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GETTING IN GEAR TO TOUR SCOTLAND BY CAR
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GETTING IN GEAR TO TOUR SCOTLAND BY CAR
 

GETTING IN GEAR TO TOUR SCOTLAND BY CAR

 Scotland can rightly boast of its quiet roads and scenic backdrops – just perfect for classic and vintage car touring holidays as well as modern luxury car vacations in Scotland

Written by Linda Jackson

There’s something special about taking a touring vacation with a classic or vintage car. As a classic car owner, I know this only too well. The instantaneous camaraderie of classic car drivers, even if you’ve never met before, never ceases to amaze me year after year and run after run.


Glen Shiel
 

You’ll soon discover that specially-chosen roads for classic car touring holidays will be a delight to drive.

Often a fast stretch of dual carriageway or motorway will invitingly be thrown into the route now and again purely, you understand, to test that accelerators will function when pushed to the floor. Narrow country lanes with passing places are also likely to be dotted into routes to stop the old girls from overheating.

Winding country roads with sharp bends and steep hills test old gear boxes and gear-changing skills to the max, and hilly quiet lanes allow you to identify the distinct rumble of each make and model of classic car. Roads that are shaded and wooded, run adjacent to the water’s edge, or are mountainous and scenic, simply ensure you will fully appreciate the beauty of the countryside around you. And believe me, dear car lovers, Scotland is a country where you will find both roads and scenery exhilarating enough to excite and fuel the enthusiasm of even the most pedestrian of drivers.

Please don’t quit reading here if classic cars are too out-dated for your taste. Instead just cheat a little and take a luxury car touring vacation in Scotland in the comfort of the latest air-conditioned heater-warmed Mercedes, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, Range Rover, or BMW.  

Before you do so, though, seriously consider touring Scotland by hiring a classic or vintage car. It’s a really enjoyable way to explore quiet scenic roads, especially chosen to be relished at every turn – roads not to be driven in haste with the sole aim of getting from A to B.

   
touring scotland by classic car
 

You’ll soon discover that specially-chosen roads for classic car touring holidays will be a delight to drive.

Often a fast stretch of dual carriageway or motorway will invitingly be thrown into the route now and again purely, you understand, to test that accelerators will function when pushed to the floor.

Narrow country lanes with passing places are also likely to be dotted into routes to stop the old girls from overheating.

Scotland is blessed with a number of scenic routes which offer an alternative driving experience to taking busy roads; there are around a dozen national tourist routes in Scotland. As diverse as the Scottish landscape itself, the variable routes not only offer an amazing array of sightseeing gems and attractions en route but also a wide range of luxury boutique hotel accommodation in Scotland. Whatever your motoring style, exploring Scotland by car promises a memorable classic touring holiday so let’s get in gear and check out a few scenic driving routes in Scotland.

   

Isle of Mull

Edinburgh & East Lothian

 

Parking in any city can be a problem, especially if classic cars are involved. Edinburgh is no different, so start your car tour of Scotland just outside Edinburgh.

For your first pit stop, stay at Greywalls Hotel & Chez Roux Restaurant, in Muirfield, East Lothian. It’s an elegant Scottish Edwardian country house hotel with safe parking for classic and valuable cars and, incidentally, winner of the 2012 “Scottish Hotel Restaurant of the Year” (Scottish Restaurant Awards).

From Greywalls you can explore the rolling country roads of the Scottish Borders, a region at the very heart of Scotland’s past. Head south-east to Dunbar (John Muir country); it makes a perfect start to a Scottish classic car tour, combining winding country roads, history, castle views (Dirleton and Tantallon) and stunning seascapes (Bass Rock).

Turn inland towards the market town of Kelso (good coffee stop) where Floors Castle, Kelso and the Jim Clark Room (1960s Formula 1 racing driver) in Duns make interesting stops, as does Thirlestane Castle at Galashiels (a splendid Scottish castle whose border fort origins date back beyond the 13th century).

Return via the A7 to North Berwick or stay at Stobo Castle Health Spa, Peebles: another luxury hotel in the Scottish Borders (go west along the A72 from Galashiels) and likely to be of particular interest to female passengers travelling in classic cars which are renowned for their stiff suspension and bumpy ride.  Trust me ladies, the pampering spa treatments at Stobo Castle Health Spa will go down a treat.

   

Greywalls

Travelling North to Gleneagles


Gleneagles
 

Changing route and stepping up a gear, travel north from Edinburgh up the M90, taking the Crook of Devon exit to enjoy a flat winding road which links up with the A823 (the main road to Gleneagles) keeping your eyes open for buzzards and, if you’re lucky, a golden eagle.

It’s a zigzag road that takes you first through Glen Devon then Glen Eagles from which the world-famous hotel, Gleneagles, took its name.  Nip up the Yetts o’ Muckart, a narrow road with passing places; you’ll find a number of small roads like this worth an exploratory leisurely deviation.

