TG's lap of Scotland
Tom Ford finds out if Scotland has any decent driving roads...
Posted: 21 Mar 2014
REVELATION. IT DOESN'T GET BETTER THAN THIS
The A836 to Tongue is one of the best roads in Europe. I have never seen another quite like it. The sign announces that the perfectly surfaced, wide two-lane is the product of some excellent European funding initiative. And it is, by all that's holy, deserted. And this isn't some miserly scratch of twisty road, this is a good 20 miles of stunning. The big BMW laps it up, swooshing imperiously across the countryside, feeling made for it. We couldn't have picked a better car.
We slip neatly onto the A838, and eventually run across the stonebuilt causeway towards Durness, basking in uncommon sunshine. But as we scoot around the bottom of Loch Eriboll, I know we've brought the wrong car. There are single-track roads here, notched with passing places, and the 640d feels huge and bossy and flash. Mind you, there's not a car on the planet that could go fast in these conditions, the roads tight and furnished with desperate margins, jumbled with crests and dips that lie about where the road goes next. And there are other people. Middle-aged bikers on rented BMW Tourers. Swarms of grey packed into minibuses or mounted in small retirement-spec motorhomes, dawdling at the view. But you can't blame them - when the weather is good, this scenery becomes a thief, stealing your breath. The skyline keeps expanding, the horizon crowded with less and less Sapiens clutter, until it feels like you might just fall off the edge of the world and into the sky.
And then it hits me. So far, in 80 per cent of the Scotland we've seen, dullness has been notably absent. And that's the thing. In England we had to stitch together great driving or sightseeing roads with swathes of mind-rotting motorway. In Scotland, it's been incessant. We're not looking at 10 or 15 miles of glorious; we're faced with hundreds of miles of awe. A country's worth of magic. We're not even halfway through.