I was reading one of the travel supplements over the week-end (pretty sure it was in the Independent) about some of the world’s best car journies. I have to admit that I haven’t driven through Asia, the sub-continent, the bulk of Africa, Australia, Russia and Eastern Europe. Oh and South America. So many of the recommendations were a little beyond my personal experience. But I am pleased to say that we had driven a number of the routes and just loved each one of them. I could scratch them from my personal list of things to do before I die but would actually prefer to do them again if chance allowed.
Here are my top five drives:
1. San Francisco, across the Golden Gate bridge, through the Napa wine country, the old gold mining cities, down through Yosemite and the sequoia forests, across the Mohave desert and down to Palm Springs, up to LA then north along the Pacific highway all the way back up to SF. We did it in 5 glorious days and it was indescribably beautiful. Best car: a lot of driving so something big and comfortable but with a soft top (compulsory) for the Ocean-side drive. One of the Audis would be cool.
2. Also in N America; Seattle up to Mt Ranier and along the NE Pacific coast to stunning Vancouver, taking in the islands and orcas en route. Sensational views. Best car: something fun but offering decent cover from the elements – maybe a Japanese cross-over SUV – the Qashqai feels about right.
3. The Corniche – riviera coast from Toulon, past St Tropez, Cannes, Nice and on to Monte Carlo. There are 3 main road routes low, medium and high and if you can avoid the lorries and the tourists, it’s sublime. I did it with my family when I was a kid – our first visit abroad. You could say it was a little different from the Fylde coastline. You’d need a proper car for this journey; an old Aston might be rather nice (as if!) or a Jag; something David Niven might have chosen.
4. The south west coast of Ireland – the Kerry ring, Dingle Bay – dozens of great memories and the best bars in all the world. Something rugged for the drive, maybe a Land Rover or a Discovery, and a local chauffeur would be handy.
5. The west coast of Scotland from Glasgow, up through Loch Lomond, Glencoe, Lochs Leven and Linnhe, Fort William, past Ben Nevis and on to Mallaig to catch the ferry to Skye. We did it with friends whilst at university – the highlight of a very wet week under canvas. A great but comfortable 4×4 for this journey (unlike the shaky but much-loved old Ford Anglia we did it in) – choose from the Volvo, BMW or VWs perhaps. How time’s change.
I could have done more; the route around Lake Como is hard to beat (in an Alfa surely) and there was a fantastic trip around the vineyards and coastline of South Africa which was great fun. Because of the wine it’d be nice to drive something quirky, chic and very French in this case. Or maybe a funky little 4×4 like the Kuga or Rav4.
Hey if you’ve done a car journey that was equally enjoyable please let me know. Car suggestions would be equally welcome!
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Head over to Salerno and then drive along the Amalfi coast….
Another good one for you is going over the top at the S Bernard or Gotthard rather than through those dark tunnels under the Alps.
The Pass of the Cattle towards Applecross, and then the road north of Applecross with the views to Skye and Lewis?
And the road to the Stadio Olimpico on May 27th….
Being a simple, and even less well travelled soul than you, I have to recommend one of the best drives in the country to you.
Starting out at Ashburton on the edge of Dartmoor, take the road out through Holne, Poundsgate, Dart Meet, Two Bridges, Princetown and into Tavistock.
It is truly breath taking at times, with a real mix of everything that makes Dartmoor such a spectacular place to be. The rolling hills of the South Hams to the barron, arrid Tors of Princetown and the prison.
Also, some great alehouses on route for that all important pint!
Hi John and noaxe
many thanks for the suggestions – less obvious than mine and a lot better for it. excellent ideas which i might just try. best cars for the journies?
ps can’t wait for the 27th J!
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Memorable journeys – for one reason or another!
1. Some of us are old enough to remember when every car journey was an adventure, with at best a 50:50 chance of avoiding the AA/RAC callout (remember when the RAC guys would stand to attention and salute when a member car drove by? How weird/cool does that seem now?). Sometime around 1964 we are driving from Ayr on the W coast of Scotland back home to Glasgow – a trip of I guess 35 miles or so – so huge adventure calling for packed meals, thermos of tea, spare tyre, spark plugs, filters and so on. Anyway, this being Scotland in July, on our way back at night it is just chucking it down as we cross the godforsaken Fenwick Moor when the windscreen wipers give up the ghost. Short story – after 20 minutes work by Dad in the driving rain, we have me, at 10, in the passenger seat with wires and rain coming in through the quarterlights (why don’t cars have quarterlights anymore?) working the wipers on our not-so-trusty Austin A30. Try it; it’s bloody tiring! If I had to repeat it would be in anything by Toyota or Honda, something with GREAT wiper reliability!
