Mrs. SSO and I were recently discussing a few road trip options for the fall when the conversation morphed into a discussion on our favorite routes, roads and why. The only criteria we agreed was these were roads we really enjoyed driving and would go out of our way to drive these routes again. Some of the routes are fairly short while others are full day spirited drives. What they all have in common is stunning scenery and a path that both challenges and rewards the driver. All of these roads are best driven in a supercar. Here are our top 10 in no particular order:
Scotland: Great Western Loop
This was probably my most memorable day of driving in the last 20 years. It’s a combination of brilliant low trafficked roads with stunning and constantly changing scenery. We started just south of Inverness at Aldourie Castle and headed south on B862 to Fort Augustus. From Fort Williams you head north on the A82 and then west on the A887. At Bun Loyne you switch over to the A87 west and follow it all the way out to the Kyle of Lochalsh which is a good place to stop for fuel and a snack. From there you need to double back a bit to the A890 which you will now follow north along the coast until it comes to an end at the intersection with the A832. Take this road east until it come to an end at the A835. Finally follow the A835 back to east Inverness. This is a full day full on vigorous drive that a Ferrari 430 Scuderia, 458 Speciale, or either a McLaren 675LT or 765LT are perfect for.
Wales: Conwy to Snowdonia to Brecon Beacons
Some of the best driving roads in the UK are in Wales. The landscape is stunning and constantly changing. It never stays flat for too long, and when you aren’t being challenged by the never ending changing of direction that the tarmac follows, there are always tall stone fences right on the edge of many of the roads to keep your attention focused on the task at hand. The width on many is modest and from experience I can confirm that the rear end of a Ferrari F40 will completely fill up the gap between the edge and center line on many. Probably my favorite route for a good days drive starts in Conwy, drops into Snowdonia before winding down to and through the spectacular Breacon Beacons. In Conwy start by taking the A470 south to Dolgellau. At Dolgellau change over to the A494 east and stay on it until you reach Balla. At Bala take a right onto the B4391 south until you hit the A490. Stay on the A490 all the way down to Welshpool and then take the A483 south. The A483 will take you back to the A470 which you then take you right through the Brecon Beacons National Park. The other alternative is to take the A40 at Brecon and this will eventually lead you to the M50 and the highways back to London. I’ve driven four different Ferraris on this route, a manual 575, the 430 Scuderia, the F40, and a 365 GTB/4 Daytona. While you will make the most rapid progress in the 430 Scuderia, it’s the fairly petite by today’s standards, 365 GTB/4 Daytona which is probably the most rewarding to pilot across Wales.
Switzerland: Furka, Grimsel, & Susten Passes
No top 10 list would be complete without a few Swiss mountain passes thrown in. My favorite set are the Furka, Grimsel, and Susten All three can be driven in a day. I would recommend starting with the Furka before heading over to the Grimsel and then looping up to the Susten. If you can hit them early on a weekday its far preferred as the weekends can be thick with slow moving traffic. Busses, campervans, and large groups of bikers are all to be avoided if at all possible. Driving these passes well requires both skill and a bit of intestinal fortitude. Guard rails are few and far between and leaving the roadway will ruin your underwear. In many spots it is alos likely to end with your becoming a permanent part of the local landscape. Of the three, I would rate the Furka the most challenging and the Susten the most relaxing of the three. Total distance is a bit under 100 miles but give the terrain it will take the better part of a day. Pulling into a few of the scenic parking spots is highly recommended as the views are just stunning in all directions. To get to the Furka Pass, take Rt 19 west from Hospental and up thru the Furka Paa. This connects to Rt 6 north at the Grimsel Pass. At Innertkirchen its Rt 11 east across the Susten Pass and then onto Wassen. At Wassen you can then hop on the highway which will take you north toward Zurich or south towards Milan. I’ve driven all of these passes in both a Ferrari 360 Modena (6 speed manual) and the F40. While a lot more work, the latter was the more memorable experience as the gearing better suited the terrain.
Portugal: Cascais to Peniche
The Portuguese Coast is both rugged and stunningly beautiful. Centuries of wind and the relentless pounding of the Atlantic have carved spectacular cliffs and bays along the jagged coastline. This drive starts in Cascais, runs down the coast to the windy beach at Guicho before heading up into the hills towards Sintra. You then drop down to Cabo do Roca before continuing to wind your way up to Peniche. If the Swiss Passes lay the majesty of the Alps in front of you, the lasting impression of the Portuguese coast is rugged beauty and the power of nature. In terms of routes, this is a very easy one. You take the N247 west out of Cascais and follow it all the way up to Peniche. The only deviation is the short run off the N247 to Cabo da Roca before you retrace your track and rejoin the N247. I’ve driven this route in at least a half dozen different Ferraris. Probably my favorite was the 308 GTB. It had great balance, plenty of low end grunt, and you could get it flowing wonderfully through the bends.
