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A Wedding, a Zoo and a Royal Burgh in Scotland Visited in a Volvo V70
It’s not surprising that the Volvo Estate has been dubbed the perfect antique dealer’s car. Open the back and you can comfortably fit a long case clock, a chest of drawers perhaps even a four poster bed into its cavernous interior! It is also a popular patrol car with the British police. Its roominess allows the highly trained drivers to carry all the paraphernalia that they need and with its good turn of speed chase down speeding cars when they have to.
We had one for a wedding – a great help in transporting everyone around in comfort. Daughter Anna was getting married to Phil in a pretty little church deep in the heart of Northumberland, Scotland. But that was where convention stopped. They had arranged the entire wedding themselves, cutting corners to save costs, but thinking carefully how best to do it, right down to the best campsite for their honeymoon!
We prayed for a sunny day. It rained. But the service was a treat with a Northumbrian piper playing a lament and as we all filed out of the church the sun shone brightly for the pictures that were expertly and kindly taken by a family friend before heading for the reception in a Newcastle pub. Food came in the form of a hog roast and the entertainment from a whacky band Phil had found playing on the streets of Newcastle. It turned out to be a memorable and special day!
We managed to recover by the next day and headed for a particularly interesting town that is 400 years old and is largely owned and run by the National Trust for Scotland. But on our way there we visited the excellent and well run Edinburgh Zoo to look at an amazing new chimp house. Called the Budongo Trail, it cost over $11 million to build and is the largest chimp enclosure in the world. It can take up to forty very lucky chimpanzees where they live the high life in twenty first century accommodation.
The whole place is divided into separate interconnecting living pods or rooms with a challenging outside forest of climbing poles and ropes which can all be viewed from inside. There is even a theatre to watch films about the Budongo Conservation Field Station in Uganda to which the zoo is linked. You can also view one of the large pods from the same spot. We could have sat for ages just watching the antics of the chimps. These amazing creatures, which are in danger from poachers in the wild, are being studied very closely and it is hoped that they will eventually start to breed in their new home. Going to the zoo might seem an old fashioned thing to do, but judging by the smiles on the faces of the kids we saw, they certainly didn’t think so.
After our brief visit to the zoo we drove in great comfort from Edinburgh to Culross in Fife. Somehow the Volvo’s seats seemed to offer both support and luxury. For such a long car the V70 has a wonderful stiff body thanks to its all-new chassis, so there is no feeling of rolling. It also grips well, with little in the way of mechanical sound reaching the cabin and certainly no whistling wind noise.
Volvo offers an excellent range of engines for this jewel in their crown model and they come in both petrol and diesel form. In Britain the 2.4 litre, five cylinder turbo diesel engines will prove to be the most popular and we suspect that they will make bigger and bigger inroads into the US market as well, although the 2.0D and 2.0 petrol will have their followers. These two smaller engines have low emissions and impressive fuel economy, the diesel returning 48 mpg and the petrol 33 mpg. Our particular car was the D5 with a six speed Geartronic Transmission. It also carried, as an extra, Lane Departure Warning with Driver Alert Control as well as Cruise Control with Collision Warning and Auto Brake. This car could almost drive itself!
All V70s have a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty and of course Volvos are famous for their safety and security with service intervals of one year or 18,000 miles. The anti-whiplash and side-impact protections systems are a boon, while traction control is fitted on most models.
The old town of Culross in Fife sits on the banks of the Firth of Forth. Time has stood still here so we decided to park up and get out and walk. Behind the curtains of these charming cottages are twenty first century people, living out their lives. The cobbled streets haven’t changed since they were painstakingly laid by hand and the higgledy-piggledy rooftops of orange pantiles and Scotch slates protect lime washed cottages with tiny windows and squat doorways.
But the highlight of this seventeenth and eighteenth century Royal Burgh is Culross Palace. It was once a sixteenth century merchant’s house owned by Sir George Bruce. Climb up into the gardens which are terraced and sit behind the house sheltered from the salty air and cold northerly winds and you can easily slip back in time. The gardens have been laid out to match the age of the house by the Trust’s gardeners.
Both coal and salt were exported out of here like there was no tomorrow. And the reason it became such a hive of activity was down to the Cistercian monks of Culross. They lived in the abbey on the hill, now a ruin, and knew all about mining coal for their own use. But in 1490 they were granted a charter which allowed them to buy and sell goods, hold a weekly market and have an annual fair. And then Culross really took off when it became a royal burgh; that meant the opportunity to get into the import and export business, the route to real wealth for the local merchants.
You can find out a great deal more about Culross by going to the National Trust for Scotland’s website. In addition there is a downloadable podcast. Back in the Volvo, heading home, we felt pleasantly cocooned with the controls straightforward, neat and easy to operate. We particularly loved the rugged and inexhaustible qualities of this car. We liked its space and inventiveness. There are luggage nets and straps to stop your groceries being flung around; there’s even an umbrella holder. And we thought the pop up picnic table in the centre of the rear seats was inspired. As for weddings we can’t recommend the V70 highly enough!
Volvo V70. www.volvocars.com
Husband and wife, Keith Allan and Lynne Gray are travel writers and photographers based in Berwick upon Tweed on the English/Scottish border. They have worked for The Times, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, House and Garden, Scotland on Sunday and The Hrald. For more than twenty years they have worked as freelance producers and reporters for BBC Radio, working from their own independent studio for BBC Radio 4, Radio 5 and Radio Scotland as well as the BBC’s World Service.