Orson’s Travel Blog


Posts Tagged ‘Lake District

Being George Orwell

with 3 comments

Based on the film Being John Malkovich

In the aftermath of the Second World War, author George Orwell secluded himself on the bleak, outpost of Jura in the Inner Hebrides off the western coast of Scotland. It was here in the splendid isolation of the western isles that he wrote his opus, 1984. This is a journey to retrace his steps.

I departed from Nottingham in the East Midlands, traveling north through the Yorkshire Dales. If you’ve seen my previous trip reports, you know that the Yorkshire Dales are a bucolic setting worthy of being a destination in itself. It was on the narrow roads of West Yorkshire where TT champion David Jefferies honed his craft. Yorkshire is also home to the Lampkin motorcycle trials dynasty and it is not unusual to spot a number of trials bikes using public roads to link their trials areas. By chance, I come upon the The Yorke Arms hotel in a tiny village in the Nidderdale Valley that featured a Michelin starred restaurant. Sometimes I just get lucky.

The second day would be a short jaunt to the English Lake District, where I procured a room overlooking Lake Windermere


I spent the following day touring the Lake District passes in splendid October sunshine

Lake District 1

Lake District 2

Lake District 3

After an overnight stay near Glasgow, I head north along the scenic Loch Lomond with the splendid weather still holding firm

Loch Lomond

A left turn at Tarbert takes me on the A85 along the Loch Fyne

Loch Fyne

I reach the ferry port of Kennacraig at midday, and by some miracle, the ferry to Islay is loading. It’s as if it were meant to be. After about a 3 hour sail, we reach Port Askaig on Islay. I ride across the island to Bowmore where I secure a room right next to the Bowmore Distillery. The next morning, I catch the small ferry across the Sound of Islay to the Isle of Jura

Jura Ferry 1

Tourism is light at this time of year. I’m the only vehicle making the crossing. I guess the adventure riders went elsewhere

Jura Ferry 2

My only link to civilization disappears over the horizon (possible embellishment)

Jura Ferry 3

Looking across the Sound of Islay towards Islay

Islay Sound

The only road on the island heads up the east coast from the ferry port

Jura Road

A farm house with a million dollar view across the Sound of Islay

Farm House

Looking southwards


The splendid isolation and wild beauty of Jura, virtually unchanged in the sixty some years since Orwell travelled this same road


Orwell spent approximately three years writing 1984 in between jaunts with his son, hiking and exploring the island


Clusters of farm houses dot the coast


As you continue northwards, the road begins to deteriorate

Road 2

An unexpected patch of forest and pasture


Before the scenery opens up once more


I spotted numerous stags in the grasslands who exhibited no fear of human contact


Close up

Close Up

Four miles short of Orwell’s farmhouse in Barnhill, the ride comes to an abrupt end




Nothing left to do but turn around and head south on the same single track

Single Track

An old barn overlooks the coast, the Scottish mainland in the distance


Although Orwell’s writing thrived on the island, his health took a turn for the worse. In 1947 he was diagnosed with TB. At the time, there was no cure for the disease. He managed to finish 1984 in November 1948, and died early in 1950.

The only hotel on the island is the Jura Hotel in the village of Craighouse, where I stop for a lunch of tomato pepper soup and fresh crab


Soup 2

After a late lunch, I catch the four o’clock ferry back to Islay. Back on Islay, I ride along the narrow sound between Islay and Jura.

Looking across the sound to the Paps of Jura

Paps of Jura

A quick stop for refreshment at the Bunnahabhain Distillery


Another view across the Sound of Islay towards Jura. The natural light at these northern latitudes can sometimes provide some spectacular displays, especially when rain showers simultaneously compete alongside bright sunshine to produce some mesmerizing lighting effects which in turn compete with the beauty of the natural surroundings. Something of a reward for being out in inclement weather


Islay lacks a bit of the rugged isolation of Jura, but has its own special charm


Two friends along Loch Indall in southwestern Islay


The village of Portnahaven with the Orsay Lighthouse in the distance


Hairy Scottish cattle give me the once over


The 7 o’clock ferry was the only available crossing back to the mainland. UGH!


