References to my Luxe Life always manage to include plenty of five-star hotels, sun-baked resorts, exotic locations and of course great driving routes – which generated my ‘Great Drives’ features on DRIVING & LIFE.
When the European carmakers stage press launches in Europe we usually managed to find ourselves in various locations in Germany, France, Spain and Italy, and later in my career there were a few sorties to eastern Europe, and even above the Arctic Circle.
However, and I’m thinking of one Jaguar event in particular, it was the opportunity to spend the launch program with 16 of my very best friends. Keep in mind I spent just over ten years as a freelance auto journalist and five years as Editor of MODERN MOTOR magazine – so these were all fellow scribes, compatriots and best of all, good friends.
The event was the launch of the vitally-important Jaguar XJ-40 in September 1986, based at the luxurious Dunkeld House hotel, a few miles north of Perth, Scotland. This cosy and very upmarket hotel was probably best known among locals as a ‘fishing lodge’ given that Dunkeld House boasted quite a long stretch of the River Tay, where guests who were keen fishermen might snag a salmon.
That news had filtered through to one of the Aussies who brought along his own fishing rod as hand luggage, and after check-in wasted no time wading into the fast-flowing Tay to try his luck. I was relaxing in a lounge enjoying a cup of tea with my MD Phil Hovell, who joined us on the event, when the Dunkeld Ghillie rushed in, all of a lather, shouting at me: “If he’s one o’yourn you’ll have tay get him oot of ta river. Thar’s deep holes out there, and if he steps in one he’ll droon in seconds!”
Minutes later the journalist and I trudged back into the lobby, sans salmon, and trailing River Tay puddles across the floor and up the stairs, leaving us just enough time to change for the product presentation.
Of course, the magnificent dinner included Haggis, which during an after-dinner straw poll in the bar, elicited a 50-50 rating for the dish, comprised of a sheep’s stomach stuffed with all manner of offal. I quite like it, but to most people it’s an acquired taste.
After dinner drinks in the bar saw most of the guests supping on a wide range of single malt whiskies as Jaguar Chairman, Sir John Egan, held the floor with anecdotes about the trials and tribulations of bringing the XJ-40 program to completion.
The drive program the following day saw us glide past the Royal Family’s summer lodgings at Balmoral (L), then a brief photo stop at Braemar Castle (R).
Passing through Ballater, we paused at the coffee stop at the 13th century Kildrummy Castle.
The old castle, which was the scene of many highland battles over its ownership is now a derelict ruin.
But the new hotel laid on (of all things) a distinctly non-Scottish Devonshire Tea for the lads.
After refuelling with scones with jam and cream, we set off back to Dunkeld via the A95 through Grantown-on-Spey, past the Aviemore ski resort, and Pitlochry.
It was a great drive route, and really tested the new Jaguars, with a varied drive route combining undulating stretches, plus sharp dips and brows, tight and sweeping corners, and long straights.
I firmly believe Jaguar may have sent flyers to the locals advising them that a bunch of loonies would be let loose with expensive cars, so best to stay inside!
After the Scottish sojourn, the whole Australian media group flew to Munich to test the latest BMW 7-Series, but on return to Australia the majority told us the Highland launch was one of their most unforgettable.
Yep. Another wonderful memory of time spent with beautiful cars, great mates, a luxurious hotel, living the Luxe Life – if only for a few days.