A Terrifying Drive Through England

A Terrifying Drive Through England

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North York Moors, green, yellow and brown from autumn with a blue sky in the background.

Sweat drips down the side of my face as my hand grips the vinyl door handle of our tiny white Toyota Yaris rental car. Chris whizzes down winding country roads, narrowly missing the suicidal pheasants ready to end their lives as they leap into the path of our oncoming vehicle. This was our terrifying drive through England.

Where it all began

When I lived in Scotland, only a few of my friends had their driver’s license. And Chris was not one of them. I once attempted to drive a friend’s car in the car park at my workplace. But driving while sitting on the “wrong” side of the car felt weird. (In Canada, the driver sits on the left and the passenger sits on the right. It’s the opposite in Scotland.) I had to shift gears with my left hand instead of my right, which just confused things and I had no confidence at all.

So, for our upcoming road trip, I nominated the newly-licensed Chris to be the driver. I wasn’t sure how fast he’d drive or how experienced he really was, but I’d made up my mind.

Chris gave me solace by telling me he was the only driver during his previous trip to Iceland, where the cars are set up the same way as in Canada. This little bit of info left me feeling more confident in Chris’s driving skills.

Where on earth is the car rental place?

On the morning of our trip to the North York Moors, Chris and I stepped into the brisk Yorkshire air and set off for the train station. The car rental place was right next to the York Railway Station, so we thought it would be easy to find. We confidently walked around the train station looking for the rental building…but it was nowhere to be found.

We decided the car rental place must not exist and resigned to not making it to the moors that day. Then we had the bright idea of heading inside the train station and asking for directions. The woman we asked looked at us like we were joking. She pointed straight ahead at the car rental place we’d been looking for the whole time.

After that minor setback, we walked into the reception area to pick up our car. We were greeted by a lovely English man who asked us where we were headed, as our rental was just for the one day. He told us he’d just been in Whitby (the final stop on the road to the North York Moors) and I invited him to come with us! I said he could be the driver because I assumed he’d guide us in the right direction. But he politely declined in the true British fashion, gave us a GPS (or Satellite Navigation, as they call it in the UK) and set us on our way.

Related Post: Visiting the North York Moors in Autumn

a man standing next to a small white toyota yaris in a car park. This tiny car was how we travelled through England on a terrifying journey.

Rusty driving skills

We were gifted with a tiny white Toyota Yaris that comfortably seated us both. Chris took the keys and started the ignition. But as he put the car into gear and stepped on the gas pedal, we immediately jerked forward. The car suddenly stalled. I looked at Chris and saw his hands shaking nervously and he reminded me he hadn’t driven in a while. It’d been over a year since his Iceland trip. And before that, his last driving experience was on a New Zealand road trip. We were in for a long day. As he started the car up again, we slowly drove toward the busy line of cars that were all attempting to leave York.

The GPS with a mind of its own

We turned into traffic and set off to leave York, heading for quieter roads lined with country fields and small rustic cottages. We set the GPS for our first stop near Ripon in North Yorkshire. But GPS has other ideas. Often the distances we got were in weird measurements and the system failed to give us clear directions. Sometimes it would tell us our next turn was 300 feet away. Other times it would tell us to turn left, just after the turning! It truly had a mind of its own.

Eventually, we arrived safely at our first stop for Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden. Here we enjoyed a break for a few hours, tucking into a small lunch before going on a long walk around the park. We spent time relaxing and winding down from the manic drive. But before long we were back on the road heading towards the stunningly beautiful autumnal North York Moors.

Scottish pheasant in the middle of a green grass field. These suicidal birds made it a terrifying drive through England.

Playing chicken with pheasants

As we passed little villages and quaint towns, we were met with death-defying pheasants. They were standing in the middle of country roads or running out at us as our car approached. Chris had to slam on the brakes and narrowly missed a few of them. I was angry, stressed and covered in sweat. At the time I didn’t know which was worse – the other cars or the unpredictable animals on the road. I was so mad at the birds! They were acting like it was a game! Seeing how close to death they could get for the thrill of it. Either that or they were just too stupid to realize the danger they were truly in.

