|John & Mark Hornby depart in gleaming 1974 Lotus Elite
Gerry Robb winds up his
1932 Ford Victoria
Ian Davidson & Patrick Cox in 1975 Alfetta making tracks
Great Reg No
Porsche crew Joe Norman and Terry Clark stop to take in the view
Chris Paton Cooper S
Preparing Mini No 18
Bruce & Hilary Paterson in their very quick 1960 MGA
Ian Smith Imp
Loch Eriboll stones
Tracey Smith/Emma Richards
Riley Elf Hugh McGouran top down
in Lotus Elise
Don & Mags Campbell
1955 Sunbeam Talbot 90
Gary Bates as Star Wars stormtrooper?
Deidre and John Mackintosh 1999 Mercedes SLK 230
Jimmy 'Alfa' MacDonald
Alfa 2600 Sprint
Is there a winner in here?
Graeme Finlayson and William Preece overheard discussing their tactics.
Tidy Mk1 keeps rolling along
Davie Escort back on song
George and Veronica Dun Ginetta G15
Darren MGuiness smiles in BMW Z3M, as crew member Andy Thomlinson takes the shot.
John Stuart Westfield sits beside Ormond Smith Vitesse in sun at Applecross
'77 Triumph Dolomite of Hugh Urquhart and Kirsty Grieve gets the once over checks. More photos from
Crofterra Pandemonia - 3 & 4 September
- Jim Paterson. Photos Jim Paterson, Andy Thomlinson, Heilan Lassie,
and the many Facebook contributors. The story wouldn't be the same without your photos
and videos. Thanks to you all.
Starters set off at FairwaysThe
omens were good for the 2016 La Crofterra Pandemonia as the clouds
cleared and the sun broke through for the start at Fairways Inverness
on the morning of Saturday 3rd September. My Mazda MX5 as Car No7
juggled into position in the start queue. I think after car 10 the
start order numbering became more random. All the starters seemed to
heed the drivers briefing from Dave Spence to refrain from
'entertaining starts', though many waves from departing crews were
captured by Andy Thomlinson before he too was on his way. Hands Free' is a must on the phone, but maybe not for driving?'
all made sure the first leg back to the A9 and on to the Kessock Bridge
heading for the Black Isle, making sure not to catch the eyes of the
police, especially as we were passing the Northern Constabulary HQ.
The first challenge was finding the Kilmuir
slip road off the A9. How many sailed on by then? I was following
a group headed up by Mags and Don Campbell in their 1955 Sunbeam Talbot
90 and a group headed by Gerry Robb in the 1932 Ford Vic. All was well
until Gerry and the gang turned left, on our way to Culbokie, so I
followed. What is the first rule of navigating? Do not blindly follow
the guy in front. Rona my co-driver cried 'Mags turned right'. Grrr.
Quick turnaround and hoof it back up the road, making sure to miss
walkers and cyclists also enjoying themselves.
Back on route
to Culbokie and picked up the A9, spotting the slip onto the B817 to
Evanton. Again many Crofters sailed on past up the A9, missing this
scenic loop. This is trickier than I thought, and we are only on page
2. Still weather and scenery great.
quick rear mirror check showed only Campbell Jamieson in his 2003 Audi
TT behind. The Alness to Bonar Bridge section took in some commanding
views toward the Dornoch Firth. We took heed of the caution in the
roadbook to avoid pothole bashing on the Bonar to Golspie section, and
negotiated the multi junction turns at Blackies under the rail bridge.
Things were looking up. We are on page 4, without wrong slotting again!
Strath Fleet, alongside the river fleet led to Lairg at the top of Loch
Shin. This next section is going to sort the men from the boys, heading
for Durness right at the top of Scotland.
Taking in the viewsThe route was
now almost all single track with passing places, even though they
carried 'A' road classification. That's because there ain't any
alternatives. This is the land of the Straths, staring with Tirry,
alongside the river of the same name, then Strath Vagastie to
Altnahara. If we thought that was tricky, we hadn't seen anything yet!
On to Hope up Strath Hope by Ben Hope was a real tricky track.
The roadbook rightly warned of poor surfaces, of which there were many.
The temporary bridges were something else, particularly for low slung
sports cars like my MX5. The melting winter snows had washed away some
of the bridges which had been replaced by a typical Army REME bridge.
Unfortunately these were placed on concrete blocks some four feet above
the riverbed with ramps of gravel and stones to get on to them. These
of course clattered and banged off the bottom of the MX5 and I just
prayed none would puncture the fuel tank. Out here any failure would be
catastrophic. As Jimmy 'Alfa' McDonald said to me later, it just
needed another flood and the water would simply skirt round the
parapets and wash away the ramps cutting the route completely. Time
We met many fellow traveller, as well as Crofters, on
bicycles and walking, but as speeds were pretty low anyway, there was
little chance of 'punting' any into the Strathmore River.