2. Before we left for the US, I had a Saab convertible. Sheila & Marianne (wife & daughter) drove from London to Edinburgh for a long weekend to attend a wedding while I was in the US. Weather was great, the girls drove the whole way with the top down and while the M6/A1 is not one of life’s great scenic routes, Mum & daughter still talk about the trip and the accompanying soundtrack of Beach Boys CDs.
3. Best long distance drive – from Denver through the Rockies to LA and up Route 1 to SF in a huge, late 70’s Eldorado with incredibly soft suspension and almost no ‘feel’ between steering wheel and the road. But my first experience of US highways and cruise control! And of course magic scenery rolling by.
4. For a while I employed by a Maryland company but working from home on Long Island.
Every couple of weeks I would get up really early to beat the rush hour and drive across the Verrazano Bridge to Staten Island and on to the NJ Turnpike. I was in an Explorer (gas was $1 / gallon 12 years ago!) which gave me a nice high seat and a panoramic view of the tip of Manhattan and the World Trade Center towers off to my right in the soft morning light.
The return trip a few days later would bring me back over the bridge in the early evening when the WTC were towers of light in the distance. But the best part of the return journey was driving the length of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (the BQE) all the way up the East River with the United Nations and the rest of the East Side of Manhattan just a couple of hundred yards away across the river. There is no urban landscape quite like Manhattan – especially in the early evening when the office lights are all on and there is still a little afterlight in the western sky behind the skyscrapers.
Whatever other faults they may have, there is nothing like the high ride of an SUV for taking in the scenery. Great topic Paul, it is fun to recall these trips – but I’m going to stop now!
many thks for the comments – lovely suggestions.
we’ve driven around manhattan a few times – usually along the hudson parkway (west side) on the way from/to our friends s and m up in connecticut. but that run along the east river beneath the majestic brooklyn, manhattan and williamsburg bridges before crossing queensboro to pick up the BQE really is awesome. there cannot be a better skyline than manhattan’s. it stuns me with its verticality every time.
great memories of uk trips too b. i reckon the london – glasgow/edinburgh journey is a true rite of passage for a young driver. always better heading north i feel.
top stuff b. love to the macp wimmin.
Just before I started working for Paul in 1999, a friend and I went to Cuba and hired a car. We were surrounded by Rat Pack-esque vehicles that dripped 50’s chic (despite the goat we saw in the back of one of them) so we were quite excited about what car we would get. Our faces fell a bit when we realized that the car in front of us was a Toyota – but in fairness, she served us well.
Quite possibly the worst stretch of road I have ever been on connects the Bay of Pigs with somewhere that is 50k west of the Bay of Pigs. The potholes are so large that you probably park the whole of a slightly smaller Toyota in them. There are also so many holes on this road that avoiding them was significantly more irritating than playing ‘Barbie Girl’ by Aqua repeatedly for 6 hours.
After completing 50ks in a little over 2 hours, the road improved exponentially (in relative terms but was still essentially rubble) and as we had got used to hitting our heads on the ceiling as we bounced along our confidence was such that we decided to adopt local protocol and pick up the next hitchhiker we saw.
The old lady who was the focus of our kindness was seemingly less used to car journeys that involved smacking your head on the ceiling twice every minute than we now were and curiously thought that we were doing it with mild racist or ageist intent. 10 minutes – approximately 1 mile – later, she screamed at us to stop. She got out of the car, cursed us extravagantly in several different languages and most alarmingly of all, shuffled off at a pace significantly faster than any speed we had achieved so far that day. Everything went silent and we were enjoying a moment’s comparative peace – which was halted abruptly when the bottom dropped out of the car. This was a new experience for me and I was surprised to discover that this happens with no obvious mechanical impact. Unfortunately, whilst we don’t like to litter, it is very hard to store the bottom of a car in the inside of the same car, so our Toyota’s ‘underneath’ was left it on the side of the road.
Despite having no bottom, the Toyota performed well for the rest of the trip and despite being royally cursed, we had a lovely holiday.
Ten years and a lot of travelling later, I have still failed to drive on land so woefully represented as a road. Nor do I know the technical term for the bit that fell off the car. Answers on a postcard please…
Ha! great stuff R.
i guess the guy following will forever be grateful for that gearbox R. it’s probably keeping his chevvy going even now.