26 MAY 1939, Page 42


Time for Scotland With the beginning of June comes one of the special times of the year for the motorist, when Scotland is at its best. The days are almost as long as they are, say, in Norway, and there is far less chance of prolonged rain than at any other time of year. It is a curious thing, if we consider the comparatively short distance the Border is from the South of England, how very much a journey into Scotland gives one the impression of a tour abroad. It is not only that, as is only to be expected, the frontier at any point is a sharp division between two completely different kinds of country and, to some imaginative eyes, different scenery, but the drive up to the Border can also, if you are in the right mood for it and choose a way off the beaten track, bring you recollection of cruises in foreign countries.

Avoid the Great North Road It is certainly more important than ever nowadays to find a way into Scotland which keeps you off the main roads. The Great North Road, or at least the more northern half of it, is still one of the most romantic highways in England, and in winter it is still an experience to drive up its long, narrow length by putting the miles behind you almost with the regu- larity of the train. At this time of year, however, at least the first zoo miles as far as Boroughbridge are miles to be avoided. It is as a rule horribly congested with cruising cars which add to the permanent discomfort of endless trains of lorries, and when one remembers the perfectly scandalous design of it (I am speaking of A.') between the end of the by-pass and Norman Cross and that other hideous stage between Newark and Boroughbridge from Doncaster and Ferrybridge, it is obvious that any alternative is better. In Holiday Mood It is, of course, impossible to avoid altogether the main industrial area of England, but with care and a first-class map you can find a route to Carlisle on the west side in which you will only have a matter of a little over thirty miles of built-up area—and that being in Lancashire, where they know how to build roads and run things properly, is probably the easiest of all the black spots in England. The Scottish adventure, including as it does every mile of the journey there and back, should not be planned with too close an eye upon distances. It is to be supposed that nobody would go to Scotland in a car except in holiday mood, and that a day more spent on the way tnay be regarded as an advantage from every point of view. The route I am going to describe gives you a very good opportunity of seeing a good deal of the very best of the English scenery and so prepare you for what lies beyond the Border.

The Western Way From the very start, taking this to be London or anywhere within reach of it, such as Windsor or Guildford, the route leads straight away from the Great North Road and, what is equally important in my opinion, from its close rival in discomfort, the Holyhead Road. You drive practically due west to Uxbridge, using for preference (if you are going at public holiday time) the main road instead of the Western Avenue, and then follow the main Oxford road as far as West Wycombe, where you bear to the right up into the Chilterns and arrive at Bicester, having driven through Thame and to the far too celebrated Brill. From Bicester you cut across on the north of Oxford to Chipping Norton and for the next hour or so drive pleasantly and, if you are wise, in a leisurely manner through the Cotswold country. Soon after Moreton- in-the-Marsh you come to the edge of the Cotswold range at the top of the famous Fish Hill—I believe this name is quite different. " Fish " has been added to it because of the pub. at the top—from which you get, on a clear day, one of the finest views in the whole of England. The Valley of the Severn lies out before you like an immense model contoured map with the fine line of the Malvern Hills away to the West. At the bottom of the long and winding hill lies Broadway, still, in spite of its charabancs and its far too en- thusiastic visitors from all over the world, one of the really beautiful villages of this special heal t of England.

One City in 200 Miles The next stage takes you through Evesham to Worcester and here, if you are wise, you will leave The main Shrews- bury road and take the lovely by-way which runs through the Valley of the Tome by Martley to Teignbury. This brings you, at Woofferton, to the famous valley which begins at Ludlow and ends somewhere near Church Stretton. Assuming you still have the time in hand for an hour or two more on the road, it is a good scheme not to go as far as Church Stretton, but to turn off to the left at Craven Arms into Wales, along the extremely picturesque road which goes from Bishop's Castle and up again to the Severn Valley at Welshpool, and so on to Chester by Oswestry and Wrexham. Up to this point, where you are quite 200 miles on your way, it is to be remarked that you have not been through one single congested area, or been within sight or sound of any town or city more offensive to drive through than Worcester. Actually the distance by this way to Chester adds very few miles to the total by the orthodox way along the Holyhe Road, or via Oxford, Bridgnorth, Wellington, and Whi:- church. The latter is almost certain to be extremely busy almost any time of the day, whereas the one I have sketched would only be crowded for a short time at long intervals. From Chester you go up that superb modern highway to Birkenhead, through the Mersey Tunnel to Liverpool (toll 25.), and then take the road from Ormskirk to Preston. Tills is the only black area you have to traverse and, as I said, the roads are wide, very well built and sign-posted, and you make just as good time as you would in the open country, and probably even better. The last stage takes you by Gar- stang to Lancaster and then up to Kendal and by the famous road over Shap Fel to Penrith and Carlisle.