Watching the sunrise over Jura from aboard the ferry

Jura Sunrise

This description of an Islay malt made laugh. I had never seen spirits described in military terms

Islay Malt

After reaching the mainland, I take a short jaunt across the Kintyre Peninsula and catch another ferry to the Isle of Arran. The weather began to take a turn for the worse and I was holed up for two days waiting out the rain. Fortunately, I stayed in a comfortable country home with an excellent restaurant. Eventually, the rain tapered off, and I caught yet another ferry across the Firth of Clyde to the town of Ardrossan on the mainland.

Looking back at Arran from the ferry


After 5 days in Scotland, I head south back into England, where I make my way to visit an old friend in Shropshire. The next day would be a short hop across the Peak District back to Nottingham.

I stopped at the famous Cat & Fiddle Pub. As it is a sunny Sunday afternoon, the place is hopping with bikes

Cat & Fiddle

Not just bikes, but even some Lotuses (Loti?)


Even the Smart cars were out in force, cheekily making three parking spaces out of two


About an hour before reaching Nottingham, I pass thru the town of Matlock Bath, the East Midland’s answer to L.A.’s Rock Store. The town is bursting at the seams with hundreds of bikers enjoying the sunny Sunday afternoon. Almost looks like the main drag of Sturgis

Matlock Bath

Trip Stats:

Distance- +/- 1300 miles
Travel days- 9
Rest days- 3
Police sightings- 0
Deer sightings- 3
Bee stings- 0

Route maps:

Scotland leg


England leg


Written by orsonstravels

November 6, 2013 at 4:22 am

Italian Lake District

with 3 comments

Fall 2008

team orson managed to get one last ride in before winter’s icey tendrils gripped the Italian landscape. We decided to stay close to home and explore the Italian Lake district in the foothills of the Alps. After retrieving my Guzzi from Moto Guareschi in Parma, we made our way north via the backroads under sunny blue skies.

The first lake encountered would be Lake Garda. The southern end of the lake is a bit touristy, including the kitschy Gardaland, an italian takeoff on Disneyland. However, once you head north along the lake shore, you encounter many quaint villages, some with their own medievel castles.

Stopping for a leisurely lunch at the town of Garda on the east side of the lake.

Climbing up into the hills that surround the lake provide a better view.

At the north end of the lake, in the town of Arco, stands the imposing 12th century Castello di Arco.

Heading south on the western shore of Lake Garda, the road spends half the time cutting thru tunnels due to the steep cliffs.

The plan had been to head west towards Lake Como. However, at a gas stop in the town of Storo, just west of Lake Garda, the Goose began running on one cylinder. Fortunately, there was a car/motorcycle garage right across the street. The mechanic couldn’t do anything for me, but offered to load up the bike in his truck and take me to the Guzzi dealer in Rovereto.

I found a hotel room for the night and returned to the Guzzi shop the next morning. As they weren’t making any headway, they offered to let me take a new Moto Guzzi V7 for a ride. never one to turn down a free test ride, I jumped on it before they had any second thoughts. I headed southeast from Rovereto on SS46 thru the Passo Piani di Fugazzi. This is quite a spectacular pass with freshly paved tarmac and the little Guzzi performed admirably. Unfortunately, it had no place for my camera, so no pictures 😦

Returning to Rovereto, they were still having no luck diagnosing the Guzzi’s electrical problem. With the weekend looming, I didn’t want to be stranded, so I called Mr. Guareschi to come rescue me, since I was only 2 hours from Parma. For those who haven’t heard of him, Papa Guareschi is to Moto Guzzi as Pops Yoshimura was to Suzuki 🙂

Returning me and my Guzzi to Parma in his van, and seeing the next day was a Sunday, he kindly offered me the use of his new Moto Guzzi Stelvio. Top bloke. I stayed in Parma the night before continuing my vacation the following day.

