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A new way to tour Britain by motorcycle

I have a confession.

Like many motorcyclists in the west of Scotland I've always thought the country started somewhere around Crianlarich. Whenever I've a few hours spare - or a few days - I head north and west as if guided by a compass set to Glencoe or Oban, or Applecross or Ullapool. Each one is a favourite destination from riders from across Europe, drawn by the quiet, challenging roads and stunning scenery.

But the Borders were a bit of a mystery to me so I headed to Moffat to meet Dave Smith, Zimbabwean expat, BMW R1200RT rider and the human dynamo behind the newly launched MotoGoLoco.com, who promised to show me a few of his favourite routes.

Smith owns Moffat's Buccleuch Arms and was one of the first to see the potential of motorcycling tourism. He set up the motorcyclescotland.com website seven years ago with a number of local businesses, Now 80 per cent of the guests in his 16-room hotel are motorcyclists.

We headed for the Lowther Hills because Smith reckons their three passes are as fun as anywhere in the Highlands. We rolled along the old road, in sight of the M74, onto the A702, more romantically known as the Dalveen Pass. We start at Elvanfoot, which sounds like somewhere in The Lord Of The Rings. The road is fast, open, with good visibility and hardly any cars. The surface is excellent and the roads department have been diligently resurfacing a number of sections - maybe they could give lessons to other Scottish councils. Sweeping corners reach up to its summit at 337m (or 1105ft in old money) with scenery that could be straight out of the world of Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins. From there, gentler twisties take you down to Carronbridge.

Then it's off towards Sanquhar on the swooping A76. We pass an entrance to Drumlanrig Castle but I skip nipping in to see Richard Walter John Montagu Douglas Scott - the Duke of Buccleuch and chief of the Clan Scott. We share a name, but I fear that's all we have in common.

I've been on this road before and it's a beauty, with the River Nith on your left and walls of trees on your right. Smith signals as he turns onto the B740. The clue is in the name, but this is a tighter, less well surfaced road - although signs announce the roadworkers will be starting work in May. Again, there are only a handful of cars in its 15-mile stretch. Smith knows this road like the back of his hands and he's off while I toddle along, watching the lambs and breathing in the country air. I check the map later and see we've passed Spango Water and Wanlock Water - I told you this place had a Lord of the Rings vibe to it.

Back at the Buccleuch Arms, Smith showed me around. There are 10 individual metal garages, a power washer, and a shed full of goodies such as chain cleaner, oils, pucks, rags and basic tools. Smith said: "Bikers are such nice people that in seven years not one thing has gone missing."

After a tough time in 2012, the Buccleuch Arms went into administration, however they carried on trading, coming back out of administration under the full management of Smith in December 2013. The hotel continues to go from strength to strength, and Smith's looking forward to 2014 with MotoGoLoco.

The site has more than 50 accommodation options in Scotland, and more than 100, and growing rapidly, across the rest of the British Isles. Each one is visited by a member of the team before it is accredited. They range from B&Bs to upmarket hotels but they all have secure parking and other facilities.

The site, developed with Glasgow firm Adeo Group, has a motorcycle specific route builder which allows you to create and save your own routes. You can also follow other riders' favourites, find the best roads to avoid soul-sucking motorways and save or export them directly to your GPS device.

"What is unique is that it allows you to link up as many routes as you want on one screen," Smith says. "It's not like other sites where you have to go from one window to another to see overlapping routes. They are all here, on one screen."

motogoloco.com

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