ECOSSE ALIVE : escape
A classic Jaguar makes a road trip along the winding roads of the Trossachs one to remember, writes
Bessie, as the 1962 Jaguar Mk II we have hired for the weekend has been nicknamed, gives little cause for concern, provided you do things her way. Her preferred speed is 50mph, ideally done on quiet, meandering country roads. Which makes the Trossachs ideal for a day trip.
After stopping en route to refuel on fish and chips, we emerge to discover a crowd has gathered around the Jaguar. Delighted to have an audience, Dad hurries over to stake his claim, while Mum and I amble behind. It is his 70th birthday in May and getting behind the wheel of a car he has always wanted to drive seemed an appropriate way to mark such a historic occasion.
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Bessie is a joy to drive, but she is not without quirks, as befits a car of her vintage. For starters, she does not have synchromesh gears, which means reverse and first gear are easily confused. This can be especially alarming at roundabouts - though our own fear is nothing compared with the people behind us. There are a sufficient number of these on the road to the Trossachs to ensure that Dad’s ruddy complexion grows several shades paler. Perhaps it was the gearbox that made Inspector Morse - the Jaguar Mk II’s best-known owner - so famously bad-tempered.
Given its age, it comes as a surprise to learn that the Mk II has power steering. So, despite her generous proportions, Bessie is surprisingly easy to manoeuvre as we tootle along the windy Trossachs Trail. The conversation is dominated by motoring. “This is definitely the most beautiful car ever made,” he says, gliding a hand along the dashboard, before returning to the subject of classic cars he has driven and their relative merits. His uncle was sales manager of a Fife garage in the 1940s and 1950s, so there are a lot to get through, “I can still remember the thrill of sitting behind the steering wheel of the Ford Prefect and the smell of the brand new leather upholstery.
Struck by the collage of browns, russets and bronzes of the surrounding woodland, I ask Dad to stop so I can take a photograph. A car draws up and the elderly driver winds down the window. “You’re not stuck, are you?” he asks hopefully. He seems disappointed at being denied the chance to tinker under the bonnet, but gets out to have a look anyway.
“British racing green?” he asks.
“1962,” corrects Dad.
The two men stand with their arms folded, looking at the car in silent appreciation. Just as we are about to pull away, Mum shouts for us to stop because the window has stuck. As the forecast is for snow, this is cause for serious concern. Our wannabe guardian angel gets out of his car again. After much wiggling, we manage to loosen it. We needn’t have bothered. Another of the car’s quirks is a tendency to steam up, so you have to keep wiping the condensation off the windscreen. The only way around this is to keep a small side window open.
The next day, Dad decides it is time to “open her up” so we head up the M90 towards the Angus Glens. Eventually we end up at Montrose, where a wrong turn leads to a nature reserve. We get out in search of a warming cup of tea just as the tide is coming in at Montrose Basin. Apparently this is a good time of day, and year, to come as lots of migrating birds are just arriving to take advantage of the foodstuffs brought in with the tide. One of the volunteers points us towards binoculars and begins rattling off facts about the various species. Nobody has the heart to tell her that we only came in to get warm.
It is with a mixture of relief and regret that we hand the keys back to Alex, the owner of Caledonian Classics, that night. Regret because we all thoroughly enjoyed fussing over our delightful charge and relief because the most enormous snowflakes have begun to fall. What modern car drivers might describe as the Jaguar Mk II’s “flaws” are exactly the characteristics that make it so much fun to drive. Just don’t forget to pack a travel rug.
Details: Caledonian Classics (www.caledonianclassics.co.uk, 01259 742 476) offers weekend packages including two days’ car hire and two nights’ bed and breakfast in Kennels Cottage, Dollarbeg, Clackmannanshire, from £410 midweek and £430 at weekends, based on two people sharing. Car hire starts at £120 per day midweek and £130 at weekends, The Jaguar Mk II costs from £180 midweek and £219 at weekends.
Montrose Basin Wildlife Centre and Reserve (www.swt.org.uk, 01674 676 336)
April 30th 2006
Lowdown A fresh, stylish gamekeeper’s cottage with white walls, white sofas, beiges and creams and the odd flash of gold. There’s a Buddha in the fireplace, books, modern paintings and no dutter. Bedrooms and bathrooms are spotless, bright and designed for comfort with huge towels and gorgeous linen.
