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Our resident road tripper, Ben Coombs, trades static displays for rolling countryside, taking the Pub2Pub team north to find the highest pub in Britain.  

This year, for the first time since 2019, I headed up to Birmingham to spend the weekend at the NEC Classic Motor Show.  And while, on my previous two visits, I was exhibiting Kermit – my TVR Chimaera – on the TVR Car Club stand, on this occasion my visit was somewhat more flexible and free.  With no car on display, rather than trying to see the show in snatched fifteen minute breaks from the club stand, I was able to take my time, wander the halls at my own pace and take in all the show had to offer.  

All the show had to offer – come to think of it that may well be an exaggeration.  Even if you spent all three of the available days walking the many halls of the show, you’d probably miss something, such is the sheer scale of the event.  Over three thousand cars, hundreds of club stands and dealers, countless traders covering every aspect of the classic car experience, and an autojumble which seems to go on forever.  And then there’s the live stage, the bustle of the auction, the moving theatre of the classics giving passenger rides.  It’s an endless celebration of the classic car scene, all polished to perfection under the bright lights and stretching for acre after acre. 

But for all the epicness of the NEC, there’s one thing you can’t do during your visit, and that’s get behind the wheel of a classic.  Luckily, I’d travelled up to the show in the ClassicLine-sponsored Volvo 240, and had a few days free after the doors closed on the Sunday, so offsetting the weekend of shiny, static classics with a good old-fashioned road trip was very much an option. 

With no particular place to aim for, we decided to first head for the Tan Hill Inn, in the Yorkshire Dales.  This pub is the highest in the British Isles, and so it’s rather inexplicable that I’d never yet been there.  And the drive had the additional bonus that, with some creative routing, it could take in the most scenic vistas of the Peak District, the Forest of Bowland and the Yorkshire Dales.  And so, on the Monday morning, we traded static displays for rolling countryside, and hit the road north. 

Unfortunately, the November weather can be somewhat fickle, even at the best of times.  And we didn’t exactly luck into the best of times.  The cloud came down almost as soon as we’d left the bustle of Birmingham behind, and stayed with us right the way through the day’s scenic drive.  All three of the national parks were negotiated with fog lights on, and eyes scanning the verges for darting sheep.  Sleepy villages emerged from the whiteness, rolled past our windows then disappeared again, swallowed instantly by the mists.  But all this gave a drama to our drive, and made our arrival at the highest bar in the land all the more satisfying and memorable. 

Next to the 1,732 ft-high fire of the Tan Hill Inn, we contemplated our next move.  West to the Lake District, or east to the coast?  No, the only option was north, to Scotland.  We decided that as we’d be starting the day with breakfast in the highest pub, it made perfect sense to end it with a beer in the UK’s best pub, and while everyone will have their own opinion on this, to me the Clachaig Inn in Glencoe wins out.  And so, on the Tuesday morning, we hit the road to Scotland. 

The mist had gone.  It had lifted, and in its place came the rain.  Torrential rain, all the way to the Scottish border, to Glasgow, to the bonny banks of Loch Lomond.  With the fog light now redundant, it was now the wipers which got a workout, for hour after hour, until we were on the A82, our Volvo rolling into the night as the majestic, unseen Buachaille Etive Mor towered overhead.  The welcoming lights of the Clachaig glowed warmly in the darkness as we rolled into Glencoe, and parked the car.  And so, another decision beckoned.  Where next? 

The first thought was to carry on the pub theme, by heading to Britain’s most remote pub – The Old Forge, on Knoydart, which can only be reached via a boat from Mallaig, or a two-day hike from the nearest road.  But Mallaig was a long way away, and the boats sailed infrequently.  And then – the clincher – we checked the weather forecast.  Third time lucky, it spoke of sunshine. 

Day three began in Glencoe, with the sun slowly creeping down the valley walls, heralding a glorious day.  So, a day in the West Highlands it was, revisiting such places as the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge, the gorgeous shores of Loch Leven and the bleak beauty of Rannoch Moor.  And remembering that, in all of this great wide world, there are very few places which can match Scotland when it comes to a road trip.  The place is stunning. 

On day four we headed south, leaving hours before dawn, and by the time we reached Loch Lomond, both the daylight and the rain had arrived.  It rained continuously, for hour after hour.  On the motorways, the spray filled the air while the standing water built beneath our wheels.  Flood warnings were issued, suggestions not to travel were broadcast.  But the Volvo is 35 years old; it’s seen it all before.  So on it lumbered, through the weather for over 500 miles until it was back home in Devon, with its last big road trip of 2022 complete.   

As well as the Scotland trip, it’s been a year in which our humble 240 has headed to France on a back-to-basics camping trip, and to Germany in support of a TVR tour, and its barely missed a beat.  As arguments for driving a classic instead of a bland modern car go, the ClassicLine-sponsored Volvo can hold its head up high.