Ravin Mad Rally

Run by the Orkney Bike Club 1998

The rally happened over Easter that year. That meant that Maggie McNeil & I did not needed to take many days off work.

Day One

Leamington Spa to Pitlochery. It stayed cold but dry all the way to the Scottish Borders where the weather decided to turn Scottish. The rain did not stop until way past Perth by which time water had found it's way inside my one piece.

We camped at Lock Fascally overnight. During which time I managed to get my leathers almost dry.

Day Two

Pitlochery to Thurso. Out of the tent and into the sunshine. I started the day by nipping into Pitlochery to purchase a pair of cheap over trousers. These went under the one piece & cured the leaky crotch problem.

Back on the two CX500s & up the A9. The sun only stayed out about a quarter of an hour. It then started to snow. Blizzard conditions and lying snow on the road lasted almost to Inverness when the sun came out again. During the rest of the journey to Thurso it was sun interspersed with squally snow showers when the visibility dropped to about forty feet. It was also king cold.

High seas & windy conditions (The ferry docked on the third attempt.) made for an exhilarating ferry crossing to Orkney. The P&O chaps had tied the bikes down well & none fell over.

The rally campsite ran up the side of a concave hillside. Damp at the bottom & a bit steep at the top. At the side of the campsite was a village hall. The hall had two main rooms One with a bar, stage, seating & dance floor. The other room had good hot food sales & more seating.

I have no idea where the village was but it was nowhere in sight.

About the only thing in sight were the lights of a hotel across the loch. Word came round that they had The Red MacGregor and SkullSplitter in stock. Some bright spark suggested that the hotel could only be at most half a mile away. A group of us wrapped up warm & set off into the night. It was a lot more than half a mile. Luckily the landlord had started a ferry service in his van. Over the weekend, he saved the rally goers a lot of boot leather.

Day Three

Saturday morning dawned but it seemed very dark. We found out why when Maggie unzipped the tent & two inches of snow fell in. The snow had stopped but it was still blowing in from the north.

The Orkney Bike Club had arranged coaches to take about half of us into Kirwall. Kirkwall is a nice little town. You can see the lot in about five hours.

The best chip shop is the Harbour Fry in Bridge Street. (Sit down or take away.)

I also managed to get some drab olive coloured handkerchiefs from John Kemp the Drapers in Albert Street.

The weather was getting worse with more frequent snow showers blowing down from the north so we popped into the Tourist Office & booked a mainland hotel for the Sunday night.

Back at the site the hall's two rooms had really filled up & it would be difficult to sit down & eat. We decided to rap up very warm & start walking to the hotel for a meal there.

Day Four

Sunday morning saw a slight change in the weather. There was now brilliant sunshine between the snow showers. But it was still blowing from the north & beep cold with it.

We had breakfast, broke camp & made it to the afternoon ferry. The wind had increased & the ferry took the Scapa Flow route rather than going past the Old Man of Hoy. Once out into the Pentland Firth you received the full effect of the weather. High wind, rough sea & snow showers sweeping down from the north. One minute brilliant sunshine the next swirling snow & visibility of about fifty feet. The ferry docked at Scrabster where we discovered that of about sixty bikes only half a dozen had gone down. The P&O chaps had done a good job tying the bikes down.

We made it the Trentham Hotel (On the A9 about seventy miles from the ferry.) before the snow really set in. We had been lucky to get in as the place was full with other bikers also returning from the rally.

We settled down to a good meal & a fair amount of banter as the snow fell finally shutting the road at about 9.30pm.

Day Five

Up in the morning to find the sun shining from a clear sky & A9 still shut by snow.

A snowplough followed by a gritter cleared the road while we ate breakfast.

We said our goodbyes & set off home.

It had turned out to be a good rally. But on reflection 1,200 miles plus is an awful long way to go for a beer.

- Dave Cooper


Open quote Damn good report. I felt a chill sitting here reading it. Close quote