DRIVE: ROAD TRIP
THE Yorkshire Dales is one of the most picturesque landscapes in the United Kingdom. Loved by ramblers for its endless beautiful scenery, the vast expanse of countryside is dotted with tiny villages that encourage a peaceful, sedate way of life. At least, they used to. I’m behind the wheel of a Lexus RC F Carbon Edition, cruising through one such village at the back of a convoy of exotic motors that are doing their best to shatter the serenity.
The Lexus is an extrovertly-styled coupe that’s deliciously Japanese, with angular styling that looks like it was designed by a comic book artist and is totally at odds with the time-worn stone buildings I’m driving past. Remarkably, it’s probably the least attention-grabbing car in the convoy.
Our day began at Gibbon Bridge Hotel, nestled in the rolling hills of the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, on the edge of the Dales.
We’d been invited by tyre manufacturer Michelin to take part in one of its Exceptional Drives events in conjunction with Supercar Driver, a club for enthusiasts who want to take their exotic machinery on road trips with like-minded individuals. Alongside our RC F sat a couple of Jaguar F-Type SVRs, and a Lamborghini Huracan with an aftermarket exhaust that attacks the eardrums.
Another Lexus, this time the all-new LC luxury coupe, flanked the group, while an ultra-rare McLaren 650S Le Mans completed the eye-catching line-up.
I found myself at the back of the queue as we headed north, deeper into the national park. At first, the route seemed more apt for cyclists than a group of exotic motors, with lanes that were just a car-and-a-half wide, leading to some tense stand-offs with locals in 4x4s and, on more than one occasion, huge tractors.
Our first stop was the utterly stunning Ribblehead Viaduct.
The Grade II-listed structure carries the Settle-to-Carlisle railway line and is a breathtaking sight – the fact it dates back to the 1870s leaves me in awe of the engineering skill that must’ve been required to keep it standing so long.
After a brief stop to let cameras snap, the biting cold wind sent us scurrying back to our cars. A Mercedes-AMG GT C joined the group – roof down and heaters blaring - so I fell in behind.
We snaked our way through the vast countryside, which brought us to the nolonger-sleepy village of Reeth. The group converges in the square for a few photos and a quick toilet break before it’s back to the steering wheels – leaving the locals baffled.
From here, the roads open up enough for the convoy cars to stretch their engines. In the distance, I can hear the Lamborghini’s exhaust filling the air as the driver revs the V10 engine out properly for the first time, before cracks and pops echo through the valley when he lifts off.
We’re on the Buttertubs Pass, famous among car enthusiasts as one of the best
places in the UK to drive. At just over five miles long it’s not for the faint-hearted, as the road twists and turns, dips and dives and requires full concentration to enjoy, especially when the temperature’s low like today.
While I’ve enjoyed taking it fairly easy in the Lexus so far, this exciting stretch of road does highlight some of the RC F’s inadequacies.
The steering is quick and direct, so the front end is eager to turn in, but the soft suspension leaves the rear feeling unsure of itself. You never really have confidence that the car is going to hook up.
The others ahead are having no such worries, and while it’s a thrilling challenge trying to keep up, I’m left a little disappointed I’m not driving something else on this particular section of road.
That said, the softer suspension makes the drive less tiresome than in the stiffly sprung sports cars.
After another break for tea and cake at the glorious 14th-century Bolton Castle (actually situated in Yorkshire), the convoy carries on towards our rest stop for the night, and the end of our road trip.
But while the driving’s over, there’s still a fancy dinner – of lobster, wild grouse, and chocolate for dessert – at the Michelinstarred Yorke Arms, beside the Gouthwaite Reservoir, to enjoy.
With bellies full, the group retires to the bar to discuss the day. For me, the car couldn’t quite live up to the exceptional roads, but that didn’t take away from what was a fantastic road trip.
If you care about cars and driving, the north of England is a must-visit, and the roads of the Yorkshire Dales in particular are fantastic fun once they open up. The fact the scenery is so spectacular is just the icing on the Michelin-starred cake.
The Lexus RC F Carbon Edition cruises past the Ribblehead Viaduct, above, while the McLaren 650S Le Mans takes a well earned break, below
The Lexus RC F Carbon Edition leads the pack as the supercar convoy cruises through the Yorkshire Dales