DRIVE: ROAD TRIP

The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS - DAR­REN CASEY Email: drive@her­al­dand­times.co.uk

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

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