if we were looking for a room(s) for the night. We somehow ended up grabbing 2 rooms including a wonderful breakfast for the measly sum of £50 all in - A steal I'm sure you will all agree. For reference, the hotel was called "The Esplanade" and was exactly what we needed. A quick shower and to the bar for a pint to discuss a plan of action on how to solve the running issue. I decided it might be worth a try to call a local garage in hope that I could leave a message and borrow some tools in the AM the next day. To my surprise one of the garage owners picked up (7.40pm) and agreed to meet me at 8pm to help me out. What a saviour. A quick removal of the spark plug and and brush off with a wire brush, and we were back up and running. William even helped point me in the direction of a motor factors locally whom we could visit in the morning to pick up the tools we needed. What an experience so far.
Figure 1.5: William came out late on to lend some tools to 3 guys in need. Thank you sir.
After the vehicles had had the once over for the day, we put them to bed and headed out for some food - We ended up dining in a local Indian restaurant who'm seemed incredibly rushed due to the need for the waiter to catch the last ferry back to the mainland. The food was absolutely excellent however and the beers were much appreciated at this point of the day. Back to the hotel for a couple more beverages, and then straight to bed. Tired!
Miles Completed: 190
Day 3: Dunoon to Isle of Skye (Via Glencoe)
Day 3 was started with an early morning breakfast in the hotel (basic, but adequate) and a quick trip to the local motor factors. We were able to pick up all of the supplies that we required and were able to get on our way. The morning started off with some great roads next to the west side of Loch Lomond - I didn't realise how big this particular Loch was. Around 1 hour in, the Kurvager App took us onto a particular road, which was an absolute playground for Lotus 7 type vehicles. The 3 mile track was constructed from pristine, newly laid tarmac with great visibility into each and every corner, and the main bonus was that there was absolutely no traffic. Chris, Joe and I could not wipe the smiles off our faces when we got to the other side, what an absolute gem of a find. Unfortunately, we were enjoying ourselves that much, we didn't take any photos of this or note of the name / road number. You'll just have to take my word for it.
The mid morning / early afternoon then allowed us to make significant progress towards the Isle of Skye - Taking us through some breathtaking roads via Glen Coe (I cannot get these views out of my head - Fully surrounded by huge mountain ranges) and the pictures could not do this justice. The one thing I would say about Glen Coe is that naturally it is very touristy and thus the roads can get quite busy. There are a number of great viewing points which allow visitors to capture some great shots. Naturally, the Westfields were attracting some significant attention from overseas tourists and we had some great conversations that may not have otherwise come about - particularly with an Argentinian from Buenos Aires who owned a whole host of Lotus vehicles. In the early afternoon we tried to touch bases with the Ferry company that takes vehicles across to the Isle of Skye - Unfortunately this was fully booked for the evening and we started making alternative arrangements. We had two options at this point:
1) Take the A830 via Fort William to Mallaig and find a local campsite on the coast.
2) Take the long route round to Skye via the A87 and utilise the bridge that goes directly onto the island.
Figure 1.6: Stunning views from a pub in Glencoe. Note: Fabulous weather - Phone was indicating 24 degrees!
Over a swift shandy at a pub in Glencoe, we decided to go with the latter option, it would add a significant number of miles to the day but would mean we see more of the things we wanted to in the short time we had available. We cracked on up the A82 and stopped off at a local Spar to get some BBQ supplies for the evening. We hadn't booked any campsite at this point and somehow managed to stumble upon a location shortly after arriving. I believe this was called "Ashaig Campsite" and cost around £9 per person for the evening. Although quite a basic (but developing) site, the beauty about this place was it's location, it had 360 degree panoramic views of the whole of Skye and the owner / manager was incredibly helpful and showed us around the site before we had to commit. Tents pitched and BBQ's fired up - 3 or 4 beers and a whole host of food later, we were ready to hit the hay. It was incredibly cold during the night and it seemed by sleeping bag was not quite up to keeping me warm. Luckily I had packed a number of other fleeces / blankets just in case which came in very handy. Ever more tired!
Figure 1.7: Isle of Skye Campsite - Stunning views and great company.
Miles Completed: 240
Day 4: Isle of Skye to Torridan (Via Applecross)
We planned to have a shorter day than the previous 2 on Saturday as we had covered a lot of mileage up to this point. Chris' dad had previously done a tour of Scotland on his push bike and recommended that we take a smaller more intimate ferry back to the mainland. Glenelg Isle of Skye Ferry Terminal was the name, and again was one of the "Off the beaten track" type experiences that you might not necessarily find in a local guide book. We arrived with about 4 vehicles in front of us - 2 Minibuses and 2 standard family cars. Unfortunately the ferry was limited to a maximum of 12 people at a time, and had to make one journey at a time with the Minibus due to size. I think we waited about 1 hr 45 minutes to get across in the end, at quite a pricely sum of £15 per vehicle - not value for money, but an experience none the less. The ferry itself was great as it incorporated a swing bridge, which meant no awkward reversing off at the other side with a fully loaded roll bar and the staff worked incredibly hard and even had time for a brief chat during the crossing.
Figure 1.8: The Ferry with it's incredibly handy swing bridge.
Figure 1.9: Chris remaining in high spirits despite the delay.
