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Off the Beaten Track: Dalness
We journey to the wettest place in the United Kingdom, discovering a dramatic circuit in the unlikeliest of places.
Some places are so remote, even mountain rescue teams don’t know their names. Dalness, Scotland is one such place. Often not listed on maps, it’s not listed on our satellite navigation system either. So, earlier this morning we entered the exact GPS coordinates for Dalness, and did the only sane thing any self-respecting gearhead would do with a car and a handful of off days: We bundled up and drove to the glorious Scottish Highlands.
Driving the Deluge
According to the UK’s Meteorological Office, Dalness is the wettest location in the United Kingdom. It’s subjected to an average annual rainfall of nearly 11 feet. On the plus side, it also sits in the middle of some of the most spectacular Highland scenery you’ll find.
The roads aren’t too shabby either. Imagine giant ribbons of asphalt that sweep majestically along valley floors and slice into the sides of humbling mountain ranges.
The roads and ecosystem of the Scottish Highlands are one of the best locations open year round to Europe’s driving public. When we eventually do find it, the first question on our minds is who actually measures the rainfall in Dalness?
Aside from a herd of inquisitive deer, we don’t see a soul. A map of the surrounding area shows Dalness as falling within the southwestern boundary of the Glencoe and Dalness Mountain Range, one of Scotland’s most scenic destinations.
Dalness lies only a few miles west of the A82, a road popular with tourists for its striking scenery. Signage directs us toward Glen Etive and the unmarked road that winds its way there races alongside the River Etive, which traces the valley floor. The burnt orange heather that gives the surrounding scenery its distinctive hue is getting a good watering. Water pours continuously from the skies and cascades off the hillsides. Rivers rage and currents lap high against the shore while rain is being driven horizontally by vicious winds.
Road to Nowhere
Even the bad weather can’t bring us down; the empty roads are ours. The A82 is exactly the sort of road a car needs to stretch its legs. Fast, with great visibility and a variety of altitude changes, it provides an environment in which to enjoy your driving.
There’s no shopping or traffic here, though. It’s hard to believe how sparsely populated the Highlands are. Having these roads and scenery all to yourself makes the region one of Europe’s hidden gems for driving enthusiasts. What’s more, the area even has a starring role in the movie “Skyfall,” with one of the box office hit’s chase scenes being filmed here.
Watch Your Gas Gauge
A word of warning, though. Keep a watchful eye on the fuel gauge. Glasgow or Fort William are the nearest pitstop locations, so if you’re visiting, be sure to fill up with Shell V-Power Premium Gasoline in Glasgow before venturing further north.
By the time we need more fuel, the woman behind the counter of the Shell station asks where we’re headed. “Dalness?” she asks. “Never heard of it.” When I tell her it’s the wettest place in the UK, Scottish pride gets the better of her. “That’s not right! Fort William is. They measure the rain in inches elsewhere; here, we measure it in feet!”
We stop at the Kingshouse, an old fort with smoldering coal fires and walls that, if they could tell stories, they’d send shivers down your spine. The scones are big enough to feed an army, but we’re the only visitors. It’s a reminder of how good timing – late autumn or early spring – allows you to indulge your passion for driving on some of Europe’s most thrilling roads.
Time for one more blast. Who cares if there’s a storm brewing on the horizon?