Hi all – the unbearable wait is over, your beloved petrolhead James is back! This week we’ll be covering the potentially delightful coast-to-coast road trip from King’s Lynn to Blackpool. Not quite as random as it sounds – this is one of the shorter coast-to-coast trips in the UK, easily doable as a fun weekend, which still passes through some epic scenery and twisty mountainous roads courtesy of the Peak District.
What should I drive?
Assuming you’ve already done the trip in a LaFerrari, McLaren P1, and a Porsche 918, and have then given away your millions to charity in order to see what it feels like to “live like common people”, let’s look at some slightly more ‘modest’ automotive options.
- The ‘Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car’ option. Just drive anything. To clarify: I’m not suggesting you do the ‘hilarious’ Top Gear routine of buying a heap for £7.50 from Nigel down the pub, as when it breaks down after 10 miles there won’t be a 22-truck convoy behind you to feed you foie gras and give you hot stone massages whilst the crew repairs it – you’ll just be waiting for a couple of hours in the rain until the AA turns up and silently judges you with their eyes for driving such a dump. Rather, something in the ‘affordable cars with more than 2 seats which are still fun to drive’ category – Ford rules the roost here with the Fiesta and Focus.
- The fun but (relatively) frugal option. Since dinosaurs roamed the earth, there’s been one little convertible sports car that you could always count on to give you affordable thrills: the Mazda MX-5. Admittedly, it did look a little effeminate in its early incarnations, but it’s thankfully grown more ‘gender neutral’ over the years. It handles beautifully and has enough power to keep you grinning without fears of melting the polar ice caps ruining your day. Best of all, you can get the bigger-engined model with 158bhp for around £20k. That’s probably less than the cost of a new iPhone.
- The “I’ve exceeded my quarterly sales target” option. Buy the Jaguar F-Type immediately – do not pass Go, do not collect £200! This is a truly worthy E-Type successor. It looks incredible in both coupé and soft-top: you can’t truly appreciate it until you’ve seen it in the flesh. The base model, a relative bargain at just over £50k, has a 3.0 V6 with 335bhp which will proper you to 60mph in just 5.1s. More insane engines are of course available to those with even deeper pockets. So. Much. Want.
What route to take?
So what’s hot to start off a road trip in King’s Lynn? Well, the Queen opened its new fire station in February 2015, and if it’s good enough for the Queen then it’s good enough for you. Also: good seafood so you can stock up on cockles and whelks for the journey. And what about ending in Blackpool? It’s a gloriously kitsch time-warp where you can experience what a British holiday would have been like in 1952 (in a good way!). Also: in case you didn’t quite manage to procure the car of your dreams for the journey, get your adrenaline kicks at the ‘Blackpool Pleasure Beach’, an underrated theme park with a great selection of elderly and rickety wooden roller-coasters – what they may lack in G-force, they compensate for by giving you a greater awareness of your own mortality. Now for the stuff inbetween:
The “I have no soul” route: Just take the A17, A1, M62, M61, M60, M61, M6, and M55 and stop off at your favourite Moto along the way for a Ginsters Steak Slice or two. Please don’t be this person.
The real drivers’ route: If you actually want to enjoy driving, go via the Peak District National Park and enjoy all the twisty bits. It covers 555 square miles, so to make it a little less daunting, here are a couple of highlights:
- Cat ‘n’ Fiddle – named after a biker pub along the route (try not to get into a car vs. bike argument with anyone wearing leather), this Buxton to Macclesfield route boasts a challenging combination of hairpins and fast corners. Keep your wits about you though – this is considered one of the UK’s most dangerous roads!
- Snake pass – a fun non-motorway method of getting between Sheffield and Manchester. Slightly less windy and challenging than the previous route, but consequently faster (though watch out for the pesky speed cameras).
For bonus points
See how long you can evade capture by the police with 3 or more wanted stars… oops, this is real life, not Grand Theft Auto, scrap that. Instead, stop off at a Perrys dealership or two along the way and ogle the car which would make your next road trip just a little more special. Try adding a darkly ironic edge to your trip by seeing how many Northern towns featured in The Smiths’ songs you can drive through. Alternatively, swing by a few of the North’s finest cities – see if you can handle a Chicken Phall in Bradford, or put on your baggiest sweatshirt and dance like Bez in Manchester. Job done.