Evo magazine

A quick stop by Loch Glascarnoch

I’ve been a bit rubbish at blogging the last few months, my excuses are working on the 119 project, enjoying my MR2 and that I’m really busy at work. It was on a flight for work that I was reading evo magazine on my iPad and came across the image above, of my MX-5 next to Loch Glascarnoch on the A835 and a few words about my 2012 Scottish roadtrip.

I’d submitted the article a while back and almost forgotten about it. The word count I had to meet was quite restrictive, so there’s hardly any detail, but the full details of the trip are earlier in this blog.

Scottish Roadtrip 2013 Days 4 and 5: Bacon, Ice Cream and Pizza

After the graduation, Simon and Sophie stayed in St Andrews for the graduation ball. We went to collect them on the Saturday morning, via breakfast at The Horn on the A90. The Horn’s A90 Behemoth was voted the best bacon sandwiches in the world in an online poll, so naturally, we had to verify that – I can confirm that they are indeed amazing – more than 10 rashers of deep fried bacon in a roll really sets you up for the day! Having said that, we spent the rest of the day chilling at the flat, or wandering around Perth, I didn’t even get out in the MX-5! Aside from the bacon roll, my highlight was watching Lewis Hamilton’s stunning pole lap at Silverstone.

The last day of our trip, also mine and Jen’s anniversary, was mainly spent driving back to Coventry. Leaving after breakfast meant that we had all day to make the journey, so decided to take a scenic route through the borders, insprired by the 2012 Evo COTY which was partially based in the area. After reading through the Evo article, the A708 from Selkirk to Moffat, along the shore of St Mary’s Loch, was chosen as our route. Seeing as we would need to pass fairly close to Musselburgh to get to the A708, we decided to stop at Luca’s, my favourite ice cream shop.

After a gorgeous “Alaskan” sundae for me and a hot fudge sundae for Jen, we got back to the car and for the first time this year had to put suncream on (remember we were still in Scotland at this point!), before setting off towards the A708, passing through Newtongrange, where my Dad grew up. Diving down the A7 brought back memories of driving to Newtongrange when my gran still lived there. Turning off onto the A708 got us out of the traffic, but the road was much narrower, it was mainly second and third gears in the MX-5, but the road flowed nicely. As we approached Saint Mary’s Loch the drizzle started, by the end of the loch it was full on raining – rubbish! Then, to make matters work we got stuck behind a group of bikers and some tourists, who were driving very slowly. I probably wouldn’t have driven much faster, as the road had narrowed and the conditions were pretty bad, but it was frustrating being stuck at the end of a long, slow moving queue of traffic on twisty roads. When we got to Moffat we drove past a classic car show, which lifted the mood. From Moffat it was straight down the M74, then M6 and M6 Toll to Coventry.

As it was our anniversary, we went for dinner at the Pizza Express we went to on our first date – the perfect way to round off a brilliant long weekend!

Total mileage: 1,087

Scottish Roadtrip 2013 Day 3: Graduation

The reason the whole of my family had come up to Scotland was my little brothers PHD graduation, after 8 years studying in St Andrews he is now a Dr of maths.

As Jen and I didn’t have tickets for the graduation ceremony we had some free time in the morning for a drive to pick up some whisky from the Edradour distillery near Pitlochry and some smoked salmon from Dunkeld Smoked Salmon. At the distillery I was surprised to see the car park full of German cars, buses and motorbikes, including a very nice Austin Healy 3000, it’s good to see such a small distillery being so popular. On the other hand the smoke house was empty, tucked away in a scruffy yard behind some houses, but the sample of hot smoked salmon we were offered was gorgeous and the letter from the queen, proudly displayed on the wall, reassured me of the quality of their produce. We were also treated to a quick tour of the smokehouse, the father & son team that run it were obviously very proud of their business.

We tried to take the coast road to St Andrews, but managed to miss a turn AGAIN, so ended up going through Cupar, which was still better than taking the dual carriageway via Dundee. We met the rest of the family outside the graduation, took some photos, then went to a garden party, the pub and eventually to Ziggys. My Dad had been hyping up for a while, so I was expecting big things – especially in regard to portion size. Ziggys lived up to the hype, I had a burger with haggis an Scottish cheddar, which was very tasty.

Dr Simon and his girlfriend went off to the graduation ball and we came back to Perth, again trying to take the coastal route, but missing a turning!

In all it was a great day and I am proud of Dr Simon, but don’t tell him that.

Mileage so far: 715

Scottish Roadtrip 2013 Day 2: Highland Hoon

Our first full day in Scotland had been set aside for exploring in the MX-5, to say I’d been looking forward to it would be an understatement!

We woke up late after a well deserved lie in, to see rain; undeterred we set off to the Baxters shop at Blackford for breakfast. I’d heard tales of enormous pancakes, so had to investigate – I wasn’t disappointed, the pancakes had the thickness of American pancakes, but were the circumference of French crepes, and served with bacon and maple syrup they made for a perfect breakfast!

