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RE: 'Kinlochring': My Dream Drive

RE: 'Kinlochring': My Dream Drive

Thursday 14th August 2014

'Kinlochring': My Dream Drive

PHer Nigel MacLean reveals his favourite Scottish loop and Susan Boyle's role in making it a dream drive



Name: Nigel MacLean
Where: B863 from Onich through Kinlochleven linked by A82 back to Onich (loop).
Car used: 2004 Ferrari Challenge Stradale

Probably quite fun solo...
Probably quite fun solo...
The route:
"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'.

... but in a convoy? Wow.
... but in a convoy? Wow.
Like everyone I was stunned with Susan Boyle's voice but it was only a few weeks later it occurred to me the massive effect she would have on the Kinlochring. Scotland embraced SuBo and her popularity began to shut down Scotland on a Saturday evening. It was when she made the final that I struck dream drive gold. The BGT final 2009 was on a Saturday night in August and I was ready. The roads had been busy all day and the sun bright in the sky but as the time came for BGT it was as if Scotland had closed and the time had finally come.

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.

How far away is Scotland really?
How far away is Scotland really?
Highlights and lowlights:
"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.

Road means the 360 will be staying!
Road means the 360 will be staying!
Finally you will roll up at the T junction where the B863 meets the A82 in Glencoe village. You can pop into Crafts and Things on the opposite side of the road for a cheese toastie or/and head back North to where you started on a wide open and fairly boring section of trunk road. The most likely is that you will go for a second lap so consider leaving your passenger at Crafts and Things.

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.

Follow the route here

 

Author
Discussion

JuanCarpantier

Original Poster:

17 posts

70 months

Thursday 14th August 2014
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That is a gorgeous CSL!

thatguy11

508 posts

46 months

Thursday 14th August 2014
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I've done this route! Coming back down south from a drive in the highlands, we almost missed it as it really doesn't go anywhere so wasn't on our route. So, so glad we saw it on the map and decided to check it out.

It's just amazing, the road's a complete rollercoaster in places. you're always, always fully on it and there's really no breathing room apart from when you're passing through Kinlochleven. We had it just after a shower and it was fairly slippery, would love to tackle it in the dry sometime!

Edited by thatguy11 on Thursday 14th August 11:34

Davey S2

11,517 posts

177 months

Thursday 14th August 2014
quotequote all
Hmm 360 CS or GT3?

Decisions decisions.

Is that your F50 as well?

neil-f

1,643 posts

130 months

Thursday 14th August 2014
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Davey S2 said:
Hmm 360 CS or GT3?

Decisions decisions.
If you have both a few laps in each smile

nigelonich

903 posts

143 months

Thursday 14th August 2014
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JuanCarpantier said:
That is a gorgeous CSL!
this one?



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marcg

140 posts

118 months

Thursday 14th August 2014
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Stayed at Loch Leven holidays chalets last summer (it rained, it was cold and there were lots of midges. In Scotland? Who knew?) drove that road day and night for two weeks. Admittedly in a Nissan Qashqai +2 diesel, not a Ferrari 360. Still; fantastic road! Properly challenging and well sighted, in the main. I'm a sucker for smaller cars and could imagine this would be epic in a narrower, lighter, more rigid car like a Caterham, an mx5 or a hot hatch. It was fun in my family wagon though. The nature of the road and distance from the main Oban road to the chalets (about halfway along the north road) meant pottering at 30mph was not an option. Not because I'm a hardcore driver but because after you've spent the day out at Oban or up Ben Nevis (around the corner) the last 5 miles home are just too long at 30. You don't actually get there much quicker (in a Qashqai) at 30-50 but you at least don't have the frustration and so much fun! My god it is beautiful though. I'll try to find a picture...

Michael77

20 posts

77 months

Thursday 14th August 2014
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I drove along the A82 the other week, if only I'd have known about this then, I'd have taken a detour!

chrisj_abz

807 posts

108 months

Thursday 14th August 2014
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one of my favorite routes too, and i confirm at the other end of the spectrum from the Ferrari its as much fun in a 998cc Mini! im itching to head over in my MINI cooper s to try it in that..

Ive spotted your car sitting in the drive a few times when ive been over that way and felt very jealous of you having such a superb car with all those roads on your doorstep.

R_U_LOCAL

2,244 posts

131 months

Thursday 14th August 2014
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Mrs L and I stayed in One of Nigel's parents' holiday cottages earlier this year and during an email exchange he recommended this road to me.

I have to say, it's everything he's made it out to be and more.

If you're looking for somewhere to approach a cars maximum speed, or a series of open, sweeping, fast bends, them I'm afraid this is not your road.

