Mull Of Kintyre
The not so long way round, in the memory of friends lost.
This trip came about with the final overturning of the “gross negligence” verdict given to the pilots of the 1994 Mull of Kintyre air crash in the Chinook helicopter, which resulted in the death of 29 people.
My friend and colleague Brian, being one of the leading campaigners after having lost 4 friends and colleagues in the disaster vowed to visit the crash site after the final verdict to say his goodbye and close the chapter.
So, Tuesday the 13th of September 2011 we set off after a “healthy” full English breakfast. 2 blokes on 2 motorcycles on a clear and sunny day heading towards our first overnight stop in Runcorn; ignoring the met office who forecast showers, we packed our rain suits into the panniers. Surprisingly enough we got as far as Oxford before slight rain persuaded us to put on the rain suits, working on the old saying that there is no bad weather only wrong clothing.
Just after 4pm we arrived at Brian’s mother, Margaret’s house; where she and her husband Eric welcomed use both with open arms. After having had enough food to feed a small army, we called it a day reasonably early. Wednesday the 14th was forecast with showers and heavy wind (regards from hurricane Irene); as the morning was again glorious we did our usual and ignored the met office. The rain did hold off, however the wind didn’t and between the Lake District and Glasgow we did have somewhat of a constant fight on our hands with some interesting manoeuvres by the both of us.
The initial purchase of a bike to bike intercom by Brian was great, although the sound activated microphone left us hearing white noise for a while after we stopped; what did take our mind of this was the stunningly breathtaking scenery.
My good friend and colleague Adam had kindly put in a good word with his parents in-law, Douglas and Elizabeth, who again were most welcoming after the 250 mile second leg of our journey to Helensbrugh; serving us food and a view out of our bedroom window not equalled by any Hotel overlooking the Gare Loch.
Thursday the 15th we sat of early ‘ish about 0930 hrs to ride the 123 miles, AA route map showed the time at 3 hours to the Mull. It the most glorious of all the days, very suiting me thinks, with scenery that is truly breathtaking, resulting in a few near misses by Brian and myself with the constant “Did you see that, look at that scenery” and so on. The roads leading to the Mull were in excellent in condition making the ride that bit more fun. We were lead along the A814 past Loch Long across a little country side to ride along the edges of Loch Fyne to eventually arriving in Campbeltown; a spot of Lunch and on to the Mull of Kintyre, only 15 miles, so the sign said. What neither of us had known was the encounter with lose sheep after having passed a mysteriously closed gate; eventually after riding slower than usual, mainly due to stunning scenery and lose animals we arrived at a gate with a sign saying, “End of public Highway” – great walking!
Looking down the hill side we couldn’t see the lighthouse, yet we could see the cairn built in memory of the crash with the plague reflecting the sunlight to the right of us. The 35 degree downhill gradient wasn’t a problem at all - on the way down - ; the small stone by the side of the badly maintained road worried us slightly due to its inscription “Lighthouse 1 mile”. Half way down, the road wound along the cliff edge and we decided to stop as the downhill gradient increased considerably, besides it looked an awfully long way to walk back up. This turned out to be a very good decision; so right turn over the soft peaty ground up to the cairn. Brain attached the poppy he had brought with him. It was one of those quite reflective moments and both of us must have got a little sand in our eyes as we started to walk back up the mountain road.
As I said only going halfway was an excellent decision as we blew out of every hole by the time we made it back to the bikes, there is a very good reason why hikers don’t wear leathers and motorcycle boots.
I think the look on our faces was enough to put the couple off that had arrived in our absence not to walk down to the lighthouse. Being of course in the height of physical fitness it only took us a very short time to recover and enable to be able to get back on our bikes.
The ride back had a slightly faster pace and enabled us to enjoy the riding rather than the scenery, a 6 pm we arrived back at Helensbrugh completely shattered, the evening meal we gratefully received and bed very shortly after. A route with only about ¾ of an hour stop at the Mull should have taken us about 6 ½ hours, well we make it in 8 ½ hours and that was at a struggle; but what a day.
Friday morning started with a text from Brian’s mother with the words, “Make sure you are wearing your rain suits heavy rain forecast”; we did (of course) do as we were told and had incorporated only a quick stop off at my in-laws in Bamberbridge. Having managed to avoid all showers until the Avandale Services we decided to have a small snack as it was midday, first mistake. On to Bamberbridge where my in-laws welcomed us and Roger offered us two large baguettes with Ham and Cheese, we accepted one cut in half with a lovely cup of tea and one of the worlds best homemade scones; as the sky was getting darker we decided to push on.
Did I mention we managed to avoid all the heavy showers throughout the trip, yes I did, well this was for all the ones we managed to miss; as soon as we hit the M6 the heavens opened, not just slightly but by the imperial ton. Visibility went down to no more than 25 yards, but as we are as hard as butter in the sunshine we carried on to Runcorn. To add insult to injury the rain stopped, as if someone had turned off the tap, as soon as we pushed the bikes into the garage. Thank you to whomever we need to thank for the lesson.
Lucky us a warm conservatory was waiting and even “scary” was Margaret’s announcement of “dinner be ready in half an hour” ; now both of us are up for a challenge but I think “scared” was the initial feeling. We did manage the large plate of Spaghetti Bolognese and felt quite proud of ourselves, right to the moment when the extra large plate of fruit, jelly, ice cream with cream desert was placed in front of us.
I think we both struggled to the sofa, but it wasn’t until the offer of chicken drumsticks we had to draw the line and went for a single strip orange / choc penguin instead.
Saturday morning was again beautiful with cloud in the distance, having been subjected to the ordeal the evening before rain suits went on straight away; we didn’t need them at all on the final leg and Brain peeled off onto the A339 with me leaving the A34 to go via the A343. I arrived back home at about 3pm showing 1210 miles on the milometer, I think I can speak for the both of us and say we were shattered but extremely satisfied with a wonderful trip in memory of friends lost.