Not willing to lose any more precious time, I blasted north to Lake Como via la autostrada. Lake Como is the spiritual home to Guzzisti the world over. Every Guzzisti is required by his faith to make the pilgrimage to Lake Como at least once in his lifetime 🙂

Heading north to Bellagio

Lake Como is shaped like an upside down Y with the idyllic town of Bellagio at the tip of a peninsula where the Y comes together. I arrived on a Sunday afternoon and Bellagio was bustling wth day trippers from Milan, including a wide assortment of bikers.

I also saw quite a noticeable contingent of Harley riders. Not the wannabe badasses seen in North America. These were the style with the wide beach bars. I call them George Clooney clones, as Mr. Clooney has been known to partake on the Lake Como roads on his Harley from his nearby villa.

An Aston Martin Vantage V-12 is like honey to a bear for Italians 🙂

The following morning, I hop on one of the numerous ferries to Menaggio on the western shore. Looking back at Bellagio off the ferry stern, the good weather was still staying with me.

I follow the old road north along the lake.

From Menaggio, I continue west to Lake Lugano. Italy shares Lake Lugano with Switzerland, however, wanting to avoid border crossing delays and snooty Swiss border guards, I decide to stay in Italy. I trace the southern shore of Lake Lugano before heading south into the hills between Lake Lugano & Lake Como.

October is a wonderful time to visit Italy. Most of the tourists have gone home, leaving the roads and the sites relatively traffic free. A soft, autumnal light caresses the landscape giving everything a portrait quality.

Climbing the road into the hills with Lake Lugano in the background.

Tiny villages cling to mountainsides.

The further I got into the hills, the narrower, the road became. It was probably a good thing I was on the Stelvio, as the road became a veritable goat path.

After about 20 kilometers of this, I finally made it over the ridgeline and began decending with Lake Como stretching out below me. Typical narrow streets encountered in the small mountain villages. Yes, trucks and busses pass this way.

With the sun sinking in the west, I tried to capture an image of the steep Lake Como hillside near the town of Pigra. Apologies for the poor lighting.

This was the best shot I could get of the road that clings to the lake shore near the town of Argegno.

Making my way back to Menaggio, it’s late afternoon by the time I hop on a ferry back to my hotel in Bellagio. Approaching Bellagio on the ferry.

You’d be hardpressed to find a lovlier village than Bellagio…

Narrow shopping street in Bellagio.

A park and a weir at the tip of the Bellagio peninsula looking west towards Menaggio.

Another narrow alleyway opens up onto a view of the lake.

A quiet lakeside cafe

I head south towards Lecco at dusk to capture the image of the road carved from rock. Apologies for the poor lighting. The ever-suffering team orson photographer continues to whine that he can’t work with inferior equipment.

Another ferry approaches Bellagio. The ferry service is quite efficient as I never had to wait more than 15 minutes to catch one. The Italians love for speed is evident in the super cool hydrofoils that ply the lakes.

Disclaimer: team orson regrets having to post these images of rampant hedonism. It is hoped that by publishing these images, we can better understand the mindset of the hedonist.

Sunset over Lake Como from the hotel balcony.

Watching the news, it is evident that an imminent cold front is approaching from northern Europe and bringing rain with it. team orson is forced to make an executive decision and drop down south to a defensive line along the Ligurian coast. The next morning still has blue skies, so we make time for a quick dash eastward via Varese, skirting Lake Varese to the Lake Maggiore ferry crossing at Laveno.

Crossing Lake Maggiore looking towards Verbania on the opposite shore.

Staying ahead of the cold front, we follow the western shore of the lake heading southwards to Arona, before jumping onto la autostrada for a quick 3 hour dash to the Ligurian coast.

