Scotland road trip James Bond style

"Just be careful in the wet." These are the only words I can remember from the pre-departure briefing as I tentatively edge an immaculate Aston Martin DB9 convertible into Edinburgh's rush-hour traffic. Despite the ominous grey skies above, I've lowered the roof, an act I'm hoping hasn't angered Scotland's notoriously capricious weather gods.

To celebrate the Australian release of the new Bond movie Spectre (out November 12), I'm taking a Bond-style mini-break. Thanks to tour operator McKinlay Kidd, I have a Bond-worthy car, a driving route through the spectacular Scottish Highlands and an action-packed itinerary that includes a martini making class and a high-speed boat ride. All that's missing is a Bond girl. Sadly, the brunette in the passenger seat is my brother.

We leave Edinburgh and head north-west on the M9 motorway, revelling in the Aston's plush caspian blue leather interior and the guttural roar of its 450bhp V12. Around town the car felt surprisingly docile but out here it's a different story. A gentle squeeze of the accelerator sends us careering towards the horizon like a slingshot.

We turn off the motorway near Stirling and plunge into a picturesque landscape of undulating hills and long, empty roads. If there's a better sensation than driving a convertible Aston Martin along a deserted country road with Duran Duran's A View To A Kill blaring out of the stereo, I suspect it's illegal.

We take a break at the popular Green Welly​ cafe at Tyndrum and while people crowd around the car I try to pull off the nonchalant, 'Oh, that old thing' swagger of someone who could actually afford an Aston Martin. Needless to say, I fail miserably. Taking a selfie draped across the bonnet probably didn't help my cause.

From Tyndrum we head north, through an increasingly barren landscape of moors and lochs before entering the dramatic Glen Coe. Bordered on one side by three towering 1000-metre-high buttresses and on the other by a soaring knife-edge ridge, this bleak valley was the setting for the final scenes of Skyfall. According to a guide in the visitor centre, it's possible to reach the spot where they filmed via a gravel road, but it doesn't sound very Aston friendly. Daniel Craig may be able to write off supercars with reckless abandon but he doesn't have a hefty insurance excess to worry about.

The valley's real-life history is even more blood-soaked. In 1692, 38 members of the MacDonald clan were massacred by English soldiers for not taking an oath of allegiance to King William III. Another 40 women and children died from exposure after their homes were destroyed.

Today, the region is a magnet for walkers and climbers, with ant trails of Gore-Tex-clad figures battling up the valley's precipitous slopes.

Glen Coe saw a dramatic surge in visitors after Skyfall was released and the locations featured in Spectre can expect a similar influx. Bond jets all over the world in this latest instalment, with scenes filmed in Mexico City, Austria, Morocco and Rome. Surprisingly, it's Bond's first time in Rome, where he wrecks millions of dollars' worth of cars during a thrilling high-speed chase around the Vatican. Good luck trying to get near that now.


Thankfully the midweek crowds at Glen Coe are bearable and we're soon back on our way. After hitting the west coast we head south, turning off the main road after the small town of Barcaldine towards our home for the next two nights.

Normally it's Bond baddies that live on private islands but on this mission the roles are reversed. The Eriska Hotel is the only property on the 120-hectare Isle of Eriska, which is accessed via a rickety 100-year-old wooden bridge so terrifying to drive over it would keep out all but the most determined villain.

Owned and operated by the Buchanan-Smiths family, the five-star hotel is exactly the sort of welcoming baronial pile you'd want to return to after a hard day's spying. There's a rack of well-used wellies in the hallway and the comforting aroma of wood-smoke from a fire in the lounge.

There are 16 rooms in the main building, but we've been allocated one of the newer, more spacious spa suites complete with a private outdoor jacuzzi. Nearby, there's a nine-hole golf course, a croquet pitch and a lavish 17-metre indoor pool and spa.

Our next appointment is a martini making class with duty manager Keith McGregor. After chilling two glasses with ice, he talks us through the ingredients for the famous Vesper martini created by Bond in the 1953 book Casino Royale. The official recipe uses three parts gin, one part vodka and a dash of a Lillet (a fortified wine). McGregor only adds two measures of gin which I suspect is so we don't have to be dragged unconscious into dinner. Bond's rationale for such a potent aperitif is that "I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong..."

