We’ve all seen those TV shows and newspaper features that offer up their hand-picked selection of best roads to drive around the globe. Most of them sound great but, in some cases, they’re a very long way away. However, you don’t have to go as far as the USA, South America or Australia in order to experience highway heaven. Europe has plenty. And, In fact, the UK has some of the best driving roads you can find anywhere and the diversity of what’s on offer is impressive to say the least. There are mountain and coastline drives, or a combination of both, that are more than a match for many of those on the best of lists.
The scenic route
In some places you'll be the only person on the road
Ford has recently released a series of films to celebrate some of these best drives, so it was only fitting that a British route should be on it and also appear near the top of a quality motoring experiences bucket list. The fantastic drive that is Blakey Ridge is a stretch of road that straddles the barren but beautiful North Yorkshire moors, south of Middlesborough and north of York. Along the way there is some of the most stunning scenery you’ll see anywhere, while the views from the top on a good day are stunning.
A warm welcome awaits you at the Lion Inn, Blakey Ridge
However, on the day we decided to drive the route, the weather was being typically British with a heady blend of dazzling sunshine and, for the most part, torrential downpours. Meanwhile, halfway along the route the Lion Inn pub on the peak of the ridge was shrouded in thick mist. Nevertheless, what better way to complete the journey than in the 350ps four-wheel-drive rocket ship that is the new Ford Focus RS, which has everything you need to get a conveyor belt of thrills from every nuance in the challenging road surface.
Enjoy those curves but make sure you drive safely
A point to note about this road and the others in the best drives series, however, is that these are public highways and all the usual rules and regulations need to be obeyed.
Adding to the interest factor in the case of Blakey Ridge is the large amount of wildlife that sits either side of the carriageway and, some of the time, on it too. Sheep, goats, pheasants and more beside are all potential hazards, so while you enjoy the undulating curves and tantalising corners, just be mindful of what might lie around the next bend. Lookout too for walkers and cyclists, both of which are here every day, no matter what the weather is doing.
Europe’s other greatest driving roads
Just look at some of those corners!
If you’ve already driven this one then what else is on the menu in this Greatest Driving Roads series? Well, the collection is a mixed bag to say the least and all have been ranked by thrill factor, road surface, accessibility, hospitality and scenery plus marks were added for food and drink appeal. Ford says its researchers covered 15,000 kilometres over a 12-month period to decide on the eventual shortlist. It’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it, right?
Motoring journo Steve Sutcliffe, who appears in the films, drove around the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Romania during his research and tackled the tortuous turns of the world’s best routes in a variety of vehicles including the beefy Ford Mustang GT, the Focus RS and a potent little Fiesta ST. From that he helped researchers form an overview of what they consider to be the best of the bunch when it comes to quality drives.
Ford's Focus RS during filming for the Greatest Roads series
The Transfagarasan Highway in Romania: Built by former Romanian dictator so his people could readily flee to the mountains should USSR invade. It even passes the castle of Vlad the Impaler – the real-life inspiration for Count Dracula. Sutcliffe says: “If you are a true driving enthusiast, the Transfagarasan is genuinely a bucket list kind of place to visit.”
Catalonia, Spain, C462: Leading up to a dam, the road was built for a planned power station, but the power station never appeared. Literally a road to nowhere. Sutcliffe says: “There is just about everything a road could ever offer, and there are three distinctly different sections to it. One that’s fast and fluid, another that consists mostly of tunnels, and then a third section that’s narrower and far more twisting.”
Being North Yorkshire there's always penty of rain
The Alps, France, D526 and D926: One of the most gruelling stages of the 2015 Tour de France, and equally challenging in a car. Sutcliffe says: “Of all the roads we went to I think this was my personal favourite. It was/is thoroughly epic to drive on, yes, but it’s also just stunning to look at, to be among.”
Black Forest Highway, Germany, B500: A little over 40 kilometres through the Black Forest, with smaller, equally challenging roads branching from it. During filming it rained constantly for four days. Sutcliffe says: “Bikers flock to the B500 in the summer months, and who could blame them when the rewards are this rich?”
The powerful Ford Mustang taking on Europe's most enjoyable driving roads
Majorca, Spain, MA10 ‘Mountain Road’: Roman origins and a remote monastery that was built at the road’s peak to be purposefully difficult to get to. Sutcliffe says: “The road itself is an absolute peach to drive on, spiralling its way across the northern tip of the island, going through tunnels and across lakes and over rocky bridges in the process.”
And, last but not least, the aforementioned Blakey Ridge in North Yorkshire: Roughly following the route of an old railway line to the now quiet iron ore mines of the moors. Fortunately, it was filmed just before a huge snow storm struck. Sutcliffe says: “The way it winds itself across the moors, throwing blind crests and fast but ever-tightening corners at you all the way along, is completely fascinating.”
Well, what are you waiting for?