All posts by Martyn

Day five would find us at my ultimate destination, Islay – home of some of the finest whisky in Scotland.

It was beginning to seem quite normal to start the day with a full hearty breakfast. The hotels here seem to try and outdo each other with the completeness of a ‘full’ breakfast, Kilchrennan was also offering porridge or kippers apart from the usual fry. No mind it certainly sets you up for the day and as I said before you don’t need lunch.

The route today would take us south from Oban to catch the ferry early in the afternoon from Kennacraig on the shores of West Loch Tarbert to Port Askaig on Islay. After driving for about 30 km we saw a sign for Arduaine Garden and decided to stop and look round. An absolutely beautiful place, the peace and quiet reminding us of An Torr a few days earlier and although having an entrance fee it was well worth the visit.

The rest of the trip was a pleasant drive, uneventful with little traffic so we made good time and enjoyed the countryside. The car park for the ferry was already fairly full when we arrived and I parked the car and walked over to the terminal office to check in. When I got back to the car an older guy was quizzing Elly about the car, she hadn’t been able to tell him much so I gave him a tour round it, opened the hood and told him about all the work that had been done over the years. He seemed impressed and wished us a good journey, we were to meet him again in the bar of the Islay Hotel later in the evening.

This ferry crossing was a little longer than the previous day and took about 2 hours but that gave us time to get a coffee, wander round the boat and take in the views. I also found a nice little hard-backed book in the shop about Single Malt Whisky on which I made a start.

After disembarking from the ferry we followed a line of traffic half way across the island until we reached Bridgend were we turned off towards Port Charlotte and found the Bruichladdich Distillery. This was one I wanted to visit as I had read about the traditional Victorian methods they used to produce the whisky.

Here is a short slideshow to show some of the process but this is a car site and although I love single malt whisky if you want to know more about the process there is enough on internet. Try this one “the production of whisky” or this “how is whisky made“. The first is actually a German site, the second a French site with English translations but both tell the story quite well and even have photo’s from Islay distilleries, so they at least have taste. The Bruichladdich Distillery site is also very interesting.

Here is a short video of the spirit safe working

Then it was on to the hotel and although being the most expensive of the whole trip provided an excellent stopover with a first class restaurant serving the best fish we’ve tasted in a long time. The bar had some live Scottish music in the evening and the man who spoke to us at Kennacraig was one of the musicians. I, of course, enjoyed the local ale as well.

After dinner we took a stroll around the town although it was pretty quiet and there not a great deal to see.

Back to the mainland on day four with an overnight at Kilchrennan House, Oban.

Again a traditional hearty breakfast at the Broadford Hotal meant that we could get through the rest of the day without any real need for lunch. The weather had been a little cloudy when we arrived on Skye the evening before and today started out with more cloud than we had seen since starting the tour but it was still more pleasant than I would have expected from the stories that abound about the weather in the northern UK. We had no real plans for Skye apart from a short tour of some of it with the ultimate goal catching the ferry back to Mallaig which would be leaving Armadale in the south of the island at 1430.

We took a steady drive up the coast to Portree where we parked the car to look around.

In the harbour we spotted some guy trying to use a water sphere but he was having trouble even standing up.


We left Portree to drive across the top of the island on a minor road to reach the southern coast which we followed until we found the Talisker Distillery. We didn’t take the tour as it was extremely busy and had a rather commercial, even corporate, feel to it. Showroom with subdued lighting and glitsy display cabinets. We drove on and reached the ferry terminal with time to get a coffee at a little wooden shack where they had a genuine espresso machine.

The ferry left on time and with a crossing time of 25 minutes there wasn’t much time to do much apart from take a couple of photo’s before being called to return to the vehicles.

From Mallaig it was a couple of hours drive down to Oban, part of the route retracing steps from the previous day.

As there was no restaurant in Kilchrennan House, it was just a B&B, we took a walk down into the town to find a restaurant and some drinks. We ended up finding a large pub with reasonably priced drinks, classic real ale and it was Curry Night!!!

The end of day three found us at the Broadford Hotel in Broadford, Skye.

 We had left Loch Lomond after another hearty breakfast and travelled north up the A82 through the Grampians which took us to heights of 600m with the mountains around us at over 1000m.

Near Glencoe we stopped at the ‘An Torr’ National Park of Scotland. After parking the car in the car park park just off the main road we set off up a trail through the woods which brought us to a panorama viewpoint on top of a rocky outcrop. The photo of the view is not that brilliant as the outcrop was completely overgrown.