If, on the other hand, you're looking for a challenging, undulating road with an excellent, smooth and well maintained surface, mostly superelevated bends (so very few adverse cambers), which are reasonably easy to read, but very rarely seprated by straights longer than a couple of hundred yards, then its as close to perfection as you'll find anywhere.

It runs around the loch shore, so it's often bordered by trees and walls, so you need to be alert and focused, but those roadside features add to the sensation of speed and keep your attention from wandering. Traffic is extremely light, even by Highland standards, but there are a few well sighted sections to allow overtaking and the Scots are far more co-operative when being overtaken than the usual bloody-minded English drivers, so you're never held up for long.

I drove it in a diesel 1 series with winter tyres, but despite this, I still absolutely loved it & found myself doing a couple of laps one afternoon.

Can't recommend it highly enough!

M666 EVO

922 posts

85 months

Thursday 14th August 2014
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When we drive to Mull we sometimes go through Glencoe. A truly epic drive.

topalwaysdown

809 posts

112 months

Thursday 14th August 2014
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The name in the title didn't ring a bell with me straight away, but when I saw the map I grinned, I knew instantly where this was.

I drove this road about 8 years ago, anticlockwise, in a 106 Rallye en route to John O'Groats. I'm not sure why we took the detour, perhaps we were ahead of schedule, but it's one I'm glad to have taken. We drove the route anticlockwise taking the high road above the loch first, but it's the memories of chasing a 309 GTi with a camera attached to the rear window in a convoy of Rallyes, twisting our way along the north shore that make me smile.

As mentioned in the article, the north road has neither long sweeping bends or straights, it's a constant of slight ups and and down and quick lefts and rights that leave you working the car for the whole distance. My mind can't fathom taking something like the S2000 down there, let alone a 360 (unless it was very quiet), for me this was one of the roads the Rallye was built for.

I've always hoped to return to Scotland and this road would be #1 on my list to drive again biggrin

Chris Y

209 posts

111 months

Thursday 14th August 2014
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Indeed a brilliant road. Done it 3 times now. Perfect for the Elise.

olderbutnotwiser

29 posts

52 months

Thursday 14th August 2014
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Loved the miniture ring slightly farther south, round loch creran ( crerranring ? ).

You had to be careful though at the spring tides, when the road would be under high tide, and you had to use the private track to get round the floods . . .

Olivera

2,689 posts

162 months

Thursday 14th August 2014
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Great road!

nigelonich

903 posts

143 months

Thursday 14th August 2014
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F50 kindly (understatement) lent to me in May for a week and is not my car.
Regarding the comments on the Pugs reminded me of my 205 gti 1.9 which was awesome around there so I envy your trip.
R U Locals post sums it up better than I did as the road is demanding without having to be at high speed but unlike most roads like this it has smooth undamaged tarmac.

Davey S2

11,517 posts

177 months

Thursday 14th August 2014
quotequote all
nigelonich said:
F50 kindly (understatement) lent to me in May for a week and is not my car.
Understatement indeed!

What was it like on that same stretch of road? Too wide?

Given you chose the CS as the car of choice for that drive I assume it's the most fun but how does the GT3 compare? I assume all things being equal it would be marginally faster than the CS?

JuanCarpantier

Original Poster:

17 posts

70 months

Thursday 14th August 2014
quotequote all
nigelonich said:
this one?

Amazing. Those are likely to be GT3 money soon.

spankit

63 posts

116 months

Thursday 14th August 2014
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Great write up Nigel biggrin....
This has been one of my favorite roads over the past 10 years as i usually detour & drive anticlock-wise twice while passing twice a year as i head north to the Salen Inn to see my old pal who moved from Yorkshire...
It has always surprised me at first which cars i have driven on this 'mini ring' which i though would be up to it for max fun....
CSL 10+bow
996TT 9+cloud9
Gallardo 8+smokin
Tuscan 7cool
DB9 6tank
The area is full of fantasy roads generally & plenty of view points for photo shoots....
best regards S driving

Whiters

357 posts

162 months

Thursday 14th August 2014
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Great route. The southern part of the loop is where my profile pic was taken. Did it in the M3 a couple of years back. As previous posters have said, can be tight in places but is a real roller coaster (sorry for the cliche...) and opens out nicely here and there. But the real bonus is how quiet and unknown it is. Will always make a beeline if I'm in the area.

Conscript

1,130 posts

44 months

Thursday 14th August 2014
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Just had a squiz on Streetview and that looks like almost the perfect driving road for me...open enough for nice fast driving, but still winding enough that you don't need massive power to exploit it.

I really, really need to visit Scotland one day..