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Old 4th October 2015, 22:32   #1
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Default 9 day road-trip in Scotland with the Jaguar XE R-Sport

When : Sept, 2015
Route : Edinburgh - stonehaven- aberdeen - ballater - braemar - tomintoul - glenlivet - aviemore - inverness - loch ness - lochalsh - isle of skye - pitlochry - perth / dunkeld - edinburgh.

Last year,at the fag end of Summer, while we were vacationing in London, we had done Edinburgh-Sterling and went up till the Loch Lamond national park - which was fascinating ofcourse, but too short. However, what it did was to pique our curiosity regarding a longer road in Scotland. At the time we did not know the Scottish bug had bit us so bad that we would be back within a year.

Fast forward, September 2015, we decided to go on a 9 day road trip in Scotland. Idea was to fly into Edinburgh, cover the Eastern coast, go up north cutting cross the Cairngorm national park, touch isle of Skye and come back via Pitlochry into Edinburgh. Fly back to Dubai from there. Since I was speaking at a conference in Aberdeen, it fitted quite well. Also it was Eid holidays in UAE and hence the number of leaves to be taken was also quite manageable. Only challenge was how my at 2.5 years would cope with the long drives. Though he loves outdoors almost as much as we do, being on a car seat would get boring in a while. Hence we planned enough pit stops to give him time to run around and enjoy. There honestly, is no better way to see the Scottish highlands other than driving yourself - assuming you love driving as much as I do.

Landed in Edinburgh to fantastic sunny morning with temperature at a very pleasant 15 degrees. After some coffee and sandwiches, went straight to the connecting walkway which takes one to the car rental lobby just outside of the airport.

Took our pre-booked car - the new Jag XE Sport in Diesel. A fantastic white car with great handling and planted drive. Ofcourse with the British pedigree ! I'd have preferred a defender or range rover but then we would have been left with no money to fill petrol/diesel ! The white feline would be our companion for many miles over the next 9 days. Though I am not a car geek per se (I just love driving) I was fascinated by the new Diesel line of engines that Jag is debuting in these lines (Ingenium, most fuel efficient and lowest carbon emission from JLR family at a mere 99 g/km). All I can say from a driver's point of view is that its superbly linear in delivery though a bit noisy. Also worth mentioning is a most useful bi xenon that literally brightens nights up in the mountains. (Very important feature)

We had booked a B&B with a check in time of 4 pm in Stonehaven, a 120 mile drive. Stonehaven is a nice beach town situated in Aberdeenshire. Since we had plenty of time, we had decided to do a few castles en-route.

Stonehaven itself was picked due to proximity to Dunnottar castle, which was one of the places I wanted to do some photography around. However, we took a pitstop at a beautiful lakeside garden in Brechin and then decided to drive straight to Stonehaven. I decided to trek up the castle areas for photography in the setting sun.

Also covered the Stonehaven war memorial which was a couple of miles from the castle. The straight walkway to the war memorial (On right in the bnw picture below) proved to be very photogenic.

Next day morning, all three of us decided to go out for an early morning drive. Idea was to see the sunrise over the Stonehaven beach. It was a bit cold early in the morning at around 8 degrees. After catching the sunrise, we decided to drive to Dunnottar and take some family portraits next to it and be touristy ! Since we had missed the castles the previous day, we decided to dedicate most of today to castle tour. Since a lot of them were around Stonehaven- Ballater route, we covered Crathes, Drum and Corgaff.

Out of these, the drive to Corgaff via Tomintoul was amongst the best I've driven anywhere in the world. Simply awe inspiring vistas though the castle itself is a simple star shaped white structure.
Total of around a 100 mile drive before wrapping up the day in a fascinating B&B in the royal dee side in Ballater - a little village by the river Dee where the Queen comes visiting most summers. (Her castle, the Balmoral is just a few miles from here)
Day three was dedicated to driving around the beautiful Dee side. We even managed to have some Indian lunch ! It was also my wife's birthday and hence we decided to celebrate it in a fashion that both of us love. Walking into a forest and relaxing while enjoying the nature. We planned to walk a simple trail in Cambus O May forest given that we knew we will have to carry our son after couple of Kms. Did a short 4-5 km round trip trail and celebrated the birthday ! We did another recce of Tomintoul up the mountains followed by relaxing next to river Dee in a caravan park late in the evening.

Next day we would cover quite a bit of distance since we were cutting right across the Cairngorm national park. We took the Braemer (saw the Braemer castle), Tomintoul (saw Corgaff once again), Glenlivet, Aviemore, Carrbridge. We had booked couple of days in Carrbridge in the event of deciding to go see the wild life of the national park. We did see deer (red and roe) but since I was not carrying my usual wildlife kit, no good photographs to show for it. Another less than 100 mile day but some fantastic roads covered. I'd say its one of the best routes in UK - inverness, Loch Ness, Isle of Skye can ofcourse give it strong competition as we were to find out soon enough.

