Five destinations to ride over a (long) weekend, part 3

Sometimes a weekend out on your bike is all you need to ‘break free’ and get things sorted out in your mind.

A gust of fresh air, heading from your nostrils to the bottom of your lungs and back, cleaning out any fog in your thoughts.

Aah! No worries, we’ve got you covered: for the third time we’ve gathered five suggestions for a (long) weekend out in Europe, weaved together by Motorcycle Diaries Roads.

Mind you: the kilometers we’re showing you are only the ones of the MD Roads - you’ll gather a bunch more under your belt while connecting the ‘dots’.

Enjoy!

 

Scotland (GB)

 

Is it the love of whisky, kilts and ceilidhs - the Gailic way of saying ‘party’ -  which lures us towards the upper part of Great Britain?

Or is it the national dish on the inside of a sheep's stomach, the monster at the bottom of a Loch, or maybe, just maybe, the mind-boggling combination of towering mountains, glittering lochs, dense woodlands and miles upon miles of golden beaches?

Whatever you prefer, Scotland's Highlands will take your breath away, no doubt about it. In order for you to experience it firsthand, we’ve selected ten MD-roads and modelled them into a mindblowing weekend trip. Hop on!

Starting off in Glen Coe, within the awe-inspiring Lochaber Geopark in the Highlands, we’re immediately submerged in the deep valleys and towering mountains of Glen Coe - which were carved out centuries ago by icy glaciers and volcanic explosions.

No wonder the A82 - that featured in films such as James Bond’s Skyfall and several Harry Potter movies - takes you straight through the heart of an ancient volcano.

Stop and look back as you pass Loch Achtriochtan for a spectacular view back up the glen.

At Tyndrum, you turn to the west, for a great 17 kilometer ride towards Dalmally - a brief but swift breeze, which features some of the smoothest s-bending in the country.

A short ride along the A819 will get you to Inveraray in no time, where Loch Fyne will accompany you all the way up to Lochgilphead, where you’ll hit the A816 towards Oban.

The latter is a road of many characters: you can lose yourself in the twisty valley ride between Kilninver and Kilmelford, enjoy the rich coastal views around the famous Arduaine Garden, and blast through the tight uphill curves south of Craobh Haven before blissfully arriving in Oban.

At which point you could opt to ride on to Connel and upwards, or choose a fun way to discover some of the Inner Hebrides: buy a rather cheap (multi)day-pass for the ferries, so we can do a bit of island hopping!

The first barge will take you from Oban towards Craignure, for a small detour on the beautiful Isle of Mull. Follow the A848 northwest towards Tobermory, before making another oversea crossing, heading for Kilchoan.

From thereon, the B8007 will lead you to Salen, where you turn left on the A861, to start zigzagging your way up towards Lochailort. The magnificent B830 steers you towards the port of Mallaig, where you can hop onto the next ferry, which’ll bring you safely to Armadale, on the Isle of Skye.

Quite the trip, but worth it nevertheless: from its rugged, rocky and wild Cuillin ridge, to the colorful town of Portree, the Old Man of Storr or the Quiraing, the Isle of Skye has what it takes to enchant you for life. 

After the conquest of Skye, we’ll return ‘home’ via the A87 - yep, for the second time around, but in the reverse direction, heading for Invermoriston this time - before riding alongside the infamous Loch Ness, passing Fort Augustus and Fort William, and finishing at the fairytale-like Glen Coe again.

A stunner of a day, or Latha air leth, as Gaelic Scotsmen would say.

Download the GPX of our weekend ride in Sctoland. 

Brittany (FR)

 

Over to the northwestern part of France, where a stunning land of legends awaits, which combines traditions and authenticity into a magnificent blend. Wild cliffs, rocky coasts, fern-covered moors, mysterious forests - the region's natural heritage is exceptional and draws many visitors every year, not in the least motorcycle enthusiasts.

