Back in May of 2023, I went on what now seems like an annual pilgrimmage to Scotland. I went with a bunch of friends as part of a slap! Adventures trip, organised by the owner of slap!, Rik Kirk.
My usual bunch of reprobate mates were there, at least the nothern ones, and we had an EPIC time – and more importantly, the R34 was sensational. Absolutely sensational, it stayed with a very competently driven M3 Competition, which was only 4 weeks old at the time of the trip. Staggeringly good for 22 year old car, and 25+ year old design, against the best of the BMW lineup in 2023.
The trip unofficially started with a meet up at the Lancaster House Hotel, suffice to say, was a quiet and tranquil setting until we arrived (atrocious prices in the restaurant by the way!). Food and drink was flowing and laughs were being had, until the urge to have an ice cream came over a few of us. Thankfully Paul doesn’t drink, so we hopped in the Ta-Ta-Tekniks Audi, complete with remap and buggered turbo and set forth to find a Sainsbury’s Local. All I’m going to say is that we got lost, did a three point turn in the University grounds, got our Magnums and laughed about how his turbo sounds a little bit like Ric Flair.
But the first true morning was great. The excitment was building and everyone was set. The weather was typically that of northern England, but we didn’t care. In the car park was a perfect mix of cars and company. Aston Martin V8 Vantage F1, V12 Superleggera, Yaris GR, BMW M3 Competition, Porsche Boxster 718, 991.2 GT3, etc. It was brilliant.
Departing to the north, we convoyed keeping to a steady speed limit … ish … and stopped up at Abington, and the usual ribbing took place. We were filled up and emptied out if you know what I mean, ready to hit the twisties.
What followed was a perfect run across the roads to our first night at the Athol Palace, a lovely, stately home looking hotel that can only be described as fur coat and no knickers! Incredible to look at, scenic grounds, theatrical entrance to an seasoned foyer. Bar and restaurant are both well appointed and comfortable. The rooms, though, are crap. Make no bones about it! The bed was so hard I slept on the floor as it was softer, and the water pressure was so bad, that it makes my dog’s sneeze seem like a cannon. But, the company maketh the night, as ever.
Early rise for the meat of the trip Glenshee and out to the west coast, to Garve. Not Algarve, just Garve. My favourite road in Scotland. Braemar is stunning. Sweeping bends, great visibility for the RB26 to sing. 8000rpm through the gears, twin turbos helping my fuel out the tank, always a pleasure…
The third day took us back out south through Aviemore (shout out to a previous hotel, The Macdonald Aviemore Resort, where paint comes off in your hand and the night storage heater only works in the day). And down some more incredible views, more fuel, more boost, more revs, more smiles and more laughs. Another shout out to Martin, who according to legend, is just departing Abington Services at this point.
The A82 is amongst my favourite roads because it has everything. Undulations, camber, long bends, fast bends, viewing areas. Everything. The best part of the viewing areas is hearing your mates arrive from 1-2 miles away because of how the noise carries. If you can only drive two roads in Scotland, it’s this and the Old Military Road of Braemar.
Before we knew it, we were on our final day. A good feed the night before, where Eddie consumed 95% of the bread in Scotland, or so it seemed, with a few drinks in the bar to round off a spectacular trip. We had a good breakfast and took scenic route back to our finishing point at Abington (for me) and Gretna (for everyone else). Some of the roads that slap! seems to find are just amazing, and I’m not going to tarnish that by publicising them on here, but they’re roads that not many others will know about and they’re not common knowledge and certainly not part of the NC500. They’re better.
It was a wonderful trip with the slappers and it was time to go home – all too soon it was over.