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Off the beaten track in magnificent machines

Alistair Tong, club competition secretary (left) with brother Andy Tong, club chairman. Picture by Chris Sumner.
Alistair Tong, club competition secretary (left) with brother Andy Tong, club chairman. Picture by Chris Sumner.

This weekend the Royal Deeside Motor Show will return to Kincardine Castle and Estate where car enthusiasts will be able to experience a day of all things motoring, with everything from rare and vintage vehicles to heavy haulage and agricultural machines.

One of the star attractions will be the Buchan Off Road Drivers Club (BORDC), who will be there with their fleet of off-road vehicles ranging from Land Rovers to Suzuki Jimnys.

The locally-based group will offer a unique driving experience for visitors, allowing newcomers to strap in and feel what it’s like to travel over tough terrain. And it’s not just for adults, either.

Parents, carers and guardians can take their little ones with them, too, with child seats fitted for those who want to make it a full family experience.

Charity Children 1st to benefit

Two Land Rovers
Vehicles used by the club range from Land Rovers to Suzuki Jimnys.

In fact, the fundraising safari will put children and family are at the heart of the event, with all money raised going to Children 1st, Scotland’s national children’s charity – and all for a suggested donation of £2.50 per ride, and £10 for a more involved off-road safari.

“That’s an aspect that I am very passionate about,” says Alistair Tong, the club’s competition secretary. “My brother Andy was in the club. He’s involved in rallies and various aspects of motorsports, and he’d tell you that off-roading is probably the least expensive way of getting into motorsports,” he adds.

Alistair with brother Andy Tong standing with their Land Rovers
Alistair (left) with brother Andy Tong. Picture by Chris Sumner.

“But the reason I started was simply for something that my son and I could do together on a Sunday – but now mum comes along.

“I organise the Tyros (events suitable for beginners and juniors) and Nicola and Matthew drive in them.”

One of the vehicles being taken to the site at Kincardine Castle Estate.
One of the vehicles being taken to the site at Kincardine Castle Estate, Royal Deeside. Picture by Chris Sumner.

Moving to Kincardine O’Neill almost five years ago, Alistair and his wide now own and run the village store and post office which allows him more time for his hobby and for the family.

In fact, the club encourages all family members to get involved, says Alistair, and is welcoming to people of mixed abilities and experience levels.

“When I started out I had been driving tractors and vans for a long time but when I had  my first experience I had one of the seasoned guys sat beside me and telling me what to do.”

Protecting the environment

The vehicles on the specially designed track
The vehicles on the specially designed track, ahead of upcoming charity safari event for the Royal Deeside Motor Show. Picture by Chris Sumner.

Working with landlords, farmers, Motor Sport UK, environmental and wildlife agencies, the club takes in some of the finest north-east countryside in its off-roading pursuits while still maintaining environmental and safety standards.

Most recently, BORDC worked with the RSPB Scotland to ensure a planned route avoided any potential disturbance or damage to nesting birds and wildlife.

“We really are considerate to that,” says Alistair. “We stay away from water courses, we don’t go splashing through rivers, we don’t go destroying streams, because ultimately all we would do is upset the landowner and SEPA, and then we wouldn’t be able to do that we want to do – which is to have fun responsibly.”

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A Land Rover driving on uneven land.
Expect to drive at some unusual angles. Picture by Chris Sumner.

The club uses various sites but Kincardine is one of the favourites.

“It’s a massive wood and there are several hundred acres that we can lose ourselves in on a Sunday, or there’s lots of small area that farmers allows us to use,” says Alistair.

A Land Rover
The vehicles are well adapted to cope with the terrain.

BORDC have built up a strong relationship with the lairds at Kincardine Estate over the years and together they have worked to help create a landscape that can test drivers while protecting the integrity of the landscape.

In the drive for clean air, the old vehicles could seem out of place but in fact the club works hard to minimise its footprint and – as club chairman Andy Tong points out – almost no fuel will be used during the day.

Getting behind the wheel

Andy Tong driving in a car.
Andy Tong, club chairman.

After an afternoon spent with the club at the site where they had gathered for a safety briefing ahead of the motor show, it was time to get inside a vehicle and see what it was like to go off-roading.

In the expert hands of Andy, we took a trip around the track, specially designed with deep trenches, steep pitches and bouldered areas where the vehicle moved slowly but surely.

A perfect setting

The view of the track from the front windshield of the car.
Visitors will have the opportunity to sit in the cabin and experience an off-road safari. Picture by Chris Sumner.

As we made our way up the higher track, Andy explained how the driver handled conditions, and the adaptations made to vehicles to allow them to cope with the terrain.

Stopping for a quick chat with the laird – also a club member and whose land the motor show is held on – we headed to the crest of the hill where people would be taken for a more extended trip, to reveal a view over the glorious landscape of Royal Deeside.

It was a perfect setting to enjoy these magnificent machines.

Two cars driving very close together on the track
Up close on the track. Picture by Chris Sumner.

On returning to the group back at the bottom of the hill, there was nothing else left but to get behind the wheel of a Land Rover and try it for myself.

With the competent and patient Alistair instructing on my left, I took on the smaller course, finding myself at a slow crawl along a trench, before staring down a steep pitch, then onwards to a rutted track and a couple of ascents.

Although a slightly odd feeling at first – I took a second round of the track and felt more confident.

It was clear Alistair knew the vehicle’s capabilities extremely well, with a level of knowledge that would be reassuring to any beginner.

An addictive pastime

Some of the vehicles that will be there at this weekend's Royal Deeside Motor Show
Some of the vehicles that will be there at this weekend’s Royal Deeside Motor Show charity safari. Picture by Chris Sumner.

Despite the slow speeds, pitches and dips, the experience was quite addictive – not an  unusual response for those who try it, it seems.

“As soon as anyone steps in the door of the club, they are more than welcome,” says Alistair, assuring me that even people without vehicles can still experience off-roading as a passenger on orienteering days.

“But the best way to start is simply to come along and see for yourself.

“We’ll help you as much as you want to develop your capabilities and competence,” he adds. “The sky’s they limit as to how far you want to take it.”

A car on very uneven terrain.
The club takes advantage of the superb landscape of the north-east.

The Royal Deeside Motor Show will offer a first taste for those who are curious about the off-road experience, and if you choose to take it further, the club is always happy to welcome new members.

“It gets you outside with like minded people, and there’s friendship and camaraderie,” says Alistair. “It really is just good fun.”

The Royal Deeside Motor Show takes place on Saturday July 2 and Sunday July 3 at Kincardine Castle Estate. For more information go to etiom.co.uk

Look out for the event gallery.

The Buchan Off Road Drivers Club
The Buchan Off Road Drivers Club. From left: Club member Connor Singer, who helps maintain the vehicles, with Andy and Alistair.

Check out our gallery from the Royal Deeside Motor Show.

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