The Isola Borromee are a trio of islands that have ornate gardens and palaces built by the Borromee family since the 1650s.

Regarding the Lake District as a motorcycling destination, in all honesty, the roads aren’t conducive to sport riding. The roads are very twisty with lots of traffic and few places to pass, even for a motorcycle. There are few roads inland from the lakes, as the mountain terrain is so steep. Mr. Clooney’s idea of cruising around on a Harley make more sense. If you can’t go fast, you may as well go slow and enjoy the lush views.

Approaching Genoa on the coast, I find myself tiring of the autostrada and beat a quick exit for a road following the coastline in the hills above Genoa. It turns out to be a fortuitous decision as the road turns out to be a freshly paved supermotard track. Unfortunately it’s a track that contains four-wheeled competitors so care must be taken on blind curves 🙂

I have to say…Gawd, I love Italian riding. Motorcycles can get away with anything short of murder and cops just look the other way 🙂 You pass where you want, when you want and nobody honks at you. Solid white lines are meaningless. There were times when I would fall back into American riding, trundling along behind slower traffic, only to be buzzed by a sweet young thing on her moped.

I’m old enough now where my manhood isn’t threatened by such things. In one town a young thang zipped by me, while waving to a friend she saw. At least she wasn’t texting and waving. I stayed behind her on the narrow road to Portofino. Coming around one corner, we met a bus that took up most of the road, leaving a three foot gap between the bus and a wall of granite. Miss moped didn’t bat an eyelash, kept the throttle pinned and shot the gap between the bus and the wall. I stayed in her mirrors just to preserve my masculinity 🙂

Approaching the coast overlooking the town of Santa Margherita.

I decide to head for the quaint, if touristy village of Portofino and find a hotel that can make a martini. I strike paydirt, scoring a nice hotel near the mouth of the harbor.

The road leading to Portofino.

Last time I visited Portofino was in May of 2002 and I had gotten a bad vibe from the place from the rampant tourism. In October, it was a different story. With the throngs of tourists gone, you could almost squint and imagine what a lovely place it once was.

My plan to escape the rain had worked, as I had awoken to overcast skies, but no rain. After the funfilled supermotard track of the previous day, I decided to head up into the Ligurian hills and explore. I was finally encountering some motorbike worthy roads.

I came away very impressed with the hills around Genoa. I must make it a point to explore this region with more thoroughness 🙂

The final day on the road dawned with cloudy skies yet again, but the clouds had yet to unleash their damp revenge. After a leisurely breakfast with one last dossage of Italian cappuccinos, I head towards Parma across the autumn-hued Appenine range.

Trip route:


Mileage: uhmmm…I lost track. Maybe close to 2000 km in 8 days.
Carabinieri encounters: 1
Puckers: 1 (sand in curve)
Bee stings: 0

The Lake District

with one comment

September ’04

It was a dreary, drizzly morning as I set off from Nottingham in the British Midlands headed for the Lake District on the Scottish frontier. My route would take me through the Peak District & the Yorkshire Dales, both designated as National Parks. My English friend, Bill had supplied me with maps marking all the day rides he takes through the area. The weather forecast called for clearing skies later in the day so, with hope in my heart, I set out, keeping to the backroads. I spent the day meandering through the Peak District hoping the skies would eventually clear. Alas, it was not to be. I snorkeled my way through the day. The Peak District is where the infamous Cat & Fiddle pub is located. You may have read about it in BIKE magazine. I didn’t make it there & with the wet weather, it was just as well. I’ll have to get back & re-ride this section. Sorry, no pictures of the Peak District. I found a hotel in Huddersfield that was right next to an Italian restaurant. Looked like a good place to stop

I woke up the next day to bright blue skies. I guess someone felt sorry for me. After a full English breakfast (I’m finally getting used to the idea of baked beans & stewed tomatoes for breakfast. I’m being assimilated) I headed northwest towards the Yorkshire Dales. You know you’ve really left the busy industrialized southern England behind. The region has fewer roads and filled with buccolic countryside & storybook villages. Here is a shot just north of Skipton.

