The team takes a wintry blast through the Dales with you, our lovely readers!
Words James Walshe / Pictures Matt Howell Hawes
This second instalment of our annual winter road trip might appear somewhat tame in comparison to last month’s arduous scaling of every mountain pass in the Lake District – but it was enjoyable for an entirely different reason: You! Wherever we go in our classics, from local outings to adventures abroad, we’re thankful to be greeted by readers and fellow enthusiasts who are up for joining us for a cuppa… and a few miles of scenic driving.
For this second leg of ‘Winter Warmers’, the aim was to cross the Yorkshire Dales on a wintry waft towards our overnight stop in Harrogate. Plenty of landmarks and a chance for lunch on the way – plus an evening quiz at the hotel to look forward to – but first, it was a case of meeting up with our fellow car nuts.
The outstanding Lakeland Motor Museum was the perfect place – it’s home of an extraordinary number of classics and arguably the largest collection motoring memorabilia in Britain… and plenty of delicious food. We made the most of that, as well as the unique Bluebird Exhibition – a tribute to the Campbells – the record breaking father and son duo who toppled speed records on the lakes that nestle beneath these mountains.
Amid the legal battle currently taking place between another local museum and the restorer of Donald's Bluebird K7, the stunning exhibition here at Lakeland is the closest you’ll get to seeing the world-famous water speed vehicles in Cumbria for the time being.
Damp and draughty
A crowd had gathered in the car park. Our pals brought a wide range of classics, from a radiant red Sunbeam Tiger to a Hillman Imp and Morris Traveller and so many more. The sound of car folk chattering filled the morning air. I spoke with Dave, who was in his Daimler Sovereign, Mick with a Rover 75 and Eddy, who had brought his ’04 Jaguar XJ8. All were glad at the thought of being enveloped inside luxurious modern classics for the day.
Not so myself, in the 2CV. Despite its recent rebuild at the NEC, there are a few unfinished jobs… such as an unconnected heat exchanger. I’d stuffed a pair of my socks up the tube, which meant neither fumes nor any kind of heat could enter the cabin. I’d wrapped up extra warm to compensate. Charlie and her dad Steve were in the same predicament with Frisky, the similarly drafty MGA. There was mild envy directed towards Danny in his Alfa Romeo, Matt George in his Triumph 2000 and the two MGBs of Tomkins and our Classic Lodges host and friend, Richard Smith.
Having spent a cosy night in the Lakeside Hotel, we’d now been flung out into the wilds and were at the mercy of the Yorkshire Dales. Our convoy snaked out of the craggy Lake District, across the busy M6 and wound its way up the gentle rolling foothills to the gateway of North Yorkshire. The torrential downpours in Cumbria had passed, but the sky was still heavy. Our tiny windscreen wipers had worked hard for the past few days, so we were hoping there was enough of a gap to take some shots at our first stop. Having turned off the A65 at Ingleton, the Ribblehead Viaduct was soon visible on the horizon. Finished in 1874, the 24 stone arches rise 104 feet above the moor. It’s a majestic sight, these days forming the scenic Settle-Carlisle railway, but it’s easy to forget the sacrifice that went into its construction in this difficult terrain. With 2000 workers and their families living in shanty towns nearby, and on one of the last lines to be built purely by manual labour, 100 of them lost their lives either through accidents or illness.
‘For once, the 2CV wasn’t the slowest car in the convoy…’
Lee Scott, one of the chaps who had joined us for the drive in his Mini, said it’s wasn't just people who fell off the viaduct. ‘Back in the Sixties, a load of Humbers were on a freight train and being delivered to a dealership when they were blown off in high winds!’
Our convoy continued across vast moorland to picturesque Hawes for a brief loo stop, before we turned south on the gloriously narrow road to Kettlewell, via Oughtershaw. The long climb up Beggermans Road felt endless but my concerns about holding the line up in my 2CV were unfounded. There was a Land Rover behind me doing that far more successfully. We crossed the River Wharf at Deepdale, passed Grassington and arrived at our lunch stop.
The proprietor of the Country Kitchen Café and farm shop looked horrified. Dozens of classic cars almost instantaneously filled the (admittedly not particularly big) car park, partially blocking the entrance. Myself and the rest of the Practical Classics team did our level best to shepherd them but it was too late – the locals were revolting.
Well, one of them was. An older lady – passenger in a Renault Zoe – was fuming. ‘What d’yer think yer doing?’ she bellowed. ‘We only came ‘ere for some compost and now we can’t get out the ruddy car park!’. I did my best to assist, but she was properly raging. Her husband, on the other hand, was sat calmly in the driving seat and appeared less perturbed. I got the feeling he’d quite like to hop out and take a closer look at the TVR Tasmin and Reliant Scimitar nearby.
Delicious food was served at a somewhat overwhelmed Country Kitchen Cafe, whose manager made a hasty call for back-up from his staff while some of us bought presents for loved ones in the shop. We pledged to him that we would one day return – with just a little more notice! After filling our faces, we hopped aboard our classics and headed out into the moors again, bound for the magnificent Old Swan Inn in the centre of historic Harrogate.
The weather had cleared and we were rewarded with a stunning winter sunset as we filled yet another car park. The Classic Lodges experience continued with our regular 'PC Big Night' out and an evening quiz with our new classic friends. Sure, we loved the driving and the sightseeing – even in the chilly weather – but as we were reminded at the Old Swan Inn that night, the conversations and laughter are what classic car ownership is all about.