High road, low road, whichever one’s open
You’re spoilt for choice if you’re hunting great roads in Scotland.
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