Spain: Cordoba to Ronda to Marbella
Spain is awash in great little traveled back country roads. One of my favorite routes is the drive down from Cordoba, thru Ronda, ending in Marbella. This area is one of the most beautiful in Spain and the roads here are a wonderful combination of quick, hilly, and challenging. Coming out of Cordoba you take the E5 south to Ecija. From there it’s the A351 to Osuna. At Osuna connect to the A451 and continue to follow it south until it turns into the MA7404. At Canete la Real, pick up the MA6401 which will eventually become the A367 which will take you into Ronda. Ronda is well worth a stop to walk around the town. After exploring Ronda, find the A397 south towards Marbella. Shortly before you get to Marbella, you will connect to the AP-7 which will take you into the city. Given the terrain, this is perfect mid engine supercar country.
Germany: Hildesheim to Fulda
Having spent quite a bit of time in Germany, I have had the pleasure of driving most of the different Autobahns. In many ways, they are no different from highways in any other European country, it’s just that in certain bits, you can drive as fast as conditions allow. I’ve never gotten that excited about just going fast in a long straight line, so the novelty of the Autobahn wore off quite quickly. There is one bit however that really is quite exciting to drive and that is the section of the A7 from Hildesheim to Fulda. This is one of the oldest parts of the Autobahn network and was originally opened in 1937. It cuts through the rugged and hilly terrain just west of the Harz highlands and straight bits are few and far between for a large section of it. Pick a time when traffic is light and it makes for a very exhilarating, rewarding high speed drive. Just about any front engine Ferrari V12 GT is the perfect car for this drive.
Italy: Florence to San Marino
Italy is another country just covered in great, and in many cases ancient, driving roads. You do need to be careful on choosing a route as the Italian Government hasn’t been flush with cash in quite a few centuries and the last time road maintenance was an investment priority, the Roman Legon’s where stationed along the Rhine. One route that has been well maintained is the SS67 that runs east from Florence, across the spine of Italy to the E45 in Forli. Its quick with constant elevation changes as it winds across the mountainous spine of the Italian peninsula. Once you reach Forli, take the E45 to the E55 to Rimini. At Rimini you pick up the SS72 to San Marino. After exploring San Marino, I would recommend a bit of a different route for a change of scenery going back to Florence. Leaving San Marino, head back to Forli. In Forli, find the SS9ter. Follow this back west until you intersect with the SS67 which will then take you back to Florence. Like the Great Western Scotland loop, this is Ferrari 430 Scuderia, 458 Speciale or McLaren LT territory.
France: Chaudes-Aigues to Bergerac
Over the years we have done many great drives in France with a wide assortment of different Ferraris, Porsches, and McLarens. One of the most memorable routes is the run from Chaudes-Aigues to Bergerac. It’s one of the prettiest and least trafficked areas of France and this route take you through both the hills and valleys. To reach the route, you take the A75 south until you hit the D13. The D13 will take you directly into Chaudes-Aigues where you pick up the D921. Stay on the D921 until you run into the D34 and then take this west to Cambeyrac. At Cambeyrac you will cross the Truyere River onto the D920 briefly before taking a slight left onto the D107. The D107 runs along the river and turns into the D141. The D141 continues to run alongside the river until it intersects with the D901. Continue west on the D901 until you see signs for the D42. Take the D42 until it comes to an end at the D963. You are on the D963 north briefly before taking a left onto the D627. The D627 will turn into the D72 and then merger with the D21. Where the two roads split again, take a hard right and follow the D627 towards Ruau Bas. From there you pick up the D840 to Capdenac. At Capdenac you leave the riverside and take the D802 to Montfaucon. At Mountfaucon switch over to the D2. The D2 ends at the D820 which you take south briefly before turning right onto the D23 to Concores. At Concores you pick up the D12 to the D81 before turning onto the D673 as you continue to make your way west. At Pont Carral, it’s onto the D6 which becomes the D46 and then the D52. The D52 dead ends and then it’s a left onto D60. Stay on the D60 until you reach the D52 and follow it to Saint Laurent la Vallee. At Saint Laurent la Vallee it’s onto the D51 to the D703. Take a left onto the D703 and follow the signs to the D25. Once on the D25 follow the signs to Le Buisson de Cadouin. At Le Buisson de Cadouin take a left onto the D29 and this will take you to Lalinde. At Lalinde follow the signs to Bergerac and after a few corners, you will pick up the D660. The D660 will take you right into the charming town of Bergerac. Like several other routes on this list, I have driven several different Ferraris through the area. Of the group, it’s the 550 Maranello that stands out in my mind as the most memorable.