An Torr Slideshow

The most amazing thing was the absolute peace that we found there, it wasn’t so far from the main road but all you could hear was the birds singing and the wind in the trees.

After leaving An Torr we carried on past Glencoe and Loch Leven and drove up along the banks of Loch Linnhe to Fort William. On this stretch of road we were skirting around Ben Nevis. From Fort William we ran parallel with the Caledonian Canal which runs from the North Atlantic and Loch Linnhe all the way up to Inverness, the Moray Firth and the North Sea passing through Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness.

Loch Lomond to Loch Ness Slideshow

Stopping in Fort Augustus on the southern shores of Loch Ness to stretch our legs and take some photo’s we got caught up in some tourist madness, it was pretty busy and difficult to park. There were a number of boats waiting to traverse the locks from Loch Ness up to the canal heading south.

Fort Augustus Slideshow

Leaving Fort Augustus we followed the A82 a little further north before turning west on the A887 at Invermoriston. This was an amazing stretch of road, I think I could have counted the cars seen on one hand, a brilliant cruise until meeting up with the A87 near Loch Cluanie.

Here we met up with more traffic but it was not what you’d call heavy, the power in the 3.5 litre motor was good enough to get past the other vehicles we caught up with. The road took us to what would have been the end of the line in the past, Kyle of Lochalsh, but these days you don’t need to catch the ferry as the road carries on over the bridge to Skye. Kyle was a place I always wanted to visit as it always had this romantic quality which was coupled with the railway which ended at the ferry terminal. I had seen it time and time again on railway travel programmes but the reality when we stopped to wander round was disappointing, probably due to the the disappearance of the ferry and the presence of  only small diesel trains. The famous Hotel also looked as if it had seen better days, rather sad. We weren’t there too long before crossing the bridge and heading to our last stop for the day at the Broadford Hotel. Again excellent food and drink.

Loch Ness to Skye Slideshow

The first night in Scotland we would spend at the Inn on Loch Lomond at Inverbeg.

Inn on Loch Lomond at Inverbeg

We left Bowland Bridge after breakfast and drove through the Lake District via Windermere, Ambleside, Keswick and Cockermouth to Carlisle.

Then avoiding the A74M up through Galloway via Dumfries and Kilmarnock and on to Glasgow. Possibly not the best choice as we encountered a lot of delays through road works where they were using a convoy system from traffic light to traffic light through the length of the restriction. Apart from that the roads were not particularly inspiring to drive and I doubt if I would bother to repeat the experience. If I’d known beforehand I would have spent more time in the Lake District and then used the M74 motorway to Glasgow.

Glasgow brought us back to the typical urban mayhem we were so pleased to get away from the previous evening but after a short stretch of M8 west we left the motorway to cross the Clyde over the Erskine Bridge. Here we picked up the A82, a fine trunk road which would eventually take us all the way up to Loch Ness but for today the journey would end at Inverbeg on Loch Lomond. Stopping at a services near Dumbarton I bought a decent map so I could turn off the TomTom, I mean who needs it in the west of Scotland, there aren’t that many roads to get lost on. After leaving the Dumbarton area the roads seemed to get progressively quieter and the last few kilometers were extremely pleasant and a taste of things to come.

We arrived at the end of the afternoon to pull into the car park at the front of the hotel where a couple of the staff were sitting outside in the late afternoon sunshine taking a smoke break. There was immediate interest in the car with questions about which model and how old it was , this would become a regular occurrence at most places we stopped. It was another beautiful evening so after checking in and dumping the baggage in the room we sat on the terrace and sampled the local ale.

After that we crossed the main road through a tunnel to reach the shores of  Loch Lomond and walked along the cycle/footpath for a way to take a few photos. I say cycle path but we didn’t see anybody using it, most of the crazy cyclists were braving it amongst the truck, bus and car traffic on the main road.

The slideshow below give you an idea of the beauty of  Loch Lomond, but it does in no way do justice to just being there.

After sampling the local fare in the excellent restaurant we retired to the bar for another pint of the local Galaxy Trial and a single malt. A great way to end the day.

Local Ale of course

After visiting friends and family in the Midlands the first night of our trip to Scotland was spent in Bowland Bridge, Lake District.

