On Tuesday night, I arrived in Aviemore after a 2.5hr drive from my parents in Carnoustie ahead of Thunder in The Glens 2016. If you’ve been following me on Instagram you may have been wondering whether you had the right page. Whilst I’ve been posting scenic walks with Millie, you’ll have spotted a few pics of stunning Harley Davidsons also start to appear in the new Instagram Stories feed. But why? I hear you ask? How on earth have I gone from beach huts to motorbikes?
What is Thunder in The Glens?
Thunder in the Glens is the largest chapter run rally in Britain. Now don’t get confused with Sons of Anarchy, I promise it’s nothing quite like it.
A local chapter is a way for Harley Davidson owners to get together with others that share a passion for these iconic motorbikes. There are 1,400 chapters all over the world and Dunedin Chapter, supported via Edinburgh Harley Davidson are responsible for running and managing Thunder In The Glens.
Originally started in 1997, this is Thunders 20th year and set to be the biggest yet. From a handful of bikes and owners, with tents, Thunder in the Glens now attracts around 3,000 individuals and generates £2m to the local economy here in Aviemore.
The rally also supports a number of charitable activities over the weekend. This includes a Harley Davidson bike raffle and trader donations to charity rides on Sunday. Thunder in The Glens 2016 official charities are Angels Wrapped In Love, Women’s aid Centre in Inverness and Badenoch and Strathspey School snow sports Association.
Based predominantly in the MacDonalds Aviemore Resort, think of a multi-venue festival with daytime activities and a huge choice of evening entertainment. Oh and a lot of fun and good humour thrown in. The whole local community gets involved and you won’t’ need to go far to spot a Harley Davidson flag in a local shop or restaurant window. The town really does seem to welcome the event each year and you really don’t need to be a Harley Davidson owner to enjoy it.
One beach hut owner and 2,000 Harley Davidsons? WHY?
About 10 years ago both my mum and dad announced they had bought Harleys Davidsons. Some may call it a 50-year-old mid-life crisis (sorry mum)!!. Though I guess in a way it was slightly less embarrassing than the yellow lada we owned whilst I was a teenager. I of course flatly refused to go to school in it!
Over the last 10 years, they’ve slowly become more and more involved in both the Dunedin Chapter and Thunder in the Glens itself. From putting up fences to helping out at registration, they may even have enjoyed some alcoholic fuelled nights out. Mum (aka Shirley ;0) has also been the Chapter’s Treasurer since 2014 . I know, I know – accountancy runs in the family.
Having left a tough job in 2014, I found myself able to head off to Lochgoilhead for The Gathering, a rally run by the Clyde Valley Chapter. Smaller in terms of numbers and scale of the event, it was my first chance to get some insight into why on earth Harley Davidson owners were so passionate about their bikes and rallies.
I attended again in 2015, this time in Dunoon and enjoyed the ability to spend a week’s holiday away. With dog-friendly accommodation and outdoor events, I’ve found Harley Davidson owners both welcoming and warm. Combining that with scenic views and walks in Scotland has been ideal.
So long story short, 2016 was the year I had to finally find out what the big deal was with Thunder in the Glens. And there is just one tiny sleep between me and the first official day!
The build-up so far
Having had Wednesday to myself, I spent the day exploring Aviemore including one of my favourite walks around Loch an Eilein. With the sun shining, I’ve had a couple of days to settle into the lodge in the MacDonalds resort and enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the Cairngorms.
Over the last 24 hours, the resort has transformed and you can’t walk down the main road in Aviemore without a Harley Davidson passing by every 5 minutes. Campsite and motorhome sections have been fenced off, flags are flying and there are trader stalls popping up galore.
The entertainment also started tonight for Thunder in the Glens Rally Crew who hosted a pre-rally party. With a Scottish pipe band, country dancing and party music. The haggis supper was yum!
After a day of helping sort out banking, registration devices and a little bit of Pimms and gin thrown in, I’m feeling ready to throw myself into experiencing the whole weekend. With a few nerves too!
Look forward to meeting you at registration
Whether you are already here in Aviemore or yet to make your way here, then I can’t wait to meet you tomorrow. I’ll be parked out in the registration marquee with Millie. She’ll be loving even more of the attention that she’s had today and will, of course, be sporting her new Harley Davidson bandana or even her new hat!
I’ll be the one also trying to make sure I don’t purchase a motorbike. Or the transit van that I’d need to transport it and Millie at the same time. I’m sure I’ve seen driving goggles for dogs somewhere though. They may be needed.
Want to know more about holidays in Aviemore?
You can read about my walk at Loch an Eilein here. I’ll be back over the weekend and into next week with more blogs from the next few days. Yes, that will also include a review of the lodge accommodation itself (only good things so far!).