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The inspiration: Bladnoch Distillery 16-year-old single malt Scotch.
It was the middle of probably the worst winter for years. I was sitting in front of a roaring open fire, the Laverda safely wrapped up warm in her garage, a glass of a suitable chilled Bordeaux Blanc in hand when I was jolted back to reality remembering an email I had received earlier in the day.
It was from one of my oldest friends (yes, I do have more than one) and we go back nearly 50 years. He was suggesting a ride to Scotland in late May when the weather would be good. It was such a long way off that without hesitation I sent my reply in the affirmative.
The ride was to visit Bladnoch Distillery, a tiny distillery in Wigtown, South West Scotland. My usual tipple is good wine and good ale. It seems that my old friend David Minton has acquired a taste for Lowland whiskies, in particular Bladnoch whisky. The initial plan was for me to meet David and four of his friends from Herefordshire at the Kendall services on the M6. I believe the combined age of the gathered oldies would have been in excess of 400 years, hence the sub title.
Over the next four months, four of the six dropped out, leaving David on his 3CL and me on my RGS. So now it was a Laverda run.
The motivation: A fine pair of Laverdas, in 180- and 120-degree versions.
Now that it was only the two of us, Dave suggested that on the return from Wigtown we call in to visit Cyril Ayton in Carlisle and his sister in Rookhope, Weardale.
The end of May arrived all too quickly (something to do with getting old – time goes by so quickly), the weather was good and the RGS had been fettled.
I left at 8 a.m. on a Monday morning to meet David at the agreed services on the M6 at 10:30 a.m. A quick chat was necessary as I had not seen Dave since Malvern the previous year. We rejoined the M6, but as soon as practical went onto the A6. This is a super, relatively unused road that swoops up and over Shap. Just before Shap village my gear linkage lost a bolt. A short stop, tools out and a suitable replacement nut and bolt fitted and we were on our way again through Penrith to Carlisle. Here we joined first the A74 then the A75 to Newton Stewart, where we turned onto the A714 to Wigtown, our destination.
We booked into the Bladnoch Inn, and changed into civilian clothes for a tour of the Bladnoch Distillery. This was a most interesting hour or so spent in the capable hands of a pretty museum guide who enthused us with the intricacies of whisky distilling and the history of the distillery, followed of course by a tot of the special stuff.
We returned to the hotel where we enjoyed a pint or two sat outside in the early evening sunshine, followed by a very satisfying meal. As we later sat in the bar, a guy popped in on his way home from his office, having seen the two Laverdas outside. He introduced himself as Robbie Murphie, who lived locally and had a Jota. His Jota is looked after by Keith Nairn, the Glasgow Laverda ace. It was Keith who had rebuilt my RGS earlier this year and I had mentioned to him our Scottish trip. Typical Keith, he had said “oh, I will pop down for a pint and a chat.”
Chatting at the pub (from left): David Davies, Robbie Murphie, Keith Nairn and David Minton.
Robbie left and quite frankly we were both relaxed and probably ready for sleep. Not so; Robbie returned about an hour later and said he had telephoned Keith, who was now on his way down. What followed was a really great evening of mainly motorcycle chat, beer, and more chat such that Robbie sorted out a bed for Keith to rest his head. Thanks to our accommodating host we eventually retired after midnight.
The following morning it was another fine day. At breakfast we were joined by Keith, and more chat before he was off back to Glasgow. There were Laverdas to be fettled.
The previous evening when we were discussing our return journey, Robbie had advised us to avoid the A75 and take the A712 out of Newton Stewart through New Galloway to rejoin the A75 at Crocketford.
What a fantastic road the A712 is, through beautiful scenery with dips, crests and curves. The 180 and 120 Laverdas were really on song. Both David and I agreed later that it was the best 50 miles or so we had traversed in a long time. Thanks, Robbie.
We arrived in Carlisle at 12:30 p.m. to meet with Cyril Ayton, who was the editor of that illustrious monthly Motor Cycle Sport through the 1960s into the 1980s. David had been a regular contributor to MCS during that time. Cyril is now in his 80s, but still rides the three motorcycles in his garage. What an interesting guy to listen and talk to, so much information and history about motorcycles and motorcycling in his head. It is worth mentioning he even owned a Laverda at one time. We could easily have stayed longer, but after three hours or so we had to leave to continue our journey.
The two Laverdas pause to rest near Weardale on the B6278.
We left Carlisle on the A69 with the idea of branching south onto the A689 to Alston. However, we were enjoying the ride in spite of the traffic so eventually turned south at Hexham onto some super roads to Blanchland then to our destination at Rookhope. I must say that we found other traffic on the A69 in particular very courteous to our two Laverdas. One courtesy remembered was a trucker coming towards us who flashed his spotlights on his cab roof. A sign? There was a camera van parked in a lay-by just a couple of miles further on. Thank you to that trucker, surely a fellow motorcyclist.
We arrived at Trish and Peters house about at about 5:30 p.m., again changed into civilian clothes and relaxed with a nice cup of tea (it was too early …). Peter had thankfully booked a table at a nearby hostelry to which we later adjourned for, apart from the food and the alcohol, more reminiscing. Another full and interesting day.
Wednesday dawned overcast but dry, and following a delicious breakfast prepared by our hosts, David and I headed south to Middleton-in-Teesdale. Here we parted company, David heading towards Brough and the M6/A6 south to Herefordshire, and I heading towards Barnard Castle, Scotch Corner then south on the A1 to my home near Wakefield. The final part of my ride remained dry, but David encountered heavy rain through Cheshire.
My ride finished about midday with the RGS parked again in her garage. I was buzzing when I went indoors; my dear wife and her daughter, who was staying with us, do not understand the pleasure we get from just riding motorcycles. Five hundred twenty miles, nearly three days, and 41 mpg. It had been a really great ride with a great friend, something I do not do enough of these days.
David Davies' Laverda RGS looks as a Laverda should; ridden!