June 25th, 2017 – Pathhead, Scotland to Carlisle, England: ~170 miles
Missed Day 8? June 24th, 2017 – Girvan, Scotland to Pathhead, Scotland: ~120 miles
As Vy and I enjoy the second B of our bed and breakfast in Pathhead in the morning, the proprietor mentions that some vintage motorcycle racing is about to happen just 30 minutes away. Vy rolls her eyes when I take it as a sign and decide to make a quick stop at East Fortune Race Circuit, where the Scottish Motorcycle Racing Championship is having their only “Classics” day of the season. What luck! Just like with the Sammy Miller Museum, I want to share countless photos of the event. Even the parking lot is a treat:
We have a packed schedule for the day so I try to make this a quick stop, but Vy rolls her eyes again because she knows I’m not capable of doing that when there are so many fantastic machines around. We’ve been dating for 12 years – at this point she knows me better than I know myself. Continuing a theme of this trip, she’s proven right and my “quick stop” becomes a couple of hours. I try to just take photos of bikes and move on without getting caught up in time-consuming conversations but I can’t help myself when I spot this Vincent sidecar racer. I politely strike up a conversation with the gentleman working on it. His name is Mike and he’s the owner.
The vintage sidecars are my favorite, but there are also plenty of excellent two-wheelers.
This track day is a unplanned stop, so we have to get back on the road if we’ll make our destination in England in the evening. Still, there’s one last bike in the parking lot that demands my attention.
Making our way south, we see a familiar sight: lots of sheep. I’m still in love with the Cranberry Red paint of our Triumph Explorer.
Vy and I keep heading south and before we know it, we back in England. 20 minutes later, we arrive at a road that is unusable 10 hours a day!
The island’s population is just 160, though approximately 650,000 visitors come by each year. We can only spend a couple of hours before the road is closed due to the tide, but there’s enough to see here if you wanted to spend a couple of days. The highlight is probably Lindisfarne Castle, which was built in 1550. Unfortunately, it is currently closed due to renovation work. So, Vy and I just walk around and enjoy the quaint nature of the tiny island before hopping back on our Triumph and heading towards the mainland. We can see water slowly creeping towards the road on our way out but there’s no drama, which presumably means it’s not interesting.
We continue the theme of ancient buildings with a stop at Hadrian’s Wall. Also known as the Roman Wall, it was built over a 14-year period starting in 122 AD. At the time, it was the northern border of the Roman Empire, and it spanned 73 miles. Nearly 2,000 years later, you can still visit portions of the wall, so that’s what Vy and I decide to do.
Our waitress at lunch suggests we stop by the famous tree at Sycamore Gap, and we take her up on the suggestion. On the way, we ride through the village of Once Brewed (which is also known as Twice Brewed). Weirdly, if you enter town from the east, you’ll see the town name of “Once Brewed”. If you come from the west, you’ll see “Twice Brewed”. There’s a few versions of why this discrepancy exists – but a popular explanation is that soldiers who were about to take part in the Battle of Hexham in 1454 asked for their beer to be brewed again so it would be up to “fighting strength.” This makes no sense to me because brewing beer is not a quick process, but it’s a cute story so I’ll let the lie continue.
The tree at Sycamore Gap because famous after it was featured in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. To get there, you have to hike. There are two options: a flat indirect route, and a hilly route along Hadrian’s Wall. Vy and I decide to take the latter, because she likes hiking and I like her more than I hate hiking. Barely.
If you needed a reminder of any other day of this story, there are sheep everywhere.
Voila – England’s Tree of the Year for 2016. Yes, apparently that’s a real award.
Our hike takes so long that all the other forts that are normally open to the public have closed. Still, at the next one we notice a sign with some important life advice.
We hit the road again and make our way west. I’m happy with the power and comfort of our Triumph Tiger Explorer loaner but if I do this trip again I’ll probably use a smaller bike. Most of our trip is on smaller B roads – the English term for narrow country lanes – so the big motor isn’t required, and there are a few times in twisties and in village centers when I would prefer a lighter, more maneuverable mount.
Vy’s excited about checking out the Lake District tomorrow, so we continue west and set up for the night at a Ibis hotel in Carlisle. It is the one time our entire trip that I worry about the safety of our bike in overnight parking, so I hide it behind a bush and lock it to a metal fence. Hopefully it’ll be there in the morning…