A modern scooter is cheap to run, dependable and can cover serious distances quite easily so what do you do when you have a spare long weekend, a bit of cash and a Vespa GTS? That’s right, you bungee a tent on, pack some rations and ride to The Highlands of Scotland just for the hell of it. Or at least that’s what young scooter rider and racer, James Lancaster did the other weekend.
I didn’t have much planned last weekend. I was just going to have a chilled one until I found £50 in my jeans pocket so I thought ‘How long can I go on £50 around England? I’ve got all my camping stuff and enough dried food to last a few days.’ I planned to ride up the east coast and up into Scotland and back down the west coast through the Lake District and back home again.
At the end of day one I stopped in Staithes. This is where I spent all my childhood holidays and have so many good memories of the place. I got to where I knew would be quiet enough to wild camp only to find a few others who had the same idea but they were in campervans. I got chatting to a couple from Newcastle and told them about my story of what I was trying to achieve and she saw me eating a reduced price Cornish pasty. In true mothers style, she fed me with sandwiches and gave me cans of beer and fruit. There are still good people in this world. I put the tent up at the top of the cliff ready for sunset and sat there just enjoying a cider.
Day 2 – change of plan
So the £50 trip has come to a end… for now! I got into Scotland like planned and I do have a tank of fuel and a Jerry can full as well, which might have got me home but where is the fun in that? I was enjoying myself. I decided to continue north instead of turning around and headed to the Isle of Skye, which has been on my bucket list for a while. It’s a 5+ hour ride through some amazing roads, like Cadwell Park on steroids. The whole reason for this trip was to see how much on so little you can do and how a simple easy life beats the normal 9-5 rat race. If I can do this whole trip for £100, that’s five days away in some of the best places in the UK and it will hopefully give other people inspiration to get out and do more.
Yes, I had help from some very generous friends and strangers who fed and watered me but that just shows there are still good kind people in this world. People that will help you when you need it most and if you’re on two wheels it’s much easier to strike up a conversation.
With a five and a half-hour ride to where I wanted to be, I left Motherwell around 10 am to have a ‘steady’ ride. I went through Glasgow on boring motorway roads but at least it was lovely weather and the bike was singing. After carving through the traffic to get through the city it was then onto Loch Lomand, which has been on my bucket list for some time. As I got further north the whole landscape started to change and the roads got narrower and more twisty. With the loch to my right and mountains to my left it was time to strap in and take in the views of this beautiful place.
I was stopping every mile or so just to take in the views and let a few bikes past, only to catch up with them later but that’s a different story I’ll get onto that in a bit. If you can imagine for a minute, I’m going through this stunning valley with mountains and lochs surrounding me, life was pretty perfect until a rustling noise stopped on the bike I had lost a waterproof cover to my panniers so if anyone finds an Oxford cover around Loch Lomand it’s mine. With this little mishap, I pulled over to fill up with fuel and grab a quick coffee. Knowing I was heading up into The Highlands and that the weather can change quickly I repacked my panniers keeping all the essential stuff I needed to keep dry in the one side that had the cover.
Anyway, let’s move on from that and get back to these roads. The best way I could describe them is they should be banned. As I said earlier, it’s like Cadwell Park on steroids. I certainly had some fun on them with the group of lads on bikes who I mentioned earlier. I thought they must be heading my way as well. As I got into The Highlands everything opened up and I was surrounded by blue sky’s and bus loads full of tourists, I know what a pain right!
I was heading through Glencoe, which is stunning and I couldn’t help but pull over every few miles to grab a pic and take in what it had to offer. As I pulled out, in the distance I could see these group of lads on bikes again. There were around 10-15 of them, mostly GS BMWs and enduro bikes with the odd GSX-R to spice things up a bit but they were all loaded up with kit on like myself. I got to the top of the road, looking down I could see the roads for miles. Strap in kids! The poor Vespa was knocking on the limiter more times than a smackhead at the Post office on giro day but she was keeping up with these bikes and picking a few off through the slower sections.
I was around 8 miles from the Isle of Skye by now and I saw the ferry sign, so I thought stuff it, I’m gonna grab that and do something a bit different than planned. The road leading to the ferry can only be described as a logging track with the odd bit of tarmac and bends. There’s a few cars on this road as well which slowed things down between me and the lads on the bikes but I slipped through and managed to get to the front with a mile or so to go. I pressed on and I could see the ferry in the distance coming to my side of the shore. This isn’t a P&O ferry mind you, Time Team are gonna come and put it in a museum!
I got to the front of the queue, in front of some cars to ask the bloke If I could pay by card as remember I only had over a pound in change left over from the £50 challenge. Shit, as the little sign says ‘cash only.’ I go up to the skipper to ask and he just points to the front of the ferry and says “Get on, we’ll sort it.” I don’t think he heard me say do you have a card machine so I got on the ferry and to my delight, me and the few cars behind all got on, the group of lads on bikes had to wait for the next one… result!
Spare any change?
With a smug smile still on my face, I got a tap on the shoulder and a mucky old hand in front of me saying “change!” At this point we’re half way across and all I had was some loose change and a three-day-old orange. I said I didn’t have enough and I asked to pay on card, he said: “How much do you have in change?” I told him and put the few coppers into his hand and he didn’t batter an eyelid. He kept saying how the bike smelt ‘warm’ and laughed saying how he was surprised it even made it up some of them hills, little did he know it blitzed most of the lads on the bikes chasing the ferry. So now I’m onto the Isle of Skye and the views are out of this world. All I can say is WOW!
I went and filled up with fuel and took some cash out of the bank and went for a ride around Skye. Sadly I was slightly disappointed, only because of how busy it was and every campsite, hotel and hostel was saying ‘full.’
Lost the shirt off his back
After riding 300+ miles I wanted a shower and was going to have to use my shirt, as I’d forgotten to bring a towel in my last-minute excitement to leave. I carried on riding and saw a sign saying ‘Inn and camping 5 miles this way.” It took me down some little road covered in passing places to get there, only to find it was full again. At this point, it was starting to rain and all I wanted to do was get off the bike to let it cool down. I saw a camper van driving down a little further on, down a road saying ‘keep out.’ The van was on French plates, maybe he’s lost? Maybe he knows something I don’t? So I follow him for around a mile or so to a beach which is beautiful with mountains either side. It had a nice grass section and several other people camped up as well. I decided to camp there for the night. The tent was set up and dinner cooking, just some leftover chicken from a takeaway the night before and an Uncle Ben’s rice pot for dinner – I was about to eat like a king.
Tuesday morning around 2 am I got back to Glasgow after leaving the Isle of Skye. The wind and rain was horrendous and the forecast said it was here to stay for two days. I’d packed up in the rain and made a run for the border. I wouldn’t want to ride on those roads again in those conditions, dark visors in the dark with torrential rain don’t mix. All in all, it was a fantastic trip and made me really keen to do a seriously long adventure on the GTS in a few months. The whole point of this trip was to show what can be done on so little. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but don’t let anything tie you down, as the only person stopping you from doing something is yourself.
Travelling is good for the mind
1003 miles, what a journey it was and all on just £120. My next trip will be roughly between 4000-5000 miles around the North of Europe. I’d like to set up a Just Giving page for a mental health charity, which I know almost everyone has suffered from with some sort of issue. Even myself recently. Sadly it’s becoming so common in people my age who are sadly taking their own lives.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be planning a route and getting things in place so if anyone could help out in any way it’d be much appreciated as all the proceeds will be going to charity. I want to self-fund the project as much as I can on what little I have. It’s time to dry everything out, clean and service the bike and get some work in to fund the next trip.
Words and photos: James Lancaster
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