No wonder, if you take the mild, oceanic climate into account, as well as the joyful atmosphere of the place and its impressive heritage.

As we were talking about natural heritage, you probably won’t mind if we kick things off in the truly stunning Parc Naturel d'Armorique.

The D785 severs this green marvel from north to south, while combining perfect tarmac, great vistas and some very nice curves for you to enjoy up until Pleyben.

From thereon the D42 from Kervel to Rumengol leads you in the direction of the magnificent coastal gem of Le Faou,  and up towards the Daoulas in the northernmost part of the Armorique, guiding you and your motorcycle past the fortified city of Brest, before taking a halt near the lighthouse of Saint-Matthieu. Near the steep cliffs battered by the sea and winds, the eye-catching lighthouse watches over the ruins of a former abbey - a truly compelling scene.

Furthermore the port of Le Conquet is nigh - not even four kilometers away -  which is the departure point par excellence for trips to the Isles of Ouessant and Molène.

Well worth a detour, if you have the time! Not in the mood for sailing? No worries, the road awaits. Before devouring the gently sweeping, nearly 35-kilometer long stretch of D28 towards Tréglonou, you might be interested in a runaround via the Pointe de Kermorvan - a great place to park your bike for a while, have a rest and take a stroll along the stunning seaside landscape. 

Next up is 33 kilometers of easily curving roads on nearly perfect tarmac: the D28, leading us from Keruzou towards Tréglonou, after which we’ll continue east via the D59 and D38 heading for Kernilis, then make a small detour towards Brignogan-Plage

After a well-deserved pause, we’ll steer back inland towards Lesneven, where the D788 in the direction of Kervren awaits.

A nicely winding road, going up and down with good visibility, perfect tarmac and wide curves. Icing on the cake is a finish in Roscoff: this small town has tons of character, thanks to its richly decorated fisherman's houses, a church in the flamboyant Gothic style, and much more.

Visitors never fail to be charmed by this town, which is both a port and a seaside resort. Offshore is the Isle of Batz, with a mild climate that makes it an ideal place to relax.

En avant!

Download the GPX of our weekend ride in Brittany. 

Andalucia (ES)

 

A good day of riding closer to the equator, the southern Spanish region of Andalucia awaits.

Its coastline stretches for almost 900 kilometres and is home to a large number of cities, towns and beaches that are a delight to visit. But there’s more waiting for you inland: a diversity of landscapes and geographical terrain, ranging from the heat of the Guadalquivir River valley through to sumptuous mid-mountain areas, volcanic scenery such as the Tabernas desert, and even the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada.

This region has got it all: in barely fifty kilometers you can go from mountain landscapes to tropical areas on the shores of the Mediterranean, while discovering a land of culture, history, fiestas, nature areas and excellent food.


Take for instance Marbella, the starting point for this trip - if there’s one place in Spain us motorcycle journos know like the back of our hand, it’s this city.

Well, not exactly the city center to be fair, but its mountainesque surroundings, a bit further inland. The first part of our trip hits off just west of Marbella, and curves its way from the coastline into the first couple of mountains of the national park of the Sierra de las Nieves, and along Istan Lake, which provides water for the ever growing population of Marbella and the Costa del Sol.

Brace yourself for about 15 kilometers of beautifully twisting roads - although that’s merely a prelude for what’s next: quite a few kilometers of soft offroad, perfectly doable on your average road bike.

In order to reach our next road, you’ll have to meander your way north up the dusty but firm Camino del Cercado, until you spot a sign pointing left for ‘Tolox’.

This easy track along the Sierra de las Nieves, provides riders amazing views above mountains, lakes and the Mediterranean, as well as riding pleasure and the experience of being completely alone in this wonderful place.

No worries if you’re not too fond of offroading, as from the peaceful but rather cheerless town of Tolox - we suggest you wait for Ronda to get a first cup of coffee - on, we’ll continue over paved roads for the remainder of this trip.

