Meticulous planning and detailed organisation from the collective brain power of company directors and captains of industry must have assured a flawless adventure to Arran.
Arrangements saw 3 of the team choose motorbikes as the preferred mode of transport, a further 5 looked forward to their journey in Kenny’s wonderfully appointed motor home and the final 2 team members traveled in style in a Jaguar XKR. The team were scheduled to depart from the Killie at 09:00 hrs, plenty of time to make the ferry at Ardrossan which was scheduled to sail at 15:00 hrs.
Things started to go pear shaped the night before when one of our band of desperados had to call off as he was required to go off shore to handle a serious incident for his company, a second, one of the bikers snapped his sump plug whilst attempting to change the oil and had to abandon plans to use his bike over the weekend, still he was able to take up the spare seat vacated as a result of the off shore crisis.
The weather had been fantastic in the lead up to the weekend which raised spirits in anticipation of good times ahead. Didn’t look so good at 09:00 hrs at the Killie all the same, it was bucketing down and the remaining to bikers (of which I was one) were now looking forward to a wet weekend, or at least an uncomfortable ride to Ardrossan. Mercifully the rain didn’t persist and things had improved significantly by Stonehaven and by the time we finished breakfast at the Horn the sun was out and prospects looked much better.
As far as those on 4 wheels were concerned the outward journey was unremarkable arriving in plenty of time to catch the ferry, the bikers on the other hand elected to take the scenic route by heading North from Perth to Crainlarach then heading down Loch Lomond side to tie up with the rest of the gang, hopefully around 14:30hrs.
We should have known straight away that things were stacked against us, we stopped for fuel at Perth and Andy, my biker buddy, couldn’t start his bike, the battery had flattened on the trip thus far so we had to push the bike to give it a bump start and cross our fingers that he didn’t stall the engine once we got it going. We reckoned the continuous use of the headlights had drained the battery and that it wasn’t charging properly so we elected to ride the rest of the way without his lights on, not a great idea as it’s always better to be seen on you bike, anyway we got going from Perth with Andy following my lead as I knew the road, or at least thought I did! We were a fair bit up the A9 on our way to Inverness before Andy managed to attract my attention. After checking our bearings at a convenient lay by, we pulled a u turn and eventually got on the right road and had an uneventful trip till we stopped for coffee at a cafe on Loch Lomond side.
It was this time I dug out the sat-nav which I hadn’t bothered to use up until this point as we were supposed to be able to get that far without aid, but as Ardrossan was unknown territory to both of us I thought it might be a good idea to fire it up now. Apart from directing you where to go the sat-nav has a handy feature which indicated the estimated time of arrival at your destination and it was at this time that the familiar shape of the pear came back into view!
The sat-nav was forecasting our arrival at Ardrossan at 15:05, 20 minutes after our stated final check in time! With no time to loose, we saddled up knowing that there was now no room for error on the rest of our journey, you can often make up time on sat-nav forecasts I have found, and never more likely I guess than when you are on a bike as you can cut through a lot of traffic safely and easily.
However we hadn’t banked on the sat-nav dropping it’s connection at a critical point as we were navigating our way around the outskirts of Glasgow! This led to wrong directions been taken, the bikers splitting up by taking separate exits from a round about resulting in precious time being lost before, more by accident than anything else, we found each other again and then over the next 40 minutes took part in the hairiest ride of our lives, never speeding you understand but pushing the envelope of safety and sanity to the very edge as we clawed our way nearer to Ardrossan. The estimated time of arrival never seemed to look like coming back down to our target time and it later transpired that we had both imagined the same scenario of us waving the other guys away from the keyside as they headed for sunny Arran as we stood sadly on the pier without as much as a change of clothes for the weekend (neither of us new if there were other sailings after the one we were due to catch). Anyway we needn’t have worried, as we finally pulled into the car park at the ferry terminal we could see she hadn’t sailed yet, and better still they hadn’t loaded the vehicles and better better still the rest of the guys were waiting for us with a bottle of beer on offer, I’ve never tasted a sweeter beer.
The ferry crossing was passed quickly, we barely had time to enjoy 1 pint before it was time to collect our transport and make ready to disembark.
We quickly made arrangements regarding who would be sleeping where, which all seemed to be fine until it turned out that one of our selected accommodations had double booked and there was no room at that particular inn for 2 of our weary travelers. It wasn’t long however before we’d secured alternative lodgings in one of Brodicks shore side hotels and all seemed well, however that wasn’t the end of the story as you will be able to read by taking this link to an online feedback on the quality of the establishment (the McLaren Hotel), please take time to read it, I promise it will be worth while.
Well after that things did go much better with a group of guys walking up part of and all of Goat Fell, the bikers took a run round the island, we enjoyed a couple of good evening meals in good company and watched the Gretna / Hearts cup final in the hotel bar, cracking weekend really and enjoyed to the max by all involved.
If you’ve never been on one of these weekend breaks, you really want to make the effort next time, it really is worth the effort as the pictures on these pages illustrate well.