TRAINS, PLANES & AUTOMOBILES
We commence our rally from the idyllic shores of Loch Lomond, just a 30-minute drive from Glasgow International Airport and easily accessible for those that wish to meet their cars at the start point.
Although we can’t guarantee the weather, it is Scotland after all, May is statistically the sunniest and driest month of the year. Only a few weeks away from the longest day (and pre-midge season!), it should ensure plenty of daylight to experience this country in all its glory.
Departing our comfortable hotel, we make our way north-west over the Rest & Be Thankful pass towards Inverary, before swinging north to the world-famous Glen Coe.
A smooth-flowing road winds its way through this jaw-dropping landscape which has been featured in countless films, including Bond’s 007 Skyfall. Considered to be one of the world’s best, there can be few roads anywhere that bring you into direct contact with such imposing scenery.
Shopping for last minute supplies in Fort William, we head west along the ‘Road to the Isles’, a quick detour to see the stunning ‘Hogwarts Express’ viaduct, before resting for the night in Glenfinnan.
Loch Lomond to Glenfinnan 140 miles / 4:30 hours driving
CASTLES & CLIMBS
We rise early and continue our drive along the ’Road to the Isles’ to catch the morning ferry to Skye, a 45 minute sailing taking us across the Sound of Sleat. Exploring the back-roads of these isles, a short hop across Glenelg Bay courtesy of the world’s only remaining turntable ferry takes us back to the mainland where we climb an old military road to Shiel Bridge and the stunning 13th century Eilean Donan castle.
Stopping for lunch in Strathcarron, we check over our cars in readiness for climbing up and over the mighty Bealach na Ba to the coastal village of Applecross. With tight hairpin bends that switch back and forth and gradients approaching 20%, it has the steepest ascent of any road climb in the UK, rising from sea level to over 2,000 feet!
A well-earned tea stop at the wonderful Applecross Inn before hugging the coast around the peninsular to our overnight stop in Sheildaig. Keep your eyes out for F1 supremo Gordon Murray who has a home there.
Glenfinnan to Sheildaig 135 miles / 5:00 hours driving
7 miles / 0:55 minutes sailing
LOCHS & LUMPS
With staggering views either side, we pass between the three mighty Torridon mountains of Beinn Eighe, Liathach and Beinn Alligin that tower above us. Exiting this incredible geological feature, we turn left onto the main A road and follow the shoreline of Loch Maree to Gairloch and Poolewe.
With its narrow entrance easy to protect from German U-Boats and location far from prying Lufwaffe bombers, Loch Ewe was the ideal assembly point for the vast Arctic Convoys that set out in support of the Russians during World War 2. At the foot of the loch, a small museum pays tribute to those that paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Stocking up with supplies in Ullapool, we turn off the main A road and onto a single track where you’d be fooled into thinking you’ve just driven onto the set of ‘Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind’, the towering Stac Pollaidh rising out of the ground in front of you! Our hotel for the night is in Achiltibuie, that overlooks the Summer Isles as they are bathed in the soft evening sun.
Sheildaig to Achiltibuie 125 miles / 4:00 hours driving
SWEEPS & SWIRLS
Joining yet another of Scotland’s top 6 driving roads on this one unique rally, the road north of Lochinver is through the marvelous but sparsely populated area called Assynt. Meandering our way, hugging the coast, we pass through Drumbeg where the formidable Suilven mountain hones into view.
The Kylesku Bridge must be one of the most beautiful examples of bridge-builder’s art anywhere in the world. It may not be long, but it has been transformed into something very special by its wonderfully curved design, coupled with the stunning scenery of Sutherland.
As the road narrows , the landscape becomes more remote, wild and foreboding, but perched at the very top left corner of the United Kingdom is the sprawled village of Durness. It is here that we’ll find the oh-so-moreish hot chocolate of Cocoa Mountain.
Dragging ourselves away, but stocked up on their range of delicious dark and milk chocolates, we head east along a wild and rugged coastline to Thurso and our stop for the night. Rest well, for tomorrow we depart the mainland and set out to sea.
Achiltibuie to Thurso 145 miles / 5:00 hours driving
STACKS & STONES
We breakfast on the Northlink ferry in the premium Magnus lounge during our 90-minute sailing from mainland Scotland to the Orkney Isles. Hugging the vast vertical cliffs of the islands, we pass close to the Old Man of Hoy, a 450 foot sea stack, one of the tallest in the UK.
Made up of 70 islands, of which 20 are inhabited, the Orkney Isles is renowned for its rugged landscape, wildlife, culture and rich history, dating all the way back to the Neolithic period.
The Ring of Brodgar is an incredible example of an ancient stone circle being the third largest in the UK and the only major one to be almost perfect in shape. Along with the Standing Stones of Stenness nearby, they date back to 2,500 BC.
With so much to see and do on Orkney, there is the opportunity to get out the maps and guidebooks that evening and decide which parts of the islands you’d like to explore the most.
Thurso to Kirkwall 30 miles / 0:45 hours driving
30 miles / 1:30 hours sailing
ART & ARCHAEOLOGY
Days 6 & 7
The next two days are your own, to explore, indulge or relax, the choice is yours. The Max Adventure team will be on standby to assist whenever necessary, so you’ll never be far from help, no matter where you are on Orkney.
If your interest is ancient history, then head for Skara Brae, the most complete Neolithic village in Europe, or the fascinating Tomb of the Eagles at the islands most southerly tip.
For more modern history, check out Scapa Flow, home of the British Grand Fleet during World War 1 and where 53 ships from the German High Seas Fleet were scuttled to prevent them falling into British hands. The Churchill Barriers, Italian Chapel and Scapa Flow museum on the island of Hoy, all recount the naval history here in great detail.
