When I realised that 2019 was the year I’d reach the age of 70, there was only one way to celebrate it – with a road trip, a Land’s End to John O’Groats road trip. Although my birthday isn’t until the end of November our trip was to be in May to give us better weather and longer daylight hours.
I didn’t think that the largely motorway 874 mile direct route would be very interesting for me, in the driving seat, nor for Gael, my partner and navigator, “Follow the road north, stop when it runs out…”
Scottish actor Robbie Coltrane provided the answer. Back in 2007 he’d made a TV series, ‘B-Road Britain’, in which he’d chronicled his cross-country meander from London to Glasgow in a Jaguar XK150 S. That was it then, Land’s End to John O’Groats by B-roads in the nearest thing we owned to a Jaguar, our 1963 Riley One-Point-Five saloon known as ‘Riley Blue’.
To make it even more interesting we decided we’d navigate the whole way by tulip diagrams, a system first used on the Tulip Rally in the Netherlands during the 1950s – not a satnav in sight!
Then we had ‘the idea’, if we were going to do it, let us do it for a good reason; let us do it to say ‘thank you’ by raising funds for the two NHS hospitals that had cared for us during periods of serious illness, Chesterfield Royal Hospital Charity and Weston Park Cancer Charity.