UK Route: Scotland

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James Oxley rides a two-day route through the Scottish Highlands and explores dramatic landscapes and sensational roads along the way

Here at ABR, we take a lot of pride in creating the UK routes that appear in each issue of the magazine because we know so many of you go on to ride them. Each one is meticulously crafted using a combination of maps, desk research, and the vast knowledge of Britain’s biking roads the team has amassed over the years.

Once we have a route planned, we then load up our panniers and ride it to make sure the wiggly line plotted on a map translates into a scintillating experience in the saddle. If it doesn’t, we backtrack and make changes along the way, as well as stopping to ask locals which roads they’d recommend we follow.

The dramatic Scottish Highlands were a joy to explore

But there’s more to a creating a bike route than simply finding excellent roads to ride. We’re adventure bikers after all, which means experiencing the world around us is just as important as the tarmac passing beneath our tyres. So, we’re constantly looking for what we call the ‘Holy Trinity of Motorcycling.’ This is a route that combines local culture, superb roads, and stunning views from the saddle. It’s only when we nail all three that we know we have the makings of something worthy of gracing the pages of ABR magazine.

With this in mind, I’ve never been tempted to include a UK route in ABR that I’ve ridden at a new bike press launch. While they typically involve plenty of fast-flowing roads to allow us to put a new machine through its paces, as well as picturesque landscapes to help the bike look great in photos, these events are usually rushed affairs that miss out on the cultural element of the Holy Trinity of Motorcycling. You know, the sights and attractions that leave you feeling like you’ve come to know a place, its people, and a little of its history after riding through it.

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The new GSXS1000 GT proved immense fun to ride on the twisting roads

So, it was with some delight that following two days of riding through Scotland on the launch of the Suzuki GSX-S1000 GT, I realised I’d just completed a route that did just that. We’d travelled just under 300 miles, ridden world-class biking roads, marvelled at dramatic landscapes, and immersed ourselves in some of the history and culture of the areas we’d ridden through. In short, we’d had a proper adventure.

So, if you’re looking for a sensational ride through Scotland, and you fancy riding the same roads we used to test ride Suzuki’s new sports tourer, then I can’t recommend this route highly enough. We even got lucky with the Scottish weather, and maybe you will too. Let’s get going…

The journey begins

Our journey began and finished in the seaside resort of Nairn, on the Moray Firth, about 16 miles east of Inverness. The town is known for its three beautiful if chilly, beaches and two championship golf courses. A stroll to the beach could see you spotting dolphins, minke whales, and seals, although I wasn’t lucky enough to see any.

There was drizzle in the air as a gaggle of bike journalists aboard gleaming GSX-S1000 GTs made their way down the leafy drive of the Muthu Newton Hotel, the rumble of the four-cylinder engines reverberating around the trees. We joined the arrow-straight A96 and followed it through pancake-flat farmland towards Inverness.

Scotland Route Map – See route below

I used this short stretch as a warm-up for the day ahead as I played with the bike’s controls and settings to get a feel for the new machine, selecting the engine mode and traction control settings I wanted to try out first. I’d managed to lock in my settings when we approached the turn off for the Battle of Culloden memorial.

We didn’t visit it during the press launch, but if you have even a passing interest in history, I’d urge to you take the short three-mile detour to the battlefield, memorial, and visitor centre. In 1746, Culloden became the location of the last pitched battle to take place in Britain and marked the end of the fourth and final Jacobite uprising, led by Bonnie Prince Charlie. It sought to restore the Stuart monarchy to the throne.

The Route

Plug these waypoints into your SatNav device to follow as near as dammit the Scotland route. You can also find the route at, where you can also download the route as a GPX file.

