A Picture Gallery is at the bottom of this Page
DAY 1. After a long and very hot June, July and half of August, some 17 cars arrived at the Richmond Park Hotel, Bo’ness, on the rather dull (but not quite dreich) morning of Monday 20 August, to sign on for the five day Highland Heather tour. There was a welcome hot drink, a bacon butty and a bag full of goodies awaiting us, and suitably fortified we set off on the first leg off, the resolute, optimistic or bonkers among us leaving with tops down.
That first morning was, admittedly, not too interesting, involving mostly the A92 and a lot of roundabouts, although we did get a spectacular close-up view of all the Forth bridges, travelling over the truly amazing Queensferry Crossing. But this was clearly the means to an end, and the route became steadily greener, and sunnier, as we headed towards our first destination, Brechin, via the bridge across the river Tay and into the Port of Dundee, home of Scott’s Antarctic explorer ship, Discovery. There were some interesting sights through this lovely countryside of fields and farms, and everyone made it safely to the Brechin Castle Garden Centre, where most enjoyed a light lunch, and some a little light shopping. The second leg of Day 1 was a very easy 30 or so miles to the Hotel Tor na Coille in Banchory, where we parked in front of this very traditional hotel, our MGs, old and not-so-old, making a great display. Once registered and settled into our rather grand rooms, many of us headed out to explore the town, in the process discovering that Banchory has cornered the market in fabulous Italian ice cream; however, there was still room for an excellent dinner that evening, where we were able to get to know our fellow travellers. There were familiar faces, and some new ones, and I hope we managed to show them the true Marque of Friendship on that first evening.
DAY 2. There had been some rain overnight, but it had cleared by the time we had had an excellent breakfast and it was time to set out on the first leg. It was cloudy, but warm – perfect conditions for experienced owners of MGs! More lovely countryside on the way to our destination, the Grampian Transport Museum at Alford, accompanied at one point by two flights of geese following the road with us, honking as they went. Having found a way in to the grassy area behind the museum (where there is also a small race track – very tempting!) we all lined up for a group photograph, and then made our way into the Museum. Coffee and cake first (well, it would have been rude not to), before walking round enjoying the many vehicles on show, as well as the exhibition of some of Guy Martin’s vehicles – what was left of them! When it came time to leave, a couple of us had a little drama, when it was discovered that the exit gate had been locked, and we wondered how long it would be before we were missed. However, a man with a key came and let us out, and with some relief we were able to set off on the second leg, heading back to Banchory – and more ice cream! After dinner, we were entertained by a young accordion player, who managed to get most of us up and dancing The Gay Gordons and a Circassian Circle, etc. with varying degrees of expertise! I don’t think anyone was injured, though, which was a plus.
DAY 3. We said a fond farewell to Hotel Tor na Coille and Banchory in good order at the start, which took us through some of the most dramatic scenery on the tour thus far, the mountains and glens of the Cairngorms National Park. There were other vehicles using the pass, including large and creatively parked camper vans, and a small Fiat 500 with a puncture, its French driver ably assisted by two of our number (the Marque of Friendship again, even towards a Fiat!) but most of us were able to thoroughly enjoy driving the sweeping roads through these most magnificent of surroundings. Our first destination will have been familiar to anyone who was at the brilliant European Event of the Year in 2013: the Macdonald Resort in Aviemore. We had a little light refreshment in the Costa café overlooking the Spey Valley Food Court and Shopping Centre (more temptation for some) before moving on from Aviemore towards our destination, the Alexandra Hotel, Fort William, via more stunning scenery of birch woods, pine stands, peaty rivers and rocky mountains. There was an option to view the great Laggan Dam on the way, its waters as low as I have ever seen them, and at Spean Bridge the option was to visit the famous Commando Memorial, only a mile or so away, dedicated to the men of the original British Commando Forces of WW2, who undertook their arduous training here in the bleak environment of the Lochaber region. It was less than 10 miles then to Fort William, and there was time before dinner for a walk in the late afternoon sunshine (and brisk wind!) watching the boats and birds bobbing on Loch Linnhe.
DAY4 Dawned cloudy, but the forecast was good, and after a slightly chaotic breakfast, during which we ‘mingled’ in the dining room with more than one coach party, we put the top down, crossed our fingers firmly, and headed for the Corran Ferry to take us across the foot of Loch Linnhe to the other side. We did not have to wait long, and then we were away towards Strontian, and the start of the other Road to the Isles, the western coastal road, in my opinion one of the most diverse and beautiful in Scotland. It was pleasantly warm and sunny, and glorious sights – sparkling waters and white sandy beaches, sun-dappled hills, birch woods and stands of pine – met us around every turn of the road. Through Glenuig, Lochailort, Arisaig and Morar into Mallaig, heaving with visitors, some heading for the islands of Mull and Iona on the CalMac ferry, some clearly waiting to board The Jacobite, steaming in the sidings before its run back through to Fort William. It was not quite so sunny by then, so we set off for our own return to Fort William, via Glenfinnan, Corpach and Banavie – by which time it was starting to rain. There are quite a few sets of traffic lights into Fort William, and we hit red ones all the way, so by the time we got back to the hotel, things were distinctly damp! However, the rain and subsequent sun combined to provide us with a fabulous rainbow over Ben Nevis. Later, after dinner, we all retired
upstairs to take part in the quiz, compiled by Tony, which proved to be so fiendishly difficult that even the winners’ score was only just into two figures! The booby prize was awarded to David and Ann Moir (for some creative answers as well as the lowest score!) but perhaps as compensation also won the Car of the Tour prize, with their beautifully restored 1947 TC. As members from The Dark Side (aka MGOC) David and Ann said how much they had enjoyed their first tour with the MGCC Caledonian Centre, quickly discovering that it really is the Marque of Friendship!
DAY 5. The last day of the tour, was quite a long drive, more than 90 miles, and it was raining stairrods as we left Fort William. It continued to rain heavily as we climbed over Glencoe, but at least we weren’t walking the West Highland Way, as were some poor wet and windswept souls; however, by the time we stopped at The Green Welly at Tyndrum for coffee (and cake, naturally), the sun was out, and the top was down! Some of us also later stopped at the Dreadnought Garage in Callender, for some expert advice on various issues, and an ogle at the racing MGs on the forecourt! A delicious buffet lunch awaited us at The Gargunnock Inn, our final destination of this tour, and after a few words of farewell from Tony, we set off on our separate ways. I am sure all participants will join us in thanking the organisers for a most enjoyable tour.
Lizzie & Mike Pelling