A small connection stretch lures us to Alozaina, where we turn westbound for two parts of the truly stunning A366 that’ll drag us over El Burgo to the gorgeous mountaintop city of Ronda.

The perfect place to take a rest, visit the Arab baths, El Barrio, the stunning old town and of course the Almocabar Bridge, before you grab a well-deserved cup of molten toffee at Restaurant Don Miguel, for instance, which offers a stunning view on the majestic Ponte Nuevo.

All caffeïned up, you’ll be ready for a mind-boggling clockwise tour around the the Parque Naturel de la Sierra de Grazalema, via the MA 7401, the MA 8401 and the A373, before the A372 takes you to Zahara de la Sierra and Grazalema

The first one is a former Moorish outpost which is nestled at the foot of the Sierra del Jaral, on a hilltop surrounded by turquoise water of the nearby reservoir lake.

At the top, the castle keeps watch over this whitewashed village and the surrounding area.

After taking your time to discover the village, the CA-9104 twists its way up and down a rather narrow road towards the very cozy town of Grazalema.

Make sure to keep your eyes open during the ride, as the road will feast them with dazzling scenery on at least one side of the tarmac. From there, 45 minutes in the saddle will take you back to Ronda - the ideal starting place to descend via El Madrona towards Marbella.

Right on time for a stunning sunset over the Mediterranean.

Download the GPX of our weekend ride in Brittany. 

 

Liguria & Emilia-Romagna (Northern Italy)

 

Although every man and his dog knows the lush scenery of Tuscany, or the majestic Italian Alps and Dolomites, the north-western coastal region of Italy, with Liguria and Emilia-Romagna, appears to be lesser known.

Strange, seeing as the region features impressive mountains and lovely rolling hills, colored by the green Mediterranean turf, while constantly overlooking the Ligurian Sea. The two are divided by a high, indented coastline, which rather naturally creates a wide array of things to do and see during a visit here.

Our starting point, however, is a rather unnoted crossroads between the towns of Bosio and Mornese - a few kilometers north of the Parco Naturale delle Capanne di Marcarolo. A 32 kilometer-long asphalted swirl, roughly heading for Genua - still one of the largest seaports of the Mediterranean, historic home of Christopher Colombus and a gateway to the Riviera for many travellers today.

Make sure to pay a visit to its extensive old city, famous for its twisting maze of so-called ‘caruggi’ - narrow streets, perfect for an authentic cup of coffee any time of the day - the splendid Via Garibaldi and the shiny gold-leaf halls of the Palazzi dei Rolli.


We’ll leave the city via the northern ‘city gates’, riding the SS45 away from Genua. It might seem a bit busy at first, but from Cassavolo on, it’s reduced in size and starts to twirl eagerly. The part of 60 kilometers we’ve selected runs from Val Trebbia Bobbio towards Laccio, which guarantees a truly fantastic bit of riding. It tends to be rather crowded during weekends, as local bikers know its twisty character as well, and are coming to ride this road up and down. Word of advice: don’t try to follow them during your first attempt…

A joy to ride, that keeps on entertaining up until Bobbio, where we’ll continue for a small detour in Lombardy. The nicely winding SP412 towards Pianello Val Tidone spoils us with pretty good tarmac and a seam of trees along the road, which might hide the surrounding scenery a bit, but make it special as well.

The SP586 will take us back in the direction of the Ligurian coastline, but just after Castagnola, we’ll trade in the Strada Provinciale for a much smaller, unnamed road leading us through very rural Italian scenery from Boschi towards the magnificent SP654 and SP81, dragging us over the stunning Passo del Zovallo - take care, its surface changes rapidly from very good to very bad - and through an endless string of curves towards Anzola.

A road of 25 kilometers worth riding up and down, multiple times. And still, we’ve saved the best bit for last: The Cinque Terre is a great, UNESCO-awarded National Park with the five colorful villages - cinque means five, remember - overlooking the sea. It is situated in the Liguria region of Italy, and comprises Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.