'hope' of a change to wide sweeping roads melted when we reached Hope
(sorry about the pun), keeping to single track all the way round Loch
Eriboll sea loch. Used by the Royal Navy during WW2, it is well known as
the place the crew of HMS Hood spent their last shore leave prior to
the Battle of the Denmark Strait, where she was sunk while chasing the
German battleship Bismarck. Many of the sailors painted the names of
their ships on stones on the hillside. We spotted the island 'Eilean
Choraidh' used for ariel bombing practice on the German battleship
Tirpitz, and it does look uncannily like a battleship.
digress. We must press on to Durness. The clouds were forming from the
west and soon the heavens opened forcing a quick 'tops up', apart from
John Stuart in his bright yellow Westfield. He had to run fr cover,
eventually pulling over and finding shelter in an abandoned tractor,
whose cab was intact, albeit no doors. Westie drivers need strong
constitutions to drive up here.
The upside was the most spectacular
light show, as the sun caught the rain, almost like a daytime 'northern
lights'. This was Scotland at its best and we were privileged to see it
in all its glory.
If we thought we were on the home stretch to
Ullapool for our overnight, yes we were, but still many miles over
single track roads. Leaving Durness we looked over to Cape Wrath, the
most north westerly point in the UK mainland passing yet more
outstanding viewpoints toward Laxford Bridge where the road opened up
to Scourie, and on to Kylesku. At Unapool we turned due west to
Drumbeg, taking care to over the many blind summits, and to drive
slowly and carefully through these small villages, where residents are
often overpowered by north Coast 500 drivers tearing through. Several
comments that the NC500 may become a victim of its own success.
reached the west coast at Stoer and stopped to admire the view from
Achmelvich viewpoint before reaching Lochinver. The next section to
Drumrunie was littered with more blind summits and tight corners to
keep me awake and concentrating. Great views at Stac Pollaidh. All to
soon we were back on the main A835 and a straight run into Ullapool. We
took time to refuel for the Sunday having clocked 240 miles, only 10
more than the road book, so not too many 'off piste' moments.
evening at the Royal Hotel was buzzing with many of the crews staying
and the raffle was great fun, with Roddie Main and Fiona Munro trying
to keep some semblance of order. Have you seen as many tickets as this?
The theory seemed to be 'if I buy all the tickets I must win a prize.'
Well yes it did with what I thought was a new design Star
Wars trooper helmet, but turned out to be Gary Bates who won the very elegant golden welders mask.
Sunday 4 September
start was more relaxed after some hard partying the night before.
Spence and Roddie Main flagged us away at 10.00am. Most got away with
no more than oil and water checks.
An easy drive down the A83 just to get cars and crews
back into the saddle before once again heading toward Loch Ewe at
Braemore Forest. More fantastic views as we reached Little Loch Broom
Aultbea, passing the island of Gruinard, where anthrax tests were
carried out in 1942 by Porton Down scientists. We held our breath
passing this spot, just in case!
Down the side of Loch Ewe,
passing Inverewe Garden to Poolewe and to the west coast at Gairloch.
Kinlochewe was our next stop, driving alongside Loch Maree. Many took
the opportunity to top up their fuel tanks at Kinlochewe, for the tight
section to Applecross and the lunch stop. I caught Mags and Don
Campbell in the Sunbeam Talbot and was amazed at how it sailed up the
climbs, oncoming traffic simply cast aside in awe, as they pressed
regally on with a wave and a nod. Royalty could not have done it any
better, though the odd obstruction had to be carefully avoided..
We have done this section a few times in the reverse direction
from Applecross, but this way offers great views from the many summits,
missed when going the other way.
Applecross was a welcome
lunch stop, but is now so popular with NC500 travellers. Our timing was
spot on, with many Crofters fed and watered just leaving. The place was
still buzzing with many taking to the garden for lunch, the weather
being perfect for 'alfresco' dining.
All too soon it was time
to climb up to Bealach na Ba, where Don found the steep climb giving
the Sunbeam a hard time, with grumblings coming from the drive
Over the top and what do we
find? Some chump in an oversize motorhome coming the other way, forcing
everyone to back up. Jimmy Alfa had setup a picnic table and enjoyed a
refreshments at the top hairpin, while watching the farce unfold.
Eventually after much multi point turns on the hairpins the motorhome
went on its way. I'm sure I saw the good drivers partner shouting ' I
told you it wasn't suitable for this barge', or words to that effect.