1. Muthu Newton Hotel, Inverness Road, Nairn, IV12 4RX
2. Albatross café/golf club, Lochcarron, Strathcarron, IV54 8YS
3. Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie, Kyle of Lochalsh, IV40 8DX
4. The Boathouse Restaurant, The Abbey Hall, Fort Augustus, PH32 4BD
5. The Garrison Hotel, High Street, Fort William, PH33 6EE
6. Dalwhinnie Distillery, General Wade’s Military Road, Dalwhinnie, PH19 1AA
7. Laggan, Newtonmore PH20 1AH
8. The Boathouse Restaurant, Loch Insh Outdoor Centre, Kincraig, Inverness, PH21 1NU
9. GrantownonSpey
10. Muthu Newton Hotel, Newton Hotel Inverness Road, Nairn IV12 4RX

It was a bloody fight, the boggy ground hampering the Jacobite’s headlong charge, instead favouring the British government troops’ artillery and cavalry. Around 1,600 men lost their lives in the battle in just one hour. Some 1,500 of these are said to have been Jacobites. The defeat still has repercussions today as it marked the beginning of the end of the Scottish clan system as the British government sought to wield even greater authority in Scotland and stifle any signs of revolt.

If you visit the battlefield, backtrack to the A96 once you’ve finished and re-join the press launch route. Outside Inverness, we turned north-west and crossed the cable-stayed Kessock Bridge, which spans 1,056m over the Beauly Firth.

We then jumped on the A9 briefly before taking the A385, A382, and A890 across country for around 60 miles. This trio of roads was an absolute joy to ride as we meandered through forested countryside almost devoid of traffic, and admiring views of the mountainous landscape and shimmering lochs as we travelled further west.

While the pace was spirited to say the least, I made sure I took the opportunity to marvel at the landscapes we passed through. Whether you’re on a Panigale, a GS Adventure, or a Goldwing, I defy anyone not to enjoy riding these glorious roads.

Sporting big smiles on our faces, we made our first stop of the day at the Albatross Café, located at the northern end of Loch Carron, for a well-earned cup of coffee and a slice of chocolate cake.

The general consensus was the bike showed a lot of promise, the riding had been sensational, and the cake was pretty damn good too.

Following the Kyle Railway

Fully caffeinated and ready to roll, we backtracked for a mile and half before re-joining the A890 as it wound its way along the southern shore of Loch Carron. As well as hugging the contours of the loch, the road also followed the path of the Kyle Railway, which stretches coast to coast across Scotland and is considered to be one of the world’s great railway journeys.

The riding was also world-class too as we snaked our way along the water’s edge before cutting south inland along miles of gloriously curving roads flanked by a curtain of tress, which then gave way to mountain views.

Just outside the village of Auchtertyre, we joined the A87 and rode south-east where we were greeted with the sight of Eileen Donan Castle.

The picturesque building wouldn’t look out of place in a Disney movie perched atop a small tidal island on Loch Long. The site was first occupied in 634AD by the Bishop of Donan, but the first castle wasn’t built until the 13th century to protect the area from raiding Vikings. It’s now a popular tourist attraction and it’s certainly worth parking up and stretching your legs to get a good look.

Eilean Donan was built in the 13th century to guard against Viking raiders

We then snaked our way past the castle along the shores of Loch Duich on the A87. If you’re feeling more intrepid, you can turn left onto a local road by a sign that reads ‘Welcome to Dornie’.

This soon becomes a narrow country lane that climbs above the A87, providing superb views of Eileen Donan and the loch below, before re-joining the main road further on.

Leaving Loch Duich behind, we continued along the A87 as it turned west. With every passing mile, the mountainous scenery became more spectacular. If you enjoy looking at the photos in ABR of small bikes being ridden through huge, majestic landscapes, then this is the perfect place to get a photo of yourself doing just that.

Mountains soared either side as we meandered our way along wide valley floors. The scenery was mesmerising and the riding even better as we immersed ourselves in the spectacular country.

It was along this stretch of road that the Battle of Glen Shiel took place in 1719 and it was easy to imagine the combined Jacobite and Spanish forces trying to withstand English mortar and cavalry attacks. After three hours of fighting, the English forces overcame a stubborn Jacobite resistance.