Breakfast Locally sourced breakfasts include organic smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, poached eggs with bacon, homemade Scottish pancakes with fresh fruit and, in winter, porridge with organic oats and cream. There’s a new chicken run so there will be on-site egg-layers soon, too, and meat comes from Puddledub Pork, a local farm that makes its own sausages. Price Doubles from £60
Where to go for dinner Owners Tanya Worsfold and Alex Stewart recommend: ‘The Castle Campbell Hotel is a small, friendly hotel that serves local food in the bar or restaurant. A favourite is Aberdeen Angus fillet with flat mushrooms and black pudding made in Inverness
Beyond the B&B: rooms with added vroom
KENNELS COTTAGE, CLACKMANNANSHIRE
Take the high road through Scotland when you bunk up at this former gamekeeper’s cottage near the town of Dollar. The owners of the pretty four-star B&B offer guests the use of a classic car for the weekend, and will provide maps, itineraries and suggest good places for an overnight stop. Take your pick from six little beauties including an E-Type Jaguar, a Porsche 911 and a Jensen Healey, each worth up to £18,000. Guests arrive in Edinburgh on Friday evening stay two nights at the cottage and hop in the car for two day tours of Scotland, taking in lochs, glens and mountains.
It's your big day - so pick a wedding car with the vow factor - PETER EVANS
THE bride's dress is bought, the groom looks the business in his kilt, the cake's on order and the reception's booked. Now what about the car?
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The couple returned from Hong Kong after spending ten years there with the intention of starting a classic car hire business, but found they were getting a lot of calls from people asking to hire out the cars for weddings. Alex says: "I think a lot of people these days seem to be moving away from the idea of the white Rolls Royce. That's what their parents got married in. Our customers are looking for something different."
The company, based near Dollar, in Clackmannanshire, offers the option of a chauffeur driven vehicle, with Alex performing the honours, or a hire-out service for those who prefer to do it themselves - an increasingly popular choice.
The cars on offer, in addition to the Beetle, include an Inspector Morse Mark II Jaguar in British racing green, a stunning bright red E-Type Jaguar, a Triumph TR6, an MGB and a 1972 Porsche 911 - the car Alex had shipped back from Hong Kong that helped launch the business.
"It's a certain type of person that hires the cars," says Tanya, 42. "They don't want the norm. They tend to be independent people - young, successful professionals.
"The only comment we get from brides if they take the E-Type is that the men are more interested in the car than in them." With most of the attention in weddings given to brides, the car is one thing the groom can get involved in, adds Tanya.
"Sometimes the bride hires the car as a present, so we take it outside the groom's home or the hotel where he's staying so he can drive it to the church.
"Often we'll get the groom and the best man taking the car out for a couple of days before the wedding so they can have some fun. They've taken the Porsche, the MG and the E-Type."
Alex mentions a bride-to-be who rang up to hire the Mark II Jaguar. "The whole idea was that her mother had died, so it was just her, her father and her brother," he said. "She thought 'We can all go to church together', so the brother drove and the father and bride sat in the back.
"She was overwhelmed that they could make it so personal, rather than her and her dad in the car with a chauffeur and her brother at the church."
Up in Carnoustie, Angus, High Society is another company specialising in wedding cars, though all of theirs are chauffeur driven. On offer here are three 1930s vintage-style replica Beaufords, oozing class and great character, straight out of a Bonnie and Clyde movie. These are cars any bride would be proud to be seen in, with their running boards, lots of chrome and head-turning appeal.
"The customers we attract are looking for the retro-styling of our cars," said Angus Gellatly, standing in for owners Colin and Aileen Jackson while they were away on holiday, adding that the Beaufords were popular with young people.
A lot of business was generated through wedding fairs, with presentations given to families going through the process of organising weddings, Angus said. The firm's website has also led to calls.
"After the initial inquiry they like to come to the showroom and have a look at the cars, just to make sure they are as good as we say they are," he added.
On a parallel with the convertible Beetle, quirky tastes are catered for here with a 1931 Model A Ford - an ex-Chicago police car nicknamed Clyde, with its sirens still fitted to announce the bride's arrival.
Depending on the chosen model, the cost of a day's hire with High Society ranges from around £400 to £600. At Caledonian classics, a weekday hire of the Beetle costs £120, with a Saturday hire of the E-Type setting you back £230.
It's never a dull moment for the hire companies, who have to cater for unusual requests in a business inextricably linked to generating happiness on the big day.
And while most calls will be straightforward enough, there's always the unexpected. Tanya says: "Once we had a call from a father in Perth, Australia. He was a lorry driver there and didn't get to see his daughter much but she was getting married in Manchester and loved Beetles.
"He had been searching through the web and saw ours, so he flew up and picked it up as a surprise with his daughter. They took it to Manchester for five days - that was a really nice story."
In the garage Alex revealed his next project - a white three-litre Austin Healey convertible. "I guarantee this will be our most popular car when it's finished," he said.