When we reached the foot of the Bealach we met some exoticly painted
cars making their way up. Something to do with Rocco Rally.
only way is onward, this time to Lochcarron, round the top of the Loch
Carron, down toward the A87, a quick stop at Eilean Donan Castle, then
heading east for the finish at Inverness. Running along the north side
of Loch Ness the organisers had put in a loop at Abriachan, but we
decided to stay on the main line, reaching Fairways after some 230
miles. A total of 460 miles is a good couple of days driving across
spectacular roads enjoying almost constant blue skies, well almost.
prizegiving was surprise, with a change from crystal glasses to
matching water jugs. Just what is needed to hold a little water for
your dram in a glass from years past. A second raffle provided smiles
for many, with John Stuart in the yellow Westie winning a bottle of
whisky. Just what you need when a cold shower hits you and no roof on
total of £1500 was raised over both nights raffles for 'Highland
Youngsters with Diabetes' charity. An outstanding achievement. A big thanks
to all the crews who contributed.
Hailed by all as a great success this 12th running
of the Crofterra will be hard to beat, but we were assured that Dave
and Roddie were already sharpening their pencils on the 2017 tour.
Can't wait to see where we go.
|Tales of broken clutches, lost wheels|
Dave Spence and Roddie Main
car C1 we set off from Fairways at the end of the field expecting a
fairly quiet time of things. After taking a short cut over the Black
Isle we came upon a few tail-enders who we let past. We then followed
them up over Struie to Bonar bridge and then to Golspie, where we
decided to join Ian Smith and others for a coffee break.
leaving the car – the phone rang – Car 26 (Escort Mk2)
– Alec Davie and Dave Irwin – broken clutch cable, stuck
somewhere above Rogart.
We suggested they try to get to Pittentrail
Garage – the nearest one.
However we heard later that
they had managed to get to Lairg where a “home mechanic”
was trying to repair the broken cable by soldering a piece on the end.
This is where we caught them up.
After the attempted repair
failed the crew managed to contact a friend of theirs who lives in
Dingwall and just so happened to have new cable. We agreed to go to
Ardgay, 10 miles away ourselves to meet their friend and pick up the
cable – which we duly did then scurried back to the stricken
Escort in Lairg.
Half an hour later – new cable fitted
– good to go…. but by then it was 4pm – so we cut
and ran across country to Ledmore and down to Ullapool. But, one car
sorted and one happy crew!
But theirs was not the only incident
– at the other end of the field Ricky Finlayson had been
beavering about helping
Roy McQueen (Car 41 Mk2 Escort - exhaust
problems) and Ricky Gauld (Car 25 Imp – overheating).
the biggest catastrophe of them all could have happened to Ormond
Smith/Ranald Smith in the Triumph Vitesse Car 33. On the very first
section going over the Black Isle they noticed a knocking noise.
checked they found a loose wheel. Ormond decided that wheel nuts
supplied with his nice new alloys were the wrong ones and decided to
return to Inverness to get other nuts he had at home.
on the A9 dual carriageway – oops we have a list to port!!!
Nearside rear wheel disappeared into the central reservation!
resourceful chaps the 2 Smiths collected the wheel, re-attached it and
got back, changed nuts and re-joined the tour. Bit of damage to the
lower quarter panel, but nothing major, but a potential disaster
Day 2 – Ullapool to Inverness
being well rested we all made the re-start at 10am on Sunday morning
from the Royal Hotel – that is apart from the Smith crew. This
time it was Tracey’s Elf – it drove from the back car park
to the front of the hotel and promptly stopped. Much scratching of
heads among the “experts”. Coil, condenser, distributor,
fuel pump??? - all eliminated systematically.
Ullapool start view from Mags Campbell room
What next ???Someone suggested
looking at the plugs – totally black and sooty, then somebody
else said “oh yes, the exhaust looked a bit black when she drove
it round here” – d’aaahhhh – the choke had
stuck on and had flooded the engine!!! A quick tweak to the cable and
all was well. A lot of time wasted, but we all got on our way
eventually an hour after the field.
So the rest of the day went
fairly uneventfully until we came upon Lenny and Andrew Morrison with
the bonnet up on the Sunbeam at Kishorn. Oil pouring out at high
pressure due to a faulty connection to the oil cooler. However a
tighten up and half a gallon of Castrol’s best and they were on
Ricky Finlayson, who had been helping them out told
us tales of Garry Bates (yes, the mobile mechanic with no spares in his
car!!). Apparently his alternator had packed in and he swapped
batteries with Ricky to get him going – Garry reckoned this would
last until he got home. ‘Fraid not, folks – we got a call
when we were just passing Dornie from Garry – car ground to a
halt at Inverinate Filling Station. We were there a few minutes later
but unable to help – stopped a few cars but nobody had a spare
alternator or even a battery suitable. So RAC was summoned and some
time thereafter a recovery vehicle and courtesy car were sent out from
Kyle of Lochalsh, so Garry got home late on in the evening.
– a few tales of woe, but nothing too serious – not enough
to spoil the fun anyway.
Ricky Finlayson was awarded the Autovision
Trophy for his sterling efforts at standing in as a course car and his
work as flying repairman.
'No blooming signal out here' cries
Jamieson Audi TT chases Ritchie Porsche Boxster.
for lots more stories, videos and photos
Updated 9 September