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Le Figaro Magazine

Scotland in vintage car

We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. (...) A roaring car that seems to run on shrapnel is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace. "This was in 1909, in the columns of Le Figaro, which Filippo Tommaso Marinetti published his Manifesto of Futurism. The same year in Britain, the British Harry Morgan, who had probably never read a book or even a line of Italian writer, would give substance to this dream by opening his studio in Malvern (Worcestershire). First success with coaches cycle, motor tricycle that would gradually invade the English countryside and break speed records. In 1936, the ingenious builder goes upmarket and launches roadster 4/4 (4 wheels for 4-cylinder and not 4 x 4, 4 wheel drive). A two-seat convertible as elegant as powerful who would become his trademark. More than a brand, a myth: the archetype of the British car, successful cocktail of style and class. Still based in Malvern, his heirs continue the tradition. Morgan today is the last independent family builder Britain. Although he has had several variants since the 1930s, its roadster 4/4, manually assembled and custom, is still made continuously. This is obviously (and in all modesty!) The vehicle that was needed to tour the castles of Scotland, the object of our journey. A must.

Appointment is thus taken to Dollar, near Edinburgh, with Alex Stewart. An enthusiast who has excellent idea to rent vintage cars (Austin, Jaguar, Triumph) by the day or week. The model he entrusts to us in 1984: 5 speeds, engine 1800 cm3, no power steering. The color is red, which has no relation to our political beliefs but seems decide harmoniously and aesthetically with the green of Scotland.

Those skilled in the art book is a thorough demonstration and checks the level of parts of its students. It feels slightly to retake the driving license but this preamble is not superfluous, especially as Picts from our friends, the steering wheel is on the right and left that circulates. And as befitting fireball racing quickly climb up from 0 to 90 km / h in 8 seconds! "One day, says Alex Stewart, clients called me 5 minutes after departure: Morgan lay in the ditch 10 kilometers from here!" Message received. Last but not least, it makes us repeat the delicate maneuver but much needed (climate forcing), which consists of removing the hood and then put in a minimum of time.Operation to control absolutely, unless you want to move in a rolling tub and diving suit, which would not be considered shocking in these territories eccentric but would certainly uncomfortable ...

Engine and heading northeast, toward the region of Angus (birthplace of the eponymous cow).Given plenty of choice, select a castle in Scotland is almost as arbitrary as selecting a church in Spain, one suspects. As a first step, we nevertheless cast our sights on Glamis (pronounced "Glems") Castle, home of the Bowes-Lyons, Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne, because of its bad reputation: that of being the most haunted country. Incidentally, a detour - we dare not say a hook, because the captain - is needed in Kirriemuir, birthplace of Sir James Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, the character whose statue appears before the church. For those who refuse to grow up ... One enters Glamis Castle via a majestic avenue that ends between the statues of Jacques VI and Charles I as a castle in the shape of L, while battlements and turrets, built in the seventeenth century.

As expected, our guide is wearing a plaid skirt and confirms the presence of two ghosts: "There is a man and a woman: the lady in gray chapel (seen by four of our employees) and player of the crypt cards. Immured in a wall, it is engaged in a Faustian part with the devil for centuries; sometimes hear some swearing and moaning. "Not us, anyway. Another strong popular place: Duncan Hall, where William Shakespeare is the murder of King Duncan in Macbeth. Against a blatant untruth since said regicide took place in Elgin Castle, several centuries before Glamis Castle is built.However, the place has hosted royal figures: the Queen Mother (1900-2002), born Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, spent his childhood and Princess Margaret (1930-2002) was born there. 

Other ghosts, those of history and not those of legend, well proven for their part, we expect further at Dunnottar Castle. From the medieval fortress nestled on a basalt outcrop, wedged between cliffs, windswept and the North Sea, there remain only ruins. And the souls of those who died in tragic circumstances. In 1297, William Wallace, the national hero (played by Mel Gibson in Braveheart) lives there burned a British garrison.

In 1685, 167 Covenanters (including 45 women), Presbyterians activists and anti-Catholic, there were imprisoned and tortured for deviationist. Supposedly impregnable, the castle also housed the crown jewels of Scotland - Edinburgh today - at the time of Cromwell and civil war, before being razed by the British in 1715 during the Jacobite rebellion. A summary of the politico-religious convulsions and nationalist aspirations of Scotland on its own. Scars not completely closed, as proved the referendum on Scottish independence last September. Voting confirmed (slightly) the maintenance of Scotland within Britain. What is obviously welcome the Windsor, Balmoral Castle owners, our next step.

To get there, walk cross the River Dee and the massive Grampians. Even if the speed limit is 110 kilometers per hour on the motorway, the A93, following the river, allows Morgan to speak. Its engine purrs, roars, roaring, according to the turns and relief. It would have been a perfect steed for Pierre Nioxe, "The Man squeezed" by Paul Morand, at a time when the radars do not hunted motorized taxpayers! Depriving yourself of a halt on the banks of the Dee would be a mistake: famous for its salmon, the river is a paradise for fly fishermen. Here it is not just a sport, it is an art that was cleverly soon codified in 1486 (sketches and drawings in support) in the Book of St. Albans.Written by Juliana Berners, this book was a treatise of good manners that ranked IUU fishing, alongside hunting (the falcon) and Heraldry of the three fundamental knowledge of well-born gentleman. The principle of this fishery is simple: attract fish with a lure (fly), which represents a larva, insect or a frog (pike). Even if you enjoy the show, keep you to query an aficionado on his hobby!

