We engage ‘sand’ mode, allowing readier distribution of torque between the axles and more aggressive throttle – momentum is key. Run-up room is limited, but with a generous squirt of unleaded, we’re off. It feels like driving through butter – we’re clipping along, but I can feel our kinetic energy seeping into the sand. Over the ledge, then more throttle, the engine roaring as I aim for the top corner of the dune while keeping steering inputs soft. The Velar pounds on up, and for a moment all I can see is sky, before we crest the summit safely. So safely, in fact, that we HDC our way back down and do it again. Heads is impressed – as am I.
In search of further challenge, Kilchoman’s production manager, Robin Bignal, leads us to an old track that’s been reclaimed by marshland and is now marked as a dead end. He thinks the gravelly surface between the reeds should still be hard enough to drive on, but the peat-tinted water obscures it, and Lacey’s wellies aren’t high enough to make sure. Our wading limit is 600mm, exceeding the Defender’s by 100mm, so another metaphorical finger pokes the air and we go for it. An uncanny sloshing noise invades the cabin, but traction and water resistance are well up to scratch as the Velar trudges along the sodden lane, the central mohawk of reeds springing up behind.
The Velar impressively acquitted, we say grateful goodbyes then head to the airport for Lacey’s flight home. But before turning into the terminal, we decide to visit Big Strand, a sevenmile beach bordering the runway. At its north end is the River Laggan, as waded by Spencer Wilks in his ‘Velar’ 51 years ago. We’ve been trying to arrange access to Laggan Estate all day, but the owner isn’t forthcoming. We can, at least, visit the river mouth.
It takes longer to reach than expected, and time is short. We ford the river, but the Velar barely flinches, so I suggest driving upstream for some deeper wading. We again break the cardinal rule of off-roading by not fully appraising the obstacle ahead (and another, by driving into the current), but we’re up against it, and we’ve got this far, right?
It goes well… until it doesn’t, when our nearside wheels sink into the saturated sand, and no amount of coaxing, mode-wrangling, traction-toggling or ‘low-traction launch’ setting can shake us free. Would the optional Active Rear Locking Differential (another multi-plate clutch job) have helped? Possibly. But even the gamekeeper’s Defender struggles in the same spot, so possibly not. We’re dragged out by the farmer – a recovery necessitated by over-ambition above anything else.