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Eastern, Cambridge Area news

11 June 2019

Cambridge June News

The last weekend of April saw nine sports cars from the Cambridge Area and its environs make a trip to the very edge of the Highlands of Scotland to do the famous North Coast 500 and a circuit of the Isle of Skye, a trip we called the North Coast 850.

The North Coast 500 is a five hundred mile circular trip, ostensibly starting and ending in Inverness, which goes around the very western, northern and eastern coast roads of the Highlands of Scotland. Much of this route is one single track roads with passing places which weave in and out of the craggy and hilly coastline making for some very spirited driving indeed. Our version was to go clockwise, and, rather than start at Inverness we started at Oban on the west coast, taking in the beautiful Isle of Skye but we all met up initially at a truckers cafe called Jaynes Place not far from Blyth on the A1

Starting as we meant to go on with a Full English Breakfast we headed up the A1 for lunch at Hamilton just west of Glasgow. Valiant efforts were made to find a replacement lever arm suspension damper due to the alarming list to port of my Herald but they didn't quite come off. Left to right in the carpark we had Matt's Porsche, Adam's MX5, Toby's Hurricane, Nigel and Di's MX5, Andy's valiant Spitfire, my two litre Herald, Tim's TR5 and Vinnie's MGF with, just out of the picture (by about 100 miles) was Mike's fuel injection 1500 Herald.

The route out from Glasgow to Oban started to get us away from the necessary but boring motorways and into the more lovely country roads. The traffic thinned, the wildlife and foliage started to creep to the edge of the road and we could tell we were in for a great trip, despite the inclement weather. Eventually we pulled up in the town of Oban where a little carpark work was needed to try to cure that worrying lean with the seized suspension. That  saw us remove the lever arm damper only to find it was the trunion bolt that was causing it. Although the next morning was another soggy day our spirits were high

Being April, we had expected the occasional rain, but those first two days saw tremendous amounts of water flung down on our little cars. Photographs of it do not do it justice as, when stationary, the rain is easy to see through thanks to the RainX waterproofing layer, but the sheer quantity of pelting of huge drops and the misting up as the cooling the rain easily out competed the best efforts of our heater and measly fan meant that most of the road was a fuzzy shape in front of us.

We caught the surprisingly large ferry from Mallaig across to Arndale on the Isle of Skye with Calmac and our lineup in the feryy loading queues attracted a fair bit of attention. The ten o'clock sailing had gotten us up early for another full breakfast but we all made it and poured off onto the beautiful Isle of Skye. We toured this clockwise too, haring round to the top left corner to see Castle Dunvegan for very good lunch at a hotel in Eig. Some missed the occasional turnings and did some of the sights in a different order but pretty much everyone made it round everything. Rather than take the rather boring, if impressive, bridge off Skye, we opted for a tiny six-car ferry from the end of a tiny single track road.

The Kylerhea to Glenelg ferry takes only a handful of cars at a time but takes a mere fifteen minutes to load, sail and unload so there is not much waiting needed. The deck of this amazing little ferry rotates to allow the cars on, and then again to allow them off. This is an outstanding experience and heartily recommended. A second advantage of taking the ferry is the route out - it too is single track and brings you down onto the main road to Skye from the south so we were able to visit the castle of Eilann Donan

This was the castle made famous by Highlander and the cries of 'there can be only one' were loud and plentiful. A quick tour of the shop for trinkets to take home in offerings to those left behind and we were off North. Our destination was the tiny isolated village of Applecross, which marked the start of those single track roads, something we would try not to come off from until we reached practically John O'Groats. The turning to start this has an iconic road sign, now much covered in stickers which warns road users that this is not for the feint hearted.

It tells of 1 in 5 roads, 200ft of climb and hairpin bends and warns learners, caravans and those of a nervous disposition to stay well away. This was clearly the road for us! Highland cattle with enormous horns lined the road and patience had to be shown whilst they ambled out of the way.

These were the roads we had come for. The silver lining from the previous day's wet weather was that the roads were deserted, which meant that the Sprited Driving knob could be cranked up to 11! The beauty of the isolation was breathtaking, as was the occasional cornering technique. This kind of stunning road continues all the way up to Durness, although those who wished to could opt for a slightly swifter A-road alternative further inland. Although Toby and Adam had carefully laid out the key points on uploadable satnav files, we were able to enjoy some old-school navigating with maps spread out on bonnets

The alternative routes also helped reduced the traffic on these beautiful roads so that we had this amazing sports car playground pretty much all to ourselves. We understand that some weekends this route can see campervans in their hundreds trundling along blocking and blighting the route; the motorbikes were out also enjoying the route so we had to keep our wits about us to avoid spoiling someones day - they were clearly enjoying going in the opposite direction as much as we were in driving in ours. After a quick go on a zip-wire across an idyllic beach clifftop

Having been up to Durness to the most Northwesterly point and across towards John O'Groats we turned off the normal NC500 route and avoided the increasingly two-way high quality roads along the east coast choosing instead to relive the route down to Altnaharra and Hurricane Rock. This was the scene some years ago of a coming together of a large immovable rock and a soon-to-be immovable suspension turret of Toby's Vincent Hurricane. Toby marked the occasion with a little baptism in water he made himself and we continued on our way

Our overnight stay was at a hotel in Lairg where, after the obligatory Full Scottish Breakfast, which were beginning to get a bit much by now, we tagged all of our cars up with National Drive It Day rally plates

Just after Lairg is the beautiful Falls of Shin which we stopped at in the early morning. It wasn't so early that a little spirited Stag driving wasn't to be had, however

The run home from there saw the roads open up onto Scottish A-roads, then more recognisable sized A-roads. We had a couple of issues to sort - my suspension started to drub on the handbrake cable, or vice versa, and poor old Toby had to retire just hours short of the A14 turning when his clutch release bearing failed, throwing the car out of gear which he was unable to get back into. Toby and James made the final part of the trip back home on the back of a recovery truck.

All in all it was an amazing trip and mile wide grins were hugely evident. We made great friends and stuffed our faces until our stomachs groaned with great food but it was the scenery and the amazingly twisty and invigorating driving roads that made the trip.

The June meeting is Monday June the 3rd at the Plough, and then Monday July the 1st


Soggy on the way up
Queing for the ferry to Skye
The magnificent ferry off again
'There can be only one' castle
Applecross warning sign
Local wildlife
Team map decisions
The beaches were stunning
A visit to Hurricane Rock
A triumph of a stag!
Fixing the wheel rubbing issue so we can get home
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© The Triumph Sports Six Club Ltd 2019 - Registered in England No. 1527651 - VAT Registration No. 368748103 - Website Terms & Conditions - Website Privacy Policy - Site by Linxdesign
© The Triumph Sports Six Club Ltd 2019 - Reg: #1527651 - VAT Reg. #368748103 - T&Cs - Privacy - Linxdesign