The 2022 Fife Foray
My friend and fellow Super Cub owner Doug Houghton, asked me recently if I fancied a trip down into Fife on the bikes - the purpose was to visit his Mum (in her 90's) who had just had a birthday. Christine and I had only just returned from a trip to Strathpeffer ourselves but she hurriedly managed to get everything ready for me to have another week away, whilst I concentrated on getting bike and equipment ready. I substituted the small topbox on the Super Cub with the very large one from my CBF 600 SA which uses the same Honda QD fitting which would give me more carrying capacity and had a spare 1 litre of fuel strapped to the rack in front of the seat. That amount might not sound very much to a big bike or car owner but used carefully it can get you an extra 30 miles on the Cub and in the Highlands that could make the difference between riding and walking to the next petrol station!
Doug organised the ferry from Stromness to Scrabster for us and I sorted the first stop-over in Grantown on Spey. He had also mapped out a route using mainly minor roads to keep away from long boring bits and fast, noisy traffic. I have a Sena SRL bike to bike intercom incorporated into my Shoei Neotec 2 helmet and Doug has recently got a Cardo system for his. We had not tested this communication system properly prior to our trip and didn't manage to get them to communicate on the first day of our trip, so I just followed him on his pre-planned route. This took us out from the ferry terminal at Scrabster and west along the north coast as far as Bettyhill, where we turned south through Altnaharra and down Strathnaver then along into Lairg for our first fuel stop.
A brief photo stop by the edge of Loch Naver
Fuelled up (nearly a fiver's worth!) we rode out through Bonar Bridge and over the Struie to join the A9 near Evanton. As soon as we were on the Black Isle we used smaller roads through Culbokie and Munlochy to pick up the A9 again just before the Kessock bridge. A very short stretch of the A9 south was needed to get us to Cawdor for a snack break and then onto the northern section of the A939 to take us to our overnight stop and an evening meal at the Craiglynne in Grantown on Spey.
Away by just after 9 the following day well filled with a great breakfast, we fuelled up just down the road and carried on along the A939 towards Tomintoul - famous for reports of being blocked by snow on many National weather bulletins, quite often at this time of year and even later! We had managed to get the intercoms to pair up successfully for the second day but range was an issue which we never really resolved unless I rode in front, which was not really practical on this trip as Doug had the route on his phone on a mount behind the windscreen! Over the Lecht by the ski centre and down into Braemar - often the coldest place in the whole of Britain and today didn't disappoint. It was then a spirited ride to put some heat back in over the Spittal to yet another fuel stop in Blairgowrie before heading for Perth and on to Glenfarg where rumbling tums halted our progress with a very tasty meal. Crossing the Kingdom of Fife, our route took us on many minor roads to the north bank of the Firth of Forth.
The plan was to stay in Limekilns, Fife for three nights and then return, again using quieter roads, probably via another stop in or around Strathpeffer and then make our way back to the last ferry of the day from Scrabster back home to Orkney.
I had booked a great little hotel in Limekilns - Coorie by the Coast which had once been the village Co-op, so that Doug could have some time with his Mum but we met up from time to time for me to explore the area, which was mostly new to me. On the first full day I accompanied Doug on his daily walk around Limekilns and decided that I would leave him to return to his Mum's and I would carry on through Rosyth and on to the 'Park and Ride' by the Forth bridges so that I could catch a bus into Edinburgh. I enjoyed a mooch about the big City and later in the afternoon, caught a bus back into Dunfermline - the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie and a place I had long wanted to visit. I was not disappointed as I walked amongst the stunning architecture in the town to the Pittencrieff park with its statue of the great man himself and enjoyed a refreshing pint in a slightly 'trendy' bar but because I had done a fair amount of walking that day, felt I had earned it. Returning later by bus to Limekilns, I had a lovely evening meal in the Bruce Arms and then turned in not long after.
As an Engineer I still find the rail bridge impressive!
The following day we had a leisurely walk to Charlestown and visited the actual Lime Kilns and mines, the former being a recently renovated visitor attraction. This was Doug's childhood 'playground' and we even found a smart looking abandoned (probably stolen) youths bicycle in some woods which I later reported to the Police using Doug's 'What 3 Words' app on his phone for its location - hopefully someone might be reunited with a once cherished possession. A welcome cuppa at his Mum's place - where we had left the bikes on our arrival, followed our very pleasant walk in the sunshine.
