June at Castle Leod, Strathpeffer, Ross Shire, Scotland
To date I'd done a few reasonably local Rallies as a schoolboy pillion and more recently a few more on my Honda CB550 F1.
The people in the picture are from left to right Keith (Binney) Tinsley, my wife to be Christine (Smiv) Honneyman who is sat on Alan Barclay's knee, and Steve Giddens.
Alan Barclay (The Banker), a fellow Gonad, had approached me and asked if I fancied doing The Claymore. On questioning the location I was advised "just North of Inverness!" Having just turned 18 a couple of weeks earlier it may as well have been The Moon.
Give the 420 miles each way; I think we must have left Oldham on the Thursday in order to get more time at the Rally. Sweeping off the M62 westbound towards the M61, I was leading and overtook some traffic where the A666 splits off and then pulled across onto the 61. Looking in my mirrors, The Banker was nowhere to be seen. Great start to the trip - the guy with all the experience had gone. I carried on, joining the M6 and stopped at Forton services up near Lancaster. Shortly after, Al pulled in and after a coffee, we set off again.
Next stop "The Cannie Scots Shop" just over the border near Gretna. Fuelled up, we carried on up the A74 cruising along at about 80mph. This was my first trip to Scotland and once on the A9 heading towards Perth and The Highlands it just blew my mind.
This was the start of my affinity with Scotland and I ended up living there for a couple of years from 89 to 91. This was also the first of many Rallies north of the border. I'd never seen as many trees and the scenery was fantastic but it felt like we were riding to the edge of the world.
We went by Inverness and out onto the A835 towards Dingwall. Not far now and I was tiring. Coming into a roundabout with Al leading I totally misjudged my speed and realising that I wasn't going to make it, I stood the bike up. Thankfully there was nothing coming from my right and the island was a kerb and grass affair. As The Banker swept left off the roundabout I passed him having gone straight across the middle! After a fatherly chat we set off on the last 8 or so miles to Castle Leod which is literally half a mile to the east of the picturesque Victorian Spa village of Strathpeffer. It had taken us 8 hours.
Tent up and off for a beer taking in both The Strathpeffer Hotel and Mackays Hotel.
Next day the majority of people started to arrive and that Friday night there was a band and disco in the Spa Pavillion. As I'd got chatting to a local lassie that day the evening was even more enjoyable. I walked back to the tent at about 0230hrs and it wasn't even dark. Every field was awash with wildlife - thousands of rabbits.
Think Dave Honneyman from Darlington was there that year along with Tony Cormack and Dave Heatley, both from Manchester. On the Sunday morning Tony Cormack shot off on his 250 MZ alone. This was normal. Al and I were ready to go but Dave Heatley decided to give it another hour before coaxing his Suzuki 750 Kettle into life. With that, Al and I set off for another mammoth adventure.
We passed through the village, my lassies phone number in my arse pocket as she waved us farewell. We dropped down the back roads through Marybank, Urray, Muir of Ord and Beauly eventually coming out onto the A82 at Drumnadrochit and my first sight of Loch Ness. The ride down Lochs Ness, Oich and Lochy was superb with the road switching back and forth over the railway. Again the scenery was awesome. From there it was Fort William, The Ballachulish Bridge, Glencoe and down to Crianlarich. From there I think we carried on down the A82 down the side of Loch Lomond, out through Glasgow and onto the M74.
Turning into the A74 in those days, we were back in 80mph cruise mode as we ate up the miles toward Greater Manchester. Somewhere around Moffat, Al was leading our formation in the outside lane when without warning his 500/4 slewed sideways alarmingly. It straightened and then slewed the other way. The bars were slapping around and the back end was going left to right and back again. With obvious ability he avoided the brakes and rode it out. Meanwhile I'd slowed the traffic behind us and could now see that Al's rear tyre was totally deflated. We came to rest against the central reservation kerb. Phew! Adrenalin is brown!
Having got across to the nearside verge we removed the wheel and as we worked Dave Heatley arrived on his Kettle. The culprit was located. The valve had been blown off the inner tube at the point were it is vulcanised. This left a half inch hole in the tube and caused instantaneous deflation. We stuck a new tube in and Dave took the wheel down the road and returned with it inflated. The three of us rode back largely uneventfully after this.
It was a superb trip and a really enjoyable weekend and I will be eternally grateful to The Banker for putting up with the novice and introducing me to Scotland as well as giving me invaluable experience.
The Claymore Rally 1978 was held in June at Castle Leod, Strathpeffer, Ross Shire, Scotland.
Having been to this Rally the year before, I was bitten. I'd also been back up to Strathpeffer in the September of '77 to see the Lassie that I'd met at the Rally that year. I did the A82 Loch Ness route in both directions and called in at the Antler Rally at Salen on the way up.
Now it was The Claymore again and I was really looking forward to another trip to the magnificent Highlands of Scotland. Small problem though, I'd blown the camshaft on my CB550 F1. Alan Barclay (The Banker) had traded his CB500/4 for the newly introduced CX500 and my good friend Mike Shepherd had also bought a CX. As Mike was stuck on an Oil Rig at the time, he very kindly lent me his new CX500.
This trip was largely uneventful but enjoyable just the same. The two CXs performed faultlessy and never missed a beat as once again we did the A9 up and the A82 down.
The Strath was much the same except that the Spa Pavilion had been closed due to a lack of maintenance funds so no music this year.
Dave Honneyman and his wife Christine were there and we spent most of the weekend in MacKay's Hotel.
I'm not sure if The Claymore was run again as I think a number of Wyvis Club members were killed on the A9 and in any event, I was now aboard HMS Norfolk so it was a while before I did another Rally.
After Mike Shepherds generous offer, I did buy my own CX500 and had many years (17) service from it.
I was last in Strathpeffer in 1997 and the pavilion was still derelict but as a listed building it cannot be developed. The locals advised that negotiations were ongoing with the Council to secure funding for refurbishment.
- Steve Giddens
We traveled up to the rally through the night setting off with Paul and Christine Elliot about 7.30pm. We got about 200 yards from Pauls house and his bike ran out of petrol! We spent the next 20 minutes getting the bike to a garage.
- Dave Honneyman
Hi, Keith Hunwick here.
- Keith Hunwick
Nice to see the 5 star award for this one, especially this week.
- Ted Trett
I remember Big John from the Dalesman. I'll stand to be corrected but circa 1987 rings a bell.
- Steve Giddens
I attended the 1978 Claymore Rally with my then girlfriend Elaine. I was the proud owner of a Kettle fitted with a Piper three into one (I loved the sound of that bike !
- John Davison
In August 1976 I headed from Somerset to the Black Isle (600 miles), riding my 1966 Norton 650SS. Not the best tool for M5/M6 but definitely the best tool for the "auld A9".
- Alan Rogers
It's good to hear of people's experiences of life, it makes you want to go live it some more.