TG's lap of Scotland
Tom Ford finds out if Scotland has any decent driving roads...
Posted: 21 Mar 2014
BORDER PATROL: FINALLY, IT BEGINS
Which, incidentally, is where we crossed the border, and the Lap began in earnest. Now, Coldstream (home of the famous Guards) sits on the northern bank of the River Tweed in Berwickshire and considers itself the gateway to the Borders of Scotland, which is why it felt appropriate as a starting point. There's a ‘Welcome to Scotland' type sign, but no passport control or barbed wire, and the border guard consisted of a small brown terrier, who just huffed at our ankles as we checked maps. Coldstream is a gateway, though. There's a feeling of change as soon as you pass through that putative portal of Scottishness. Maybe the air's a touch sweeter, the verges a bit greener. Maybe it's just being excited to be here. But the roads open out after the little village, a taster of what's to come.
Immediately, I know we've brought the wrong car. The GC feels massive and a bit fuzzy around the edges, groping around for body control and unsure of where it might end up if pushed. But Borders roads roll and pitch through a heavy swell of green countryside and stone walls without the sudden random arcs of UK roads, so I prod the GC into Sport mode from the lazy confines of either Eco or Comfort+, the latter two better to use the adaptive suspension to round off the corners and soothe the bumps on the motorway. The car tenses up, becomes more eager on the throttle and less inclined to roll and heave. It feels faster - as if someone's just thrown a bucket of icy water on its face and a coffee down its throat. The big BMW shrinks. You may still be aware of the size, but suddenly you know where the edges are, and the 640d starts to lean into the traces and haul. The trade off is that now we know the exact texture of the road, hit a couple of unsighted potholes and suddenly wonder where the spare and jack are, the GC crunching through larger depressions with the finesse of tooth enamel on kerbstone.
But these roads are an encouraging welcome to Scotland. Not much fun in the streaming wet, mind, but well sighted. We pass the first few miles to Kelso on the A698 and then to St Boswells on the A699 in a happy blur, eventually picking out some side roads to Galashiels and looping around to catch the A7 up toward Edinburgh.