It was now getting colder the higher we went. The evening that we spend doing timelapse on our Iphones of a rainbow appearing at Loch Morlich was a biting 5 degrees with some strongish winds.
The Caledonian pine forests around is beautiful but also makes driving quite difficult especially at nights - given that there are no streetlights for most parts, a number of sharp bends and super tall trees on either side of the road, one has to be more careful than usual on the pedal.

Next day was a long drive day. Started very early after a heavy breakfast. First pitstop was Inverness, the capital of Scottish highlands. After filling the tank to full, drove along Loch Ness to Isle of Skye route. Passed the beautiful Urquhart castle just 15 miles south west of Inverness. This was followed by the breathtaking beauty of Eilean Donan castle at Kyle of Lochalsh.

After Lochalsh its a straight road onto the bridge connecting Isle of Skye. We spent only couple of hours exploring Skye since we were planning to do a lot of shooting at Eilean Donan on the way back for sunset. As luck would have it, the whole evening was almost rained out. But it did give a shot of the castle within a rainbow. Money shot which goes on a big print in the hall ! Eilean Donan is a small tidal island where three lochs meet, Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh, in the western Highlands of Scotland; since the castle's restoration in the early 20th Century, a footbridge has connected the island to the mainland.

We realized we did not do justice to Western Highlands since areas around Lochalsh and Skye requires atleast couple of days. The drive from Inverness through Lochalsh into Skye would remain etched in memory as one of the best in the world. The wilderness atop the mountains is probably matched only by some stretches in Africa. (Reminded me of my drives in the Rift valley province in Narok, or the Selous / Morogoro regions)

Spent the last day at Aviemore driving to Cairngorm mountains and doing some timelapse of clouds slowly covering the mountains leading to heavy downpour. I must confess, Iphone has become an able companion to my SLRs and grudgingly I now accept that phone cameras have become usable tools ! The panorama and timelapse functions are quite useful for some nice end products - especially if one is not printing big.

The last day was a longish 150 mile drive back to Edinburgh but along the beautiful A9. However, as luck may have it, there was major traffic disruption and hence we took a deviation via a bunch of small villages around Perth - including some fascinating places like Hermitage forest in Dunkeld. Saw some of the tallest trees I've seen outside of Africa and India. As they say, everything that happens, happens for good. Though late and tired, we reached Sheraton Edinburgh in time for a warm bath after days on road followed by a proper sit down dinner

Enough of text - Im more of a photographer than writer and hence would now let the pics do some talking.

Cheers
Suhas
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Last edited by snan : 4th October 2015 at 23:01.
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Old 5th October 2015, 14:37   #2
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Default re: 9 day road-trip in Scotland with the Jaguar XE R-Sport

Awesome pics!
Do add more info of the car/rental agency too since it will help others who want to plan similar road trip.
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Old 5th October 2015, 17:25   #3
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Default Re: 9 day road-trip in Scotland with the Jaguar XE R-Sport

Car was 2015 Jaguar XE, diesel, 2.0 D, around 160 bhp, 8 speed ZF auto tranny. Overall cost including the penalty for tire damage came to around 750-800 pounds . Agency was Thrifty. Good thing is they accept any license as long as its English (Atleast Ive used both UAE and India licenses without issues over the years) ; and like other car rentals in EDI airport, one can easily walk over with luggage from airport (5 minute walk)

From a driving point of view the Jag has many pluses - some similar to the larger brothers like the xf ; great handling, precise feedback, very reasonable 0-60 numbers (sub 8 sec I think). Has paddle shifters and Jag's trademark pop up rotary gear selector. Internal quality I thought was below Audi, BMW and Merc. Also rear seat space is smaller than beemer's 3 series. I loved the turbo diesel with very linear delivery.

Hope this helps answer your query.

Last edited by snan : 5th October 2015 at 17:32.
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Old 6th October 2015, 00:38   #4
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Default Re: 9 day road-trip in Scotland with the Jaguar XE R-Sport

Hi snan,

Your pictures brought back some fond memories. I have been doing road trips in Scotland since 1999. Even after a dozen trips over the years, the place still takes my breath away. Not to mention the Highland Roads, which are a drivers paradise.

My favourite route is from John o Groats to Ullapool via the A-835, 836, 838 & 894. It is the road that runs across the northern coast of the British Island.
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Old 6th October 2015, 15:32   #5
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Default Re: 9 day road-trip in Scotland with the Jaguar XE R-Sport

Nice travelogue snan. Good pictures too.

The Scottish countryside has a lot of charm. The castles and other old constructions look so much more appealing than the skyscrapers of the current age. The roads in your pictures are very inviting.