California: Pacific Coast Highway
The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is one of those roads that would make the top 10 list of about 99.9999% of those driving enthusiasts who have had the opportunity to enjoy its stunning beauty. Technically, State Route 1 (the PCH) runs for 656 miles from one end of California to the other. However, the bit you want to drive is the 70 mile section between San Luis Obispo and Monterey. This is the oldest section of the PCH and was built back in 1934. It is carved into the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean with straight bits of tarmac few and far between. In sections, you do feel like you are suspended high above the water below. If you dare take your eyes off the road, you can catch views of the surf crashing into the rocks below you as you round each hairpin turn. Guardrails appear to be mostly an afterthought and designed more to stop a Ford Model T than anything built post 1960. If you do overcook it, your next stop is Hawaii. If you are coming from the south, take Rt 101 north to San Luis Obispo where you will pick up SR 1 (the PCH). After a brief jog out to the coast, it’s now 70 mile run north to Monterey. The first time we drove the PCH was in a McLaren 675LT Spider. With the roof down, I cannot think of a better car to do it in. Near instant power, outstanding brakes, huge amounts of grip, and phenomenal steering make it the perfect choice.
Montana: Bozeman to West Yellowstone
This is a road I’ve driven at least 50 times by now. You pick up Rt 191 coming out of Bozeman and take it all the way down to West Yellowstone. For most of the drive, the road follows the Gallatin River and is surrounded by towering mountains on both sides. The Gallatin has etched itself over multiple centuries through this section of the northern Rocky Mountains. It’s feed by the snow melt that comes cascading down the mountains every spring. Like most of the roads on this list, it’s never straight for long but does have a few sections where you can open it up and the corners tend to be more of the sweeping variety than hairpins. In light traffic, it really flows, and you can make rapid progress. Early mornings and mid days are the best times to drive it. It’s perfect Porsche 911 GT3 RS country with gears 2-4 being your close friends.
It’s one thing to have a great car. It’s another to have a great environment to enjoy it in. When you can combine the two, that when you get those highly rewarding memorable experience that you will talk about for years. I’ve tried to capture our top one’s here.
What are yours? Any routes we should try next?
Thoughts and comments? Please see the comments section below.
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Great article and some lovely roads suggested. I also heartily recommend (from personal experience on annual European road trips);
– the Northern Spain area around the Picos de Europa (Riano to Potes a truly wonderful road when quiet)
– NE Portugal around the Spanish/Portugese border and Douro National park area
– Scotland – even further North above Ullapool and up around Ledmore/Elphin/Kylesku (A894/A837) – again glorious early and without summer traffic
– Dolomites also excellent
Being in the central belt of Scotland it’s very quick to get close to where you did your loop, but I’d probably want to stay over somewhere if I headed any further north. Fort William is easily done in a short day trip. A lot of people will only go as far as Loch Lomond, a tourist trap!
If you want to see somewhere unspoiled then visit Loch Katrine, and hopefully they’ll have the steamship the Sir Walter Scott repaired by the time you do. This is where Glasgow’s drinking water comes from so they limit development around the loch, and what can be done on the loch too. The Sir Walter Scott is such a pleasure to sail on, and you have to try their hot chocolates with brandy. Roads around there, especially the Aberfloyle side, are tight and twisty. You have to be wary of oncoming traffic.
You have to be careful around where I live with the average speed cameras (they couldn’t afford the good ones). These are on some of the main roads around Ayr and further south. Also there’s cameras all over the A9 if you’re heading north. These are the SNP’s government’s idea of a “road improvement”. They cancelled all the genuine road improvements for the A9 when they came to office. To be fair, the A77 close to me only got genuine road improvements when a Labour politician’s personal helper got killed on the road. And further improvements under the SNP made when a police officer also died later (most likely travelling at very high speeds around a member of the public late at night). Little is done to improve roads when an ordinary person is killed, they have to have some connection to politicians before the act. Sad but true.
For the most part roads off the main routes are still quiet, and since they’re twisty, enjoyable. You can very quickly go from an urban environment out to something that looks alien. Somewhere that looks so different it’s hard to believe you’re still in Scotland.
Best time to visit is normally May to mid September, and if you’re lucky you might also visit during our summer week, although that seems to have been missed this year. Not sure what happenend to the weather this year! Best to pack sunblock and waterproofs.
We agree with the Highway 1, especially around Monterey and Big Sur and also like the Swiss Passes.
A trip from Genua/Italy up, to and then along the Cote d´Azur offers great seaside views, popular places, a bit of twisty roads and tunnels.
The German Alpenstrasse always dips into small towns, back to lakes and a bit of heights.
The Grossglockner in Austria rewards all days efforts with a great dinner in Zell am See.