Northern Irelanders generally collect their new Teslas from Edinburgh as it’s our closest UK service centre. A two and a half hour drive plus a ferry crossing gets you back to Belfast.
But it seems such a shame to go straight home when you’re sat in your new electric weapon with some of the UK’s most celebrated roads just a few hours to the north. So my better half and I decided to take the opportunity to travel the long way to the boat, on a 5 day adventure across the Scottish Highlands.
Collecting the Car
We took off from Belfast International Airport on the short 30 minute hop across to Edinburgh touching down at 9:35am. The Cliftonhall Road service centre is just a 10 minute taxi ride from the airport which got us there nearly an hour before our 11:00am appointment.
We were greeted by the friendly staff and after a quick coffee in the waiting area we went through the business formalities and prepared ourselves for the reveal. We got the nod and were led to what I’m going to call ‘the delivery suite’ (well, I had been pacing like an expectant father). As I turned the corner and saw the car it was love at first sight! My Model 3, called Finn, sat along side its identical twin which was also about to be handed over to another NI native.
After we gave the Model 3 a good look over we found a couple of marks that happily turned out to be polish and the detailer removed them for us. After being taken through some of the basics inside the car we were pulling out of the service centre before noon.
I had researched Scotland’s best driving roads the week before we left and used the excellent A Better Router Planner and the new beta of the PlugShare Trip Planner to come up with our schedule. I also had my £20 Chargeplace Scotland card in my wallet.
Edinburgh to Aberdeen – 172 miles
Google Maps Link
We were heading to the Port Edgar Marina for our first stop in an attempt to get a photo of the car with the Forth Road Bridge in the background. This was followed by an enjoyable lunch at Scotts (thanks to the Tesla staff for the recommendation). From there it was onto the Queensferry Crossing Bridge for another photo opp, this time under the famous metal railway bridge on the North Queensferry side.
Then we pointed the car north for an appointment with the Perth Supercharger. This was an unnecessary stop, just 40 miles away from the Edinburgh Service centre, but I wanted to try my first Tesla charger. With 12 empty stalls to choose from, our top-up lasted around 15 minutes and cost £2.50.
As you enter the Cairngorms National Park the roads become much more rewarding and I especially enjoyed the drive up to the Glensee Ski Centre, the highest part of our 5 day route at over 2,100 feet. Here’s the elevation profile for the Day 1 drive from Plugshare…
Our descent took us through Braemar and on past Balmoral Castle where the heavens opened and we were treated to Biblical thunder and fork lightning that darkened the skies and flooded the roads. We tiptoed on towards Aberdeen, eventually grabbing our first public rapid charge in the Gallowgate Car Park before having dinner and heading to the hotel for the night.
Aberdeen to Inverness -154 miles
Google Maps Link
I woke early on Sunday morning after a restless night, was the car still there?! Yes, phew. I snapped off those ‘functional’ aero covers in the hotel car park and fitted the wheel centres and nut caps I had brought with me onto the really rather handsome alloys beneath. I think they look particularly well contrasting with the pearl white paint, but then I would say that wouldn’t I.
I also fitted the Nomad wireless phone charger at this point before heading out for an early morning drive into Aberdeen. After a quick hand car wash we stumbled upon the Pocra Quay and took some photos outside The Silver Darling Restaurant in the morning sunlight.
After some Facebook shenanigans the night before I had arranged to meet some Tesla reservation holders at 9:30am to let them see the car before we headed west. Angela and Brian from Thurso and Scott from Aberdeen are waiting for their own white Model 3’s and had never seen one in the flesh so it was a pleasure to meet them and show them around the car.
We waved goodbye to our new friends and to Aberdeen as we headed back towards the Cairngorms National Park. The A939 is an incredible ribbon of road that snakes across the hilltops from Cock Bridge, past the Lecht Ski School before plunging down towards Tomintoul. From there it was on to Grantown-on-Spey before turning south west towards the Aviemore Supercharger at the Macdonald Highland Resort Hotel.
We took a walk around the little town while we took on 31kWh at a cost of £6.20 (20p / kWh), bringing us back up to 90%. Pulling out we headed north west, taking in the Tomatin Distillery tour and walking the Culloden Battlefield on our way to Inverness.
After a walk along the river, a meal in town and a charge at the Cathedral Car Park we headed to our hotel and a good night’s sleep.
Inverness Dunvegan – 180 miles
Google Maps Link
After a quiet night, we left Inverness, at 9:15am excited to be heading for the Isle of Skye and the first part of the journey took us along the shores of Loch Ness. We didn’t have time to do the Applecross drive, but maybe next time.
We turned west at Invermoriston as we closed in on Skye. We stopped at the Key Shiel Shop for a charge, although this is a Chargeplace Scotland controlled charger it isn’t free like all the others we used this trip. Even so it was great value and our 35 minute charge took on 21 kWh at a cost of just £3.30 (15p / kWh).
Just another 10 minutes down the road is the the famous Eilean Donan Castle and we stopped off for a coffee and spent an hour looking around the castle. From here it was on to the Isle of Skye Bridge and a blast through stunning scenery to Portree.
