On a solo fishing expedition in the Highlands, Mark Hedges luxuriates in the slick style, supreme comfort and sheer power of the new Rolls-Royce Dawn.
It was not the ideal start: Gatwick South, 6.55am, Arrivals. It got worse. I waited patiently for Bobby to appear among the stream of sunburnt holidaymakers. When he didn’t, I rang him, I rang his wife and I even emailed his sister. Eventually, he called back—he was still on holiday in France. He’d somehow got the wrong week for our annual Scottish fishing trip.
To be honest, Mrs Hedges took some convincing that morning that it wasn’t me who had made the mistake—my back catalogue does include similar mishaps. As a result, I was faced with a 10-hour drive, on my own, to the far north of Scotland. Fortunately, I had a secret weapon: the new Rolls-Royce Dawn.
When I passed the glorious hills of the Lake District some hours later, I was already glad that I didn’t have to share the driving. The Dawn is the most extraordinary car I’ve ever driven. It kisses the road on the straights, embraces the corners and envelops the driver in a drawing room of leather and walnut.
With the hills turning majestically purple with heather and the temperature gauge rising past 25°C, I slowed briefly to 30mph, pressed a button and launched an ingenious piece of engineering that lowered the roof to allow for alfresco driving in the sunshine. Suitably unencumbered, I punched the accelerator and launched myself into the heart of Scotland—if there’s pure joy in driving, this was surely it.
The Rolls-Royce Dawn, launched earlier this year, is exceptional even for this most prestigious of car brands. It is, in essence, a sports car distilled—from the great vintages that have preceded it— into as graceful a piece of art as the car industry has ever imagined.
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According to its blue-blooded makers, the Dawn is the most powerful and dynamic Rolls-Royce ever produced. With a 6.6-litre, twin-turbo V12 engine that blasts out 624bhp and 590lb ft of torque, it will launch you from 0mph to 62mph in 4.6 seconds and has a top limit of 155mph. However, these are mere numbers compared to the experience of driving such an impressive machine.
The sunshine was ideal for the convertible, but a worry for the forthcoming fishing. The Alness, an hour north of Inverness, is as beautiful a Highland river as you could imagine, cutting through steep gorges, wooded valleys and softer farmland, as it races its way to the tidal waters of the Cromarty Firth. Roughly halfway through its journey, the river forms Loch Morie, which is partially controlled by a small dam with a fish pass. It’s one of the fastest-flowing rivers in Scotland.
Below the town of Alness, and less than half a mile from the firth, there is a small weir, where salmon can be watched ascending the river when migrating.
I was fishing on the Novar estate (01349 830208), which is largely the creation of Hector Munro, who made his fortune as a soldier and statesman in India during the 18th century and who had the misfortune to have one son killed by a tiger and another by a shark. The estate passed to his daughter Jean, who married Ronald Ferguson, and it’s still owned by the Munro-Ferguson family. We stayed in a delightful cottage on the estate surrounded by parkland and a vast herd of fallow deer.
Like all spate rivers, the Alness is best just after rainfall and, unfortunately, the rain gods had not been tempted to come out to play for many days. However, it was easy to access all beats in the Rolls-Royce and, for a bet, I even cast my Willie Gunn without getting out of the car, although that’s another story.
Elsewhere, a fish swirled at my Cascade Skullhead; otherwise, the fishing was hard going despite the best efforts of Roger Dowsett, the charming river manager. The previous week, they’d caught 24, but that’s fishing. Predictably, as I loaded up the Dawn for the drive south, it started to rain.
On the road: Rolls-Royce Dawn
Priced: from £264,000
Annual road-fund licence: £515
Combined fuel consumption: 20mpg
Top speed: 155mph