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North of the border

Jaguar XK's driving in the Scottish Highlands

This being Scotland in early September, the tour was held in glen-to-loch-to-

burn-to-ben sunshine, and temperatures in the 20s. For us, objective number one was to get

the car up the A1 from Nottinghamshire and beyond Scotch Corner. Two previous attempts in 2019, at the end (so we’d thought) of a period of recommissioning the car, had served to stir up quantities of gunge in the fuel tank, causing line blockage and tortuous recoveries from there, back home, on RAC trailers. Relining the tank had sorted this and, 100 miles north of home, we conquered the bogey and turned west onto the A66.


Meandering along the River Eden took us via Kirkby Stephen and Appleby to our overnight pub stop in Langwathby on the A686 – one of the best driving routes in England – and memories of walking the Lady Anne’s Way (Skipton to Carlisle) footpath. Next day, we entered Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, arriving at tour base – the Cameron House Hotel. On the lochside, this grand baronial mansion and estate has been developed into a Scottish luxury resort. On its website, it describes itself as a ‘completely unrivalled five AA red star hotel’ – and it is good.


By tea-time on day one, 15 old Jaguars were parked up in the kitchen garden, with one en route having mechanical issues. Farthest travelled were four well-turned-out (the cars and the occupants) German crews from the Düsseldorf region. Old friends fondly greeted, new friends quickly made. Paul Trill welcomed the group with his usual enthusiasm, and introduced Adam and Sue from Albatross, who are taking on Paul’s Backwater legacy. The road book comprised easy tulip-style directions. Briefing included explanation of the (optional) Highland Observation Trophy: nine photographs across the three days’ touring – the locations to be recorded, rally ‘passage control’ style.


Group sat by the shores of Loch Katrine

Day two was The Trossachs Run of 94 miles. Touring in Scotland is a joy; even the most twisty, narrowest lanes have generally excellent surfaces and good passing places. We were essentially on the tourist Trossachs Trail, taking in the lovely Loch Katrine and its renowned café, Duke’s Pass and Inchmahome Priory. Apparently, the midges come out to play at 5pm; fortunately the hotel’s well-stocked bar and well-equipped gym were also in play by then. Next up was The 10 Loch Run, 157 miles of beautiful lochside touring, including Gare Loch – home to our nuclear submarine fleet – Benmore Botanic Gardens, a ferry trip across Loch Fyne to historic Tarbert, and Georgian Inverary.


The A83 takes in the famous Rest and be Thankful viewpoint. The new A83 follows the contours, while the old military road keeps to the valley bottom and then rises sharply with some hairpin bends to the pass – hence the name. These days, the old road is used as a special test for rallies – quite exhilarating, as we and our MGB rally car can attest to.


The mountains of Glencoe, Scotland

The last day was essentially a 145-mile ‘there and back’ drive through Glencoe to the Glencoe Visitor Centre. Say no more – spectacular! Going up, Bridge of Orchy hotel provided us with coffee and cakes, and the weary plodders of the West Highland Way with toilets, Compeed and Scottish tablet (a sugary treat that looks like fudge). Coming back, a loop took us south-west alongside the River Orchy – again known to us from rallying.

A fairy-tale glen of great beauty, where every bend and waterfall demands a stop to marvel and photograph – and a very pleasant snooze.


We’d been reasonably diligent about the Highland Observation Trophy competition. However, on the run down from Glencoe, Roma said, ‘We’ve missed a question; just pull into

this pub car park while I sort the answer sheet out.’ Then she said, ‘There it is!’ The answer was staring at us from the other side of the road – very cunning, Paul! Serendipity strikes again, and we were awarded the Trophy.


The classic car plate on the bonnet of a Jaguar XK

On departing an excellent tour, with no need to hurry home, we headed south to Helensburgh, visiting Hill House – the unique building and interiors designed for the Blackie family by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh in the ‘Glasgow style’, currently enveloped in its controversial ‘box’.


We then plotted a scenic route across Border Country to the north-east. Roma was on a pilgrimage to Ashington. Not necessarily to visit the birthplace of the legendary football-playing Charlton brothers – it is also home of the Ashington Group Gallery, known as the Pitmen Painters. When told to ‘start painting – it’s as simple as that’, they produced hundreds of paintings showing what life was like both above and below ground for their mining communities in Northumberland.


Next morning, we were awake early in a country pub near Morpeth and anticipating visiting Durham. Back in England, the super Scottish sunshine had given way to lashing northern rain. The decision was made to break for home. I’m convinced that as we shot south past Scotch Corner, the car was saying the XK equivalent of ‘up yours’ to that malignant service area. Whatever, the Jaguar was roaring.

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