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The best driving roads in Europe

The best driving roads in Europe

Looking for the perfect stretch of road to cruise along this summer? Well prepare to get some serious travel fever with some Trust My Garage favourites, as well as getting prepared with our best foreign driving tips! Don’t forget – if you’re looking for some general summer driving tips you can always check out our What to do when… driving in Summer blog post.

The Stelvio Pass, Italy

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The Stelvio Pass is Italy’s hidden secret in the Alps. Topping out at 2757 metres high, this twisting, hairpin bend-filled route is located just before the Swiss border in the province of Sondrio.

Open to both motorists and cyclists, the pass provides unmatchable views of the surrounding mountainous landscape. The road offers a total of 48 switchback turns along its North face, offering a real challenge for the adventurous driver. The best approach to tackle the pass is from the North West side, allowing you to drive up through the turns and rewarding you with lush Alpine scenery. After heading through the pass’ tight turns, you can also either continue on to the town of Bormio or head North to the Umbrail Pass, which leads back into the Swiss National Park. This tends to be far less busy than the now ultra-popular Stelvio, but we guess that’s what you get when you visit Top Gear’s World’s Best Driving Road (2008)!

 

The Military Road, Isle of Wight

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If you’re looking for a drive somewhere closer to home, the Isle of Wight has some stunning coastal views on offer. As you drive down the A3055, known locally as The Military Road, you curve above Blackgang Chine, and then are suddenly faced with a panorama of the south-west coast of the Island, curving stretching ahead and below you.

As the road is in a protected National Trust area, there are few buildings – but you can still make out the turrets of the famous novelist J.B. Priestley’s former home, if you keep your eyes peeled. The stretch of road is roughly 12 miles long, and is perfect for a cruise in summer when the roadside wildflowers are in bloom.

 

The Cat and Fiddle, Derbyshire

cat and fiddle road

Named after the pub located at the peak of this road, this is a 12 mile journey between Buxton and Macclesfield, using the A54-A537. With Derbyshire often described as the ‘gateway to the Peak District’, this route has been coveted by car and motorbike enthusiasts alike for its challenging corners and enjoyable scenic views. To ensure motorists are kept safe the route is entirely covered with average speed cameras of 50mph, but even at that speed some of the hairpin corners will provide a thrill – mediated with a refreshing lime and soda at the finish!

 

A44, West Wales

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This stretch of A road travels between Aberystwyth and Llangurig, providing 25 miles of untamed Welsh landscape for drivers. Setting out as a simple drive away from the Welsh coast at Aberystwyth, the road rises and transforms into scenery more at home in an Alpine setting than a sleepy corner of Wales. As you travel on to Llangurig the road offers sweeping curves and chicanes, giving motorists a chance to really enjoy the drive as well ads the stunning scenery.

 

The Cheddar Gorge, Cheddar (Somerset)

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Starting on the B3135 east of Cheddar, 14 glorious miles of Somerset countryside lie between you and your destination at Ashwick. As you head East, you visit Priddy, then Plummers Loan, then continue on along the A37 towards your final destination.

The route can be taken in 3 sections. The first area demands full concentration from the driver, working through the twisting corners of the gorge itself.

The second, about four miles in, opens up the road greatly. Hairpins give way to sweeping curves, and the sharp face of the gorge is replaced by trees.

 

The final section provides a few miles of long straights and gentle gradient changes making for a quick conclusion to this short route.

 

The road can become busy as it is a tourist travel route for anyone visiting the Cheddar Gorge caves, but it’s still an excellent drive providing unparalleled close-up views of some unique landscapes.

 

The Romantic Road, Germany

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Heading back out to Europe, one of the most scenic routes in the Germany is the ‘Romantic Road’ (Romantischen Straße). Running roughly 190 miles from the River Main to the Alps, the road was designed in the 1950’s to provide a sense of being transported back in time to Medieval Europe. With tiny historic villages and grand fairytale castles placed between long stretches of river, forests, meadows and agricultural lands, the Romantic Road offers tourism of a different kind for the keen motorist.

Due to the length of the trip, stopping off in one of the 16 towns along route for a bite to eat and a rest is advised, with many spots offering an authentic German dining experience. We definitely suggest bringing a camera for this one too, as the stunning variety of locations along the road will definitely be a sight to share with friends back home.