This article: http://property.scotsman.com/news.cfm?id=916712006
Karma collected - LYNN COCHRANE
TANYA Worsfold should write a book: The Stress Free Guide to Refurbishing Your Home. Rule number one would be to direct proceedings from Hong Kong while your trusted partner, Alex Stewart, deals with the dirty jobs in Dollarbeg, by Dollar. Rule number two would be to time your arrival perfectly. "They were putting the carpets in as the furniture and I pulled into the drive," says Tanya.
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Tanya and Alex spent 11 years there. Tanya had her own business as a relocator, with clients including businesses such as Motorola and Shell. It was her job to help staff recently arrived off the plane to find everything from a house to a good school for their children. Alex, meanwhile, was working in the construction industry. Although they had talked about returning to Europe, Scotland was not top of their list of places in which to settle. Having lived in Cyprus and Minorca, mainland Europe seemed, at least initially, rather more appealing.
Their plans might have remained on the back burner had Alex's large-scale construction jobs not been near completion. With fewer projects like these on offer, the choice was to stay in Hong Kong and risk not working or move on. A job was going in the Middle East but it didn't appeal. The question was, where did? After much discussion Scotland, where Alex grew up, was back on the agenda. "We were thinking about the fact that our parents are getting older, we don't speak any languages and friends had already come home," says Tanya.
The next question was, where would they live? And then, what would they do? Alex trained as a mechanic and has always loved classic cars. He had the idea of setting up a business hiring out all the models he admired, such as an E-Type Jag and a Porsche 911. Like Alex, Tanya wanted to work for herself. A smart B&B sounded ideal.
After what seemed like a long and exhausting search for a new home, it was Alex's sister who suggested the couple take a look at Kennels Cottage, in rural Clackmannanshire.
"As soon as we walked in I knew it was right. My grandfather had a white farmhouse. It was the happiest place in my childhood so I think that's what sold it to me," Tanya explains.
But while the outside looked bright the inside was just the opposite. "It was very dark, had a lot of reds and greens and swirly, patterned carpets."
A couple and their two daughters had lived in the house for around 20 years. As is the way with young girls, they favoured brightly coloured yellows and purples for their bedroom walls. One of the first jobs, therefore, was to get the paintbrush out and start the transformation.
Work began in September 2003. Alex moved back to Scotland while Tanya packed up the remnants of their old life in Hong Kong. She had no doubts that she would arrive and the house would be just as she wanted it. "Luckily Alex and I have exactly the same taste, we've never ever argued about what to put in a house."
Just in case, though, she put together a reference book filled with samples and magazine cuttings of furniture and paint colours that she liked. She suspects Alex ignored it. "I think he probably just put it to one side and thought, 'dream on'," she laughs.
The majority of the furniture is Asian, either antique pieces that the couple already owned, or interesting extras picked up in warehouses or in the neighbouring former Portuguese colony, Macau.
Not only is furniture of excellent quality in the Far East but it can also be cheaper and easier to have it shipped over here. Tanya says she couldn't believe it when she was told that to buy a couch in the UK usually means accepting a delivery date three months later. Furniture from Hong Kong could be at Kennels Cottage in a third of that time. Guests must be delighted that she brought with her such a fantastic range.
A lovely rice chest sits next to the open fire in the lounge. It comes, rather neatly, complete with compartments in which to store different qualities of rice, from everyday grains to those deemed good enough for wedding feasts. On top of the chest is a large Buddha, bought on the couple's travels in Bali, and lugged home to Hong Kong and up the final 160 steps to their house.
Two handmade chairs are placed on either side of an antique money box in the guest sitting room and the bedrooms continue the Asian theme. The family room features a Buddhist prayer table and a wardrobe decorated with brass Chinese zodiac signs.
Guests eat breakfast at a long wooden table and sitting on high-backed chairs in the bright dining room. Throughout the house abstracts and bright paintings of Buddhist monks add splashes of colour while pieces such as antique ginger pots make the B&B look very much like a home. And, of course, it is Tanya and Alex's home, one they are enjoying sharing with others. The B&B is successful enough to have made it into the highly regarded guide by Alistair Sawday, Special Places to Stay. Meanwhile, Alex's Caledonian Classic Car Hire business is attracting clients from right across the globe.
Alex and Tanya have seen a fair bit of the world in their time. Now, it seems, the world is coming to them.
This article: http://living.scotsman.com/homes.cfm?id=1193602006
Tanya Worsfold, 42, used to own a relocation consultancy in Hong Kong. Now she runs a b&b in the Scottish Highlands with her partner, Alex Stewart, 45. They are in their second year and also offer guests a range of classic cars to tour the surrounding countryside.
Call 01259 742476.