Who said driving from A to B had to be dull? Check out these amazing top drives and rides of epic awesomeness to whet your driving appetite next summer.
1 – Nature’s rollercoaster
It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue but boy does it roll off the mountain. The Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse, (you’ll still be trying to say it by the time you reach the bottom) is one of Austria’s best rollercoaster rides. Just get your brakes tested first! Named after the highest peak in the Austrian Alps, the Grossglockner High Alpine Road is a ridiculously beautiful ride that meanders down from the stark, cold heights into the flowering valley like a lazy river enjoying its own view. Blue sky, white clouds, pine trees and the Alps. It will have you grinning from ear to ear like a village idiot and thanking God for inventing tarmac and lay-bys. Take a tip and go early in the morning. Beating all the eager cyclists will make your ride that much more enjoyable.
Our rating = Car 4.2* / Bike 4*
2 – What’s in a name?
It may not have the sexiest name in the world but the B3135 from Cheddar to Ashwick is one of the best drives in the UK. It’s only 14 miles long so won’t take you too long to complete but you’ll definitely turn around and do it twice, after you’ve stopped at one of the many cafés and pubs along. It also means that if you time it wrong and get stuck behind a Sunday driver, you’ll get more than one shot at enjoying the ride. The scenery is staggering and the layout of twisting bends, rocky outcrops and valleys will get your blood pumping. It’s tighter than others and for some drivers it may be too tight but that’s what you get with a road that was built for a horse and cart.
Our rating = Car 4.2* / Bike 4.6*
3 – Middle Earth
It just doesn’t need any words…okay maybe a few. The Hahntennjoch to Vorarlberg pass in Austria is dizzyingly beautiful. Surrounded by massive peaks on all sides and nail-biting gorges below, the perfect-quality road offers an outstanding driving experience that will stay with you forever. You can easily forget you aren’t looking at a postcard, the view is so intense. You’ll want to keep your eyes on the road though as in places it is literally carved out of the rock. The north approach is regarded as the best and it’s not as aggressive as many alpine roads: its tarmac is pristine and you seem to get more warning going into the hairpins and more space on the exit. The camber can be interesting in places and coming into the final section you can sometimes find a wall of Austrian cattle standing in the road so make sure your brakes are warm.
Our rating = Car 4.8* / Bike 4.8*
Tip: Emergency kit
Get your vehicle serviced before attempting any high-altitude roads
and make sure you have some emergency gear, just in case:
– A trusty sat-nav and printed maps
– Thermal blanket
– Water and snacks
– Torch and batteries
– Coolant leak repair kit
– Basic first-aid kit
– Jump cables
– Warning triangles
– Mobile phone and spare battery (but don’t rely on it)
– Tyre foam and inflators
4 – Smoke on water
First opened on 7 July 1989, the Atlantic Road was originally planned to be a railway line. It is an incredible piece of engineering that was named Norway’s construction project of the century in 2005. At 5.2miles (8.3km) long, it forms part of the link between Kristiansund and Molde. The road is formed of causeways that hop between small islands, zigzagging its way across the water. Its creation was apparently hampered by 12 hurricanes in the area. Amazingly, once the cost of the road was gathered from its tolls, the Norwegian government actually stopped taking money to use it, so it’s now free to drive. Remind you of the London congestion charge at all?
Our rating = Car 4.9* / Bike 4.1*
5 – Into the belly of the beast
Trollstigen (the Troll’s ladder) in Rauma, Norway is an impressive drive that you will never forget. The mountain pass is shorter than others in the list but it’s seriously worth the effort. As a section of the national road 63, it connects Åndalsnes in Rauma and Valldal in Norddal. It has a very steep incline in places and 11 hairpins to negotiate up to the summit. It is busier than others and some of the bends were widened in 2005 as the road has become more popular for buses. There’s also some amazing viewing opportunities such as the Stigfossen waterfall and the summit viewing. Hats off to the tourist bus drivers who tackle this every day.
Our rating = Car 3.7* / Bike 4.2*
6 – Climbing the wall
Italy’s Stelvio Pass is perhaps not the most pretty of drives but at some 2,757 m (9,045 ft) at its highest point, it is one of the highest mountain passes in the Eastern Alps. It is made up of a whopping 48 hairpin bends traversing the northern slope of the mountainside. Stelvio was named Europe’s second greatest driving experience by the BBC’s Top Gear programme in 2008, beaten only by Romania’s Transfăgărăşan Highway.
Our rating = Car 4.4* / Bike 4.8*
7 – The greatest road
The breathtaking 90km Transfăgărăşan Highway is Romania’s offering and named ‘the greatest driving experience’ by Top Gear. The Balea Lake section (pictured) snakes down through the glacier’s valley. Built under the communist regime as a military connection, the Transfaga…the Trasfargara… the Trans-Highway was created to cross the highest mountains in Romania and link two important regions together for the first time. Today it’s an important links for tourists and the ski resorts in winter and with bungee jumpers in summer.
Our rating = Car 5* / Bike 4.9*