What a great name! It tells you everything you need to know … for outdoor people everywhere, to go anywhere, at any time, over any sort of terrain. And, if you are British, you either own one or you’d like to own one. Well, my hubby doesn’t own one, but has always wanted to. So, when I saw the Land Rover Experience while perusing activities available to us while in the U.K., I immediately booked it.
If you are unfamiliar with the Land Rover (which would surprise me), let me just say that it is probably, except for perhaps the Rolls Royce or Aston Martin, Britain’s best known automobile. Marketed as the “go anywhere option for the farmer, the countryman and general industrial use”, it is and has been, since its introduction in 1948, Queen Elizabeth’s favorite vehicle. Not only is this the Queen’s favorite car, it has been a favorite of other royals as well as well-known political figures and celebrities from Winston Churchill to Marilyn Monroe, Fidel Castro, Sean Connery and Paul McCartney.
Although Queen Elizabeth is not, by law, required to have a driver’s license, she did learn to drive in 1945 as a member of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) where she trained as a mechanic and military truck driver. For official engagements, she often rides in the backseat of her custom-built Bentley, but her vehicle of choice is her Land Rover. On occasion, the Queen can still be seen navigating the streets of London, or cruising across the fields of her Balmoral Estate in her 2015 Land Rover.
This boxy 4-wheel drive, off-road icon was actually inspired by the then American Motors Corporation’s Jeep. The AMC Jeep, created in 1940, was designed to be an off-road army vehicle specifically to be used in WWII. It was so popular, the Jeep became even more in demand after the war. Designers everywhere loved the basic utilitarian look of this vehicle, calling it a “masterpiece”.
Maurice Wilks was chief designer at the Rover Company, a British car manufacturing company known for high-quality vehicles. Maurice’s brother, Spencer was managing director. Inspired by the American war vehicle, on his farm in Anglesey, Maurice and Spencer built a prototype in 1947, using a Jeep chassis, and military surplus supplies from the war.
I don’t think I need to go over the Land Rover‘s unique features and specifications, nor do I think I need to cite all its military capabilities and its combat tours with not only the British Armed Forces, but also the Australian Armed Forces. You might be interested to know, however, road accident statistics show the Land Rover to be one of the safest cars on British roads. But, what I do want to talk about is the Land Rover Experience.
It is one thing to buy a Land Rover. It is quite another to know how to drive a Land Rover. Established in 1990, Land Rover organized a network of centers throughout the world to help customers learn how to get the most out of their vehicles’ on and off-road capability. Not only do they instruct customers in driving their cars, they also offer a fun, exciting adventure in off-road driving for those of us who do not own one of these all-terrain automobiles.
We booked the experience in the beautiful countryside of North Yorkshire. Pulling up to the castle, there they were, a fleet of white vehicles all lined up and ready for you to take out. After all the necessary paperwork, licenses, waivers, etc., we were introduced to our co-pilot and handed the keys. Our personable instructor could not have been more experienced or a better host. Fully versed in all the vehicles capabilities, off we went onto Mother Nature’s “track”, with our qualified co-pilot up front, hubby nervously driving and me tucked safely away in the back.
Starting the drive, you’re taken in by the beauty of the area, from dense, lush forests to open fields and pastures. You can spot deer who perk up when they hear the automobile coming. Pheasant and grouse dart across the terrain. It’s quite beautiful.
The terrain was, however, challenging to say the least. With typical British weather, the recent rains had certainly added an element of breath-taking moments, negotiating the rivulets that ran through the forest. There were times I was sure, while balancing on a rock, that we were going to topple over, but the automobile took on each obstacle with the tenacity of a warrior. If you want to pull over, take photos, swap drivers, that’s not a problem. It’s your day to enjoy. Now let’s be clear, this is not a ‘test drive in the hopes that you are going to purchase this car’ ride. This is a bonafide adventure course with an experienced instructor who, with his guidance, takes you over some of the most difficult terrain you’ll ever come across while driving. It was exhilarating, challenging and so much fun!
This British icon has always been ‘a car of the people’, from Royals to the dairy farmer and there are very few vehicles which can actually wear that title. If you are traveling in England and looking for something a bit different to do, I recommend this experience to everyone. We chose North Yorkshire for our drive, but there are other centers around the country. And, they offer half-day to full-day experiences. Would we do it again? Absolutely! And now I’ve learned that Land Rover offers the Land Rover Experience here in the States, as well as longer adventure travel packages. From the warm welcome to the confidence boosting off-road driving challenges, I couldn’t recommend this unique adventure more.