Loch Leven and a Kawasaki GPZ 500s

When I dropped a motorcycle on my leg, breaking it in three places, my ankle and two leg bones, my sister, who lived next door to me at that time, persuaded me to hang up my motorcycle boots. I did and bought a small car, which served us well so we could go together to the supermarket and use it for gallivanting around the country. When I moved to St Andrews a car became superfluous, I was now on my own and the bus station was only yards away from my front door.

Mostly I have had to steel myself past motorcycle shops but the day arrived when I saw an advert for a Kawasaki GPZ 500s, a motorcycle I had new back in 1988. When the Kawasaki first came onto the market in the UK in 1987 my old BMW R80RT was now five years old and I needed a change. The GPZ 500s was billed as half a GPZ 1000RX (the fastest production bike in the world at that time.)

On visiting the Kawasaki dealership and settling my bum on the bike I was sold, (I could get my feet on the ground without tipping it over on its side something I could never do with my beemer) this bike was so much like a small 250 cc motorcycle with a big 500 cc parallel-twin engine, part exchange complete I never for one minute regretted my transformation away from all things BMW to ‘Jap crap’, as many died in the wool British riders referred to them.

Although the weather is starting to turn autumnal, I felt I could get a few trips in before the winter set in proper, but were to on my first trip? Now since I have not ridden a motorcycle for some years, it had to be close to home. More so someplace that I had always wanted to go but was difficult to get to by bus. 

Sunday

Hot, hot, hot, out for a couple of hours on the bike this morning whilst it was still cool, I had to be back by 11 am. A lad was coming over from Kirkcaldy to pick up the road bike he had bought from me on eBay. He was on time and seemed very pleased with his purchase, I have seldom ridden it since I bought my folding bike, so it was a good move selling it.

In the afternoon I looked over the motorcycle and took it round to the filling station to check the tyre pressure and top up the tank. £13.00 is not cheap. Back home and on with my motorcycle jacket and helmet for that first crucial ride, the bike sounded like a bag of old nuts and bolts being rattled, possibly it has been lying in a showroom for months. I went out to Pitscottie then left up over the hill and on into Peat Inn before dropping down to Largoward, Kilconquhar, and Elie. I ran along the coast road into Anstruther before taking the B9131 for St Andrews. By now the bike was settling down.

I was a bit nervous to start with – been a while, but surprised how quickly it all started to feel normal. These roads are not for speed and I was never over 50mph at any stage in the journey. I have lost much of my smoothness (throttle control) but like everything else, practice, practice, practice.

I have ordered a top box for the bike – you need someplace to put your helmet, gloves and waterproofs – I was surprised how inexpensive they have become, I also ordered Oxford mitts, (they go over the handlebar ends as a shield from the weather (especially rain) and this allows you to wear thinner gloves. I also discovered the bike is fitted with heated grips.   

Today’s ride was far enough to get the hang of motorcycle riding again, but it will be strictly touring even though it is a fast bike – if you wanted to push it, but I am very content just bumming along these days. I will continue my cycling and when winter comes the motorcycle will remain under wraps, for my life now is all about going downhill slowly.

Mrs Sinclair is back from her holiday in York and brought me a wee present two summer shirts. (For all the wee jobs I do for her).

Wednesday

The life of Mary (Queen of Scots) has always fascinated me, and there is one place associated with Mary that is close by and I still have not managed to visit and that place is Lochleven Castle. Oh, I have visited Lochleven on numerous occasions over the years but never out to the castle, would this be my opportunity to do so?

How and why did Mary end up a prisoner in Lochleven Castle – well, Mary was a Catholic queen in a country that was divided, between Catholics and the new Protestant religion. And although Mary was well educated and a clever woman she made some terrible choices in the men she married.

Bothwell, her husband like Darnley before him, was arrogant and overbearing, although Bothwell was at least courageous. Soon a group of Lords, known as the Confederated Lords, were scheming to overthrow Bothwell and take control of Mary (in other words, the country). Many of the nobles now conspiring against Bothwell had signed the Ainslie Tavern Bond supporting Bothwell. Such was the fickleness of the nobles’ Loyalties. Their outward message was that they planned to “rescue” Mary from Bothwell, but their intentions were clear.  

Holyroodhouse (Edinburgh) was not a safe place to be so  Bothwell and Mary decamped to Borthwick Castle, a massive tower house twelve miles south of Edinburgh, and began putting together a small army. As troops of the Confederate Lords began to converge on the castle Bothwell escaped to muster his men, leaving Mary in the castle. Mary escaped the castle the next day by being lowered from a window dressed as a page boy, (a big page boy, Mary was six feet tall) and made her way on foot, passed the Confederate Lords forces and joined up with Bothwell.

The two armies faced each other on Carberry Hill, near Musselburgh, east of Edinburgh. The Battle was a stand-off; neither had any real desire to fight and kill their countrymen, Mary decided to negotiate, rather than risk bloodshed. In the end, she surrendered to the Confederate Lords on the condition that Bothwell was allowed to go free. 

Mary expected to be treated with respect – after all, she was their queen. Back in Edinburgh, the crowds jeered her return, not the way to treat a reigning monarch. From Edinburgh, she was taken to Loch Leven and imprisoned on the island’s castle in the middle of the loch. Out of sight and out of mind the Lords now had control of Mary and Scotland.

Mary spent the next eleven months in the castle, the home of Sir William Douglas, from June 1567 to May 1568. Mary was pregnant during her stay at the castle, with her two ladies-in-waiting and a doctor, since she was not in good health. Her escape from the castle is a story in itself.

I set off for Loch Leven and it was beautiful on the bike today, through Cupar and Auctermuchty and on to Millnathorp and finally Kinross. The castle was closed to visitors, but I already knew that from the internet but this is an idyllic place on such a day as this. I went around to the Boathouse to ask about fishing on the loch, not a problem, you get a boat and off you go – after paying your £25.00 or £30.00 if there are two of you. So when my brother is back to health I think it would be a great day out for us both.  

Stay safe

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