For those that would like to explore Orkney culture, head for the centre of Kirkwall, where fine restaurants, craft shops and museums will keep you entertained for days. Pack in as much as you can, for on our third night we set sail again.
Exploring the Orkneys As much driving as you like
120 miles / 7:45 hours sailing
PONIES & PUFFINS
We awake in our cabins onboard the Northlink ferry as we cruise between the many islands, docking at Lerwick in time for a hearty Scottish breakfast.
Closer to Norway than Aberdeen, the Viking presence is everywhere and our first day on Shetland is spent exploring Mainland, the largest of the archipelagos 300 islands. From Sumburgh in the far south where Puffins swoop low over our heads, to Fethaland in the north, via Stornoway in the centre, where the story of the clandestine ‘Shetland Bus’ is told. The roads are quiet and flow majestically from one stunning view to another.
Our bed for the night is on Mainland, for tomorrow we take to the water yet again and the final leg of our mammoth journey to the very top of the UK.
Lerwick to Hillswick 125 miles / 4:00 hours driving
BUBBLES & BOOZE
With only two islands left to cross, we board the ferries that will take us to the islands of Yell and Unst and hence our final destination. It really does feel like the very end of the earth.
Finally though, after a 1,000-mile adventure through some of Scotland’s most stunning scenery and along it’s most incredible roads, we reach our destination. Skirting below a vast RAF radar dish, we take to a narrow track that leads around the headline and down to an old building left over from World War 2’s Chain Home Radar.
It is here that we can drive no further, so a short walk takes us to the very edge of Scotland. Standing at the top of Saxa Vord overlooking the Arctic Ocean with nothing between you and the North Pole, you’ll join an elite club of adventure motorists who’ve made it to the most extreme northerly point of the UK.
Tonight we celebrate and what better way than with a G&T from the UK’s most northerly distillery.
Hillswick to Saxa Vord 75 miles / 3:00 hours driving
5 miles / 1:10 hours sailing
FERRIES & FAREWELLS
From Saxa Vord there is only one direction to travel and that’s south! We retrace our steps across Unst and Yell before setting foot on Mainland again where we head across the rugged island to spend the afternoon in Lerwick.
Fish and chips sat on the harbour wall, then browsing the many gift shops for souvenirs to take home to family and friends, or mementos for yourself to remember your adventure to the far north. There is plenty to see and do in the island’s capital.
Our ferry home departs at 5:30pm and with one last look at these beautiful islands, we say our goodbyes. Docking back on Orkney late that same evening, we make a dash across the island to our awaiting ferry. It doesn’t depart until the next morning, but we can sleep on board, allowing for a relaxing start to our final day.
Saxa Vord to Stromness 80 miles / 3:00 hours driving
125 miles / 9:00 hours sailing
MEMORIES & MORE
We awake on the ferry to our final day together, breakfast in the Magnus lounge and take one last glimpse of the Old Man of Hoy before reaching mainland Scotland and the port of Scrabster.
Although not as remote or rugged as the west, the east coast of Scotland still has a certain charm and beauty about it. More flowing and low lying, it allows us to make good progress on the smooth A roads as we head for our final stop in Inverness.
For those that wish, there is the chance to visit Dunnet Head, the most northerly point of the British mainland and no road trip would be complete without the obligatory photo stop at John O’Groats. A tour of one of the many distilleries that line the route can also be experienced for those that are interested.
Our last night together is spent in Inverness, where stories can be swapped, photos shared and new friendships sealed, for tomorrow we say our goodbyes. Some may wish to take a leisurely drive home, whilst others can make use of a faster pace of travel and fly or even take the train.
Stromness to Inverness 150 miles / 4:30 hours driving
30 miles / 1:30 hours sailing
Special permission to drive the most northerly road in the UK
Six professional support crew on call 24/7 consisting of:
Experienced vintage & classic car mechanics
Rally medic, photographer & director
Three support vehicles equipped with satellite communications
11 full days of driving Scotland’s most stunning roads
12 nights of 4-star* accommodation with breakfast
10 ferry crossings from mainland Scotland to Saxa Vord and return
Team dinners throughout the rally **
Team lunches throughout the rally **
Detailed roadbook & maps
Branded rally clothing
Alcohol and other refreshments
Fuel, car transport to / from start & finish, flights or train travel
Based on 2 per car and sharing a twin or double room
* Wherever possible
** Except on Orkney days 6 & 7
YOU’RE IN SAFE HANDS
Driven to Extremes Adventures are brought to you by expedition specialists Max Adventure. With 25 years experience of planning, leading and supporting vehicle expeditions across the most remote, inhospitable and challenging environments on earth, the Max Adventure team come with a wealth of experience.
From the freezing wastes of the high Arctic and thin air of the Himalayas, to the world’s most stifling Jungles and inhospitable Deserts, we’ve operated vehicles in the most extreme locations.
We’ve swum amphibious Land Rovers in the Bering Strait with Sir Ranulph Fiennes and beaten the London to Cape Town record under the patronage of Sir Stirling Moss. We’ve driven to far-eastern Siberia in builders’ vans, over the Himalayas with classic cars and tackled the coldest, hottest and toughest roads on the planet with Hollywood actors for an award-winning TV series on Discovery Channel.
We planned the largest-ever medical research expedition on Everest, acted as support crew on Ranulph Fiennes’ last North Pole expedition, established world firsts, set world records and led teams across the most remote locations on the planet, from -60°C to +50°C and the summit of Everest.