Scotland’s best driving roads

The Cognoscenti' is a new Scottish luxury brand that showcases the best of Scotland to owners of prestigious classic cars.
The Cognoscenti' is a new Scottish luxury brand that showcases the best of Scotland to owners of prestigious classic cars.
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THERE'S a scene in Skyfall where Bond and M have escaped to the Highlands.

The mist is hanging over the bracken of Glencoe like a heavy winter coat, the mountains soaring upwards then disappearing into the clouds on either side of a long, deserted stretch of Tarmac.

It serves to illustrate just how 
isolated – literally and figuratively – the two spies have become. But the real stars of the scene are neither Daniel Craig nor Judi Dench. They are Bond’s silver 
Aston Martin DB5 and the savage beauty of the Scottish countryside.

For those who only use their cars to drive to and from work, or load up the boot in Sainsbury’s at the weekend, it may be a surprise to learn that Scotland’s roads are considered classic car heaven. Numerous car ads have been shot here – most recently a commercial for Bentley in north-west Sutherland – and, of course, the Monte Carlo Classic Rally has a historic connection with Glasgow. Just last month 100 splendid specimens of motoring design – 
Lancias, Triumphs, Porsches and Minis, led by a 1953 Australian Holden – set off from the People’s Palace on the 2,000-mile journey to the south of France.

“There can be little doubt that Scotland has been bestowed with some of the best driving roads in the world, breathtaking natural beauty and outstanding hospitality,” says David Goodwin. “Scotland is one of the best places in the world to enjoy classic cars.”

The 44-year-old, himself the owner of a 1971 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 – “it’s called a Daytona, it’s kind of a nickname for it, and it’s blue” – has just launched Cognoscenti with business partner Raymond Gray. Their specific aim is to showcase Scotland’s spectacular roads to the world’s classic car fanatics.

They’re not alone in singing the praises of our great driving scenery. Iain Banks has said the road from Sandbank to Tighnabruaich is one of best wee roads in Scotland, and while 
Jeremy Clarkson would gladly say “good riddance” to an independent Scotland, the Top Gear presenter rates the route between Colintraive and Tighnabruaich as among the best.

Goodwin ran a telecoms company in Aberdeen for 13 years, then when he sold up a couple of years ago, found a way of making his hobby work for him. Cognoscenti’s launch event in September saw 30 cars, with a total value of more than £15 million, driving through the Aberdeenshire countryside to have lunch at Candacraig House, Billy Connolly’s baronial Scottish home. The cars have since been tucked up safely in garages, away from the salted roads all winter but, come spring, they’ll be coming out to play again.

Included in the collection hitting the Scottish roads there are an AC Coupe ‘A98’ that took part in the 1964 Le Mans 24-hour endurance race and that classic Bond car, an Aston Martin DB5.

“There’s one guy, a 24-year-old student, whose grandfather was killed and he inherited a couple of his cars – which were two pre-war Rolls-Royces,” says Goodwin. “One was a 1922 Silver Ghost which is quite a valuable car – it would sell for around half a million pounds – and which was owned by an Indian maharajah in the 1920s.

“The real fancy stuff doesn’t tend to come out that often so we’ve tried to create an environment to encourage that,” he says. “We’ve had a number of emails from people all over the world. And there are all sorts of cars that have come out of the woodwork in Scotland as well. There are cars out there I didn’t know existed.”

It’s not surprising, really, that these cars rarely see the sun. The Scottish weather isn’t exactly known for being top-down friendly. But Goodwin insists, “A lot of our members live in Scotland so they know what the weather’s like. And what’s great about Scotland is that the roads are relatively quiet. Obviously there’s the scenery, and there are some great venues as well.

“What we tend to do is find privately owned castles or country houses that open their doors to private parties. We’ll take over a place for a day or a couple of days so guests get to see things they wouldn’t ordinarily get to see. Anybody could turn up at Glamis Castle but not everybody could turn up at Billy Connolly’s house.” n

Twitter: @Ruth_Lesley