E-type Round Britain Coastal Drive 2016 - Stages 7 - 14

Stage 7 (Day 7): We first assembled on the seafront (where apparently SS used to test their cars) and, with a ukulele-playing couple (see video), we were flagged away by member John Barnett, who is High Sheriff of Lancashire.

We began with a fine convoy and although the first part was a little tedious, we were soon into the country and enjoying some brisk motoring. Lake District was splendid, of course. Quick bowl of soup for lunch in Barrow and then the motoring was superb. I am loath to share this information as I want to keep it to myself. I jest, of course, but the stretches from Barrow to Millom and then through Bootle were made for E-types and other cars that enjoy a good road: a mix of fast sweeping bends, tight snaking sections. long straights, delightful undulations and with glimpses of the sea on one side and stunning serious dramatic hills on’t t’other. Ay, eet were reet good! This was a driver’s day.

In similar vein the road from Maryport through Allerby was straight and very fast, as we hugged the coast as much as possible before ending a superb day at the Crown Hotel, near Carlisle. In the evening Michael Quinn (Sir William Lyons’s grandson) joined us, having driven up from London. He is doing two stages which is great.

Just dashing off to Carlisle Castle for this morning’s start, and then up into Scotland. Should be brilliant.

Can I draw people’s attention to our online auction for a seat with me in the Italian Job E-type? I’m getting lonely! Also pretty challenging on my own (my wife’s driving the support Discovery very kindly lent by the Sturgess Group) so I would welcome some company. Scenery is going to be breathtaking. Please get bidding.

Stage 8 (Day 8)

An amazing day. First and foremost, the driving was just fantastic. Carlisle Castle was a splendid venue for the start as we gathered within the walls. We were soon into the country and then stopped at a spot with great views of the beach. Here our TV guys and a crew with a drone did their stuff as I and about another six cars drove past. The drone guys were keen to do all they could to support us because the father of one of them had sadly died from cancer. This is typical of the amazing support we are getting.

I did a little more driving up and down with other cameras, and was now well behind schedule and on my own but what the hell. About an hour on, I received a call inviting me to view ‘a couple of E-types I might like to see’. They were not far off our route. I then visited a veritable Aladdin’s Cave – a private collection of about a dozen 1961 Roadsters – absolutely extraordinary. Surreal. For security reasons, I can say no more at present but I took a load of photos and hope to cover the visit in our E-type Club magazine anon.

The owner and his friend (who was in his rather hot Roadster on Webers) then offered to lead me and another participant who had been the catalyst in this ‘other world’ experience for the next section. I thought they meant five or 10 miles. We must have covered at least 50! Combine the stunning route, and it was truly fabulous, with their knowledge of the roads and we ‘flew’. I had to work quite hard but had the biggest grin on my face that I have had for a long time.

As we stopped to say good-bye, and continue very rapidly to our evening castle near Largs, we all commented on what fantastic cars E-types are. An amazing day.

Stage 9 (Day 9)

I must start with an apology to my readers, both of you! I could not get connected yesterday morning. Having arisen at 5.30 am to download a few hundred photos and write my daily drivel, that was pretty frustrating. When will the UK understand that if we are going to compete in the world, we first need the most basic tools – Broadband everywhere. I am now struggling this morning so I fear my blogs may be history before they become available. Just hope you like history.

If Day 8 was amazing, Day 9 was even more so. The fabulous roads, combined with some of the most stunning scenery on this planet, equaled driving heaven.

One section of several miles was like nothing I have ever experienced: it undulated violently, with the alternating ‘danger’ of taking off and bottoming in quick fire order, combined with constant snaking, narrow sections and a very solid stone wall on the nearside. Julian Barratt of SNG Barrattand I were in convoy and that was quite testing but very different fun. The roads then opened up and were very fast. When we met traffic, which was rare, overtaking was easy and satisfying.

With 140 miles to cover in the morning, we left earlier than usual as we were due at Classic Fabs, master-builders of exhaust manifolds that are both works of art and serious pieces of kit. The owner Jimmy Stewart showed us round and then took us to the Ben Nevis Distillery where they had laid on a very Scottish buffet. Superb. And en route at Fort William.