From there it was round the headland and on to the village of Dunvegan where we arrived at the Tide B&B around 5pm. This was a lovely spot right on the water and made a welcome change to the functional but anonymous Premier Inns of the previous two nights.
Even better they let us use their outside socket with the UMC and we added 100 miles of range in 12 hours overnight. We had a nice meal in the Old School restaurant (which was very busy so we were glad we booked it the week before) and retired for the evening.
Dunvegan to Dumbarton – 269 miles
Google Maps Link
The longest leg of the journey lay ahead so we had a wonderful (haggis) breakfast at 8:00am and got underway. There were some ominous skys above Skye and we had hoped to use the ferry from Armadale to Mallaig but we couldn’t fit in the sailing times with our busy schedule. Instead we headed back to the bridge, this time via the A863 with fab views of the Cuillin mountains before re-joining the road we had travelled in on at Sligachan.
The journey from the bridge back east was grey and wet. Eventually we turned right onto the A87 and even though it was still mizzly, we enjoyed the spectacular views down to the dam on Loch Loyne. This stretch was another great road, made for Model 3’s incredible handling. We stopped for coffee at Spean Bridge as the sun was beginning to peek through, promising us a better afternoon ahead.
Shortly after our coffee break we were driving into Fort William, at the foot of Ben Nevis, for a charge at the Camanachd Public Car Park. Around 45 mins and a sandwich later we were on our way again with Fort William in the rear view mirror. By the time we got to the beautiful town of Oban the sun was really strong. ‘Finn’ got wash number 2 of the trip at a DIY pressure hose in a garage just outside the town.
It was the afternoon drive that lay ahead that would turn out to be my favourite of the entire trip. We left Oban heading east on the A85 (I wish I’d known about the Cruachan Power Station Visitor Centre that we drove past here). After travelling along yet another stunning waterway, the suitably named Loch Awe, we made a right on to the A819 to Inveraray. This was such an enjoyable drive, more fast sweeping bends, using the cars strong regen braking into corners before deploying that amazing torque and RWD handling to launch it out the other side.
The seemingly never ending gravity assist of this downhill section, plus the power and composure of the car was a heady mix. A rusty armco barrier on our left and the relative lack of traffic gave the whole thing the feel of an old disused motor racing circuit, like being on the banking at Monza or something. Maybe I’m getting carried away, but I’ve not enjoyed driving like that for many, many years. We arrived into the picturesque little town of Inveraray unaware that the best was yet to come.
I had read about the ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ pass but words didn’t do it justice, just as mine won’t either. Suffice to say this was the peak of the scenery for me. An unforgettable drive where every corner turned was another wow. Fast moving clouds and the strong sun created light and shadows that just added to the depth of the vista. We parked at the summit view point for some final photos of the Model 3 and looking down the valley, the reason for this place’s name became clear. If you ever get the chance to do this drive, don’t pass up the opportunity.
Our descent took us deep into the Trossachs National Park and a short stop in the quaint little village of Luss provided a pleasant walk along the shores of Loch Lomond. Finally we crept into Dumbarton after a long and exhilarating day’s driving. We headed into town for dinner before grabbing a charge at the Lomondgate Services, right beside our hotel for the night.
Dumbarton to Cairnryan – 99 Miles
Google Maps Link
Our final day and it was time to get ourselves south to Cairnryan and the Stena Line ferry terminal.
This was the shortest drive of the trip and so we had our first gentle morning, finally getting underway just after 11:00am once we had grabbed a M&S sarnie for lunch later on #POSH.
We wanted to take some more interesting roads to the boat so went via Paisley and Kilwinning before stopping for an unnecessary charge at the Maybole Auto Valet. I’d noticed when doing the route plan that this one is in the same yard as a car valeting place so we had that sandwich, a charge, and a quality car wash (number 3) all in a single stop.
We bypassed the Turnberry Hotel, afternoon tea there will have to wait for another time, and pushed on to Cairnryan arriving in good time for our 3:30pm sailing.
We covered a total of 897 miles by the time we’d arrived home at an average of 217 Wh/Mile (4.6 miles per kWh). So that’s 195 kWh consumed over the trip, and let’s assume charging losses of 20%, giving us a total of 244 kWh used.
If we had to pay for Tesla Superchargers the entire trip (£0.20 per unit at time of writing) then that would have cost us £48.80 = 5.4p per mile.
The same amount of energy from your home charger (let’s assume £0.15 per unit) would have cost £36.60 = 4.0p per mile.
In reality, the free electrons from Chargeplace Scotland and our B&B on Skye meant the total costs for nearly 900 miles was just £12.00 = 1.3p per mile. Incredible.
I’m sure there are lots of other attractions we could have stopped off at, but this trip was all about the driving. In the time we had it was near perfect and we’ll both remember it for a long time. It was such a great way to get to know the car quickly and it still leaves us plenty of opportunity for another adventure or two in the future. A trip back to Skye is definitely on the cards and the NC500 beckons as well.
So, if you are collecting your car from Edinburgh we urge you not to go straight home. Instead, head for a mini-adventure in the Highlands.
You won’t regret it!