Leaving the ghosts of battles past behind, we continued on past Loch Cluanie before reaching Loch Ness. Here we joined the A82 briefly before stopping for launch at the Boathouse Restaurant which is nestled at the southern tip of the world-famous body of water, at Fort Augustus.

Feeling a little disappointed that the house special Nessie Pie wasn’t being served, I plumped for the chicken and kept a sharp eye on the loch through the window in case a monster reared its head.

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Scotland in the autumn was a beguiling sight

With bellies full, we travelled southwest along the shores of Loch Oich, passing the ruins of Invergarry Castle, a building rich in Scottish history. Indeed, Bonnie Prince Charlie is said to have rested there following his defeat at the Battle of Culloden.

A couple of miles down the road we paused briefly at the Laggan Swing Bridge to allow a boat to pass through the Caledonian Canal before we cruised along the picturesque shores of Loch Lochy. About a mile outside of Spean Bridge we passed the Commando Memorial. It commemorates the elite force established by Winston Churchill to strike back against the Germans following the evacuation of Dunkirk in WWII.

This area of Scotland was used as their training ground. The memorial depicts three commandos standing more than 5m tall looking south towards Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain. It’s certainly worth stopping and paying your respects while marvelling at the view.

About 10 miles down the road, we reached Fort William. It was here we pulled into our home for the night, the Garrison Hotel, a former police station that offers guests the chance to stay in a converted police cell. I opted for a standard room and, following a delicious meal of locally caught seafood at the Crannog Restaurant, I returned to the Garrison and slept off an incredible day’s ride.

An early start

Feeling refreshed ahead of another day of riding, the sound of nine Suzuki GSX-S1000 GTs reverberated off the walls of the hotel at 8.30 am as we filtered out of the car park and onto the road. My apologies to anyone attempting to have a lay-in inside.

We backtracked north for about 10 miles to Spean Bridge, before joining the A86 and following a winding path northwest across Scotland.

The previous day’s ride had been impressive, but this was even better as we cruised along a snaking ribbon of road through some of the most majestic landscapes the UK has to offer.

After skirting the northern side of Loch Laggan, we turned south onto General Wade’s Military Road for seven miles before pulling up in the car park of the Dalwhinnie Distillery, located on edge of the Cairngorms National Park. We were in Scotland after all, so what better way to explore the country’s rich culture and heritage than through its national drink, at least that’s the excuse I used.

Dalwhinnie is the highest distillery in Scotland and began production in the 1897. The site was chosen because of its access to clear spring water and abundant peat in the surrounding bogs.

Sadly, our merry band of bikers couldn’t indulge in a dram because we still had plenty of distance to cover, but we took the fascinating distillery tour and we all found a space in our panniers for a bottle or two of single malt.

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The test riders pull over for a rest during the press launch

After backtracking to the A86, we followed the road to the outdoor mecca of Aviemore, stopping along the way for some coffee and cake at the Boathouse Restaurant overlooking Loch Insh. Here paddle boarders, kayakers, and swimmers were braving the chilly autumn waters. After passing Aviemore and its crowds of healthy-looking hikers and climbers, we followed the A95 before joining the A939.

It would do a disservice to the earlier sections of the route to say we’d saved the best until last, but this final stretch of road that took us back to our starting point in Nairn was a spectacular ride. Try conjuring an image in your mind of a picture-perfect Scottish landscape that you’ve seen in a movie or a photo, and you’d get close to the scenery we rode through.

Moorland, resplendent in Autumn shades of green and brown, stretched for miles around as the road unfurled to the horizon. The highway would then slice through the centre of a forest and fresh smell of pine trees wafted inside my helmet. None of us couldn’t resist opening the throttle as we leaned into wide, arcing turns, the Suzukis’ tyres gorging on the obscene levels of grip provided by the smooth surface. Boy, it was a satisfying ride.

All too soon we found ourselves navigating the bustling streets of Nairn before returning to the Muthu Newton Hotel and the end of a sensational two-day tour of the Scottish Highlands. How did the new bike perform on the trip? It was an absolute corker which I’ll tell you all about in my full review in the January/February issue of ABR.