Ruins of Fountains Abbey on a crisp Autumn day. Sitting in a field of green grass with a blue sky in the background.

Finally some peace and quiet

As we reached the moors, the roads became quieter and offered us some comfort. Chris, I and our tiny car were alone. We could take our time driving along the winding roads, surrounded by lush fields of yellows, reds and greens. Tiny houses scattered across the moors, showing us signs of life in the otherwise desolate location. This was the best part of our drive. We stopped several times to take photos and just enjoyed the peaceful scenery. We embraced the calm before heading back to the insanity that is York to drop off our car.

The day was great, even though it was intense and full of fear. Once we dropped off our car, I felt so relieved that the journey was over. We were back in York, safe but exhausted from the drive.

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Comments 15

  1. Those phasents are crazy like the magpies here, and maybe Chris was trying to keep you awake.

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  2. Hey we survived, what more do you want from me? Also I can confirm pheasants are nuts everywhere. They do the same thing round where my parents live.

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      They really are! When I lived in Dalmeny I would see them all over the place, I don’t understand how they survive! I didn’t realize how bad they really were until our drive to the moors.

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      Yes! I don’t know how you did it in your van fit for 7! I was stressed enough being a passenger.

  3. Isn’t it part of the fun of travelling to drive on the opposite site of the road. Took me a long time to get used to it and I had some interesting stories along the way. The first time it took me about 20 minutes to get out of the Car park. So I can relate to how Chris felt. Thanks for sharing

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      Hahaha, that will make him feel better for sure! I know that when I tried driving my friends cars in Scotland – in the safety of a car park – it was super difficult to use the opposite hand for shifting gears. Your blog has inspired me to do some road trips in Ireland – so I may experience the insanity of opposite road driving on my own if I travel solo.

      1. I recommend the roads in Kerry with high cliffs, a single lane, and a bus going the opposite direction. Or rather I suggest avoiding that road. I’ll let you know which ones. Driving in Palermo is what changed it all for me, that really tested my mettle.

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          haha that sounds terrifying! I don’t think I would even want to be a passenger in a car driving on roads in Kerry. So why was Palermo challenging?

          1. They don’t believe in car lanes. If there’s a little space they try to get past you. So driving there was a case of gas, brake and giving out. It was chaos on the roads with several lanes. But I just learned to be as aggressive as they were. Give as good as I got. The next time I rented a car I was fine. So it had its merits.

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            I don’t know if I would like that sort of aggression. It would stress me out. I like that you found positivity in that though – I wish I could think that way with regards to how you were fine after driving as they did. Do you think you would ever drive in a super busy place like India or Thailand?

          3. It was that I thought it afterwards, it just happened. All my previous inhibitions and fears left. Palermo is rated as one of places in Europe to drive, but it’s nothing like Thailand. Don’t know if I could. Marrakesh looked a bit mad as well. But it’s probably just as nervy to take a bus so you never know.

  4. Oh Crystal, this was brilliant! This was so relatable. We’ve all be stuck in a car with someone who doesn’t entirely know what they’re doing! Although I’m very different from most people in that I love a mental driver (probably a hangup from living in India haha), I definitely want that driver to be confident behind the wheel!

    The bit about the rental place being directly in front of you made me laugh so hard. That is pretty much my life. Almost always, if I’ve lost something it is literally in front of my face and I’m running around panicking and if I’m with someone else they just look at me like I’m the dumbest person they’ve ever met because I’m staring at it. I have definitely had my glasses ON MY FACE (not even my head, my face) and ran around the house trying to find them. Not saying you’re as clueless as I am, but that would 100% have been me!

    But at least the trip was worth it and you survived… as did all the pheasants… I think.

    Dagney

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      Oh man, the driving in India situation makes me feel nervous just thinking about it. I think my anxiety would be through the roof being a passenger there! I definitely feel more confident when I am the one doing the driving. I have totally done the same thing with my glasses! Been searching all over for them and they are right there. So, now whenever I lose my glasses I touch my face to make sure they aren’t there, hahaha. I am also so glad all the pheasants made it! I would have been really upset if they hadn’t… still mad at them though!

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