10 Best Places In The UK To Test The Full Capabilities Of Your Land Rover
We hear regularly from our customers at LR Parts that you love taking the chance to get out into the countryside or head off-road with your Land Rovers or Range Rovers.
It’s only natural that you should be tempted to test out your vehicle’s versatility and its capabilities in something stickier or more slippery than the run out to the garden centre
1. HEXHAM TO PENRITH (A686)
This one’s a recommendation from the guys and girls at Top Gear magazine. Although, having just visited this area, your writer can attest to the fun to be had driving around some of the further-flung corners of Hadrian’s Wall country.
One of the reasons this route appeals is because, although it’s close to some of our best-known national parks, it doesn’t actually cross one of these protected areas. It is, though, a great way of getting between the Lake District and Hadrian’s Wall country without having to head as far north as Carlisle and then turn 90 degrees east.
“You can drive this road at 30mph and have an immense amount of fun”, said the Top Gear team. In fact, you’re best advised to stick to a sensible speed, because otherwise you might soon encounter a mid-corner bump which could easily send you towards the unforgiving barrier of a dry stone wall.
But if you take it reasonably steady, this is a lovely road on which to test out both your vehicle’s and your own abilities. And as an added bonus, the towns at either end – and Alston which you’ll pass through midway - are largely attractive and unspoilt.
2. PORLOCK HILL AND THE A39 WESTWARDS TOWARDS LYNMOUTH
How many main roads do you know that feature gradients of 1 in 4 with the added driving challenge of several hairpin bends?
Porlock Hill in north Somerset climbs over 220 metres (725 feet) in a little more than a mile – yet is still part of an important long-distance A-road heading west into North Devon and Cornwall. The ascent also offers some spectacular views across the Bristol Channel along this stretch of the A39.
There’s an alternative toll road that features somewhat easier gradients, but the real fun can be had for free on the main stretch of the A-road between Porlock and Lynmouth.
If you don’t necessarily feed the need for speed, but instead want to be able to say that you’ve tackled the UK’s steepest section of regularly-used A-road, this little drive comes highly recommended. Just be sure to check that there isn’t a bike race scheduled when you’re in the area, because the hill is a magnet for such events.
3. THE ‘CAT AND FIDDLE’ – A54/A537, BUXTON TO MACCLESFIELD
This 12.25-mile run over the top of the Peak District gets its name from the isolated pub found at the summit as you head west along the roofs of Derbyshire and Cheshire.
Featuring many challenging bends, the route is also high up in the statistics of the UK’s most dangerous roads.
But you’re rewarded at either end with the chance to explore a couple of attractive market towns.
A word of warning – you need to keep your eyes peeled for bikers at all times, because the Cat and Fiddle is a magnet for two-wheeled users, particularly at weekends. Its attraction among the biking fraternity has also led to the installation of average speed cameras which police the 50mph prevailing limit.
That doesn’t detract from the Cat and Fiddle’s appeal, though, and it will exercise your driving skills whatever your level of experience.
4. A82 GLASGOW TO FORT WILLIAM
The longest route featured here, the 140-mile road linking Glasgow with Inverness via Fort William might be discounted by some due to its popularity with holidaymakers – and the consequently unpredictable traffic levels.
But there’s no denying that the stretches over the isolated Rannoch Moor and through Glencoe make for a compelling antidote to anyone whose main road-eating diet is chunks of our congested motorway or city-suburban road networks.
Parts of the road skirt the edge of Loch Lomond, and you need to be aware that it narrows in places to the degree where you might have to give way to someone coming the other way.
Don’t forget to take in the imposing rows of terraced houses which line the road as you head away from the centre of Glasgow too – that way you’ll fully appreciate the contrasts in scenery this Highland adventure has to offer.
5. A592 AMBLESIDE – KIRKSTONE PASS – PATTERDALE
We make no apologies for returning to the Lake District to add this entry on our list. You’ll hit almost 1,500 feet above sea level just after passing the Kirkstone Pass Inn, yet this 11-mile route is reasonably accessible, starting from Ambleside, a pretty short hop from the M6 Junction 36.
That probably accounts for a large measure of its popularity, but if you manage to avoid peak holiday season, you’ll find the Kirkstone Pass a challenging mountain road, with a mix of steep gradients, sharp bends and undeniably stunning views – in short, it’s the kind of terrain that’s a Land Rover’s natural habitat.
