A motorcyclist has set off on a charity ride to thank those who tried to save his three friends.
Alan Stewart will complete the North Coast 500 to raise money for Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA), which can be scrambled to any type of incident from its base in Aberdeen or Perth.
The team are regularly called to rural crashes as they can significantly cut down the journey times to hospitals.
While Mr Stewart initially set up the challenge to honour three friends killed in road crashes, he also wants to help his local communities who are preparing to be inundated with tourists this summer.
A helping hand
Mr Stewart, who ran the Cairngorm Sleddog Centre until climate change forced its closure last year, left his home in Aviemore on Monday and hopes to complete the NC500 in four days.
Many friends will be helping him along the way, whether it’s through funding fuel or offering up their yacht for dinner one evening.
One friend, Gus Guthrie, and his canine companion Harley, will be joining Mr Stewart on the trip, meeting him in his campervan every evening to sleep.
They are conscious of the effects of large campervans on the NC500, especially roadside parking, so have decided that Mr Guthrie will not follow the official route.
“He’s got a big fancy campervan. He’s going to be keeping right off the NC500, but we’ve got four areas where he’ll be parked, we’ve got it all set up.”
Plans were originally made for the trip back in winter, but with the pandemic they grinded to a halt.
He has used that extra time to slightly change the focus of the challenge from raising cash to boosting the profile of SCAA.
He said: “The villages and towns, I’m sure they’ve been saturated with tourists, their wee hospitals are not equipped. That helicopter could do something, I want people to think ‘who is going to come and help me up here?'”
To help with his mission, Mr Stewart will live stream parts of his trip on his Facebook page NC500 Quest to not only show off the best of Scotland, but just how remote some parts are.
He said: “With the technology nowadays, I just thought why don’t we just use that to brighten some peoples’ days up.
“90% of people haven’t seen the top of Scotland, all these remote places. I’ve travelled all over the world and I just thought ‘wow, some parts look like something out of Lord of the Rings.'”
Of course, the memories of his friends Jim Stead, John Tawse and Robert Mitchell will not be far away as he makes the journey.
“I miss my old mates,” he said. They would have loved doing this with me, they would have been with me if they had survived.”