Here below a few pictures of a beautiful (possibly untypical) evening in the Lake District. What we noticed most was the peace and quiet compared to the city environment we left earlier in the afternoon. The Hare & Hounds was a charming country pub hotel that does marvellous food & ale and a typical full english breakfast. The Beamer was the only Dutch car parked next to the hotel and we saw no other Dutch cars on the road today.

Sunday the 6th of July saw us at Classic Park Festivals BMW Tradition meeting in Boxtel. Arriving fairly early I was parked near the front of the parking area and as it was again good weather I, of course, opened the hood. I was immediately approached by one of the organisers to ask if I would like to participate in the Concours d’Elegance they were holding. I told him that I didn’t usually take part because a true Concours is only really interested in total originality and even good restorations can lose points compared to an original car with a little ‘patina’. He told me they weren’t planning to go to those extremes and managed to talk me into it. There were some quite nice cars there and the following slide show should show what I mean.

After spending some time talking about the car with some old and some new faces I managed to get away and look round the museum which they also have there. Most cars are actually for sale so I don’t think it truly qualifies as a museum, but still a great place to look round.

Later in the afternoon they called everybody together for the Concours prize giving. Nobody was more surprised than me to be called forward as the 3rd prize winner. The chief judge commented before mentioning my name that although not strictly a typical Concours vehicle they were impressed from the minute I arrived with the attention to detail of the work done on the car and my meticulous polishing to get it looking in tip-top condition. The prize? A box of chocolate cars :-). The winner? The red Z1. Unfortunately no Photo’s of the presentation.

Bimmerfest 2014 was held, as the previous year, at the Trafficport in Venlo. Weather was good but to be honest the announced “6 Gathering” at the centre of the paddock was a disappointment. There were very few e24’s, certainly a lot less than last year. The space reserved was slowly eaten away by the arrival of loads of newer models and the general atmosphere was nothing like the Sharknose Meeting from the previous week. Nothing really wrong with it, just a different sort of visitor. As such the photo’s are a bit limited. I did see a couple of nice e31 coupe’s, the proposed successor to the e24, and an e24 custom pick-up. I still don’t know what to make of that. Don’t know whether I’ll be going next year.

Photo’s taken during a visit to the Sharknose Meeting in Arnhem on 24th May 2014. The meeting was much better than the previous year with a large contingent of excellent e24’s (Old 6 Series), many of the owners had travelled from Germany. My car was parked in front of the Schmiedmann BMW stand to help promote the parts available for the model, it looks almost black under the indoor lighting.


The slideshow below gives a fair impression of the quality of the cars attending. There were a number of e30 models which are not strictly speaking shark nose but still nice to see some of the custom work done. The e28 painted like a riveted airplane was also amusing.

Day 4, Tuesday 13th August

Karpathos from the ferry

After leaving the previous evening at 1800 we called at Santorini at around 0200, Anafi around 0400, Kasos around 0930 and I drove off the boat in Karpathos at about 1130. Elly, Denise and grandson Nick were waiting on the dock but being one of the first on the boat, I was one of the last off so they had a long wait. The whole harbour area was full of vehicles waiting to get on the ferry and progress along the promenade was slow. I pulled up at a restaurant belonging to some friends of ours to ask if one of the guys was around but he wasn’t, so I drove on up to the hotel where the rest of the party were waiting and we unloaded the car. Time for a beer at the pool I think.  :-).

Day 2, Sunday 11th August

The second day of the trip started calmly enough with a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. The trip from Verona to Ancona was about 360km so I thought I had time enough to spare before the ferry left at 1330, it was Sunday after all. Was I in for a surprise! Horrendous traffic around Modena and Bologna meant that I was standing still or crawling for what seemed like hours. The ETA on TomTom was getting later and later. I had not bothered to take any photo’s or shoot any video over this stretch as it is not a particularly scenic part of the country and when we eventually got some kind of movement in the traffic I just hadn’t got the time. The traffic in the left hand lane of the autostrada was solid and I found that I could make more time by driving on the right and weaving in between traffic where necessary. I was still running behind schedule when I got closer to the coast just past Imola but a lot of the traffic was leaving the autostrada for the coastal areas. This gave me the space to floor it where I could but was still sitting behind slower cars because I’m not not the type to tailgate. I noticed a set of headlights pull up behind me at a rate of knots and saw an Audi emblem right on my back bumper. Best thing to do with people like this is let them go so I pulled over and let him go. He wasn’t intending to hang around behind the two cars I was following either and I saw them start to pull over. I had to catch that ferry so I thought “What the F*#k – if you can’t beat ’em join ’em” and I quickly tagged on behind him. It was an Audi R8 with a Liechtenstein license plate, you know the type – money no object. This arrangement worked out pretty well as I started to see the ETA come down to put me in the window again. We were travelling between 160 – 180 kph more or less all the way to the Ancona exit and I guess he was approaching 200 at times as he pulled away before being slowed down by traffic again and then me catching him again. As I turned off the autostrada to drive the last few k’s into Ancona I flashed my headlights as a bit a nod towards a thank-you, but I don’t suppose he’d even noticed me. Shame there was no video actually, it would have been quite interesting.

