High road, low road, whichever one’s open

You’re spoilt for choice if you’re hunt­ing great roads in Scot­land.

CAR (UK) - - Our Cars - By Ben Barry

FEEL­ING OLD AND WIST­FUL about my univer­sity days in Glas­gow, a Scot­tish play in the 440i beck­oned. My wife and I struck out up the A1 from the East Mid­lands early one morn­ing, cross­ing east to west and latch­ing onto the M6 and M74 to­wards Glas­gow. Thanks to the 440i’s cus­tom­ary blend of com­fort and easy per­for­mance, we were soon in Glas­gow’s West End, wandering Univer­sity Gar­dens where the lin­guis­tics depart­ment helped ready me for the com­po­si­tion of sen­tences not un­duly tan­gled.

That af­ter­noon we skirted north past Loch Lomond, the roads wet, largely empty and much more de­mand­ing. I tried to go quickly enough to en­ter­tain my­self, if smoothly enough so as not to cause dis­tress. Huge pot­holes con­tained the speed.

We climbed to­wards Glen Coe as a snow­storm blew in, blan­ket­ing the moun­tain­sides, leav­ing the road mostly un­trou­bled at first, but thicker snow smoth­ered the sur­face higher up. With the rear-drive 440i wear­ing Bridge­stone Poten­zas, it was for­tu­itous that an As­tra slowed us all to a 10mph pro­ces­sion, and it was as­ton­ish­ing to watch said Vaux­hall re­peat­edly bash the verge while main­tain­ing some de­gree of con­trol. The 440i never felt skit­tish.

We stayed in North Bal­lachul­ish that night, mak­ing for the Isle of Skye next morn­ing in bet­ter if still slip­pery con­di­tions, and fol­low­ing a well-driven Ford Ranger to­wards In­ver­garry and onto the A87 to Kyle of Lochalsh – learn your craft up here and it shows. There was barely a soul around as we mo­tored on through that snowy wilder­ness, and the Gran Coupe set­tled into an easy, quick rhythm, its smooth-as-silk straight six and eight-speed auto a fan­tas­tic cross-coun­try com­bi­na­tion.

We’d in­tended to cross straight onto Skye us­ing the bridge, but the A890 to­wards Ap­ple­cross looked so invit­ing we gave it a go. It was a great road with scenery to match, but var­i­ous road clo­sures put a stop to that and we re­verted to plan A. We didn’t spend long on Skye, soon catch­ing a ferry from the south­ern tip back to the main­land. We peered out from the deck, frozen but en­tranced by the rugged for­eign­ness of the scenery – and as­tounded that one cou­ple were about to go camp­ing. We used the ferry’s wi-fi to book digs in Fort Wil­liam, and kept a good pace down the A830 at twi­light, a road of long straights and fast cor­ners.

Driven quickly on en­ter­tain­ing roads like these in Com­fort mode, the 440i top­ples just a lit­tle too read­ily onto its out­side springs af­ter a dis­con­cert­ing lit­tle pause, and with a lag to the steer­ing weight too. Sport is bet­ter, giv­ing a con­trol to the sus­pen­sion com­pres­sion and dialling that dead spot out of the steer­ing weight, but it’s pretty firm. This car han­dles well, but there’s a mid­dle ground wait­ing to be tapped some­where.

We passed just two cars on that en­tire 40-mile run to the out­skirts of Fort Wil­liam, and the risk of deer jump­ing out was ob­vi­ous. Two were al­ready walk­ing over the road when I rounded one cor­ner, picked out by the BMW’s adap­tive LED lights. As they moved, a third bounded from a bank. Those brakes cer­tainly work when needed.

Next morn­ing we headed more eas­ily south over a still-dra­matic Glen Coe, but avoided re­peat­ing Loch Lomond with a de­tour over the fan­tas­tic – and bet­ter sur­faced – A85 and A84 to­wards Stir­ling be­fore mak­ing for the bor­der. A great trip, and one made all the more en­joy­able by the 440i.

Snow en­hances the view, but rules some of the best High­lands roads out of bounds

Glas­gow’s gone a bit up­mar­ket since Ben’s now-hazy stu­dent days, and so’s Ben

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