After meeting the group of English riders at Tynemouth, we are following their suggestions and doubling back at Alnwick, heading towards the interior to ride up into Scotland that way.
But first we stop at a pub in Rothbury for some fuel for the road...
Bangers and mash! OMG, so good! And yet so bad for you...
Can't remember the last time we have eaten so badly and felt so guiltily doing so... After we leave the UK, we're going to have to go on a diet. Nothing but fruits and vegetables and water.
Our route takes us through a beautiful scenic road towards the Northumberland National Park
Thick foliage in the Northumberland National Park
Dire warnings as we near the Scottish border. Do they not serve crumpets and tea in Scotland?
Just as we are about to cross the border, we spy an interesting sight along the side of the road. We have to investigate!
So I knew Scotland was separate from England, but I was unclear whether or not it was actually a separate country. Pretty shameful not knowing that, isn't it? A quick Google search confirms that it is. Yet, it is still considered part of the United Kingdom and Scotland is now threatening to leave the UK because of the Brexit vote. If that happens, they're going to have to police this entire border across the middle of the island.
The road that we're on crosses the border at a spot called Carter Bar, which was the site of a huge battle between Scotland and England. Right at the border there's a huge stone with Scotland carved on one side and England on the other.
Naturally, I'm on the English side and Neda is ahead of me on the Scottish side
Riding through some Scottish towns
We've checked the forecast for the next few days and there's going to be quite a heavy rainfall coming up. So when we arrive in Edinburgh we find a cheap(ish) AirBnB to bunker up. But we don't stay inside very long because we have a dinner invitation!
We met Gino and Fiona last year while we were riding through the Lago de Como region in Italy. We've kept in touch since then and now we're going to catch up with them at their place in Edinburgh. Such a small world! I love it when people we meet on our travels show up again later on our blog! It gives our trip a feeling of continuity - that our journey isn't just made up of stand-alone episodes but a tapestry of threads that weave itself in and out of our lives over time.
Gino welcomes us with good food and great Scottish whiskey!
Gino gave us an exhaustive rundown on the history of Scotland, which seemed to consist mainly of their millennia-long conflict with the English. Seems the English aren't very well-liked in Scotland!
Our hosts are fellow motorcycle world travelers and we talked at length about our trips and what it meant to finish up a long tour and settle down again. This has been on my mind constantly - what will our lives look like when all of this is over? From talking to Gino and Fiona, life after a long trip is basically planning for the next long trip. I thought as much. We've met so many long-term travelers that we identify with closely and almost all of them yearn to be back out on the road again once their trip is over. So the lesson I'm taking from this is, why stop in the first place if you don't have to...? Hm....
Since this is Gino and Fiona's neck of the woods, we pick their brains about the best route to take through Scotland. There's absolutely no shortage of ideas.
Fiona gives us a very polished presentation on the best motorcycle roads through Scotland. We had handouts with speaker notes and everything! :)
We left their places with our stomachs filled with good food and our heads filled with visions of twisty roads through Scottish highlands. Can't wait! But first, we need to do some regular maintenance on our bikes.
Next morning, we drop our motorcycles off at the dealership just outside of Edinburgh
I met an Irish rider at the dealership and I asked him about good roads in Ireland. He said, "Stay on the west coast!" Okay, in the last 24 hours I think we've basically got our route planned for the next month or so!
The Irish guy had exactly the same motorcycle I have, same year and everything.
"How do you like the R1200GS?", he asked me.
"I like it, it's a great bike!"
"Yeah me too."
"Except for the final drive. I've had to fix mine three times already", I moaned.
"Yes! I've heard about that!"
I nodded my head sadly. "Also, the servo brakes on our model are terrible. No brakes without the key in in the on position!"
"Have you heard about the known EWS problem? The antenna in the key ring sensor fails and your bike can't start", I ask him.
"My bike is in the shop for exactly that reason."
"Hm", more head-nodding, "Also the fuel pump is known to be bad"
"Wow, our bikes really suck!"
Bonding over bike problems! The R1200GS is a funny beast. Despite all these issues, every single owner I know still loves their bike, it's just so well-balanced, easy to ride, and does quite well on variable terrain. And these issues crop up over very high mileages. I suspect the incidences per km are no better or worse than any other brand, it's just that BMW riders tend to put on more mileage than other bikers.
We take public transit back to Edinburgh. We'll be without our bikes for the next couple of days, which is okay since we're going to explore the city a bit by foot. Rain starts to pelt the windows of the bus on our ride back. Just in time.
Catching up on some laundry now that we have a roof over our heads
We're finding it impossible to hang-dry clothing in Scotland! The air is so humid here!
We don our rainjackets and jump back onto the bus to explore Edinburgh's old town
My first reaction was: Wow, there are a lot of brown-bricked buildings here... These are medieval tenements that crowd the low skyline of the old town. Also, there are a ton of tourists here, all braving the cold Scottish rains. And everywhere, there are reminders that we are in Scotland, as if the whole town is capitalizing on every single stereotype there is about this country.
On every street corner, there's a Scottish guy in a kilt playing the bagpipes
A little street-diorama reminding tourists that golf was a Scottish invention
New College University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh is known as the City of Festivals. Several of them are overlapping this week. We take in the Fringe Festival
The Fringe Festival is a huge international arts festival with official and unofficial performers lining the streets of Edinburgh
Some of them have a stage and official playing slots, others just find a corner to jam
We had such a good time hopping from performer to performer and listening to some great music. All of the street performers played for tips, but the ones on stage were there mainly to advertise their paying gigs in bars and theaters later on in the evening.
I was surprised how many people were out despite the rains
It was a truly international event, with performers coming from all over the world
This mime troupe was from Japan
Avant-garde performance art right in the middle of the crowd
Street entertainers interacting with the audience
And in between acts, we'd walk the cobblestone streets of the old town, taking in all the gothic architecture around us
Rainy and wet
Refugees from the Fringe Festival, also doing some touristing
The colours of the previous picture remind me of this!: )
More kilts and bagpipes
Even the dogs were proud of their Scottish heritage!