 

Trollstigen, Norway

Trollstigen

We’re rounding off our top roads with a good’un. Starting in the town of Andalsnes in Rauma and finishing at the village of Valldal in the Norddal Municipality,  Trollstigen, or Troll’s Ladder/ Troll’s Path in English, is a four mile drive of epic proportions. Taking Country Road 63, drivers’ eyes are spoiled for choice with breathtaking views. Some of the best are actually located in the visitor centre car park, which at 2,300ft high offers a soaring panorama of the route below.

Along the whole route are specifically-designed viewing platform, allowing motorists to stop and enjoy some stunning photo opportunities. One such view is the 1,050ft-high Stigfossen waterfall, which drivers can also traverse via stone bridge. You may not believe it, but within the route lie small houses dotted about the landscape – imagine those views on your daily drive!

Foreign driving tips

Here are some of our best tips for staying on top of your game when it comes to driving in Europe:

Drive on the correct side of the road

In Europe, motorists use the right-hand side of the road. It may seem silly, it’s worth checking before you arrive into a country and cause an accident! There are usually signs upon arrival at the borders letting you know which side of the road to use, but if you’re unsure, ask a member of border staff and of course do some research before you set off.

 

Take regular rest stops

Even though you’re in a car driving for long periods can be exhausting, especially due to concentrating on unfamiliar roads. The Highway Code recommends taking a break (of at least 15 minutes) every two hours – you don’t want to cause an accident due to lack of concentration. If that means a nap at a service station, a nap it is!

 

Stay hydrated

Make sure to bring plenty of water with you for your trip to stay hydrated and help you concentrate when driving on new roads. If you don’t want to buy bottled water, fill up an old bottle or two before you set off. If there’s a group in the vehicle ensure there’s enough to go around, or stop regularly for drinks breaks – you could even combine this with your rest stop.

 

Check what you’re required to have in your car

Did you know that in Spain it’s mandatory for glasses-wearing drivers to carry a spare pair of specs in their vehicle at all times? There are certain rules and regulations for what you need in your car for many countries – do your research and find out what you must and mustn’t carry in your vehicle before setting off.

 

Bring some entertainment

This one’s important – especially if you’ve got kids in the car. Bored children can lead to irritable bickering and loss of concentration, and nobody wants that! Even if you aren’t travelling with a car full of family,  a game of I Spy or some music on the radio keeps you awake and helps you stay focused on your driving – and it can be the difference between a happy or a tantrum-filled journey!

 

If you’re looking to set off on one of these adventures, or even stay somewhere a little closer to home, ensuring your vehicle is in tip-top condition should be a priority. If you want to make sure your motor is running at its best, why not take it to your local Trust My Garage member? If you’re in need of an MOT, service, repair or tune up, our CTSI approved code of conduct means that you and your vehicle both get the service you deserve – ready for the drive of a lifetime!

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What to do when… driving with pets

It’s that time of year again! Everyone in the UK is gearing up for their summer holiday. You wouldn’t leave the kids at home, but what about your furry, four-legged friends? If you decide you want to take your animal companion along with you to your holiday destination, what are the best ways to make their trip as comfortable as yours? Well fear not, Trust My Garage is here with some top tips for driving with pets.

pawprint trail

Safety

First things first, you’ll need to know the law about driving with your animals in the vehicle. The Highway Code’s Rule 57 states:

“When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”

So you’re in the clear to take your animal with you! The Code is very clear about what to do for both animals and drivers, as it’s the best way to ensure that everyone makes the safest possible journeys. While a carrier or caged boot is probably the safest option, if your dog is well behaved and clipped to a seat harness you’re okay to let them feel the fresh air through your windows. If you don’t want to restrain your pet in any way, take this advice from Rachael Kilroy, Senior Veterinary Surgeon at Vets for Life:

“If a dog is not secured safely then sharp braking or a collision could result in them being catapulted sharply forwards, potentially causing life-threatening internal injuries, as well as trauma to people in the car.”

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If your dog is in the car, they should be wearing a seat belt harness or be in a carrier.

 

Animal Happiness

If your pet isn’t used to being in a car, then a long journey shouldn’t be their first real experience. Prior to travelling, you should slowly let your animal into the vehicle to help them get used to their surroundings. Starting out with a very short trip – nipping to the shop, for example – and the building up the length of time in the vehicle is a great way to do this. Even if the first couple of times in the car are when it’s stationary, a good sniff and look around can go a long way to making your pet happier when travelling.