As for Bond's famous "shaken not stirred" line, McGregor says you'd be mad to shake a martini – it would just dilute it. He carefully stirs each drink, adds a gently massaged twist of lemon and slides them across the bar. "Poison costs extra," he adds, grinning.

Included in the package is a three-course dinner in the hotel's Michelin-starred restaurant or you can upgrade to an eight-course tasting menu for $53.

Proceedings begin with a selection of hors d'oeuvres artfully presented on a grey slate tile. There's salmon from nearby Loch Creran​, a delicious creamy dauphine made using cheddar from the Isle of Mull and macerated mushrooms from the hotel's garden. For starter, I opt for the smoked ham hock, which comes with razor clams and warm homemade beer bread. For main, I try the lamb belly (a welcome departure from the ubiquitous pork) and finish with a baked chocolate mousse so devilishly rich I want to marry it.

The following morning brings blue skies and light winds – perfect weather for a reconnaissance trip around neighbouring Lismore Island. We meet skipper Straun Smith at Eriska's private pier and are soon skimming across Loch Linnhe's dark blue waters in his twin-engined 11-metre RIB. While I diligently scan the horizon for Russian spy boats, Smith spots two white-tailed eagles, a colony of seals and a pod of harbour porpoises.

As we skirt the eastern coast of the Isle of Mull, we pass Duart Castle, the impressive ancestral home of the MacLeans. It's claimed Ian Fleming based Bond on the exploits of Sir Fitzroy Hew MacLean, a diplomat who parachuted into Yugoslavia to assist the resistance in World War II.

Back on dry land, we hop back in the Aston and explore. The package comes with a strict mileage limit of 400 miles (643 kilometres) but that's still enough for a three-hour jaunt down the coast, through the pretty fishing village of Oban and across the 'Bridge over the Atlantic', a much-photographed 223-year-old stone bridge connecting the island of Seil​ with the mainland.

For our return to Edinburgh the following day, the suggested itinerary takes us back a different but equally scenic route, heading south past the aptly named Loch Awe and the ruins of Kilchurn Castle.

After a brief stop in Inverarary, we enter Loch Lomond National Park, where the road buckles and twists through a dramatic montage of mist-swathed hills and steely grey lochs.

When we eventually hit the M9 for the final push back into Edinburgh, I realise with amazement that we've had the roof down for the entire three days. Of course, as soon as I say this, the skies darken ominously and the temperature plummets. We carry on, bravely battling numb fingers and cap hair to make it back on time, intact and under-mileage. M will be pleased.

Five more British Bond locations


Who can forget the opening scene from The World is not Enough when Pierce Brosnan chases an assassin along the River Thames? Budding Bonds can recreate the experience (with a little less shooting) courtesy of London RIB Voyages, which offers a range of high-octane thrill rides along the river at speeds of up to 55km/h. See


The 300-year-old birthplace of Winston Churchill takes centre stage in the new Bond movie, Spectre, where it doubles as Palazzo Cadenza in Rome. Built in the early 18th-century to celebrate victory over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession, the UNESCO World Heritage site is the principal residence of the dukes of Marlborough. See


Eilean Donan Castle has appeared in several films but most famously as 'Castle Thane' in The World is not Enough. Set on a small island in the western Highlands of Scotland, the castle was restored to its former glory in the early 20th-century and visitors can now explore almost every part of the property. See


The normally low-risk game of golf took on a new edge when Sean Connery played Auric Goldfinger and his deadly bowler hat-throwing caddy Oddjob. The match took place on the 27-hole championship golf course at Stoke Park, a five-star hotel and country club near Windsor, England. If golf is not your thing, the property also boasts three restaurants, 13 tennis courts and a decadent spa. See


After a high-speed chase on the River Thames, Brosnan and his wannabe assassin in The World Is Not Enough end up fighting on top of London's O2 Arena (formerly the Millennium Dome). You too can experience the mesmerising 360-degree views from the arena's summit thanks to Up At The O2, an exhilarating – and thankfully fight-free – climbing experience. See

The writer travelled as a guest of Visit Britain, British Airways and McKinlay Kidd.




British Airways flies from Sydney and Melbourne to London via Singapore. Phone 1300 767 177,


McKinlay Kidd's two-night 007 package includes hire of an Aston Martin DB9; two nights dinner, bed and breakfast at Eriska Hotel; a martini master class and a private speedboat ride. From $2931 per person. See