Fancy travelling back to a time when horses reigned supreme on the roads of Britain? Now you can, if only for two days. Ewan MacInnes of Maryculter Carriage Driving Centre in Maryculter, Aberdeenshire, will journey from Braemar to Aberdeen on a vintage stage coach to raise money for the Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RSABI). The 60-mile trip will take place on on August 21 and 22.
“I have had the coach for a few years, for my own pleasure, but I have also used it to raise funds for charity, as I’ll do in August,” explains MacInnes, who has done runs in aid of McMillan Cancer Care and RDA Driving, among others. “The RSABI is a rural charity that helps people who have worked the land. I’m retired from my day job and made my income from the land so I wanted to give something back.”
MacInnes will drive his Royal Highlander along the same route used by Victorian mail coaches. “When I refurbished my coach, I decided to name it and searched some historical records, which is how I came up with Royal Highlander,” he says. “I also lettered the names of the villages you pass along the route on the sides of the coach.”
MacInnes has already driven part of the way in the past, but this is the first time he will complete the entire route. “It’s quite an occasion,” he says, adding that three other teams of four horses will join his own to cover the journey, which will be split into four stages on August 21, and another four on August 22. “They will do a stage each in relays, as they would have done in the olden days.”
To raise funds for the RSABI, MacInnes is auctioning off six external seats for each stage of the journey. People can bid for a seat by post, starting at £50. The auction closes on July 25 and, says MacInnes, seats will be allocated on a highest bid basis (or first come, first served in case of equal bids). “I have had a lady who called me and said she wanted to do the entire ride,” MacInnes says. Another two seats on each stage are available through a raffle, with tickets sold directly by RSABI. MacInnes himself plans to drive for two stages and sit in the coach for the rest of the journey.
Spectators can also gather at points along the route to watch the coach pass and make donations. The Royal Highlander will depart at nine o’ clock on August 21 from the Invercauld Arms, a former coaching inn in Braemar, and travel past Crathie Bridge, Ballater Square and the Loch Kinord Hotel to reach Belwade WHW Centre in Aboyne, where the horse teams will be stabled. The following day, they will pass Potarch Bridge, Tor-Na-Coille, in Banchory, and the Mains of Drum to arrive at Duthie Park, in Aberdeen, at about 4:15 pm.
For more details on how to book a seat, where to view the coach along the route or how to make a donation, visit the Maryculter Carriage Driving website. If you bid or make a donation, please tell MacInnes how you found out about the Royal Highlander journey. To support the RSABI, visit www.rsabi.org.uk.
Image: MacInnes and the Royal Highlander on last year’s Edinburgh to Gretna Green coach run in aid of MacMillan Cancer Care, which raised more than £5,000, by Cathy Muirhead.