The matter of how close we are to the end of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is clearly still open to debate right now. However, one thing we can all agree on is that we’re all hopefully looking forwards to the end of the social and travel restrictions, and being able to do some of the things that we took for granted before 23 March 2020.
At the moment, we’re in the slightly ambiguous no-man’s land between ‘lockdown’ and ‘freedom’, with a set of rules loosely applied and lots of people interpreting what going out for exercise actually means. So, for now, we’re not quite in that area of being able to do what we want when we want, and that’s leading to frustration. I’m minded to play safe and still limit my travel to more essential journeys – the safety of everyone comes first, clearly. But my eyesight’s good, so there’s no need to head out to Barnard Castle at the moment. Ahem…
Anyway, for many of us petrolheads, getting out in our cars for pleasure is a luxury that we’ve gone without for too long, and I’m sure there are many of us who are absolutely itching to get out again as soon as we can. The simple pleasure of getting in and taking your car for a drive is one that you can’t beat. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to take my cars to many interesting and varied places over the years – mainly in Europe (above), but increasingly in the UK – and, over the past few days and weeks, the pang of being able to go back for some good old-fashioned road trips is getting increasingly strong.
I know I’ve been getting my current smoker, a 1982 Audi 80 CL into some kind of shape for classic events or pleasure drives which I hope we can go on later this year. That’s meant servicing the old girl with some fresh oil, filters and a tweak or two of its Weber carburettor (above). This has been surprisingly therapeutic as the lifting of restrictions hove closer into view putting right all those nagging little issues – and there are many…
I’ve seen some amazing jobs completed over the past few weeks by enthusiasts on their cars – and never have I seen so many clean and polished cars! What have you done to your cars during the restrictions?
Then there’s going places. I’ve really missed getting out and driving for the sheer pleasure of it. The good news is that you don’t have to go far, and certainly don’t need to go abroad, to enjoy some amazing roads once lockdown ends.
The excitement of getting on a Ferry at Dover and heading for France or driving north as far as you can is hard to beat – but non-essential overseas travel is still a little way away yet. Luckily, you don’t even need to travel to enjoy your car. A couple of years back, I got up at 3.30am just to drive my Citroën GS through the Lake District at sunrise on the longest day of the year (above, image taken at 4.23am) – it was one of the nicest drives I’d enjoyed in many a year. Empty roads, birds singing and no particular agenda… Simple pleasures – and lovely stuff. Who says road trips need to be long and expensive?
However, heading north is pretty much unbeatable. A trip to Scotland last year in a Peugeot 508 is up there as one of the best I’ve been on – and this from a from a die-hard fan of the Alps. Getting there is pretty special, and magical once you’ve arrived. I took the B7076 and B7078 through the Borders (below), and headed for Edinburgh and beyond. If you’re wondering why I’d take a B-road and not the motorway, then I guess you shouldn’t be reading this blog. This one is special, though, mainly because these B-roads are formed of the old A74, which was replaced by a new motorway from the 1990s to 2010s. What’s left is a fantastic, open, sweeping B-road that only the locals (and some bikers) use – try it the next time you’re there.
North of Perth, then took one of General Wade’s Old Military Roads (below) through the Grampian mountains. If you’ve ever found yourself heading to Inverness and stuck on the incessantly speed camera-controlled A9, you’ll have found the experience utterly depressing (although, as it’s been pointed out to me, here it was probably a necessary evil, given the road’s terrible safety record), so I would highly recommend these roads as a way of avoiding the grind of the A9 while experiencing some of the most amazing scenery known to man.
Beyond Inverness, there’s little but beautiful rolling scenery as Caithness and the North Coast 500 beyond that. You’re going to have to stop over, and that involves hotels and expense, but there’s nothing stopping you packing a tent and camping. Trust me, there are plenty of places you can camp and not be disturbed. I’m already getting excited at the prospect of doing something like this as soon as I can.
So, if you’re thinking of doing something like this once restrictions are lifted and it’s safe to do so, where are you thinking of going, or where would you recommend AROnline‘s readers should take their cars for a drive? Or what other things are you looking forward to doing after lockdown? I’d love to hear what you’re going to be driving and what your thoughts are, as well as hints and tips…
Oh, and you don’t need a swanky modern car as Alexander Boucke’s trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats in his lovely Vanden Plas Princess 1300 (below) clearly demonstrates…
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