Suitably fuelled, we continued on towards Loch Katrin in the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. Unfortunately, when we got there it was still raining, so it was decided that we should save the steam boat trip along the narrow tree lined loch for a future visit and got back into the car before we got bitten by too many midges. Loch Katrin is also at the north end of the Duke’s Pass, an alpine style road with plenty of switchback hairpins, which was great fun in the little Mazda!

At the end of the Duke’s Pass I took a wrong turn, instead of running along the bottom of Loch Lomond we ended up at Bearsden (on the edge of Glasgow) – ooops. To get back on track we took the A82 alongside Loch Lomond, although most of the way up we couldn’t see it. Fed up of the main roads we decided to add an extra loop onto our tour, so turned left towards Inveraray, a small town on the shore of Loch Fyne I remembered from a childhood holiday.

It was at about this point that the scenery got really spectacular, at one point all we could see were hills covered in pine trees fading into the mist with the road leading through them. When we came out the other side we were on the shores of Loch Fyne, which I can confirm does actually have a Loch Fyne restaurant. We parked up by the harbour in Inveraray, had a quick walk around and an ice cream (jammie dodger flavour!), but didn’t hang around due to the weather.

From Inveraray we took the A819 north, towards Loch Awe and the A85, which was another typical highland road – brilliant for driving in the MX-5! Then, rather than taking the A85 all the way back to Perth, we took the A827 along the top of Loch Tay to Aberfeldy, which was another good road, but spoilt by traffic – the locals are good at letting faster traffic past but tourists seemed oblivious to us. After Aberfeldy we took the A826 through the pine forests and onto the moorland to meet the A822 to take us into Dunkeld, then down the A9 to Perth, the sun had even made an appearance for the last leg of our drive!

We rounded off a great day, with dinner at Breazh, our favourite French restaurant in Perth, then a drink at The Grouse Bar (in the old Famous Grouse head office) while waiting for the rest of the family to join us in Perth.

Mileage so far 585.

Scottish Roadtrip 2013 Day 1: M6

Unlike last year’s Scottish Roadtrip the M6 was clear and we made good progress towards Perth, our base for this trip. I’d taken the afternoon off work, so was able to detail the MX5 and pack at my leisure, while Jen has been on a course in Cambridge all day and had already spent a long time on the road, so the favourable traffic conditions were welcome!

In the end we made the journey in five and a half hours, our best time yet, thanks to no accidents and minimal roadworks.

Mileage so far 352.

Scottish Roadtrip Days 10 and 11: Journey home

Day ten was another rest day for the MX-5, well apart from some parking space shuffling. We spent the morning chilling out at the flat in Perth, before taking Simon’s Ka (we were three up, so couldn’t take the MX-5) and then the bus into Edinburgh to see some more of the festival, including an evening with David Hasselhoff, which was a great show!

Our last day was spent driving back from Perth to Rugby, the weather, especially for the Scottish part of the journey was rubbish, with heavy rain and a lot of spray making conditions difficult. The rain had eased off a bit by the time Jen started driving and almost stopped when I took over for the leg down to Nottingham to meet up with Partho for dinner. We enjoyed our last unhealthy meal of the trip, then I drove the final stint back to Rugby, about seven hours driving all in, so not too bad for a rainy bank holiday Monday.

Total mileage for the trip: 1549

Scottish Roadtrip Day 9: Back to Perth

MX-5 at Glencoe

The last day of our highlands/islands adventure started with the now traditional fry up, followed by a warning to watch out for French drivers on the roads! Our goal was to get back to Perth for lunchtime, we couldn’t be late as everyone was waiting for the smoked salmon we had bought on North Uist, we had 100 miles to cover on the A82 and A85! I’d heard that the A82 in particular was good driving road, but on the drive from Fort William to Glencoe ski centre we weren’t really able to enjoy it due to the traffic, particularly caravans, so we decided to stop at the ski centre to have a look around and take some photos (see above), the little huts they had to sleep in looked good, but I’m not too sure I’d want to stay in one in the middle of winter. We thought about taking a chairlift ride to the summit, but the webcam showed that it was in the clouds, so we saved our money and pointed the MX-5 back towards Perth, luckily managing to get some clear road to enjoy. The road wasn’t as twisty as some of the others we have driven this week, with lots of long straights, so probably more suited to something with a bit more power than the Mazda. The rest of the journey to Perth seemed to take ages, as we seemed to be stuck behind slow moving vehicles the whole way, but we did make it to Perth just after midday and the salmon went down well at lunchtime.

The afternoon was spent catching up with my family, mooching around Perth, then a great meal out at the Bothy in Perth to celebrate my Dad’s birthday.

Mileage so far: 1,154

Scottish Roadtrip Day 8: Skye

No picture from today as I didn’t take any on my iPhone due to the rain.