 

Planning

It’s always important to plan a trip, but our furry friends require a little extra attention when it comes to longer journeys!

You should take a regular break every 1-2 hours, depending on how restless your animal is, and pack plenty of water and treats – If you’re feeling thirsty or hungry, your pet probably is too! For longer journeys, you may want to think about planning a route that includes a stop near a park or wooded area to let your animal – especially dogs – stretch their legs and have a run around. When it comes to animals like cats, you might want to bring some toilet training pads too – accidents happen!

dog map

Make sure you plan your drive with your furry pal in mind! (image source)

Your Destination

This might seem silly, but check your destination’s rules on pets! If you’re off to see family or friends, make sure they know in advance that you’re bringing your pet, and if you’re going to a hotel, camp site or similar location, check if – and which – animals are allowed. A quick internet search or phone call to your desired venue should do the trick, as many hotels etc. clearly state their pet policy. It’s no good getting all the way to your lovely summer holiday, only to be turned away at the sight of a wagging tail!

dog at house

Check your destination’s rules about pets before booking to avoid disappointment!

As well at your venue, many people research the area they go to stay at beforehand to see if it appeals to them. With a pet, you may want to take into consideration if the surrounding area is also animal friendly. Some beaches in the UK require dogs to be kept on leads for the duration of their walk, and some allow them to run free, whereas some don’t allow dogs at all. Some quick internet browsing should help you locate the best pet-friendly activities to fill up your holiday and keep your pets involved too.

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If you’re headed to the seaside check the local beaches are animal-friendly.

Car checks

Long journeys can take their toll on a vehicle, so if you’re planning a road trip then you don’t want to create stress for your family and pets with a breakdown – or worse, broken air con! If you visit your local Trust My Garage approved member, you can check your car is running at its best and take away any concerns before you travel, and make sure you, your family and your pets get the best possible summer holiday.

If you’ve got any other top tips, feel free to leave them in the comments! If you’re looking for some more general summer driving tips, check out our post on What to do when…driving in Summer!

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What to do when… Driving home for Christmas

It’s that time of year again. Christmas is right around the corner! Some of us may be a bit more excited than others, but with all the festive cheer in the air, have you thought about the practicalities of driving this Christmastime? If not, then buckle up! We’re about to tell you just how you can make the most when you’re driving this Christmas. (Song optional, but very festive.)

When you’re driving your top priority should always be your safety. Regardless of the destination or the time it takes you to get there, your number one thought should be about your own safety, and that of any passengers in the vehicle with you.

Plan your route

The further the distance you’re travelling, the more chance there is for issues like traffic to occur. Christmas is a peak time for driving, as many people visit their families over the festive period, so try and ensure you give yourself adequate travelling time.

Here are some of the routes identified by motoring organisations as traffic hotspots over Christmas:

  • The M1, A1 and A1(M) northboundcar-map
  • The M4 westbound to Wales and around Heathrow
  • The M3, A303 and M5 heading to the West Country
  • The M23 to Gatwick and the M11 to Stansted
  • The M62 over the Pennines is often affected by snow, as is the A1079 between Hull and York.

(Telegraph)

It’s also worth noting that many main roads and motorways will be gritted in the case of snow and ice, but this won’t necessarily happen in areas that don’t see as much traffic. It’s worth taking some extra time by using main roads to get to your destination instead of taking shortcuts that often require drivers to travel on country lanes, as these may be more dangerous in poor weather.

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Try not to get caught out driving in dangerous conditions

If you’re interested in more ways to ensure you’re driving in a safe and responsible manner, you can look at the charity Brake’s ABC pledge. Drivers can promise to follow the rules Brake have set out for being as safe as possible in winter conditions, to help both themselves and other motorists on the roads.

