There is no better demonstration of the British love for an eccentric challenge, as the well-trodden route between Land’s End and John O’groats.
The journey between what are almost the two most distant points of the British mainland, it serves to illustrate both the nation, the long, thin shape â€“ 837 miles in a country where it is impossible, more than 70 miles from the sea and also our common love of a bizarre quest.
The first recorded foot the whole distance was made in 1871, and since then, it has been done on everything from bicycles, skateboards, lawn mower, the at least one traverse of JCB. In a complete victory for the resistance, the route was even, adventurer Sean Conway is spending 135 days of the 900 miles of range covers swim around the coast in 2013.
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Car the easy way is to definitely, but although it’s been some quick private runs, the inability to close roads or to withdraw, it means law enforcement, there are no official records, the official speed limits.
Our mission is subtly different and grander in objective: in the race to the sun rather than the clock. The goal is to show that the trip be arrested for a real adventure, and even in a vehicle as unlikely, since the new Skoda Karoq. A medium-sized diesel crossover is not what may be the most obvious choice for a quick end-to-end, but this is a journey, with the comfort and fuel range are far more important than outright pace. It is also the perfect opportunity to introduce yourself, what is likely to be a Skoda to be the biggest seller in the UK.
The plan is to leave John O’groats, the sun and Land’s End before the first light of the next day, a North-South run, give us slightly more night. Attempt, it would have been in mid-December to easy, but the choice of the night of 1-2 February, a nearly perfectly balanced challenge, with 14 hours and 44 minutes of night, for travel, attributed to Google, it will take 14 hours and 56 minutes with no delays.
AN OMINOUS BEGINNING:
Time is not the only challenge. The weather is to say to have, also. The snow I drive the Karoq North to meet snapper Stan Papior in Inverness airport, and by the time we reach the Seaview Hotel, John O’groats, the TV meteorologists are in addition to cards covered by giant arrows and warning of an approaching Arctic front. The wind is already at the top of the gale-scale, blows hard enough to stand it’s hard to maintain.
Things have changed since I was last here in 2007. At that time, I have to show the same trip in my long-term-test-car at the time, a CitroÃ«n C6, to its travel-shrinking skills, and John O’groats’ ‘end of the world’ vibe felt, how much post-apocalyptic as geographic, the village in the eponymous hotel, shutters on the Windows and seemingly in danger of collapse.
Now it is restored and surrounded by luxury chalets, cafes and souvenir shops here, a reputable trade even on a gloomy Thursday. The increasing popularity of the North coast 500 many other travellers, to assess the during the summer and a fair crop of supercars, has, from the pictures, in some of the companies. There is even a Starbucks franchise, where we kill a few hours waiting for the sun to set and watch the wind whipping the North sea.
The sunset is an anti-climax, with no discernible difference in the gloomy grey 4:34 rolls around and somewhere far behind the clouds, the sun dips below the horizon. The Navi says there are claims of 839 km in front of us and the Karoq ” trip computer, a 500-mile fuel range. As we set off, it starts to rain almost horizontally.
The journey to Inverness is more of a rumble than a sprint, the A9, following the robust Form and swoopy contours of the coast for the first hour or so. It is spectacular, and twilight offers some good views of the cliffs and the Moor, but it is definitely not fast. Skoda has wisely chosen to show suitable to our Karoq with Bridgestone Turanza winter tyres, which are fast, their lack of enthusiasm for higher speedson the twistier sections.
It’s cold and slippery out there and a nearly-new Ford Transit, embedded in a fence, serves as a salutary lesson about the treacherous conditions.
After twilight, the arrival of the darkness the distractions are reduced, with the most noticeable to the sight of drilling rigs far out in the sea, brilliantly lit, and with flare stacks blazing orange. Things pick up in the North sea are to judge from the number of them, both at work and high above the small town of Invergordon, where they come for repair and renovation.
Although the Karoq is not angry at corners, it is pretty good on straight and be able to the kind of fast, but reasonable pace necessary to keep in the schedule, in conditions like this. The long journey North to our official start point has already been proven that it is a fine long legged cruiser, the 147bhp version of the well-known 2.0-Liter TDI diesel not deliver, sparkling thrust, you will have the doughty low-down torque makes for relaxed progress. The manual transmission is also good, with a pleasantly precise switching operation. The Volkswagen group has the ability to stir its MQB-porridge-pot, in various flavors to impress the Skoda dynamic experience the feeling of larger and more Mature than his nearly mechanically identical VW T-Roc and seat Ateca cousins.
To cut travelling through the night was meant to be, looking down on the traffic, but we also have a five-minute queue for construction sites hat, reduced the bridge over the Cromarty Firth to a single lane.
Progress continues to be slow and sticky, to the e-passport Inverness, only a few minutes drive of our bogey time, but the rain turning to snow.
At first, the excitement of the flakes, hardly any other the Karoq remains the wipers and the oad reassuring black. But as the A9 its steady climb owards Slochd summit begins, the case will be eavier and starts to stick. Also with Karoq four-wheel-drive and winter tires, the occasional stretch of the fast lane, the white, for the prudent use of are soon, and it is not long before e are grinding up the grade in a long queue of cars and Trucks to the distant cluster-truck, and with the Tacho needle to just under 5mph. The sat-nav’s ETA begins to lip to the rear, soon to be beyond :19am on which the first light is due to rrive in the far West of Cornwall.
