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The primary objective of this trip was to test the wild claims of various midge repellent products. Oh, and also to meet up with family and celebrate my mothers 80th birthday.

The thousand plus miles round trip was characterised by gusty winds and torrential rain making for very uncomfortable riding conditions. So, fair weather by Scottish standards!


XRV and Loch Garry in a rare dry spell

On the way north I was diverted from my intended route through central Scotland due to landslides on the A84. I used the A9 on the way back rather than drop down the west coast as I’d intended, also due to appallingly bad weather. In strict accordance to Sod’s Law the weather in Orkney, when I was dutifully confined to my brother’s car on a frenetic sightseeing itinerary, was sunny and dry. However, I did manage to steal a ride each evening to indulge in the fine roads and revisit some of the historical sites and fantastic viewpoints in solitude and a twilight atmosphere.


Downtown Kirkwall

The beauty of Orkney is that nothing is that far from anything else, unless you want to get to the northern islands or Hoy, all of which demand a ferry or plane ride. There’s plenty to keep you occupied on the mainland and the connected islands. Tourism trades on it’s wartime past – the Italian Chapel, Churchill Barriers and half the German battle fleet at the bottom of Scapa Flow – to the numerous Neolithic and Viking sites and heritage – Skara Brae, Mine Howe, Ring of Brodgar, Birsay and so on.


The Stones of Stenness

There’s plenty of interesting wildlife, loads of sea birds, owls, hen harriers and the unique Orkney vole! You couldn’t describe the mainland as scenically spectacular like western Scotland (though any vista including the mountainous Hoy nearly does it) or barren moorland as in Caithness, but it’s a pleasantly agricultural landscape.


The mountains of Hoy refelcted in Loch Stenness


Orkney coastline with Hoy in the background

Like the Highlands, the roads are well surfaced, few hedges or walls impede your view and there are some incredibly long straights. The good roads means you can really get a wriggle on if you want too, but I found more pleasure in kicking back and enjoying the view and atmosphere. Orkney is definitely a place I could comfortably live were it not for the endless winter nights and long running but still unresolved midge vs. human conflict. Unlike the midges, the people are extremely friendly and accommodating.


One of the Churchill Barriers


The Pentland Firth was choppy, but fun.

This was my first ‘long-distance’ trip on the Africa Twin and it proved capable, reliable and ultimately ‘fun’ to ride. I was impressed with its carrying ability, fuel consumption/tank range, riding position and mirrors that actually function at speeds in excess of 40 mph. The (standard) seat wasn’t as bad as I’d anticipated but still pretty uncomfortable; I did cover 420 miles in one day and ached afterwards. While I’d do it again I probably wouldn’t look forward to it with eager anticipation. A comfy seat is at the top of the shopping list.

I was concerned over the AT’s reaction to turbulence and gusty side winds even though I wasn’t overloaded and my tyres are in good shape. I got to thinking that perhaps there was too much air in the tyres or the front or rear suspension is shot or the fairing is unstable or one-hundred-and-one other problems. However, other riders I spoke to on the ferry were all complaining so perhaps it was just very windy. Still, the AT, and therefore I, was not happy in the gusty side winds and it needed a confident approach to run through the confused turbulence when overtaking trucks. Despite these character traits it did the job.

In fulfilling my primary objective the whole trip was a complete disaster. Anything over a gentle breeze will ground even a Scottish midge. As the wind was rarely below hurricane force I don’t think I even bagged one on the fairing and I feel cheated of the encounter! I left armed with your recommendations: Marmite, Avon Skin-so-Soft Woodland Fresh Shower Gel, Tabard, Autan, Jungle Formula, Permethrin, ad infinitum. Sadly, I can offer you no empirical or anecdotal evidence as to their efficiency in repellence.
 

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Excellent report mate!

At least you have an excuse to go back and try it out another time :D The last time I went to Scotland on a roadtrip we missed out on Isle of Skye which I desperately would like to see and Orkney is also on the list now 8)
 
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