Sometimes a person needs to get away from it all. There’s no rhyme or reason for an impromptu road trip, other than a slowly building backlog of emails, unread letters on the kitchen table and a desire to de-clutter the mind.
In fact, this journey was the direct result of numerous abbreviations triggering synapses in the brain to escape from it all: bills for VAT, demands from HMRC, an invite to attend a DAS course.
As a result, a digital map of Scotland was brought up on a laptop screen and pins were dropped around Edinburgh, Aviemore, Inverness, Elgin, Fraserburgh, Aberdeen and Perth.
“This trip has no real purpose but the discovery of open roads and the promise of countless miles without seeing another soul”
The resulting loop, which slithers and snakes through some of the most beautiful scenery this Scotland has to offer, covers over 500 miles and appears to be the perfect tonic to a weary soul.
It will simply be man, machine and mountains.
Where to stay
Loch Ness Country House Hotel
Built in 1710, this grand Georgian hotel sits in a grand helping of tranquil and elegant surroundings.
Granted, it’s difficult to find ugly scenery in this part of the Highlands but this hotel’s views are among some of the best, while the six acres of land upon which the hotel sits is immaculately kept.
There’s a large sun terrace for soaking up the rays during the summer and numerous log fires when the weather turns chilly. Naturally, the bar also stocks an extensive range of malt whiskeys to sip on.
Rooms are traditionally styled, which may not suit all tastes, while the on-site restaurant offers a fine dining experience that makes the most of local ingredients.
However, food does err on the pricey side but Inverness is a short taxi ride away if you fancy something less formal but it is well worth heading back for a quick nightcap in the company of fellow guests.
Rooms from around £145 per night
Visit: Lochness Country House Hotel
All photos by: Lewis Harrison-Pinder
On the Hog’s Back
Edinburgh Harley-Davidson is an impressive showroom. It boasts everything from gigantic Road King models to the smaller and neater Sportsters, with a couple of Freewheeler trikes and an extensive clothing range thrown in for good measure.
But browsing is not the only reason for this visit, because our ride for this particular trip is a Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special – 1,745cc and 376kg of pure American muscle.
It also features the marque’s all new Milwaukee-Eight 107 V-twin engine, which itself is an evolution of an iconic powerplant that has fuelled some of the most notable scenes in biker/road movie history. And provided the unforgettable soundtrack.
The Street Glide we throw a leg over might be a modern incarnation, complete with satellite navigation, a powerful sound system and Jekill & Hyde exhaust, which electronically alternates the muffling from really bloody loud to impressively quiet at the press of a button.
While the showroom it is parked in front of might be a far cry from the back-street garage Peter Fonda probably purchased his 1951 Panhead chopper from in Easy Rider , but there is no escaping the sense of adventure a Harley evokes when sat behind the bars.
This trip has no real purpose but the discovery of open roads and the promise of countless miles without seeing another soul. And despite its gargantuan frame, this bike will be the perfect vessel.
From Tailbacks to Big Country
The journey out of Edinburgh is taxing, to say the least. The Street Glide weighs 376kg and has the additional bulk of luggage placed in the rear panniers.
Navigating the various traffic lights and one-way systems to the A1 takes time and patience, but we have plenty of the former, so opt to take it slow.
It is not long before the Forth Road Bridge is in sight and we are able to leave the hustle and bustle behind. Our vague heading points us towards the Cairngorms National Park, complete with its epic vistas and ribboning sections of Tarmac.
Once off the M90 we hit the gorgeous A90, a road that skirt the aforementioned national park but also does its own impression of the American Midwest, with tree-lined roads and stunning views out across lochs and lakes.
But the Street Glide peels off the route and makes a beeline for Braemar, where the A93 runs through Crathie and the brilliantly titled Cock Bridge before gripping the edge of Ben Macdui and spitting the bike and its rider out of the other side of the Cairngorms.
The road trip is only a few hours young and the landscape has already knocked me for six on numerous occasions.
Perfectly smooth roads wind their way along the base of mountains, their highest peaks still capped with snow, while the distinctly beige foliage provides a stark contrast to the iridium blue sky.
The huge engine thumps away beneath me, the fresh air rushes up past the spindly chin guard of my helmet, while the road carves this way and that, requiring concentration and restrain to ensure senses aren’t overloaded and corners mistimed.
Hours pass and the road continues to deliver, but the initial pressure of piloting such a large machine across such demanding asphalt has dissipated.
Bends are now linked in an almost hypnotic state, the bike leaning beautifully, tucking in and throttling out of the other side with little or no use of those huge Brembo brakes.
It is not until a long straight offers some respite that I snap out of the trance and realise that I haven’t seen another vehicle for around 20-miles or so. It is a staggering journey and one that will be burnt into memory banks for a lifetime.
Long Whiskeys on Loch Ness
Time has miraculously disappeared and a dull ache in my lower back, thighs and wrists signal that perhaps its time to temporarily put an end to the riotous riding and head for shelter.
The location for the evening is the Loch Ness Country House Hotel, located near the banks of the River Ness and close to nearby Inverness.
There is still a fair amount of miles to go before we to re-join the A9 and locate the hotel. But a beautiful day means there is plenty of low sunlight left when the big Harley pulls up to the gravel driveway of the grand building, which illuminates the beautifully kept lawns and gardens, as well as the spectacular Georgian exterior.
Where to drink
Scotch & Rye
Sleepy is probably the most polite way to describe mid-week Inverness, but hidden among the establishments of Queensgate is Scotch & Rye, a trendy cocktail bar and kitchen that serves a fine array of drinks and an American-inspired menu.
Enjoy a barrel-aged Smokey Manhattan or one of the many craft ales on offer in the contemporarily industrial surroundings, complete with hipster Edison bulbs and exposed brickwork.
The atmosphere is friendly, the drinks are expertly crafted and the food is perfect for those who enjoy meat doused in sweet, sticky sauces.
Bags dumped and sun well and truly behind the horizon, it seems a shame not to make the most of the hotel’s numerous drawing rooms.
A fire roars away in the corner and a barman delivers a dram of Glen Ord single malt, arguably once of the closest distilleries to the hotel and the perfect nightcap before a busy day of riding in the morning.
One dram turns into two or three and digital maps are once again pored over, with pins dropping around Elgin, Fraserburgh and Peterhead.
It has been decided. Tomorrow’s ride will be distinctly coastal. The sea air required to shift a thick head.
Clothing: Helmet – Bell Bullitt (£369.99, Urbanrider.co.uk), Gloves and jacket – Furygan (Nevis.uk.com), Bag – Velomacchi Speedway (£290, Urbanrider.co.uk), T-Shirts – Deus & Sorted Surf Shop (£30, Urbanrider.co.uk & £19.94, Sortedsurfshop.co.uk).
Stay tuned for Part II, where the Street Glide tackles the rugged Scottish coastline.