The East Coast Route The other way, which might be called the East Coast route, although it only touches the coast itself at one or two points towards the end, is one which is principally concerned with dodging the Great North Road. It is not to be com- pared for scenery with the western route, but in some ways it might be more convenient, and it certainly has its good points in the way of stretches of pleasant country. You cannot, as you do on the western route, get out of London with only a little heavy traffic, and even the road, avoiding all by-passes, by Finchley, Hatfield, Hertford and Bunt:ng- ford is likely to be too busy for comfort. It has to be en- dured, however. When you reach Royston, you are partly consoled by some twenty miles of excellent, straight road from Huntingdon to the inevitable Great North Road at Alconbury Hill. I say inevitable but, in point of fact, you can avoid it this way. Just beyond Caxton Gibbet you take the road to the right which leads you through St. Ives and Ramsey on the edge of the fen country and so up by Crow- land to Spalding—the capital of the bulb country, now in its absolute glory.

Lincoln and Carter Bar The cross-country road, which is, however, not at all diffi- cult to find, takes you to Sleaford and from there up to Lincoln, where you bear to the west for Gainsborough and Baw try and—this time practically inevitable—the nine miles of the Great North Road between Bawtry and Doncaster. Just outside the town at the northern end you will find, a road to Selby and York which is much to be preferred to the main road through Ferrybridge, and another, equally peace- ful, takes you through Easingwold to Thirsk and North- allerton and from there on to Darlington, which is on A.r but at the beginning of the tolerable stage. It is a fine run, straight up past Durham to Newcastle (a town you traverse with comparative ease and comfort) and on to Morpeth and Alnwick and Berwick-on-Tweed, where you are some 57 miles from Edinburgh. If Edinburgh is your first objective a better way to Newcastle is the more direct one over the Cheviots by Otterbum and Carter Bar to Jedburgh and Galashiels, a forty-mile run over moorland country which is probably unequalled anywhere in the North. Those who have not driven up to Carter Bar and from that extremely windy summit looked north over Scotland and south over England have an experience before them they are never likely to forget.

Up the Tees Valley If you are heading for the west, Carlisle, and Glasgow, and you still wish to keep away from the Great North Road, you turn westward at Darlington for Barnard Castle. Here you can carry on along the route by Broughton, Appleby and Penrith or, a far better plan, keep to the right and drive up the Valley of the Tees by Middleton in Teesdale and up over the immense, towering moors to Alston. This, although it is not so long, is a serious rival for sheer grandeur of the Carter Bar stage. It has the distinction also of taking you up some 500 feet higher above sea-level. If you are going straight on into Scotland, you need not come into Carlisle, for the road from Alston runs through Brampton, across Hadrian's Wall to Longtown and Gretna Green. From Longtown you can go yet a third way to Edinburgh across the hills by Hawick and Galashiels ; or by a fourth, from Moffat, the Devil's Beef Tubs, and Broughton. The road to Glasgow is the same as far as Moffat.

By Sea There is a third way of reaching Scotland which may appeal to those who dread the 500-mile drive up to the Dee. The Aberdeen Steam Navigation Company, Limited, have just sent me particulars of their service. Their steamers run from London to Aberdeen every Wednesday and Saturday. The single first-class fare is £2 am. and kx 17s. 6c1. for a to h.p. car, and £2 12s. 6d. for a 16 h.p. car. The return ticket is £3 15s., but there is no 'reduction for the car's return. For two people, then, the passage up with a to h.p. car would come to £9 7s. 6d., so that the difference in the cost of the journey, including hotel bills and petrol is no great matter.

The "Best of Scotland" Nowadays it is almost an impertinence to offer any advice how to find that elusive and quite indefinable place known as the "best of Scotland." One can only give one's personal preferences and these, as anybody knows who is familiar with Scotland, are very apt to change according to weather and the mood of the visitor. For myself, I think there are very few parts to compare with the West coast practically from the top at Scourie down to the end of the Mull of Kintyre. Of a totally different kind but certainly not less inspiring is the run up from Carrbridge through Inverness to Bonar Bridge and along the final stage of the Great North Road to John o'Groats, coming back to Bonar Bridge by Tongue and Lairg. In normal times this last run is slightly adventurous as the road from Tongue is only wide enough to take one car. Moreover, I am informed by the R.A.C. that just now extensive repairs are being carried out over almost all Scotland and that one must be prepared to find poor surface conditions and, in some cases, many miles of road under repair: To the hardy. adventurer, however, these things may add spice to the journey. After all, one can always ask before beginning -a good stage of the road, and even if one is Often turned 'pick or compelled to go another way, one should find ample consolation in the