It’s one of a series of drives recommended by the team at Drivingforpleasure.co.uk
We’ve decided to split this article down the middle between public roads and private off-road tracks, because we know some of you might not have the means to be able to pay for one of the many recognised off-road experiences which are now available.
But in the latter category, we suggest the following:
6. TRUE GRIP OFF-ROAD (www.truegrip-offroad.co.uk)
Easily reached from massive areas of the south of England, this off-road training and driving experience course can be found on a 3,000-acre private estate in mid-Kent, not far from the M20.
The centre offers a combination of the thrills of getting to explore the capabilities of your 4x4 and a strong educational element – it runs experiences specifically targeted at those under legal driving age, as well as anyone who’s new to 4x4 all-terrain driving but needs a crash course (without the crashes!) in the basic techniques involved.
7. KIRTON OFF-ROAD CENTRE (www.korc.co.uk)
In the wilds of the Lincolnshire Wolds, this is another big site, in a former quarry, which is heavily used by various 4x4 vehicle owners’ clubs for training sessions.
Offering off-road driving and riding experiences for bikes and cars alike – although it does run days catering exclusively for two-wheeled or four-wheeled users – KORC, as it’s commonly known, offers ‘pay and play’ daily sessions, or can be booked for exclusive use for corporate events and vehicle testing and development.
8. WILD TRACKS OFF-ROAD CIRCUIT (www.wildtracksltd.co.uk)
In a part of the country better known as the proving ground for generations of top racehorses, Wild Tracks near Newmarket in Suffolk caters for keen driver of an all-wheel drive steed, and has amassed legions of followers among 4x4 owners keen to head off-road in their spare time.
Offering a range of challenging terrain in its 60 acres, encompassing sand, water, mud and more, which can be tackled for reasonable prices. So there’s little wonder that some reviewers are wary of this one, simply because it’s so popular
Wild Tracks offers one-to-one off-roading tuition using its own Toyota Hilux, and its experiences are touted as appealing to anyone from enthusiastic novice to driving pro. Go to Wildtracksltd.co.uk for more details.
9. ULTRA ADVENTURE DRIVING (www.ultraadventuredriving.co.uk)
This is a nationwide concern, operating at 20 private sites around the UK, varying in size and nature of terrain.
Managed by one of the first people to earn RoSPA accreditation as a 4x4 instructor, it operates two sites which are built by off-road vehicle manufacturers and found in the foothills of Snowdonia, as well as other off-roading sites in Mid-Wales and Shropshire.
There are sites and trails of varying difficulty, but most are located in the midst of the kind of spectacular scenery that’s a magnet for serious off-roaders.
10. PERTHSHIRE OFF-ROAD DRIVING CENTRE (www.perthshireoffroad.co.uk)
Heading north from Glasgow and Edinburgh, it isn’t long before you hit the fringes of the Scottish Highlands. And this is natural territory for any good 4x4 vehicle.
You can bring your own vehicle or hire the centre’s own Defender, and you’ll get a session with a qualified instructor who’ll guide you as you take on mud, rough ground, hill climbing (and descending!) and deep water.
You’ll be taught at a level which suits your experience, and the centre promises that you’ll spend the whole of the amount of time booked actually behind the wheel.
The Centre can be found about 12 miles south of Perth, and is open all year round. See Perthshireoffroad.co.uk for more details.
GOING ‘OFF-PISTE’ ON PUBLIC ROADS
Finally, to find out about a host of other potential rural routes where 4x4 owners are welcomed, but which aren’t necessarily so well known or even not signposted at all, you could join the Green Lane Association, or GLASS.
Your annual subscription will get you access to Trailwise, its database of official rights of way, compiled and updated with help from local councils across the country. Many of these routes can only be negotiated in an all-wheel-drive vehicle.
GLASS fosters a highly responsible approach to using the routes it recommends – especially as many are in areas with little or no phone signal, so it suggests going out in small groups, ideally of four vehicles or fewer.
Heading where only a vehicle as sturdy and capable as a Land Rover can take you is surely one of the main attractions of owning one of these iconic vehicles. LR Centre is here to support owners to maintain and modify their vehicles with the supply of over 200,000 land rover parts.
We hope this article has given you some inspiration for how you can sample just what a Land Rover or other 4x4 vehicle is capable of. If you take up any of our ideas, let us know how you get on!