The road connecting those five is not the one we’ve picked for you, but it does pass by them in a very appealing way: twisting and turning in the mountains above the villages, looking over the Italian Riviera as you go.

Brilliant bit of riding, and well worth a quintuple detour for a short break for you and your bike. Enjoy! 

Download the GPX of our weekend ride in Liguria & Emilia-Romagna.

 

Border hopping along the Adriatic coastline

 

From the Ligurian Sea to the Adriatic coastline, which is mainly covered by a rocky, boldly shaped territory, and is well-known for its crystal clear sea water, and hundreds of islands.

We’re about to do some island-and-border-hopping starting off in Dubrovnik, rightfully nicknamed ‘the pearl of the Adriatic’, and probably most famous for its ‘role’ as King’s Landing in Game Of Thrones.

In the spectacular old city, you can revisit the Blackwater Battle, visit the so-called ‘House of the Undying’, and even recreate your own enthralling season finale. We’ll if you’re REALLY into GOT, that is. 

But even better, it forms a perfect starting point for the last motorcycle trip in this series, as it takes us for 53 kilometers along the Adriatic coastline, splitting away from the main D8-road, avoiding the rather busy border-crossing near Plocice, and instead spoiling you with magnificent seaside views and ensuring a more enjoyable border-crossing at the desert border post of Njivice.

A short ride later, around the bay of Kotor, the challenging hillclimb from Kotor to Cetinje awaits. 

The road kicks off along one of Montenegro's most beautiful bays - Boka Bay -  in the colourful city of Kotor.

The Old City of Kotor is a well preserved urbanization typical of the Middle Ages, built between the 12th and 14th century. 

But be wary of the fact that this road is not for novices, nor for sissies, as there is little to no room for error.

As motorcycling is all about ‘going where you’re looking’, do yourself a favor and try not to peek over their edge: there’s only a mind boggling vertical drop of hundreds of meters awaiting…

The most seductive part of the road is a merely 8 kilometer long stretch, which consists of 16 hairpin turns, called the Kotor Serpentine.

What’s in a name. The narrow one-lane road, slithers its way up the seaside mountain, offering stunning views over Kotor bay from above.

Be careful though:  the road itself is in dreadful condition and requires strong nerves to negotiate it. 

After a quick stop in Cetinje, and a short stroll along the P15, you’re up for another bit of border hopping, as the Montenegrin-Serbian border awaits: in Stedim, we’ll leave the P15 and turn west for the M6, which’ll take us all the way across the border towards Serbia at Niksic, splendidly through Bosnia and Herzegovina via Trebinje, and back to Croatia via Ivanica. Instead of heading back to Dubrovnik, we’ve opted to cross the Adriatic via a few short boat rides.

The first one will take us from Prapratno towards Sobra on the Isle of Mljet, an isle that is natural reserve in the northern part, but will surprise you with a wonderful little piece of paradise in the south as well.

Great to enjoy one of the numerous beaches, as well as a ride on the magnificent 120 - which crosses the island from north to south.

As there’s only one road and one port on the island, we’ll return via Sobra to Prapratno, and continue our trip on the adjoining peninsula.

The truly marvellous 414 stretches from Ston to Loviste, and is curlier than your average plate of spirelli - so we guess you won’t mind to retake a bit of this road to get to the ferry in Trpanj.

That one - the last one of the day, we promise! - will carry you over to Ploce, where our last stretch of tarmac heading for Split awaits: the stunning 512 from Ravca to Makarska

After a ride through some average mountains,  you’ll arrive at a right hander and suddenly realise that your not even two kilometers away from the sea, but still at a height of about 800 meters. Needless to say the seaside views from this point on are nothing but ravishing.

Roughly 30 kilometers which will end too soon. So why not make a U-turn and start over? 

Download the GPX of our weekend ride on the adriatic coast

 

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