I set out last week in the Ghost Black Badge to drive the 500 miles north from Inverness, up to John O’Groats, then left, past the Castle of Mey and into Sutherland, then left again and down the west coast to Loch Torridon and Applecross, and once more left for the finish, back in Inverness.
This route, long loved by car manufacturers for UK launches, and rightly so, given the vast wilderness, empty roads and perfect EU-funded Tarmac still available, has now been officially named the North Coast 500, or #NC500 if you’re under 40, in an effort to draw more tourists north.
I wish they wouldn’t; I really don’t want anyone else up here, ruining the solitude, populating the horizon, forcing me to pull into passing places on the single-lane roads that stitch the heathery mountain peaks together in a string of galvanised ruptures in the landscape, each giant rock a reminder of man’s frailty.
Unless, of course, you’re at the wheel of a Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge. And then, my friends, you are God. Or, more accurately in this car, some sort of highland Lucifer. This is a car designed for the edgier customer, the younger buyer with a bit more attitude, willing to take a few more risks and make a few more statements. And so the Spirit of Ecstasy is black. And the normally brightly polished external chrome work oozes a dark smokiness, and the wheels are 22 layers of carbon fibre, and the whole super saloon is very, very black.
Inside, Rolls-Royce designers have taken risks again: our Ghost was a mix of black and Arctic White leather hides, with contrast stitching and bright white piping, and, in a very bold move, the traditional burr veneer was replaced by a technical weave - a patterned carbon-fibre and aerospace-grade aluminium weave, across the dash and on the doors. Even the instrument dial tips were dipped bright orange.