I have a concern with CRY and fear a wheel-bearing may be on the way out. This is adding some stress I could do without. Apart from that, it was an incredible day, which ended at the Kyle of Lochalsh.

A big thank you to Ben Nevis Distillery for donating a cask of Single malt whisky to Prostate Cancer UK, plus a bottle of whisky to all drivers that tool part in Stage 9.

Stage 10 (Day 10)

I am running out of superlatives: it just gets better and better. The driving yesterday has to be as good as it gets. We had a combination of roads with firstly slow, single-track stuff (but blessed with loads of passing places) with endless stunning hills and mountains, and delightful ribbons of road skirting the water’s edge. This was then supplanted by many miles of fast, absolutely clear roads with a very good surface. Once again, this was a driver’s day and incredibly enjoyable.

I am greatly heartened by the way the whole RBCD has developed. Frankly, with all the traffic in the south and the spells of slow crawling, I wondered if this was nothing more than a publicity stunt. It is indeed that but it is so much more. In fact, the slow stuff is becoming an ever smaller proportion of the whole. It has turned out to be a spectacular driving tour.

Meanwhile, the fund-raising is going really well, which is brilliant and the serious side, and, with our intrepid film crew of Luke and Ed capturing some stunning footage, we hope we can really share our adventure with a wider public and so achieve our main aim of raising awareness.

CRY has a resident tortured mouse but the poor thing’s cries (no pun intended) are getting no worse. In fact, Ed may have semi-cured it. He travelled with me yesterday afternoon to capture some in-car footage and, with some added weight in the passenger seat, the mouse took something of a rest. Work that one out if you can. We’re all puzzled.

Today we go round the top and have been invited for lunch at Dunbeath Castle which looks stunning. The sun is out, shining on the hills and shimmering on the water. The forecast is superb. We are lucky people. It’s good to be alive. Guys: get yourselves checked for prostate cancer early.

Stage 11 (Day 11)

Yet another extraordinary day: equally breathtaking but in another way. On the whole, the terrain was very different and rather more barren but no less stunning for that. Often we had water on both sides: sea and lochs in plentiful supply. The weather was utterly glorious which made it even more special. We were so lucky; it was bliss. In fact, several of us commented we were on another planet, the very north of Scotland is so different.

After some narrow, winding roads, they opened up to be fast with long straights and sweeping bends. Initially, we kept together and had a wonderful c. 10-car high speed convoy.

Then the day became even more magical: we had been invited by an E-type owner to have lunch at his Scottish home: Dunbeath Castle. On the internet, it looked stunning. In the ‘flesh’ it was more than doubly so. Our host and hostess showed us the fabulous gardens, took us round the fascinating Castle and wined (a very modest amount, of course) and dined us most splendidly. Perched on the water’s edge, many photos were snapped, and the drone escaped captivity again as we departed. A very special couple of hours which will linger long in the memory.

Heading for Inverness, we came across some traffic and I became quite grumpy about this until I reflected – this was reality. What we have experienced in the last few days was just unreal. I am overjoyed it is all going so well. The only sour note is a lack of a decent internet connection (for four days now) which is frustrating my desire to share the images and videos. Heard last night, entry is up 200 cars – always the target. Amazing!

Stage 12 (Day 12)

Heaven on earth is finite: clearly it could not last forever. Yesterday’s drive from near Inverness to Montrose was pleasant, and indeed the middle part superb, but not up to the extraordinary standards of the few previous days. En route, we visited the little coastal village of Pennan where Local Hero was filmed and snapped CRY by the famous telephone box. The driving in this area was twisty, undulating and fun. After a quick lunch at Rosehearty, we headed for Aberdeen where we had been invited to have tea at the eight-week-old Reg Vardy JLR dealership, apparently the largest in the world. It was amazing. Poor Julie, who is driving the back-up Discovery kindly loaned by The Sturgess Group, became completely snarled up in the traffic. We suffered as well and, as it started to rain, I put up my E-type Club umbrella whenever stationary which caused some amusement. I have not had the hood up since the storms of Cornwall, which is just a dim and distant memory now.

