Where: B863 from Onich through Kinlochleven linked by A82 back to Onich (loop).
Car used: 2004 Ferrari Challenge Stradale
"Of all the classic Scottish routes covered in the press and indeed on PistonHeads there is one that never gets the praise it should. The road in question is the B863 or what I have named the 'Kinlochring'. The Kinlochring can offer an alternative to Ballachulish Bridge adding a 20 mile loop to a journey on the A82 around Loch Leven through Kinlochleven. However, for my last tank of fuel I would drive the Challenge Stradale around the Kinlochring until the vapours ran out."
Why it's a dream drive:
"The CS arrived in Scotland 2004 and hasn't left since which is probably due to the B863. Let's just accept that the Kinlochring is a great road and the CS is the best car I have ever driven on it. To move the Kinlochring from a great to a dream drive requires dry conditions and no traffic. From a learner in an Mk3 Escort in 1992 and over a back catalogue of cars I wondered how I could find a way to close my favourite road off exclusively for the use of the CS in the summer. Typically, there was no chance of planning a road closure for the benefit of one individual even if it was a B-road in Scotland and a screaming V8 Ferrari.
Simulating an event which closed the road for another reason left me wondering if it was ever going to be possible other than say New Years Day but the weather would be miserable at best. Strangely, Susan Boyle came to the rescue. In 2009 Susan Boyle walked onto the stage of Britain's Got Talent and captured the hearts of the UK and beyond with 'I Dreamed a Dream'.
The CS was fired up and left for 20 minutes for all fluids to reach operating temperature. As I left my drive in Onich just a mile from the start of the B863 on the North side of the Ballachulish Bridge on the A82 I didn't tell a sole where I was going but they were crowded around the TV anyway. The drive that followed was a full 20 mile loop of bone dry, traffic free, pothole free, up and down left and right tarmac circumvention of Loch Leven on the B863 at the limits of my capability and in many cases the CS too. The howl of it in Race mode through the oak tree-canopied north side of the B863 on the 'roller coaster' section near Caolasnacon stands out along with many other sections which arrive one after the other like chapters of a dream drive book. Having just come back from driving the Route Napoleon in a GT3 the B863 lacks the overall distance and the mountain pass switchbacks of the N85 but it offers a highly concentrated 20 mile hit of N85. The best feedback is from my petrolhead friends who regard it as one of the best roads they have ever driven on from the first lap.
"The most important highlight is getting the direction of travel on the B863 correct. In my opinion the road should be driven clockwise starting on the A82 at Ballachulish Bridge. You drive past St Brides primary school (slowly) through a small collection of houses and in around a quarter of a mile a canopy of trees covers the road and you fall down to a fantastic 'S' bend while climbing up to a crest with a rock on the left and a 60ft drop to Bishops bay on the right.
For the next mile there is a series of climbing bends to a sharp turn to the right where you must reduce speed down to the fish farm at the bottom. You are now at the Callert Estate section and right alongside Loch Leven with Glencoe in the background and lovely sweeping bends along the walled perimeter of the main house. A rise in the road following this section can throw you off and you're then in what the best four miles of left, right, up and down tarmac available all the way to the village of Kinlochleven.
Many choose to turn around and drive back the way they came but although I agree the North side or low road is best it can be driven where you feel you want a rest on the way back and the south section or the high road through to Glencoe village offers a fantastic view and a different driving experience of what is essentially the mirror road image of what you have just driven. There is a viewpoint car park about a mile from Kinlochleven which offers a picnic table and a fantastic view of the loch. If you are lucky you can hear the noise of a CS V8 some evenings echo up the loch as you look down below.
Sights, stop-offs and diversions
Family friends own and operate the Loch Leven Seafood cafe restaurant which sits on the north side of the B863. The food is fresh and in some cases still swimming with a fast growing reputation so for an evening meal best book ahead. The signature dish is the seafood platter.
Crafts and Things is on the A82 at Glencoe village with a nice range of snacks and hot breakfast options until noon. Not a bad idea to drop your co-driver off if they don't like the twisty bits and you can slide off for a lap on your own.