12TH – 16TH AUGUST 2019
Potholes & passes, falls & forests, hairpins & handbrakes, steam & slate, floods & flocks, museums & music (!), questions in quizzes, lakes & laughs, castles & craic, monks & MGs and, most importantly, good food & good company; the MG Caledonian Centre 5-day Cumbrian tour had this all in spades. The Caledonian Centre multi-day tours are for enthusiasts who like to drive their MGs and for whom ’concours’ is largely a foreign word – this tour upheld the tradition.
….DAY ONE 13 MGs congregate at the excellent Swanston Brasserie near the Edinburgh bypass; the remaining cars would joinat Penrith.
Coffee and bacon rolls were consumed as Lorraine registered everyone and handed-out a comprehensive goodies bag (many thanks to the sponsors, chiefly Clive Wheatley supported by Peter Best, Sir Boyd Tunnock, allsportscm, APR Garage Services, Dreadnought Garage, Powerdoors & McFadden Classic Cars). Participants came from far and wide covering 9 MG Car Club Centres. Our leader, Tony Smith, welcomed everyone and briefed us on the day ahead – around 125 miles of driving to our tour hotel, the North Lakes, at Penrith. The previous day had been very wet and there were some serious ‘puddles’ en-route but the day was sunny, and roofs started to come off.
….The route took us via Peebles, Eskdalemuir, the interestingly named Bentpath and Langholm into Cumbria. BIG POTHOLE WARNING!! In red in the route book at 52 miles onwards proved only too accurate and was made worse by water across the road in places hiding the holes further abetted by overhead tree cover plunging the road into darkness. We all made it though unlike the black BMW crawling along with an obviously collapsed suspension. A highlight of the day was a visit to the Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery which restored some of the inner karma.
….Arriving in Penrith we met-up with the other 7 MGs (another joined for Days 4 & 5) and we started the pattern of a pre-dinner drink in the Terrace, followed by a 3-course dinner then an adjournment to the Cross Fell room for a briefing from Tony on the following day (some adjustments to the route book were required most days due to road closures) and some entertainment. On Day 1 this was a fiendishly difficult quiz devised by Mike & Lizzie Pelling.
….DAY TWO The day started bright & sunny after some overnight rain. The 92-mile route headed away from the Lakes and into the North Pennines and briefly out of Cumbria in to Teesdale. A highlight of the day was the climb to Hartside Summit (1903 feet).
Compared to the passes later in the week this was deceptively easy with an excellent road surface and dual -track all the way, even so there were some sharp hairpins and this warning sign at the summit says it all (‘many bends’).
At the top – a brief shower on its way.
….The other highlight of the drive was the High Force Waterfall in full torrent. Lorraine clearly needed a drink of water.
….On the way back, most stopped at Lowther Castle to take advantage of the café. Back at the hotel, Tony looked pensive. The singer he’d originally booked had had to cancel and the hotel had stepped in with an entertainer – an unknown quantity.
….The evening started with an uproarious response when the singer announced he normally played care homes – some of the audience took this personally! Various ‘tributes’ followed and most of the audience got into the swing of things despite text messages flashing between tables by way of a commentary. Others were seen switching off their hearing aids. Several ‘phone videos of audience participation were taken but what happens on the tour stays on the tour!
….DAY THREE An unrelentingly wet day so it was good that the highlight was the Lakeside Motor Museum so we could get under cover. The route had been heavily modified due to bridge problems in Kendal and took-in Ullswater and Windermere on the way to the museum. Tony had arranged for private parking which was fortunate as the museum was busy. Away from the entrance, there was more room and many cars to admire – these were the 3 MGs.
….Most of us also visited the adjacent museum honouring Malcolm & Donald Campbell.
Back on the road the route took us through Hawkshead and Coniston before reaching the near gridlocked Ambleside. I missed a turn here (I wasn’t alone) so missed ‘the Struggle’ and ended-up returning via Keswick – around an 80-mile drive.
….The evening entertainment was a film show with various clips with either a MG or Cumbrian flavour put together by Tony & Lorraine; it was very well received.
….DAY FOUR Billed as an early start as we were booked on the Ravenglass & Eskdale steam railway for a 11:25 departure and the route there took us via the Wrynose & Hardknott passes. This was a sunny day for the 101-mile route and anticipation was running high. The passes certainly required concentration on the single-track roads with tight up-hill bends, significant drops off the edge and a road surface that was loose in places.……..Quite an exciting drive.
….We all made it to the railway (top end of the line at Dalegarth) and, yet again, Tony had secured our own parking area.
….He’d even had a carriage reserved for our group although most sat in the open carriages for the descent. Our train was pulled by the River Esk built in 1923. ….The line had opened in 1875 as a 30-inch gauge to transport iron ore from Boot to the mainline at Ravenglass. After falling into disrepair, it was acquired during the First World War by miniature railway engineers WJ Bassett-Lowke and R Proctor-Mitchell to test locomotives using a 15-inch gauge. While carrying passengers was always part of the business, the line also carried granite quarried from Beckfoot. The line passed through a number of owners until it was acquired by a local landowner and a stockbroker and it is now operated by a preservation trust. The facilities were very impressive with a good museum at Ravenglass and a busy service was running with 4 trains constantly on the move.
….The above Photo is the oldest loco – the River Irt from 1894 with a lady driver and a black lab on the foot plate.
….After the journey back-up the dale, we still had over 50 miles to drive and another 1000 foot plus pass at Whinlatter. The evening involved another quiz (individual efforts) this time devised by Tony and included a ‘name the person’ photo board which seemed to favour those resident north of the border. It was also time to announce the ‘best car on tour’ results which required a formula only slightly more complicated than the single transferable vote. The outright winner was Lorraine’s WSM Midget special with Nigel & Ann Hodkinson’s well-travelled B Roadster taking 2nd place and our most senior driver on-tour, Alan Dakeyne’s, BGT V-8 taking 3rd.
….Formal farewells were said as some would be heading off on Day 5. Many thanks were heaped on Tony Smith who had spent 2 years planning this event and Lorraine Noble-Thompson who had arranged printing of the route books and rally plaques as well as many appreciated touches such as MG labels on the wine. Mike Pelling was thanked for his part organizing the big quiz and Gordon Thompson for his support to Tony.
….DAY FIVE The weather reverted to WET for the 75-mile half-day run to Carlisle for lunch and dispersal. Tony had another pass up his sleeve and this time it was Honister – perhaps in normal conditions not as challenging as Wrynose or Hardknott but these were not normal conditions with rivers of water running across or down the road and poor visibility. Even the Herdwicks had lost the will to live and were wandering around the narrow parts between stone walls looking somewhat miserable.
….The MG drivers were far from miserable though, relishing the challenge.
….The second half of this route was a ‘rest’ for the drivers and we all arrived safely at the Carlisle Golf Club for a massive buffet lunch and the last of the farewells.
….This was a truly excellent and enjoyable 5-day tour with so much to see and do. Many friendships were made or renewed and the Caledonian Centre can be proud that its reputation was further enhanced.