orably described - by someone in one of the crews that had to fly them decades after
they should have been superseded - as not so much an aircraft as 30,000 rivets flying in
close formation. The old planes are gone now, but as we head towards Forres again we
see something even more impressive in a way; enormous straggling, undulating lines and
skeins of birds - geese, maybe, though they're too far away to be sure - filling the skies
above the distant dunes and forests.
The A940/939 south from Forres to Grantown largely follows an old military road,
and it's just a peach; a beautiful ribbon of tarmac that climbs wriggling out of the sandy-
soil-rooted pines near the coast through sunny forested hills towards the open moors by
Lochindorb before starting to descend into the trees again, its course shadowed by the
remains of an old and now dismantled railway. It must have been a spectacular railway
journey. Even the bare bleached bones of this old line are impressive. The bridges, via-
ducts and tunnel facings have had Scottish Baronial detailing lavished on them; chunkily
dressed confections of quality stone crowned with medieval-lite machicolation. Arguably
a bit fussy and certainly functionally redundant, but I don't care; it all looks great; a gilt
framing for this little masterpiece of a road.
'That's what it is,' Dave says from the back seat as we pass near Lochindorb.
'What's what it is?'
'The reason I don't like this bit of Scotland as much as the west.'
Jim and I look at each other. Jim shrugs. 'Well, it can't be too many distilleries.'
'Not enough water,' McCartney says emphatically.
I'm confused. 'What, with the whisky?'
'No,' Dave says. 'Not enough lochs.'
'Not enough lochs?'
'Aye. This rolling scenery and rivers stuff is fine, but the coast isn't indented enough
and there should be more lochs.'
'Sea lochs? Inland lochs?'
'He's got a point,' Jim says. 'There is a distinct lack of large bodies of open water in
this neck of the woods.'
'And I'd like more mountains,' Dave tells us, patently warming to his theme. 'Proper
I glance at Jim. 'By God, he's a hard man to please.'
'McCartney's geographical requirements are notoriously severe.'
'Anything else you'd like?' I ask. 'Major island groups, an isthmus or two? Volca-
'Na. Just the lochs and mountains would do.'
'Leave it with us, Dave,' Jim says.