Indeed, the manufacture of these lures rooster feathers, duck or pheasant invariably trigger a logorrhée from your interlocutor, as the technique of launching (or whipped), another sensitive issue. Now you have an appointment with the Queen of England, in his resort Balmoral Castle ... Bought 30,000 books by Queen Victoria in 1852, he was completely rebuilt in Scottish Baronial style, typical of the period. Indeed, although the royal family stayed there three months every summer, you will have little opportunity to cross Her Most Gracious Majesty, as the visitable part is reduced to bare minimum. Elisabeth II and is under the constant supervision of 120 elite soldiers and agents of MI5 (the British against-espionage service).

This close protection is all the more remarkable because it is invisible. To have crossed the Balmoral Castle Park with our blazing roadster, we can attest: no obstacle, no remark. Business as usual. We can not imagine such a scene in front of the Elysee Palace, or even before Fort Brégançon ... 

On these Anglo-French considerations, we head to a less glamorous but more charming castle, unjustly kept out of the box. At the heart of the Grampians, Craigievar Castle is a fairytale setting.Originally, it is a tower house (tower house) of the Middle Ages, so improved dungeon designed for defense and not for prestige: few openings (except deadly) and a vertical structure . In 1610, its new owner, easy Hanseatic merchant William Forbes, transformed it into micro-palace, adding gargoyles and viewpoints to the facade. This has mainly treated the interior ornaments: stucco ceilings and moldings, cherubim and seraphim, Latin quotations. An abandoned time it was opened to the public in 2010 under the auspices of Prince Charles. But electricity is still lacking: is illuminated by candlelight! Frozen in time, somehow.

Ballindalloch Castle is another, next to the River Avon, near the Spey Valley (the home of whiskey distilleries and major). A sumptuous field covered by Guy Macpherson-Grant, who lives in a wing of the building with his wife and three daughters. "Ballindalloch Castle was built in three stages: in 1546, 1770 and 1848. We are the 23rd generation of Macpherson-Grant to live there, says Guy Macpherson-Grant. And I hope this will not be the last! "

The businessman informed them employs wonderfully. Far from relying on tourism alone (must see the collection of Spanish paintings of the castle), it maximizes the potential places diversifying its activities within a single estate: agriculture, forestry, of angus breeding, fishing, hunting, golf. He recently opened a whiskey distillery, the first vintages are getting older. The Macpherson-Grant are an enterprising temperament Guy's mother, Clare Macpherson-Grant Russell, signed two cookbooks are bestsellers (I Love Food I and II) and is a regular guest on TV to talk about his recipes. A family that respondent and illustrates the daily motto, engraved in Old English the pediment of the entrance: "Touch not the cat bot a glove" ("Do not touch the cat without a glove", the cat being the emblem of the clan).

Let us leave this bucolic environment for a wilder landscape: that of the Highlands. Morgan held the asphalt and the contours of the coastal road. It crosses several firths (estuaries, Gaelic) after Inverness in the north, there are offshore platforms in the North Sea. When arises Dunnrobin Castle, the surprise is all the greater. It looks like a Loire chateau ("the most French of Scottish castles" say the prospectus) transposed onto a rugged coastline! Belonging to the counts and dukes of Sutherland since the thirteenth century, it owes its current form to Sir Charles Barry, architect of the Palace of Westminster, which enlarges in 1850. The French influence is sensible and desired: monumental staircases, Louis XV furniture, to the garden, inspired by Versailles and André Le Nôtre.We gladly linger there because, thanks to the Gulf Stream, a microclimate encourages the emergence of unexpected subtropical species such as the giant rhubarb (Gunnera manicata Brazil) which gives the leaves of 2.50 meters wide.

And at the same latitude as Siberia! Unfrequented by tourists (because it is out of conventional circuits, focusing on Loch Ness), the artery NC500 (500 miles North Coast) is a visual treat. It is this that we take part to descend westward. Narrow (often one-sided, with sidings to let his neighbor), winding, tortuous, however, it offers breathtaking views of the lochs and the Western Isles. Softly (Morgan is frustrated), this route leads us to Eilean Donan Castle, at the entrance of Loch Duich."The" Postcard Scotland. A fortress erected on an island that is accessed by a stone bridge. This mineral sentinel stands guard for centuries, which earned him to blow himself up by the British navy in 1719 as allies to the Scottish Catholic Spaniards had seized. It was restored in the early twentieth century. So the filmmakers use it regularly (Highlander was filmed there), as it evokes the eternal Scotland and fantasy. 

On the way back, a final stop at Stirling Castle. A strategic position: at the top of a rocky promontory, this imposing castle controls the Highland Road, which has been the subject of perpetual lust and the headquarters of many battles. The most famous was in 1297: it was the first Scottish victory over an English army. The author of the feat of arms was none other than William Wallace cited above. If it is expensive to indigenous, is that this battle paved the way to independence in 1314. Captured later by the hereditary enemy, William Wallace paid a high price for his audacity and courage. In 1305, before the London mob, he was tortured at length, torn, ripped (burned bowels), before being decapitated and finally dismembered. The pieces of his body were thrown all over the kingdom and his head was displayed on London Bridge. The virtue of the example, the English way ... In 1869, the Scots, grateful, raised him a gigantic memorial (the Wallace Monument) near Stirling.Touching.

The best things come to an end, we come to the end of the trip. Dollar revenues, our starting point, the keys are handed to Alex Stewart. Farewell, castles and Morgan! Not without regret ...

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