The road is shaded by overhanging trees; flowering gorse adds splashes of vibrant yellow to the roadside here and there; a forest of fir trees cling to the steep-sided glen to the left, a gushing river at the bottom. As you drive over the crest of the hill you are rewarded with the classic view of Gleneagles Hotel nestled in the valley below.


Coasting South to the Coasts

There are a number of scenic routes departing from Gleneagles, some stretching far over to the west coast – en route to which you’ll find a number of hotels that make excellent luxury pit stops. For a short pleasant run, head west from Gleneagles along the A9 towards Loch Lomond, around an hour and a half’s drive away, where Cameron House is idyllically located on the banks of Loch Lomond itself.


Loch Awe
 

A circular and scenic route, returning to Gleneagles from Cameron House, is to take the A82 up the north side of Loch Lomond (scenic but busy during summer months), driving through Glen Falloch and Glen Dochart, then onto the A85, driving through Glen Ogle, and alongside Loch Earn.

You’ll enjoy the scenery on this route - it’s wonderful; it’s also Rob Roy territory and you’ll find his grave not far from the western end of Loch Earn.


For another dose of glorious scenery, from Tarbet (halfway up Loch Lomond on the left-hand side) take the A83 east across country to Loch Fyne then head for the West Coast where you’ll find a mix of rocky landscapes that become even craggier as you near the coast. There are winding roads, stone outcrops, and magnificent loch-side views. Roads alternatively loop through dense woodlands and run adjacent to the lochs, providing far reaching vistas across the water to towns such as Inveraray and Lochgilphead. Some worthy stops are Inveraray Castle and Crarae Gardens. At Lochgilphead take the scenic A816 and head north to Oban.

   

Places to stay to explore this area are Crinan Hotel, located at the end of the historic Crinan Canal, where there’s also a quaint harbour and fabulous views across the loch and, further north, Inverlochy Castle Hotel which sits at the foot of Ben Nevis and only 40 minutes’ drive from Loch Ness.


Rolling through Ayrshire

 

The Ayrshire coast boasts lush arable landscapes that are dotted with abbey ruins and small villages, many with connections to Robert Burns, Scotland’s famous poet.

Ayrshire also boasts a famous ‘electric brae’ – an uncanny optical illusion that, although cars appear to be going uphill they are in fact going downhill. Discover this phenomenon between Drumshrang and Knoweside on the A719.

Stay at Turnberry Resort, famous for its golf courses - Ailsa and Kintyre. From the hotel’s elevated position there are spectacular sea views beyond the golf courses and nearby Ailsa Craig (a volcanic plug). In the distance the island of Arran beckons, temptingly flaunting its mountain peaks. It’s known as ‘Scotland in miniature’ and well worth taking the car ferry over to explore the picturesque island roads.


View of Arran from Troon

Still in Ayrshire… check out the Burns National Park, go past the poet’s birthplace, then travel inland to the Galloway ‘Dark’ Forest region – a great place to take a forest walk and stretch your legs (this forest is famous for viewing stars as the sky is unpolluted by lights).  To get to know this remote area stay at intimate Knockinaam Lodge, located yards from the sea at the south west tip of Scotland (it’s where Sir Winston Churchill met General Eisenhower during World War II).


Open roads through the Kingdom of Fife


Anstruther, Fife
 

To explore a more flat, undulating landscape with rich farmland, long sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs and an abundance of palaces and small castles or ‘keeps’,  head for the coastal road of the Kingdom of Fife. The Fife coastal trail is popular with classic car clubs, being a favourite route to and from St Andrews where a lot of Scotland’s car rallies are held.

There are quaint seaside towns and villages to visit along the coastal route; call in at Anstruther town for award-winning fish and chips, they’re delicious; and to Pittenweem – a pretty little ‘arty’ harbour.

At the Edinburgh end of the route, just over the Forth Bridge, Culross Palace is worth a stop, as is Falkland Palace (near Kinross) –both are steeped in history. At the other end of the route, stay at the Old Course Hotel in St Andrews, a region world-famous for its golf courses.


Discover the Joy of Exploring Scotland in a classic car

One of the biggest joys of driving in Scotland, apart from an abundance of roads ideally suited for a classic touring holiday, is the anticipation of not knowing what will be around the next corner. 

Will there be an imposing castle, ancient abbey ruins; a huge volcanic plug rising out of the sea, towering mountains or a deep glen? Will we see deer, Highland cattle, red kites or golden eagles? Will we be driving on roads that run alongside a glistening loch, through a deep pine forest, or through rolling hills cloaked in flowering heather? 

   

Glenfinnan Viaduct

linda jackson in triumph
Our intrepid travel writer, Linda Jackson, ready to roll.. in her restored TR3a.

With inviting roads and spectacular natural assets, Scotland is undoubtedly geared up to offer the car lovers amongst us wonderful options for the perfect classic car tour with its rich mix of road types, landscapes and vistas.

 

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