The Yorkshire Dales are very beautiful. At times it can seem sparse, stark & windswept. Other times, you’d think there can be no more prettier place on the planet. The roads that my friend had mapped out for me were all small backroads seldom more than a car wide. At some places there was a gate across the road where I’d dismount, open the gate, ride through, close the gate, & on to the next gate. It kept the average speed down. Not that I was too concerned. The roarty, torquey Triumph was perfectly suited to these roads. You’d think it was built here. Oh wait…it was.
Here’s a typical shot of the Yorkshire Dales. Note the stone walls. They take great pride in the construction of these walls and it shows.

One of the best features of these back roads were the motocross jumps they had engineered into them. every now & then you’d see a dip up ahead & you just *knew* you could catch some air with some judicious throttle control. Big fun…erm…not that I would condone such activity…it just looked like it would be fun. Yah, that’s my story. Another great feature was the stone walls lining the road provided a perfect echo chamber for listening to the glorious parallel twin exhaust note as you powered out of a corner. I’m sure there was another reason they built the walls, I just don’t know what it is.

It is said that Yorkshire lad David Jefferies honed his craft on these roads. After my brief visit, it’s easy for me to see that riding these roads would tend to make the Isle of Man TT course seem like a super highway! Here is a shot of the Buttertub Pass north of Hawes (Hawes is a big biker meeting place on Sundays).

A secluded waterfall I encountered as I neared the village of Dent, my stop for the night.

another look at the ubiquitous stone walls that line virtually every mile of the backroads. They take such great pride in their workmanship that there’s even books written on the stone walls of the Yorkshire Dales.

West Yorkshire village…

The tiny village of Dent, that my friend had recommended, would be my stop for the night. A quaint little village if ever there was one. The Sun Inn had its own micro brewery so, I fell right to sleep that night (you fill in the rest).

The next morning I was awoken by a loud ray of bright sunshine glaring right thru my window. Someone forgot to close the curtains. Ah well, I was to be blessed with 2 days of sunshine in a row! From the Yorkshire Dales to the Lake District is but a mere hop skip & a jump! After another full English breakfast ( I love black pudding. Don’t wanna know how it’s made) I set off heading northwest.

Main Street in Dent.

The road leaving the village of Dent. Coming from Arabia, I was dazzled by the greenery. Notice the moss on the wall. It was like, 1 inch thick! After staring at the moss for a few minutes, I regained my composure and continued on my merry way.

I arrived in the Lake District via the town of Windermere. As the forecast for the next day called for rain, I figured I’d better ride the famous Wrynose & Hardknott Passes today. The Lake District is arguably even more beautiful than the Yorkshire Dales & the four wheeled traffic attests to that! It kinda reminded me of western North Carolina (kinda sorta). However, the traffic thinned out as I moved west towards the passes.

Stopping to get my bearings in the village of Ulpha…

Stone bridge in the Lake District…

The approach to the Hardknott Pass from the west. The saddle in the upper right corner of the photo is the pass. Yah, that’s how wide the road is.

…over the top of the Hardknott and looking down the other side to the east. I’m glad I rode these roads while it was dry. The road was narrow & steep with lots of sharp off camber hairpin turns. Wouldn’t be prudent in the wet. Thankfully, traffic was light.

After negotiating the Hardknott & Whynot…erm…I mean Wrynose, I made my way back to Windermere via the ferry across Lake Windermere.

From Windermere I headed over the Kirkstone Pass…another fine road that the torquey Triumph took in stride.

to Lake Ullswater…

I must have counted a billion sheep. Unfortunately, time was running out & I had to slab it back to Nottingham in time to catch my plane. I hope to make it back soon! Over 5 days, I covered about 1050 miles with no police sightings. All in all, it was a great trip despite a couple days of rain.