 

 

Prepare your car

The UK suffers from a yearly big freeze, so we’re sure you’ve got some great tips on how to help get started in the cold. However, if you’re looking for some ideas about how to get the wheels rolling, here are some of the best we’ve found:

  • Tyres: If possible, considering buying winter tyres. If this is not an option, ensure your standard tyres are inflated correctly and that you have a minimum of 3mm of tread on your tyres to cope with wet and slippery conditions.
  • Battery: In winter, the battery will run down quicker than in warmer weather. Make sure you do a regular long journey to top it up or trickle-charge the battery.
  • Engine: Modern engines are more robust than older ones. All the same, depress the clutch when starting as this will reduce drag on the engine when starting, and preserve the battery.
  • Screen wash: Keep this topped up and use a proper additive at the right concentration to prevent it freezing.
  • Fuel: Keep your tank topped up – that way if you are caught out, you’ll have enough fuel to make it home or run the engine to keep warm. However, it’s essential to keep snow from blocking the exhaust as noxious fumes can leak into the vehicle.
  • Windows: Clear all snow and ice from the windscreen and the roof of the car before driving off. Do not use water to de-ice windscreens. Hot water can crack the glass, and the water will only freeze again on the screen or on the ground where you are standing.
  • Locks: A squirt of WD-40 will prevent your door locks freezing up. If they do, apply a heat source to your car key to melt the ice.
  • Warm clothing: Your car may be warm on the inside but if you have to step outside, you could be in trouble if you have not got any warm clothing with you.
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Try to avoid being stuck in bad weather!

Breakdown Essentials 

If you do suffer the unfortunate experience of a breakdown it’s important to keep some essentials in the car – a fully charged mobile phone, a torch, warm clothes, comfortable and waterproof shoes, hot drinks and snacks (Telegraph). That way, when you’re waiting for some roadside assistance or a recovery vehicle you can stay warm, full and safe while trying to stave off the boredom.

Emergency snow kit

  • Warning triangle – let other drivers know your situation to avoid stress and confusion
  • Cat litter or sand
  • Snow shovel or spade
  • Ice scraper
  • Warm clothes and footwear
  • Snacks and water
  • Torch
  • Mobile phone
  • Blanket or sleeping bag
  • Jump leads
  • High visibility jacket
  • First aid kit
  • Heat pad – If you are stranded in the snow and the exhaust pipe is covered, it can be dangerous to run the engine. These help you stay warm.

Remember, you’re never far from a Trust My Garage member who can help you out with any problems that you might experience on the road. All of our members are Trading Standards approved, and are here to get you back on track quickly & safely. Garages are located all over the UK, so no matter where you are, we’re here to help you. If you want to see where your nearest garage is, you can search with your post code on the Trust My Garage map.

 

 

Getting Home Safely

Don’t Drink Drive.

This is the most important advice we can offer if you want to stay safe. There’s often more alcohol offered at Christmas and New Year’s than any other time, so the temptation can be strong.

The golden rule is that if you plan to have a drink, don’t drive.

drink-driving.jpgCarbuyer suggest that you leave your car parked up, get a cab home or let someone who’s sober drive – as long as they’re insured to drive your car, of course.

The effect of alcohol on driving is profound and so are the penalties if you’re caught doing so. Anyone convicted in the UK of ‘driving or attempting to drive through drink or drugs’ faces anything up to the maximum possible of penalty  of a £5,000 fine, a six month prison sentence and up to 11 points on their driving licence, as well as an obligatory 12 month disqualification from driving (Drinkdriving.org). There’s no defence for being caught over the drink-drive limit the following morning, either.

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

This year, THINK! have launched a new anti drink-driving campaign for December – FOMO.

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The FOMO campaign runs through December

The campaign is specifically targeting young males, as figures show they account for almost two thirds of drink drivers killed on our roads.

It will target young men through Facebook, Twitter and Spotify, with 5.4 million British males aged 25 to 34 on Facebook alone – the highest single demographic.

The campaign involves adverts that aim to make it clear to young men that they have plenty to live for the following day, which they may not see if they choose to have a second drink.

Research carried out for the Department for Transport found 20% of young men have had 2 or more drinks before driving and an extra 11% say they have considered it – with a third of adults telling researchers they felt it wouldn’t impact on their driving. However, research from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) shows a second drink doubles a driver’s chances of being involved in a fatality. (Gov.uk)

So let’s be safe, and don’t drink and drive.

 

Most importantly – Have a Merry Christmas!

We at Trust My Garage all hope you have a wonderful and safe Christmas, and spend lots of time doing whatever you like. If you’re worried that your car isn’t up to the challenge of the British winter, don’t forget you can pop in to your local Trust My Garage member and get booked in for a service. That way we can all motor happy!

If you found this post helpful, why not take a look at our ways to make your Christmas commute better, or leave us a comment with your best winter driving tips!