The SRE National Weekend is an event we’ve attended a few times before: always a warm welcome, always very enjoyable, always very well organised.
This year it was based in Peebles and although we’ve visited the town several times previously, this time we chose to stay somewhere new, The Park Hotel, just a short stroll from the town centre. Our fellow guests included two dozen or so members of the Belfast H.O.G. (Harley Owners Group). Some of their bikes had engines larger than Riley Blue’s!
We experienced the first wet weather of our trip in Peebles, a shame as our Scottish Riley friends had devised a varied and interesting weekend’s activities. We already had a Saturday excursion planned, a visit to Rosslyn Chapel about 12 miles away. Made (in)famous by Dan Brown’s book, ‘The Da Vinci Code’, it’s a place that has fascinated me for decades so I was looking forward to our visit.
By the time we reached the village of Roslin the fine drizzle had become rain but we duly bought tickets and waited the advised 20 minutes in the gift shop, browsing (though not buying) the eclectic range of souvenirs – bagpipe wine stoppers to the latest item: ‘William’s cat treats’, the purr-fect gift for your feline…
Inside the chapel we joined several hundred other visitors from many nationalities and after a few minutes battling against the throng we sat quietly in a pew for half an hour, looking around at the incredible ornamentation covering every surface. The chapel is no less amazing than the Great Pyramid of Cheops and could rightly claim to be the Eighth Wonder of the World; it is mind-boggling. No photography of the interior permitted and rightly so, everyone would be blinded by non-stop flashes.
That evening we joined well over a hundred Riley friends in the Peebles Hydro Hotel for a convivial gala dinner after which, for Gael and me at least, a early night, we were still recovering from our epic drive.
Sunday dawned ‘damp-ish’. The SRE had organised a visit to Traquair House near Innerleithen; the oldest inhabited house in Scotland dating back to 1107 and lived in by the Stuart family since 1491.
Groups of Rileys arrived throughout the morning and were efficiently marshalled into their appropriate parking areas; pre-war cars in front of the house itself, post-war alongside the garden wall. We should all have been together (what a sight that would have made!) but for a troupe of wandering players rehearsing ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ on the main lawn.
Riley Blue and crew were awarded the ‘BMC Riley Distance Trophy’, a splendid shield that already bears our name from 2013 though our total mileage was rather less on that occasion. What was it this year? From Chesterfield via Land’s End and John O’Groats to Peebles was close to 2,000 miles – we have a glove box full of petrol receipts as a result!
That evening, dinner with our friends David and Joan Whittle, owners of ELH 135, the superb 1937 Riley Touring Saloon photographed above. The following morning – home, a 245 mile drive non-stop other than lunch at Longtown and fuel at Doncaster. Then sleep, I think we’d all earnt it.