Well, that was The Gathering 2017! We had a great time, met some great people and travelled through some spectacular scenery in and around Argyll and Bute.
We fuelled and packed the trike the night before, ready for an early start on Friday. We got away about nine, with the promise of some light rain somewhere on our journey. We went along the A69 and up the M74. After a brief coffee stop at Abington, we encountered more and more dark skies, and then the rain started after junction 8 as we headed for Kilmarnock. Thankfully things eased off slightly as we hit the coast, turning right at Ardrossan, heading for McInroy’s Point through West Kilbride and Inverkip.
The Firth of Clyde is a huge expanse of water, leading into the North Channel and the Irish Sea, but we couldn’t see much of it, with the ever-present mist and clouds. We landed at the ferry terminal about five hours after setting off, which was a good time given the conditions, and we endured a further drenching as we took up our place on the ferry.
Hunter’s Quay is only a short step from the ferry and after a chat with the Clyde Valley welcome team, we made our way to our lodge. We saw lots of bikes and trikes in the car park and Clyde Valley had decorated everything in the black-and-orange. A very welcoming sight! We then saw loads of Harley-Davidsons parked outside the lodges and caravans.
Thankfully, the weather cheered up and we went over to the bar and grill about seven. Clyde Valley and Dunedin were in abundance and we saw people from Red Rose, Belfast and Oslo chapters too. To keep us entertained, The Kilts played a cheerful set of cover songs and we slurped a few beers into the night. Somehow, we managed to get the cover on the trike later …
The rain started about eleven o’clock that night and kept going for twelve hours solid. A complete wash-out, and Clyde Valley wisely cancelled the Saturday ride-out. We managed to stay away from the bar during the day, with a promise of some sunshine later. It landed about three, so we saddled up, plotting a course for Strachur through some beautiful scenery on the B836 and the A886. We travelled on a range of roads, and some of the single track ones were challenging in places. They were still very wet, with lots of puddles and standing water.
We travelled past Holy Loch, Loch Tarsen, Loch Striven, Loch Fyne and Loch Eck, on a seventy-five mile trip. When we landed back at Dunoon, we took a right-hand turn towards Toward lighthouse, the southernmost point. The day was basking in sunshine by this time and we had an ice-cream on the outskirts of Dunoon before we headed back, very pleased that the rain stopped and smiling about our wee trip.
Bessie and The Zinc Buckets played a rousing set that evening in the bar and grill, and we watched them, listened to Stephen’s speech and won nothing in the raffle. Unsurprisingly, Dunedin won the highest attending chapter.
The rain started again later that evening but the promise was for a brighter morning, with the rain setting in about one in the afternoon. So we saddled up early and headed for Inverary, with a straight run up and down the side of Loch Eck. Inverary is beautiful, with lots of whitewashed buildings. We had a cup of coffee, bought some shortbread and decided to go to Lochgoilhead, to see our sixth loch. We struck off for Arrochar on the A83, round the majestic Beinn an Lochain. It’s a great climb up to the Rest and Be Thankful, but the mist spoilt our view.
On the B828, we navigated more single-track roads as we dropped into Lochgoilhead. On a dry day, it would have been a great trip, but the rain started again just as we pulled in to the tiny village. We took a different route back, climbing out of the valley towards Ardno.
We met quite a few single riders on our hundred mile trip, then we encountered the official ride-out, with about twenty five bikes, including Road Crew. We landed back to Hunter’s Quay about one o’clock, just as we’d planned.
Monday promised even more rain, so we set off early back to Newcastle. We took a different route after Kilmarnock, on the A76 to Dumfries, then the A75 to Gretna Green.
We had a great time with Clyde Valley chapter! The rally site sits within some amazing landscapes next to some superb riding roads, and we managed to visit six of the seven local lochs. Next time, we’ll try and do it with a bit less rain!
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