Figure 1.10: Chris and Joe locked in conversation about the need to be 'Qualified' to operate the chain carabiner on the boat.
Once we crossed back to the mainland - I had the recurring misfire on number 3 cylinder once again. A quick extraction of the plug and a brush down and she was ready to go again. Far from ideal but not a huge problem to have given the mileage we were covering. It was then all mission go towards Applecross - a road I had been pre warned about in terms of it's beauty. On route, we came across a group of younger chaps carrying out a "budget £500 car challenge", basically covering our route but in reverse. One of the MX5's exhausts were hanging off - Chris was able to assist somewhat with the limited tools and supplies we had with us to get his exhaust in a usable condition again - The lads were a great bunch and were definitely happy for the help. We are all a close knit bunch after all!! Applecross road (or Bealach Na Bà as it is known locally) stretches for approximately 14 miles, and gets its warning signs in very early... "This road rises to a height of 2053 ft with gradients of 1 in 5 and hairpin bends" & "NOT ADVISED FOR LEARNER DRIVERS, LARGE VEHICLES OR CARAVANS.” just a couple of signs that get the blood running. With a series of hairpins going and sheer drops off of the side of the mountainside, it really does raise the hairs on the back of the neck. When we reached the summit, it was unfortunately very cloudy and so views we limited somewhat, however you just "knew" that you were in some place special. Monumental.
Figure 1.11: A spectacular view of the Mainland - The Five Sisters of Kintail.
Figure 1.12: The infamous Applecross Sign - Warning behind the array of Car Club stickers.
After carrying out a quick fuel stop at the community run fuel station (Very good price given it's location), we stopped for a drink at the Applecross Inn (Recurring theme throughout this post), made plans to stop in Torridan as the end destination. Upon arrival in Torridan, we spoke with a local garage and filling station owner (Kinlochchewe Service Station) about possible locations to stay for the night - He recommended a campsite no more than 50 meters from where we had pulled in - great facilities and some really welcoming owners. I believe we paid around £12 per pitch in this site, which boasted some great facilities. We found a local hotel and eatery around a 5 minute walk from the campsite which we were able to grab some great food and more than our share of pints for the evening. This was the first time we had to put the covers on the Westfields overnight - as it was forecast rain, and lot's of it! Swift walk back to the tent and it was good night and god bless.
Miles completed: 100
Day 5: Torridan to Inveranan
This day started with some very damp roads - Caution was absolutely taken as we set off incredibly early and there was very little sunlight at this point. We decided to take a rather large detour than the most direct route to Inveranan, we wanted to touch the outskirts of the Cairngorn Mountains and chose Aviemore as the intermediary stop off point. Via some awe-inspiring Kurvager suggestions, we then picked up the A827 southbound, stopping at the Falls of Dochart for some ice cream en-route. At this point the weather was fantastic, and this lovely local village was full of fellow engine enthusiasts on both 2, 3 and 4 wheels. We eventually arrived at our campsite nice and early on the Sunday evening to set up camp for the night, which was based in Inveranan. Chris & Joe had stopped at this particular campsite before now, and recommended it due to it's lively atmosphere and likely host of person(s) completing the West Highland Trail. We also paid a visit to the Drovers Inn pub which was very closeby, and I am led to believe is one of the (if not THE) oldest Inn in Scotland. I found this pub to be absolutely full of Character, some great local ales were served and the food was great. We then made it back to the campsite for a final couple of beers and sampled the not so delightful whiskey, and then headed off to sleep. Again we had covered quite a considerable amount of miles given the Cairngorns detour.
Figure 1.13: Chris enjoying life en route to the Cairngorns. Note: Long and twisty road in background - Epic thrills.
Figure 1.14: Falls of Dochart - Based in the Historic Killin Village.
Miles Completed: 197
Day 6: Inveranan to Manchester
Unfortunately not so many great roads on the way home - We got on the road very early (7.45) with the aim of getting home as quickly as possible. The first 50 miles completed were quite nice, passing down the west side of Loch Lomond before heading onto the M8 around Glasgow. We then picked up the A74M via a quick coffee stop in Moffatt (This town is lovely), and joined the parallel road to the M6 as we got further South. This road is actually a fantastic option if you're heading up to / from Scotland, as it is so devoid of traffic and although it may be slightly slower, is much more enjoyable than the groan of an engine running at the same RPM for miles and miles upon end. We reached the Lake District at around 2.30pm which was really good going given the mileage we had done. We had a quick final drink stop locally in Kendal and then headed off in Seperate directions due to the alternate onward journeys that we needed to carry out.
Mileage Completed: Circa 280
Although this was a very broad summary of the trip, we were able to cover a lot of mileage and visit exactly what we wanted to see + more. The cars performed absolutely flawlessly (apart from a couple of almost expected issues) and we seemed to benefit in certain situations from not being bothered particularly about where we stayed. The fact that we didn't book hotels and campsites in advance meant that we were able to be flexible in terms of our own itinerary. I will post a separate blog post about the type of camping gear that we decided to take as this may be of benefit to somebody else planning a trip of this nature. I think in terms of plans for future trips, we are definitely looking into Europe (France would be a great start) and we'd also like to carry out a trip to complete the North Coast 500 route in Scotland.