Our plan for the morning was to take the B885 to the east of the island and explore the fairy pools then go to the Talisker distillery. The B885 was a single track road over the mountains, but the A863 to take us to the end of Loch Harport was a much better road, with two lanes following the contours of the loch. As it was raining we decided to go to the distillery first, hoping the rain would stop. The tour of the distillery was only £6, which included a wee dram and £3 off in the shop, which seemed like a bargain to me. The tour was interesting, and I was surprised by how much of the process is still done by humans. Predictably the tour ended up in the shop, where we bought a tasting set for Jen’s Dad and a bottle of 10 year single malt to keep at our new house.

Our next stop was the fairy pools, a recommendation by Millie, we found the correct car park, but I’m not too sure we found the correct waterfalls and pools, but it was suitably pretty and the other set of waterfalls were too far away to walk in the rain, so we may have to go back.

After the fairy pools we took a leisurely drive down to Armadale to get the ferry back to the mainland, we took a few stops along the way, but it was still raining so not ideal weather for sightseeing. We got to ferry terminal early and we were the first car on the ferry, which meant that after the short crossing we were the first off the ferry and onto the A830 to Fort William, which is a road I’d particularly been looking forward to driving. The drive from Mallaig to Fort William was one of the best drives of the trip, with lots of tight corners and great scenery.

Rather than eating at a posh restaurant again we went for fish (haggis) and chips, followed by ice cream and a wander around town, before retiring to the B&B for a catch up online and early night.

Mileage so far: 1,050

Scottish Roadtrip Day 7: Five islands

Portree harbour

After another full breakfast, this time overlooking the beautiful white beach on Berneray we decided to explore the rest of the island. It took us all of about 5 minutes to drive from the north east part of the island to the south west, where it was still raining. We donned our waterproofs and took a walk to see the birthplace of the Nova Scotia giant, then to the beach that runs the full length of the west coast of the island, the tide was in, so there wasn’t much beach to see, but it was really peaceful and the rain had stopped.

We decided that we had fully explored Berneray and still had five hours before our ferry so after consulting the map we thought we would visit the three other islands to the south which were all connected by road. First was North Uist, where we stopped at a smokehouse in Clachan and bought some smoked salmon for lunch when we are back in Perth on Saturday, then continued south, past Benbecula to South Uist, where we stopped at Homore, which had some cute thatched cottages and church ruins to explore. By this time we were getting hungry, so turned back north towards Lochmaddy, stopping in Benbecula for a macaroni pie. The main road through the 3 islands was the A865, which wasn’t really a main road, most of the time it was a single track road, but the locals seemed good at letting faster traffic through, the A867 from Clachan to Lochmaddy was a bigger, straighter road which had just been resurfaced and it almost felt strange being able to use fifth gear in the Mazda, until cresting a summit to find sheep standing in the road, we were certainly still in the Outer Hebredies.

While waiting for the ferry in Lochmaddy we took a stroll to the little hut of shadows, a camera obscura in a small building next to the loch, an interesting way to kill time before the ferry.

The ferry took two hours to get to Uig on Skye, which instantly felt different to the other islands, much less remote and with bigger hills. The drive to Portree was fairly short and it didn’t take us long to find our hotel, which had a great view over the harbour and over to Raasay, which made a change from white sandy beaches!

Mileage so far: 920

Scottish Roadtrip Day 6: Harris and Berneray

Berneray Beach

After another full breakfast, we set off to explore Uig beach, which we had been admiring from our window after since arriving at Auberge Carnish. As the tide was in there wasn’t much beach to explore but we did have a good walk along the white sand, before setting off for Leverburgh on Harris to catch our next ferry.

The first part of the route was retracing our steps from yesterday on the B8011, A858 and A859, then continuing down the A859 towards Tarbert, all great driving roads, perfect! Once we got to Harris the A859 got even better, climbing up the mountains, a smooth new section of road at the top, then a twisty descent down to Tarbert, where we stopped for a light lunch before continuing down the A859 to Leverburgh to catch our ferry. We were now driving along the west coast of Harris, with more beautiful white beaches, but we seemed to miss the 3m high MacLeod stone which we had been planning to visit of the way down, so ended up in Leverburgh about an hour early. The ferry to Berneray was a lot smaller than the Ullapool – Stornoway ferry, there wasn’t a dock, just a ramp into the sea that the ferry pulled up to and opened its ramp for the vehicles to drive off/on.

The crossing itself was interesting as the captain steered the ferry around various small islands before pulling up at another ramp into the sea at Berneray, which is the name of both the island and town (in the loosest sense of the term). To get to our B&B it was a case of following the single track road right until the end, then along a track and over a sheep field, even with the standard 4×4 suspension my MX-5 brushed its undercarriage on a few occasions.

For the second night running the view out of our window is a vast empty white beach (photo at the top of this post), returning to Perth with the view of KFC, a gym and the police station is going to be strange! Much like day 5, we ended the day by exploring the beach, followed by a three course dinner, I could get used to this!

Mileage so far: 835