John Hogan's epic Scottish road trip on FOUR new Hondas was a real treat

WHY walk 500 miles when you can ride it?

That’s exactly what I did this week in the Highlands of Scotland.

The North Coast 500 is a loop that takes in some of the best views the British Isles has to offer — and is a dream road trip for everyone, whether on two wheels or four.

Bits of this famous route were used by Clarkson, Hammond and May for their latest Grand Tour special, Lochdown.

If the NC500 route was a clock face, I started at the five o’clock position in Inverness.

Day one was 183 miles up the East Coast to a place called Tongue, via John O’Groats, which is the furthest point north you can go on the mainland British Isles. I did the 500 route on a selection of Honda CB500s.

The R is the racy-looking baby Fireblade of the fleet. The F is the naked model fit for daily commuting and weekend fun. The X is the adventure- spec version with long legs and go-anywhere attitude.

The Rebel is the low-seat cruiser-style model that is a hit with riders who want attitude without the altitude of a seat too far from the ground.

Socks blown off

I started on the R and spent the morning chasing one new horizon after the other. The sun was beating on my back and I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather have been.

By the time I reached Tongue I was convinced I’d seen some of the best sights Scotland has to offer.

The next day proved me wrong. I grabbed the F for the ride from Tongue to Gairloch and spent the day having my socks blown off.

When we stopped at the amazing bridge at Kylesku, I was closer to Iceland than I was to London and felt a million miles from home.

It’s an incredible view, made even better knowing I could get home without needing a plane, boat or any quarantine.

Day three was the wettest but I was in no rush. After all those months stuck in lockdown, to be somewhere new with so many amazing views to take in was a real treat.

If I was going again, I’d take the adventure-styled CB500X.

We skated over the Applecross Pass in the wind and howling rain. It is one of the steepest roads in the UK and even in the lashing rain, was great fun.

On the run towards Loch Ness, I felt like I was in a movie because the landscape was simply incredible. If you haven’t been up this far, I can’t recommend it enough. If I was going again, I’d take the adventure-styled CB500X. It’s leggy, roomy and punches well above its weight.


Price: £5,999
Out: November
Verdict: Full of character. Custom styling and cruiser comfort is a hit


Price: £5,850
Out: November
Verdict: Best for commuting and people new to biking


Price: £6,499
Out: November
Verdict: The sportiest and best for posing and honing your track-riding skills


Price: £6,499
Out: November
Verdict: Best of the bunch – this does everything better than it should

Ask Alfie

Q. I’VE got a 1966 Austin Mini Moke Mk1, built in Longbridge, Birmingham. Only a few remain.

It has its original running gear and engine but got a full overhaul in 2003. Retirement is forcing me to sell it. What should I ask and where’s best to advertise?

Howard Hopkins

A. Prices of good Mokes are going bananas. I’ve seen cars similar in specification for £20,000-£25,000, so you could be sitting on a little goldmine. I’d say £15,000 is more reasonable.

Best get it valued by a Mini specialist. I’d advertise something rare-groove and special like this on See what else is out there in terms of Mokes to get an idea of where you should pitch it.

Q. MY wife wants to change her Mini Paceman for an Audi TT or Mazda MX-5, two or three years old. Is this a good swap? How much would it cost her?

George Wright

A. I’d need a few more deets on the Paceman, Georgie boy, such as spec, age and mileage, but let’s have a crack at this for you. Excluding weird outliers, an early 2013 or 2014 Paceman with around 100,000 on the clock is gonna be in the region of five bags, pushing six if it’s a tasty example.

Later John Cooper Works models (2015-2017) with considerably less than 50,000 are knocking on the door of 20 large. By contrast, 2018 and 2019 MX-5s tend not to have done much more than 30,000 miles. They are sunny-day cars, so prices start at £16,000 rising to £23,000, with the exception of the limited 30th Anniversary Edition hovering near £30k.

If not a high-performance TT (so not the TTS or TT RS), it’s £19,000-£20,000 to kick off and upwards of £35,000 for the best.

Your missus could be looking at a £30,000 investment if she’s at the extreme ends of this swap – old Paceman for the newest low-miles TT. Or maybe even a direct exchange if she’s got a mint example of the Mini to switch with a decent but older MX-5.

Reader's car of the week

HERE’S an old Landie with an intriguing past, from John Watson of Durham. He says: “Here’s my 1986 ex-Army soft-top Land Rover. I bought it seven years ago, via a dealer, from the MoD.

"It’s got 150,000 miles on the clock but still starts and drives perfectly. I just repainted it, so it looks as good as new. I contacted the MoD to find out its history but was only told it was in the SAS.”

Braking news

James Atwood

  • JEEP’S new Grand Cherokee is coming this way. In the US the big off-roader will have a new plug-in hybrid engine and a giant 5.7-litre V8. Expect the PHEV to reach us but not the V8. Boo.
  • FERRARI has snapped up iPhone designer Jony Ive and his firm to work on future products. No word yet what those will be . . .  but probably not a whole car.
  • POLESTAR is to launch a large SUV, a crossover and a stylish grand tourer in the next three years. Following Polestar 1 and 2, the new models will be called . . .  Polestar 3, 4 and 5. How on earth did they come up with that?
  • MORE details on the Ineos Grenadier, the new Defender-inspired 4×4 launching next year. It will be priced from £48,000 in commercial form and the firm has deals with 23 dealerships.

 James is executive editor at Autocar magazine.

Three 7-seat SUVs under £12k

This example is stupidly low miles for its age – it’s barely been driven. Also a top-spec Premium model.

The Disco 3 is proper premium, while it also has the cuboid looks people miss with the latest soap-bar Disco 5.

This one’s a nice spec, has a great engine, reasonable miles and is on at a tempting price. Swedish class.

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