Flying along roads strewn with early autumn leaves, swooping round corners, launching over crests. Just another day for a brace of Highland grouse, flying in formation along the estate roads of Balmoral but for a gang of little Minis having the time of their lives on the 2009 Minis to Ecosse – a rare and precious thrill.
Our Minis to Ecosse adventure started quite predictably, in late August, sorting out the car, going through the list of jobs after the last outing in September 2008 – Picos to Pyrenees run by Classic Rally Tours. A last minute starter motor problem led to some frantic change activity with us finally reverting to a 1966 original spare.
The starter motor was to stay the course – instead it was loose wheel nuts that threatened to scupper LLY 325D before we even reached the start of the event- just outside Perth, on a cool Sunday in early September. The loose wheel nuts may have been exacerbated by an exhilarating drive around Ben Lawers, from Killin to Bridge of Balgie and on to Fortingall (not forgetting the smashing little tea shop at Innerwick) – all en route to Perth. Nuts tightened, we embarked on a week of fine food, warm welcomes, great company, stunning scenery and a driving workout that reminded us what a fantastic little car the Mini is (the wheel nut problem threatened to make a re-appearance later in the week!).
From Monday to Friday, we spent many an enthralling hour exploring the lanes and backroads of Tayside, the Highlands and Islands. Above all, our fondest memories will always take us back to the Island of Mull, the road through the ski area of Glen Shee and the run through Glen Tarbert, Fort William and on to Ballachulish. Our thoughts return to Mull, not least because of the wildness of the landscape and the weather – and the wildness of the wildlife: the sheep that stood its ground, threatening to take us on in a head butting match – then lucky for us thought better of it. Most of all though – Mull the land of tightly snaking roads, pitching us suddenly airborne then dropping us with a crunch, only to hurl us round a corner with heart stopping glimpses of sheer drops onto the craggy, sea-lashed rocks of the Mull coast. A leisurely stroll around Tobermory and a visit to the distillery gradually brought our heart rates back to normal.
Mull and similar airborne thrills in the far North of Scotland on the strikingly scenic road from Tongue, around the Kyle of Tongue, via Kinloch Lodge, we will always cherish. No less treasured was our stunning drive through Glen Shee with Simon Drew and Gavin Brough (our best driving buddies) – with a spirited BMW driver leading the field. We will never know who that mystery driver was. What we do know is we all had a drive, the likes of which we usually only dream of, on the road down from Braemar. With the Minis at the edge of their grip, speed and braking we tore up, down, round and about the Glen with the BMW always keeping a tantalizing distance ahead of us.
Worryingly, by day three, by the time we reached Tain, it seemed the wheel nuts problem had returned. On closer inspection we discovered that the front nearside drive flange was fretting and working loose. Luckily for us, David Dyson very kindly drove over to the hotel and delivered a new flange. Hats off to David for keeping us mobile. A quick change and we were ready for the next day’s route north, via Smoo Cave, Durness and then south for the trip through the unspoilt countryside of the West Highlands. With the drive flange fixed we were then only mildly bemused by the mysterious excessive wear of the back offside tyre – surely not wholly attributable to one or two flamboyant cornering manoeuvres?
Finally, we recall with a chuckle the last day of the event, heading south once again to Perth, when we somehow managed to pass Robert Clayson five times between Tain and Grantown on Spey – only to have him appear ahead of us again each time! Admittedly several of the times could be explained away – comfort break, wrong slot, lunch break – but how do you explain passing Robert on the A9 before temporary traffic lights only to find him ahead of you further up the dual carriageway! Strange Scottish time warp or trick of the light maybe. We will never know – but how we laughed.
Full marks to Graeme and friends – we can’t wait to do it all again!
Hilary Farbowski and Andrew Isherwood
Car No. 6