About the car, I must say that the Jaguar XE looks better than any other car of its size (except the Alfa Romeo Giulia probably). Hope it is more reliable than Jaguars of the past.

Any idea whose Land Rover that is? With its rustic charm, it just fits into the scene perfectly.
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Old 6th October 2015, 21:08   #6
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Default Re: 9 day road-trip in Scotland with the Jaguar XE R-Sport

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aditya View Post
Nice travelogue snan. Good pictures too.

Any idea whose Land Rover that is? With its rustic charm, it just fits into the scene perfectly.
No idea ; I took as many shots of old LRs (especially Defenders) as of castles

I especially loved the two Ive posted here - one in the rugged fields next to some multi colored bird in the middle of Cairngorm national park and the second the panorama somewhere close to Tomintoul / Glenlivet areas.

Gungax - ofcourse I love driving in Scottish highlands. Nothing can beat that. Not even a triple digit sortie in AutoBahn (Which I'm sure many petrol heads will differ with me about), at-least for me who loves to drive relatively slow enjoying the surroundings and looking out for photographic potential.

Last edited by snan : 6th October 2015 at 21:10.
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Old 12th October 2015, 15:38   #7
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Default Re: 9 day road-trip in Scotland with the Jaguar XE R-Sport

Great pics. Brings back memories of our recent Glasgow Inverness round trip. We initially contemplated booking through the multitude of tour operators but decided we would just bite the bullet and hire a car. Though our car was a humble Vauxhall Zafira, we felt it was an excellent and comfortable cruiser and my 2.5yr old in her car seat had absolutely no travel sickness. It also carried loads of luggage and not to mention, was extremely light on the wallet.

Must admit, the Scottish countryside is absolutely breathtaking and the weather is extremely unpredictable. The pictures of the Lochs and Glens that we captured never really do justice to the beauty of this countryside. We were lucky that we were in constant touch with my colleague who is a Scottish native and he helped me prepare a very relaxed and comfortable itinerary that we absolutely enjoyed. Not to mention lots of distillery and Scotch tasting bits added.
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Old 15th October 2015, 17:38   #8
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Default Re: 9 day road-trip in Scotland with the Jaguar XE R-Sport

Good point with the car seat. XE scores bad on that front. Its also a bit tight in the rear. My son was also 2.5 and he kind of got bored given the low slung nature of the car. That meant he could not really see much of outside and probably also felt a bit claustrophobic.
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Old 15th October 2015, 22:01   #9
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Default Re: 9 day road-trip in Scotland with the Jaguar XE R-Sport

Well written travelogue Suhas and some great pics. Very right bout driving the Scottish highlands, its a different and memorable experience compared to racing the Autobahn
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Old 16th October 2015, 16:10   #10
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Default Re: 9 day road-trip in Scotland with the Jaguar XE R-Sport

Nice pics Suhas. My travelogue is still in draft stage (yeah, I'm lazy!)

We did the highland & Skye circuit. Flew into Edinburgh, then overnight stops at Aviemore, Cairngorm ski slope (Loch Morlich on the way), Inverness, Edinbane(Skye), Fort William(wife is a big Harry Potter fan, had to see Glenfinnan), Loch Lomond and back to Edinburgh.

While I had rented a Focus category vehicle, they upgraded me to a 2015 Octavia with all bells & whistles and came to 125 for 5 days, adding fuel brought it up to 170 for the whole trip.

What location is that castle on the cliff from?

Also, try Wales next time. The castles are bigger, the roads more picturesque and narrow and lovely vistas all around.

Couple of mobile pics from my trips. Been too tied up to process the SLR ones :(

View from our Apartment in Edinburgh
9 day road-trip in Scotland with the Jaguar XE R-Sport-adobephotoshopexpress_31db66d321144cb1b263383fc46dd7d6.jpg

Caernarfon Castle in Wales : The origins of the Prince of Wales
9 day road-trip in Scotland with the Jaguar XE R-Sport-wp_20150404_018-2.jpg
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Old 20th October 2015, 16:25   #11
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Default Re: 9 day road-trip in Scotland with the Jaguar XE R-Sport

Quote:
Originally Posted by aqualeo2040 View Post
Nice pics Suhas. My travelogue is still in draft stage (yeah, I'm lazy!)

While I had rented a Focus category vehicle, they upgraded me to a 2015 Octavia with all bells & whistles and came to 125 for 5 days, adding fuel brought it up to 170 for the whole trip.

What location is that castle on the cliff from?
Thats great value for a great car ! The castle on Cliff is Dunnottar Castle in a beach city named Stonehaven (Along the route from Edinburgh to Aberdeen, less than an hour from Aberdeen). Wales sounds like fun but doubtful if Ill be going to UK anytime soon. :(

S
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