| Tour of the
Firths - 16 April 2016
Dave Spence. Photos - Dave Spence, Mark Forbes, David Knox
at the Fairways start
A bit of a
departure for a Highland Car Club tour, instead of exploring the rugged
mountains and glens of the west coast or lochs of the Great Glen, the
2016 Tour of the Firths took to the calmer waters (although not so calm
on the day) of the area north east of Inverness, comprising the Black
Isle and Easter Ross.
25 cars lined up at Fairways,
Inverness on the morning of the 16th, there being 2 no-shows, one of
which was Ian Smith's famous Imp. Where were you
There was the usual mixture of cars, ranging
from the 1974 Aston Martin V8 of Robert Vincent and Buchan Ralph to the
Ford Victoria hot rod of Gerry Robb and Lee Nimmo, seen on many CCHMSC,
most recently the Galloway Gallop two weeks ago, and HCC events. The
oldest cars in the event were Donald and Margaret Campbell’s
1955 Sunbear Mk3, again last seen on the Galloway Gallop, and Dave and
Maureen Spence’s 1958 Morris 1000, the Capri being rested for
this event. It was great to see crews coming from as far afield as
Kilmarnock, Arbroath and Aberdeen.
The weather was clear and crisp (very!) with a
fairly strong northerly blowing in occasional snow showers –
none of the soft top brigade risked hypothermia by dropping the hoods.
cars set off at minute intervals from 1031 onwards, heading across the
Kessock Bridge then turning left into Charleston and the road along the
first of the Firths, the Beauly Firth. It’s a nice tranquil
run along the north shore of the Firth to Redcastle where the crews
turned inland to the A832 and Muir of Ord.
then north to Conon Bridge and Maryburgh and then into Dingwall where
they turned on to the old Evanton Road on the hillside parallel to the
present main road, affording great views of the second Firth of the
day, the Cromarty Firth. After Evanton, the cars turned north on to the
B9176, the Struie Road, where after a few miles a few had stopped at
the famous Struie Hill viewpoint with its view over the third of our
Firths – the Dornoch Firth. The view was slightly obscured by
some heavy showers to the north and west, and not many lingered around
the viewpoint for long.
Back down to the main A836 the crews turned sharp
right along the south side of the Dornoch Firth to reach the Dornoch
Bridge roundabout, then after a few miles on the A9 turned left off it
towards the old Tain airfield, now used as a bombing range.
turning right it was a straight blast towards Portmahomack and Tarbat
Ness, where the crews had a stop for a photo opportunity with the red
and white Tarbat Ness Lighthouse in the background. Again –
no time to linger for any great length of time as a rather sharp snow
shower was heading in from the north.
So to lunch
– the restaurant had been informed well in advance of our
arrival, however I don’t think they expected the sudden
arrival of our numbers. Nevertheless a very pleasant lunch was had by
all at the Bistro by the Sea in Portmahomack overlooking the somewhat
stormy Dornoch Firth. The organisers decided that a scheduled re-start
would not be possible and crews set off for the second half of the tour
as and when they were ready.
The second section
began by heading south then turning left through the
“seaboard” villages of Hilton, Balintore and
Shandwick overlooking Firth no. 4, the Moray Firth. From here crews
headed towards Nigg and then back to Nigg Bay with its dozens of
parked-up oil rigs.
Travelling along the north
shore of the Cromarty Firth via Invergordon and Alness led to the
Cromarty Bridge which was crossed followed by an immediate left
following the south shore of the Firth past the bird sanctuary of Udale
Bay towards the village of Cromarty itself. The 2½ mile long
straight on this section must have been fun for some of the cars,
especially as there were some rather large unexpected potholes! No
reports of broken springs though.
the cars headed south west via the minor road through Eathie again
giving more great views of the Moray Firth. Then a small diversion to
Raddery hill which descends very steeply into Fortrose, testing the
brakes of some of the older cars severely. The Morris’s
brakes were smelling a bit by the time we got to the bottom!
it was worth it for the view from the top of Chanonry Point, Fort
George and the inner Moray Firth. Following the shoreline through
Avoch, crews then headed west to Munlochy and Munlochy Bay to end up
back on the A9 and over the Kessock Bridge and Inverness to our finish
destination at Fairways.
At Fairways there was a
short wait until the meal was served and presentation of
finishers’ awards. Quite a few stayed on to enjoy some
refreshments and get the craic from their fellow petrolheads.
what I can gather the tour was enjoyed by all and there were no
reported incidents or breakdowns.
So what for next
year to continue the theme? Various suggestions have been made
– Glens, Bens, Castles, Distilleries etc. Watch this space.
next touring event will be La Crofterra Pandemonia on 3rd/4th
September – look forward to seeing many of the crews then.
Updated 17 April 2016