Not that the Highlanders can stop a little eather. The snow stops falling, before we reach Aviemore, and although it is a decent amount of n in the soil, the well-gritted road soon clear again. My instinct iso try to claw back some of the lost ime, but it must be hard fought for the entire length of the A9, which is now backed up by average speed cameras, past Perth, all the way to the M9. For the next few hours, speed management means little more than tapping the cruise control up and down to take into account the values with a different border. This, I think, is the future.
Accession to the motorway network to the South of Dunblane feels like liberation, with the promise they would take us the 450 miles to Exeter. But the Google Maps navigation, which is executed as a back-up, now the causes of the alarm, and we expect to reach Land’s End an hour later than the time predicted by the Karoq own system. Zoom-out reveals that no obvious red spots: he does not know something, what are we?
You cross the English border just six hours after you means the setting off that we have to change ahead of schedule, and with sufficient margin on a two-stop strategy. The original plan had been to once to stop, but a splash-and-dash at Southwaite also offers the prospect of a stretch and a fresh Cup of coffee. The services provide on the walk and visit to the men’s, but not the much-needed Americano, with the Costa franchise closed for inventory. Energy to do drinks have.
Midnight comes just before Preston power, and the radio news reports, we have officially Groundhog Day listed. It feels that way, the highway haul, and share a lot of the dÃ©jÃ vu experience, the Bill Murray Comedy. The location, name change and the kilometres on the signs count down, but for the most part, the M6, the repetitive background in a old-fashioned cartoon. Another problem with the choice of February is soon evident: the numerous sets of roadworks, caused, as I suspect, will be issued to the households, before the end of the fiscal year. There are five temporary worksites between Preston and Birmingham, the majority of which the highway to be reduced to a single track, plus a grindingly long stretch of camera-enforced 50 mph zone.
Brum brings some modest excitement and confirmation of Google’s omnipotence in spotting a snarl-up: the first bit of the M5 is closed, as the obvious distraction along the M6, two facts, the usually shouty motorway matrix signs, and still is, until we’re practically in the queue. We turn to Waze for navigation, which guides us on an anthropological tour of West Bromwich, where many people are still on the way home. By the time we vote again on the M5 a couple of junctions down, all of the available navigation systems now we reach Land’s End and before 7 am.
Since the transport level, and smart highway, are the way to old-fashioned, stupid, highway, so that travel speeds increase. There is a fair amount of road roar in the Karoq cabin at higher speeds, although there is nothing the audio system can be heard. If we get bored of podcasts, the discussion turns to speculation, what’s the fastest way would be the end of the trip, we are, with roads blocked and a free choice of cars. I think a Bentley Continental GT, the one-way trip in less than seven hours, with plenty of refueling tankers and a courageous driver.
We make our second fuel stop at Taunton, and, fortunately, find that the Costa is open and serve also at 2:30 PM. By the time we get there take the A30 into Exeter, there is a sense of entering the home straight and as the road become steeper and twistier, the Karoq even gets to the steering angle. We are entering the truck zone, with many more trucks than cars, wood treatment west. For the most part, the limits to hold on to our way. The Skoda seats are worthy of particular praise, as the clock ticks past 12 hours. There is pain, but far less than it would be to sit in most other cars.
The last piece is like the first: frustrating and slow. Fast road runs in Camborne and the last leg from Penzance to Sennen is positive is curvy. We are the country ‘ s to spare End of a complete absence of cheering crowds and with more than an hour â€“ long enough for a NAP in the corner, in the Parking lot before the sky begins to clear. Like John O’groats, it feels like a place, the accidentally famous for no particularly good reason, with a spectacular view of the sea, but switching retailers dedicated to brightening the tourist pockets. Everything is closed, and not only until later in the morning, but only in the spring. The light of the sun and 24,000 miles has taken covered in time to do us 900, but it feels like a victory.
WAITING FOR THE SUN:
We started at the exact moment the sun is at John O’groats on 1. February: 4:34, with the first light, the goals of Land’s End at 7:19am the following day. Despite the construction sites, we have to spare one hour.
THERE AND BACK IN ONE DAY:
Although, I would argue, a LEJOG veteran, this is the fourth time I did the trip, but the first run from North to South. The CitroÃ«n C6 trip was carried out in the year 2007, a far gentler pace over three days. But my first trip, in 1997, was much more hectic. My friend John Dalton wanted to see if it was possible to compress the journey from Land’s End to John O’groats and back again in the space of a calendar day with his trusty MG Maestro. I went along as company, ballast and tools.
We left Land’s End at midnight and made good time on our trip in the direction of North, we reached John O’groats in the late morning, the rapidity of our progress, favored by the absence of speed cameras and the Maestro-anonymity. The return trip was more tense. Heavy traffic around Birmingham seemed to blow our chances, but Dalton’s rally – honed skills were sufficient to get us back to Land’s End, at 11:47pm on the same day. The Maestro, already covered well over 100,000 miles, do not miss it.
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