Antler Rally

A long peninsula of solid rock, upholstered every year in threadbare green.

Stones everywhere, ambiguous and burgeoning.

In Sanna ramparts of them march around our crofts but whether to keep cattle out or other stones no man can say.

And at Kilchoan there were three houses cropped from one field.

That was when I was a boy.

The masons left the pebbles and there's a castle now, waiting to be harvested.

God was short of earth when He made Ardnamurchan.

- Alasdair Maclean
from 'From the Wilderness' poem (1973)

There are many personal testimonies of those who took part in Antler rally meetings organised by the Loch Lomond MCC on this site, especially those relating to the rallies of '74 and '75.

As luck would have it, I have some photos of this rally in my collection, including a group photo taken during the '73 meeting and perhaps it's time to complete the pages on LPMCC devoted to this rally.

Loch Lomond MCC

For those not familiar with the club, let's start with a little background.

Loch Lomond MCC is a very well-established club. In fact, in 2019 it celebrated its 70th anniversary, having organised over the years a wide variety of motorcycling events. Among these is notably the very first Antler in 1972. This was a time when the club members met weekly at Balloch, a small town in West Dunbartonshire, near Loch Lomond National Park.

Loch Lomond MCC members all gathered for their club's 70th anniversary in 2019

Roads leading to the Antler

With the Ardnamurchan Peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic west of Fort William in the Scottish Highlands, the most logical and easiest route to travel to the 1970s Antler Rally was to go via Glasgow.

From there they just had to continue their journey northwest alongside Loch Lomond and through the Trossachs National Park to reach Ballachulish. Here they would board the first ferry of the journey to reach the opposite shore of Loch Leven. This is related elsewhere on the site by the unforgettable Les Hobbs in the story of his adventures en route to the Antler rally '74.

After disembarking from the Ballachulish Ferry, the tour continued on the A82 towards North Ballachulish, then Onich, before arriving to the Corran Ferry, the second ferry of the day to cross Loch Linnhe.

Across Loch Linnhe on the Corran ferry

Once across Loch Linnhe, the A861 road ran towards Salen passing through Sallachan, Gearradh, Inversanda, Achalea and Strontian; and finally to Ranachan.

After Salen, the route ran along the dangerous B8007 leading to Laga, Glenbeg, Ardslignish, Caim and finally to the rally venue at Kilchoan.

30 miles of danger

But before reaching Kilchoan, one of the most remote places in Britain, near the tip of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, the rallyists had one of the toughest challenges of the journey; the last 30 miles of a dangerously narrow, single-track road.

To describe the route on this wild and unkempt road, where even grass grew in the middle, as "brutal" would not be an exaggeration. You only have to read the words of the late Ted Trett on this site about the Antler rally of the '70s to be convinced.

Not the kind of road where you want to speed up to get to the local pub to meet your friends...


Let us now turn to the site of the rally itself. Kilchoan; an ancestral Scottish village which in the '70's welcomed rallyists from all over Britain is situated on the shores of a wide but shallow bay on the south side of the Ardnamurchan peninsula.

Until about 1900, Kilchoan, the most westerly village on the British mainland, on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, was only accessible by sea before a winding and single-trackroad was built to link Ardnamurchan to the rest of Scotland at Salen

According to historians, its name derives from Cill-chomhain, the church of St Comghan. Comghan was a prince of Leinster who lived in the late 7th and early 8th centuries, became an abbot and eventually settled near Lochalsh in Ross-shire, from where he founded churches along the west coast. The fact that St Comghan founded a church beside this bay indicates that a community was already living there.

Kilchoan, in the early 1970s; the heart of the village is in the most wooded area, on the left of this picture

Irish rallyists at the 1973 meeting

As the saying goes "When you love you don't count the cost". It seems that the same applies to die-hard rallyists who live their passion to the full and don't count the miles or the cost to get to a distant rally in order to be part of it.

As evidenced by the superb group photo below taken during the Antler rally 1973, showing the members of the Dublin Motorcycle Touring Club aka DMTC, founded in 1971.

Antler rally 1973 (front row L to R):  Dublin MTC members Anny Deevey, Geraldine Madden, Eileen McGrath, Kay Gallagher, Mary Walsh. (backrow L to R): Stephen Whelan, Darragh Brady, Ray Walsh, John Gallagher, Jim O'Connell, Joe Lynch, Daithi McGrath, Ricky Whelan, Peter Fahy, Jim McGrath

Although back then, in the spring of '73, the distance between Dublin and Kilchoan was relatively long and the journey required several ferries for the trip from Ireland to Scotland, these young Irish bikers didn't hesitate to answer the call of their fellow Scottish rallyists, the MCC of Loch Lomond.

- Jean-Francois Helias