I’ve always though that road trips should be done on sunny days, in awesome cars and with some good tunes. And that is exactly how our road trip with the Fiat 500 went. Now I’ve never been a huge car person but I can name a few and certainly could reel off a couple of models I would like to drive. A Fiat 500 classic or modern has been on this list for a while, so when I won the rental of one from APH at Traverse 15 I was pretty excited. I also figured I couldn’t waste a weekend of having an awesome car driving around the outskirts of London, that just wouldn’t cut it!
We decided to take a little tour across the south coast of England, working around where JP and I’s parents live to save on accommodation fees. Our route looked like this…
We were picking the Fiat 500 up from Snow Hill in Crawley which is around 10 minutes from Gatwick airport. This is where the APH airport carpark is located and is an easy hour drive from our home in London. I handed over my own car and jumped into a brand new Fiat with 17 miles on the clock. I couldn’t quite believe my luck and then began to get insanely nervous about driving such a new car – that lasted all of 10 minutes. The Fiat was very easy to drive once I got use to the differences from my own car. I only put the wipers on instead of the indicator a handful of times!
We picked the car up on the Saturday morning of the late May bank holiday and headed for Dorset which would take around two and a half hours – we though. Oh how wrong we were, half of the UK were out in their cars that Saturday morning and we didn’t make it to our first destination Swanage until 2pm! By which point I’d had a mini melt-down at how bad the traffic was and how the traffic was wasting our day. I was forgetting that the whole point of this weekend was the car and although being stuck in traffic sucked, I was sitting in an awesome car that I had wanted to drive for months! Mini melt-down over we arrived at our destination and refuelled with some food (and petrol in the car of course).
Why Swanage? It might seem like an odd destination in Dorset but it is a place I spent many a summer holiday as a child/teenager. My Grandparents still spend their spring and summer time here so we were dropped in to visit them. The rest of our afternoon (with Grandparents in tow) was spent driving around this beautiful area of Dorset. We drove out to Lulworth Cove first across the army range and stopped at the view points. On such a clear and sunny day we could see for miles – out to Portland in Weymouth and back to Poole. Down in Lulworth Cove we parked up with the hundreds of people who were also visiting this popular tourist stop, taking in the views again by walking on top the cliffs around the cove. We of course had to dip our toes in the freezing water and try some ice cream. We then drove back to Swanage and headed for the town, a lot of changes have been made since I was last there and I was easily lost. Still, it was nice to reminisce about old times and wander around this seaside town. Dorset felt like a million miles away from our crazy life in London and I couldn’t have been more pleased to be back. As a teenager Swanage had become the place of nightmare summers away from my friends but going back now I realise the beauty of this place.
We didn’t stop in the village of Corfe, Tyneham or Kimmeridge but I would recommend all of these spots if you ever find yourselves in this area of Dorest.
We then spent the night back in my childhood home, The New Forest. Again like Swanage, I once upon a time hated being suck in such a small village but now I love every minute of being in the countryside. It feels so free, spacious and friendly compared to London, even after moving away years ago I still walk into the local pub and am known by most.
Day two of the road trip was a very mundane day, the weather was rubbish and the previous day had been jam packed. The only driving we did was between my parents house and JP’s dads house in Sussex. Thankfully there were far less cars on the road for this drive and despite having driven the M27/A27 road countless times, it is still an enjoyable drive.
The final day of our long weekend road trip was spent exploring Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters. You’ll find this spot on the outskirts of Eastbourne and the drive out involves a lot of twisty roads with amazing views. Luckily I wasn’t driving for this and could really enjoy the landscape on yet another beautiful sunny day. Unfortunately in this area every carpark costs money so we didn’t stop in many except the actual Birling Gap one. For those of you who have never heard of Birling Gap, it is where the famous white chalk cliffs of the south are found and this spot offers some of the best views. We split our time here between walking along the cliffs for some of the best landscape views and chilling down on the beach for close up views. We treated ourselves to a cup of coffee before slowly heading back towards London.
When we handed the car back we had racked up just over 400 miles on the car and spent just £40 on petrol for all of that.
These areas are all well known to me and sometimes it can feel like you’ve done ‘everything’ when you know a place so well. Don’t be afraid to return to places you frequented years ago, they will have changed and offer new experiences now. Also be sure to hunt out new and different things to do in places where you always do the same thing. This road trip could easily have been a bit boring and dull because we were driving around areas we both grew up in but because we chose to look for activities we found them. A road trip doesn’t have to be expensive either because after all they are about the journey not the destination.
Both Lulworth Cove and Birling Gap are run by National Trust and the parking is notoriously expensive so be armed with pound coins!
This road trip has made me realise I should’t wait for something to make me head out exploring, I already own a car and there are so many amazing places to visit around the south of England. I really should make the most of it, where would you suggest heading next?