I have been asked how we prepared CRY for this event. Simon, ace mechanic, gave the car a very thorough check over, changed all fluids and such like. As my wire wheels were showing their age, I fitted a very smart new set of stainless wires from Motor Wheel Service (MWS). On these I have a set of Blockleys and I am most impressed with them in every way. We have now done well over 2000 miles together and get on famously.

We have been exceptionally lucky with the weather but I fear it is changing. Today we leave bonnie Scotland, the land of Queen Nicola as I am told she is known to some locals, and head back into England and overnight in Berwick. Two-thirds done; one-third to go. Touch wood, it’s all good.

Stage 13 (Day 13)

Yesterday was not as sparkling as some of the other days, but you have to take the occasional rough with the overwhelming smooth. And talking more literally of ‘rough’, many of the roads were in poor condition and I spent much of my time avoiding all the lumps, bumps, potholes and manhole covers – full-time job. Throw in the largest selection of speed bumps in captivity, and you will get the picture. It’s tough on the suspension but, touch wood, the E-types continue to be utterly reliable with only the odd hiccup.

Frankly, much of the scenery did not inspire and was, on the whole, pretty flat and the weather did not help. Fortunately it remained dry, though threatening, but was very grey – grey combined with flat is not a good combination. Sadly so much of this part of Scotland seems desperately rundown with many buildings of character boarded up. Going through St Andrews was a high spot and we had stretches of fun driving. Every day has some attributes.

I am writing this in our hotel just outside Berwick-on-Tweed. Once again I am hampered by an internet connection which is a joke. Cannot share the videos as yet. As I have grumbled before, Broadband coverage and speeds in GB is a national disgrace.

After several fabulous days with us, Julian Barratt of SNG Barratt, who has been such a fantastic supporter, signed off and headed for home. It was great to enjoy his company. In the evening, we were delighted to welcome Peter Neumark, the CMC Chairman, who had driven all the way from North Wales to join us. Another great supporter.

We are now back in England, by a matter of yards, and today we head for Bridlington, travelling down the Northumberland coast, which should be lovely, round Newcastle, for which the same adjective may not be appropriate, along the Yorkshire coastline and through Scarborough. Weather-allowing, should be another very special day.

Stage 14 (Day 14)

An interesting and enjoyable day. I think we saw more seaside towns than any other day so far. Sunderland and Scarborough stand out and Whitby was stunning. It was splendid to be in convoy with 1600 RW, the old ‘Lofty’ England Roadster, the fourth right hand drive example. So, we had numbers four and 12 together. 1600 RW was restored by CMC a few years ago and I must give credit to Andrew Tart who did much of the work on CRY in the early ’90s.

I had an extraordinary experience when we were struggling to find somewhere for a quick bite at lunchtime. As I drove down a country road, I was aware of a tractor with a high load on a trailer behind proceeding in the opposite direction. Suddenly, CRY was struck by a rifle shot, or so it seemed. The screen took the hit: a larger splat of unmentionable substance. I have never known anything like it – the sound, the force and unpleasantness. It could have been worse as I had the hood down, of course, and the side window lowered.

Talking of ‘hood down’, we were again blessed with weather which ranged from pleasant to superb. Our luck has been extraordinary.

My reader – I fear I am down to one – will not recognise this blog if I do not have my customary moan about connecting to the internet. Waking at 4.30 after five hours’ sleep, I could not relax sufficiently to return to slumber so soon rose to start my daily battle. I just could not get my laptop to connect until a receptionist arrived at 7am. She was clearly a battle-hardened veteran and eventually cracked it.

The hotels have varied so much in character and, above all, quality. My bathroom at this present one in Bridlington has a bath cold tap that is continuously running (another reason for a bad night) and a basin cold tap that yields nothing. I have to stand in the bath to clean my teeth! Lovely see view, though, and glorious sunrise this am.

Still on hotels, I have just heard that the delightful Rhiconich Hotel at Kinlochbervie has not charged us for our rooms as their contribution to Prostate Cancer UK – amazing and wonderful. Today we head for Cromer – Sayer country.

Above: Stage leaders – Mike & Lorna Harrison

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