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Border Raider


Caterham Seven 1600 Supersport at the Scottish border
Caterham Seven and a big stone

Caterham Seven in the Borders

Years ago, when I was a proper travelling salesmen I used to pedal my Mondeo the length and breadth of the country. One trip that I used to look forward to was the Scottish trip, particularly the run from Edinburgh to Newcastle. I used to cram my calls into Wednesday and Thursday, save the last one or two in Scotland’s capitol for Friday morning, leaving time for the raid across the border. I thrashed the poor Mondeo on those runs - not down the truck infested A1 but the long way down on the A68. Ever since I drove that route I’ve planned to do it in the Seven and finally, late in 2010, the planets aligned and the trip came off.

I planned a solo raid - just me and my car - on the roads that time and memories had turned into mile after mile of perfect black top that climbed and fell at the whim of the geology of the region. The first part was a boring slog up the A1, made bearable by my iPod, but just south of Darlington, I turned off the A1, turned off the music and joined the A68.

From the word go it’s an interesting road winding a way through the land of Prince Bishops, lovely villages and mixed farmland with noisy cattle who seems to acknowledge that the little yellow car is a bit different. This road is simply fantastic and with a car like the Seven, which makes overtaking so easy, it’s a dream come true - arrow straights, long sweeping curves that reward smooth measured inputs and stomach looping, heart stopping crests that create the feel of a rollercoaster except that you’re in charge.

As you cross the border, the A68 drops down the hillside in a series of fabulous loops that just encourage you to squeeze the throttle and settle the car into the curve. The steering loads up as the front tyres key into the grippy tarmac and when that first sweep is finished I wind the lock off as the road switches direction and revel in the sheer joy of driving - it was so good, at the bottom I turned round and did it in the opposite direction. Mix this with scenery so stunning that, despite the fun, you feel like stopping just to drink it in.

I decided to base myself in Jedburgh simply because I got a deal on a cottage and it looked to be close to some great roads and points of interest. My love of early morning blats was somewhat thwarted by the mist and fog that reduced visibility to metres not miles so I postponed the planned run to Bamburgh Castle and comforted myself with a bacon butty and a brew.

As the sun burnt off the mist I strapped myself in and set off across country, sticking to B-roads that were so well surfaced compared to the third world A-roads at home in South Yorkshire - I am not saying they were race circuit smooth but much better than I’m used to. The lack of traffic made progress swift with a good easy rhythm established, not frantic but the majestic landscape seemed to demand a smooth measured approach - could this be what made the great Jim Clarke, who grew up on these border roads, such a brilliant driver?

There was a total lack of the 43mph brigade, villages were respected and good overtaking was rewarded with a wave and broad grin from the overtook. I packed lunch so, when over the hill the North Sea hove into view, I decided lunch should be taken at the water’s edge. I turned off the A1 at Fenwick and headed down a single track road until I could go no further. There, ahead, was a majestic sight - 6 swans bobbing on the sea with the Abbey of Lindisfarne as their back drop. I normally wolf my lunch down when blatting but this view demanded that I savour the food and the cool drink and draw spiritual sustenance from the landscape.

Refreshed and content I headed for the ancient capital of Northumbria - Bamburgh. First sight of the Castle and the thought "Carlsberg don’t to do castles but if they did..". It is spectacular - huge, imposing and grand. What a spot, dominating the view from both the land and the sea, it leaves you in no doubt that this was the seat of power and influence in the area.

Caterham Seven in the Borders

Quick ice cream and walk on the beach and back to the car for a more relaxed run back in the warm evening sunshine, again it’s the quality of the roads and the smooth approach they command that strikes me. It just flows and the reward is not from the speed gained but in the preservation of it, minimum braking, measured steering inputs and appropriate use of the throttle delivers the most pleasure on these roads. I was shattered but elated - this was a different approach to driving the seven but it was just as rewarding as the high octane shorter blats I normally favour.

Next day was dull and overcast so I headed further north in search of a loch. Local knowledge kindly supplied by some bikers saw me heading west of Selkirk for St Mary’s Loch - "great twisties and a good café at the loch side’.

The first part was on the A68 again, flowing roads but, be warned, there are cameras on this stretch. After heading out of Selkirk on the A708 the roads change to being tighter and twistier with rapid rises and falls, high hedges and stone walls. The road reminded me of the A57 Snake Pass and as such was not proving to be a favourite, I am not a fan of unsighted corners and, by the time the Loch hove into view, I confess I felt car sick so God knows what a passenger would have made of it.

At the first lay-by I pulled over and walked to the loch side to gulp in the cool fresh air and try to regain my equilibrium. I sat on the rocks and took in the view as my head cleared. I pushed on and found the café, ordered a brew and sat down to see if this would help shake the woosiness I was still feeling. After a good walk along the loch side and a chat with the bikers over another cup of tea I headed out and decided to take the long road back.

Much better, back to the classic border roads. It didn’t take long for me to get my rhythm back and after a few great corners the smile was back too. I was told that many people just pass through the borders, that’s a real shame as it is just such a great area with so much to offer the driver. Don’t miss out, head there and enjoy some of the best roads and stunning scenery this country has to offer.

Nick.

Caterham Seven in the Borders
Caterham Seven in the Borders