An Irvine man is home safe and well after raising more than £4,000 in a 10,000-mile charity challenge.

Graeme Donohoe drove a car kitted out like a Highland Cow across Europe and central Asia as part of the annual Mongol Rally, which has raised more than £4,000 for the Race Against Dementia charity.

The former Greenwood Academy pupil told the Times the highlight was visiting the ‘Gates to Hell’ in Turkmenistan - a vast burning crater created through a Soviet experiment in the seventies.

“It’s certainly been an adventure”, he said.

“Morag the cow car finally made it to Mongolia, but had to be put down after an encounter with a rock left her bleeding oil all over the Gobi Desert.

The former MP Brian Donohoe's son added: “The Mark Thatcher thing we didn’t want to do was very much at the forefront of our minds at that point.

Fortunately, he and co-driver Jasper were rescued from being lost in the desert by another team taking part - who managed to tow them 150km back to civilisation.

“Luckily for us there was German team at the border crossing and the spirit of the Mongol Rally is every team helps. “

We last caught up with Graeme awaiting the ferry to Turkmenistan, while co-driver Jasper was suffering visa issues with the Azerbaijan government.

He said: “You take a lot of things granted living in Scotland, sometimes it would take us about half an hour just to lift cash. Once you get east of Turkey everything seems to become a hassle, but it was good fun.

“People moan about CalMac, but at least they operate to some sort of recognisable timetable. The Turkmenistan ferry comes when they decide.

“Once it docked people were kicked out of their cabins. I was sleeping in the lounge with a whole lot of other people. They were kicked out of their cabins at midnight, but nothing happened until we paid blackmail to get our passports back at 6am.

“They came up with a bridge tax which was $16 to get your passport back.

“I do get to get the impression Turkmenistan isn’t massively keen on encouraging tourists.”

“Although one of the best things we saw on the trip was the ‘Gates to Hell’. It’s this awesome big crater.

"It was the result of an industrial accident when the Russians were doing some oil exploration and this gas went up into flames after the Russians set fire to the gas thinking it would burn itself out in weeks.

"That was 1971 and this huge massive creator has been burning like an inferno ever since, and it’s 69 metres wide and it’s incredible.

"That was one of the best things I’ve ever seen. We all camped out and that was one of the best nights."

To donate to Race Against Dementia visit