The recently renovated Lime Kilns
Doug had cleaned both bikes the previous day whilst I had been visiting the Big City and had managed to remove most of the caked on salt from our 300 plus mile trip over the Cairngorms and Spittal of Glenshee. That was probably the coldest part of our ride down with low cloud and only just above freezing temperatures accompanied for just a few minutes by a very light shower of rain - the only time there was any for the whole trip - apart from the run to the ferry in Stromness as we first left home on the Tuesday evening. This WAS the middle of March through the Highlands of Scotland though!
The bikes seemed happy enough at 40 to 50 mph and 160 miles seemed about right for a days riding with a few food, drink and photo stops included. I'm sure you could do quite a bit more in a day on these very capable bikes but it's nice to get more 'smiles per gallon'. Fuel capacity can be an issue especially in sparsely populated areas - with only 3.7 litres (one U.S. gallon) on board you have to be careful with route planning to prevent the 'range anxiety' which plagues most EV drivers on longer trips.
Plans changed slightly for the return, for when I rang Christine one evening she had had a phone call to say her new iPad had arrived in Inverness earlier than expected and was ready for collection. Perhaps if we had an overnight stay at the Inverness Airport hotel, I could collect this en route to the ferry and save a bit of logistical difficulty later? Again Doug planned a very relaxing route for our return, avoiding busy roads but we did end up being part of a motorcycle run for quite a few miles into Crieff - we felt it must have been an organised charity ride as although there was a great variety of bikes of all capacities and makes, they seemed to be riding quite steadily, which fitted in well with our normal progress and I don't think we ever got 'under anyone's feet' on our relatively small capacity machines. We pulled in along the High Street for a brief discussion about fuel and quite a few bikes pulled in behind us! Oops!! - sorry to mislead you folks - I think they soon realised and went on their way to join the others.
The route through Glen Devon, the Ochil hills, Glen Almond and past Schiehallion is a lovely ride we have done before using a variety of bikes and cars but very easy on the Super Cubs. Later joining the old A9 - far quieter than its replacement allowed a steady ride through Kingussie, Newtonmore to the Ralia Cafe for a cuppa and on to Aviemore, then on to some smaller roads through Dulsie bridge and Balmore. We made the decision to have our earlier than normal meal at the Cawdor Tavern, where we had had a stop on the way down - this delightful place is owned by Norman Sinclair, who also has our own Orkney brewery - famous for 'Skull Splitter' ale amongst many others! Just a short hop (no pun intended) after our meal took us to the Courtyard Marriott hotel at the Airport and finished off a grand day.
The breakfast at the hotel - to be paid for separately didn't seem a particularly inviting option, so we packed the bikes, made our way into Inverness to collect the iPad and then stopped for a wonderfully prepared and presented breakfast at the Storehouse of Foulis, shortly after opening time at 10, overlooking the Moray firth just over the Black Isle. One advantage of riding these small bikes is that you can pull up and park almost anywhere and no one bothers you, just as we did right in the centre of Inverness on the paved area by the Shopping centre and Doug stayed with the bikes while I went to collect the precious package - try doing that on a big bike and you would certainly have no chance in a car!
A short section up the A9 was next, then along a poorly surfaced section through Saltburn, to emerge on the A9 near Tain.
One or two roads are getting quite rough!
Using the A9 again we made our way to Dornoch and out through Fourpenny for a stop along Loch Fleet to watch the flocks of waders and a few seals. From that vantage point you also get a good view of 'The Mannie' - the statue of the Duke of Sutherland which is perched high up above Golspie on the other side of the loch, where from nearby Dunrobin Castle he and his Wife and their henchmen brought about the Highland clearances along the aforementioned Strathnaver and many other straths where it was more profitable (for them) to have sheep on the land rather than people, all of course in the name of 'improvement'. I'm all for improvement but not when it involves razing houses to the ground - some still with people in them.
A brief stop by Loch Fleet
Rejoining the A9 and in no real hurry we pootled along to the cafe at the feet of the Berriedale Braes and had a relaxing hour or so before a little detour into Dunbeath to visit the secluded harbour.
The harbour in Dunbeath - well worth a visit if you are up this way
A few more back roads took us into Thurso and on to the ferry at Scrabster. All in all, a very satisfying and pleasurable trip with good weather for that time of year; needless to say, the bikes did everything asked of them and averaged in excess of 160mpg over the whole trip.
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