Well I made the ferry with about half  an hour to spare eventually and here are a few photo’s taken on the ferry as we left.

Day 3, Monday 12th August

We arrived in Igoumenitsa on a hazy Monday morning at around 06:30. As I was one of the last vehicles to board, I was one of the first to drive off. There were a few (mostly Italian) cars, caravans and large campers in front of me as I followed the procession out of the harbour area. The main road out of Igoumenitsa (A2, E90) is a fairly new dual carriageway cut through the hills and begins with a fairly steep climb before levelling out a little higher up in the hills. I passed all of these vehicles in the climb and by the time I reached the top I had the road to myself. As it happens it was only about 5 km before I turned off to head south on a smaller local road to join the A18 which runs down the coast towards Preveza. Just before Preveza the route took me east for a while on the A21 to run around Arta before heading south again on the A5. I followed the A5 until reaching the Rio-Antirion Bridge which was about half way on the route to Athens. A lot of this road was really good but there was also a lot where the road surface was really poor and I had to take avoiding action around tarmac that was breaking up and creating potholes. Traffic was extremely light for a Monday morning and not what I was expecting after my experience in Italy the day before. I only held up briefly once on the whole stretch and that was behind an Albanian truck that obviously had some problem. After a few kilometres of crawling along he pulled in to a parking area on the right and the traffic got past and got back to a normal speed. I thought that another Greek truck behind him would have also held us up but this was not the case and we were soon travelling at 80-90kph, fast enough on this piece of road. Somewhere along this road (I can’t remember exactly) I had stopped to fill up and get a coffee, the breakfast on the ferry meant that I didn’t need much more. I like the old fashioned service you find in fuel stations in Greece, especially those outside of the big centres like Athens. There was no self service and when I pulled up, got out and grabbed the pump hose a guy came dashing out remonstrating with me that he was going to do it. I told him to fill it up and opened the hood to let him check the oil. I asked him if I could get a coffee and he told me to see his colleague inside. I ordered a double espresso and sat in the shade outside at a small aluminium bistro table and waited for him to bring it out. I seem to remember that it was around 0930 and the sound of crickets was already filling the air. The coffee was good as I watched the guy at the pump cleaning my screen before telling me that it was finished. No oil was needed – of course not, I had rebuilt the engine well 😉 . After paying the bill I set off again and reached the bridge about an hour later. The bridge and a number of sections of the road beyond that are toll although it is only a couple of euro each time. The first part of this road from the bridge to Korinthos (A8a, E65) runs along the southern coast of the Gulf of Corinth and although being designated as a highway it is for most of it’s length a 3-lane road with a narrow hard shoulder on both sides. The lane in the middle is officially for overtaking but what happens in practice is that slower moving vehicles tend to drive half on the shoulder and faster moving traffic passes both ways using half of the centre lane. A bit scary 😐 . Road surface wasn’t too bad, although there were a lot of road works where they were obviously building a new dual carriageway. To be honest I was glad to get off it and once we reached the next major junction at Korinthos we joined the A8 (E94) which was a real six lane highway running all the way to Athens. By now it was getting on for lunch time so I pulled in to a service area and got a sandwich and something to drink, this was however the same sort of place you’d find anywhere else on European motorways. Reaching Athens some time before two I had about four hours to wait before the ferry left at 1800. By now the August temperatures had soared so I parked the car near the ferry and took a walk to find a bar and a cold beer. When I got back a little later I opened the car door which was like opening the oven door in our kitchen. I had to wait a couple of minutes with the doors open before I could get in. About four o’clock they decided to start loading some of the waiting vehicles, that in itself is a bit of a puzzle as they call at a number of destinations en route and have to load and unload at each port. I was getting off at Karpathos the last but one major island before reaching Rhodes where they turn around and return to Athens the same way.

Here is a short film of edited highlights: