Europe and UK Interest Pieces

I Went For A Drive in a Skoda Octavia. Got Lost. Heavenly.

A little while ago, I got the chance to test out the SKODA Octavia Scout. So, I drove  to the four corners of Great Britain to catch the sunrises. Twenty two hundred miles in total from Norfolk to Cornwall, Cornwall to Scotland and back to Norfolk. It was an impressive and one of a kind journey and SKODA, as always did not disappoint.

LOWESTOFT. WHERE THE SUN TOUCHES FIRST. 

It began. At 2am in the morning I drove to one of the most terrifying areas in  Great Britain. A location known for its hostility and venomous wildlife. Lowestoft.

The Skoda Octavia is a smooth contradiction. More rugged than the Octavia Estate the Scout does looks like a city car but desperately longs to be an off-roader. When driving it you can feel that it longs to  misbehave, like perfectly tailored tuxedo that makes you want to plunge headlong into a lake while laughing like a lunatic.

LUGGAGE SPACE

Incidentally, the boot space is huge as well which will make this a good car for people carrying. Spacious enough to hold luggage, boxes, bags, six foot six bloggers or victims of the Mafia. Whatever is needed really.

Donnie's Iphone.

Ness Point in Lowestoft is the most easterly point on the UK mainland and every morning it catches the sunrise before anywhere else.  Somewhat disappontingly,  Ness Point is situated within an industrial area, surrounded by rigid grey steel and concrete lines of warehouses and factories. The sun rose promptly at 04.31am but it took some time to get an actual decent shot of it and the car.

The drive from Norwich to Lowestoft is only  forty-minutes and did not provide many opportunities for me to put the car through its paces. However, for a car that is as long as the Scout it handles like a much smaller vehicle with the four wheel drive kicking in to eliminate the “heavy backside effect” that usually makes station-wagon-esque vehicles feel like something an old man would drive.

Donnie's Iphone.
Ness Point. Lowestoft.

LIZARD POINT. AS FAR SOUTH AS YOU CAN GO.

Once I had  taken a decent selfie of myself with the sunshine and the car I headed  cross-country to Lizard.

Lizard Point, 434 miles away Helston in Cornwall is the most Southerly point of the British mainland. A  tiny arrow tip point at the bottom end of the island populated by rolling grassy banks, salty winds and tiny village.

I stayed at Henry’s Campsite, a cute, colourful campsite/caravan park tucked away, a stones throw away from the town centre. I got to test out the accuracy of the power steering. This is something we take for granted until we find ourselves in a  tight spot. The entrance to Henry’s Campsite is a terror for new drivers or for experienced drivers reviewing a £50k car! The Scout comes with steering so accurate and assured I could have weaved it through the eye of a needle with one hand.

Between you and me, I’ll admit that camping was a disaster while I was there. The tent pitch offered me an inch of topsoil before hitting rock and with the considerable wind in the region I ended up wearing my tent like a sock half way through the night! To add insult to injury, when I woke up I found my tent had been violently ravished by a wayward pack of snails.

Photo 15-06-2015 06 38 03
I considered cutting my losses and burning the tent.

Up at 3.30 am in the morning, I took the car past sheep fields and through narrow snake bend roads until coming to Lizard Head Car Park and a beautiful view of the entire length of the ocean and Lizard Point lighthouse. Here the sun rose over the escarpment behind me and offered very little in decent views so I hightailed it out of there. Speeding through Cornwall styled roads until hitting a beautiful sunlit area just outside of the village Lizard.

VERY WELL EQUIPPED.

Within the chest of the  Scout is the familiar MQB platform that underpins the likes of the SEAT Leon ST and VW Golf Estate, but the 181bhp 2.0 litre engine, lifted straight out of the sport VRS model, is the main difference. With the six speed DSG gearbox and it offers significantly more grunt than the smaller models; 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds and with enough of a gruff start that at the crack of dawn I saw many birds taking to the skies.

Additionally, The Scout is very well equipped for tackling tough off-road terrain as both variants come with Haldex-5 all-wheel drive. For economy purposes, during driving on the main roads, the vehicle opted for front wheel drive but the moment I hit those hilly, twisty roads of Cornwall, the car automatically recognised that the vehicle was struggling and applied the four wheel drive seamlessly.

Donnies Iphone

Second sunrise caught and captured, I congratulated myself with a deplorable Starbucks Coffee and headed North… to go West.

WEST.  IN SCOTLAND. WHERE THE SUN IS NOT SEEN. 

From Lizard I headed North passing some very interesting locations, some of which gave me the absolute willies and finally came, after twelve and a half hours of driving,  to  Ardnamurchan Lighthouse. Ardnamurchan Point is the most westerly part of the United Kingdom and is straight out of a Stephen King book. I booked ahead for Ardnamurchan Caravan Park but this was unnecessary. With the time of year the area has perhaps seventeen tourists in total. It all exists amongst a handful of snake-back roads, interspersed with cattle grids and boulders, with heavy black clouds above and poor visibility thanks to the mist. Important to mention it is utterly remote and rural.

 

To get there is also a twelve and a half hour drive, offering the best opportunity for me to get truly acquainted with the SKODA Octavia Scout.

SKODA OCTAVIA STYLE.

As is the case with the previous version of the Scout, the Octavia reveals its off-road pedigree styling in the form of black plastic trim for the bumpers, wheel arches and sills, a hardcore front skid plate.  Plus wing mirrors and roof rails in silver and chrome window trims, I thought this gave the car an appropriately executive feel. Look at the pictures if you want to know what it looks like, I spent too much time in the car to have much to say about its exterior.

I had driven a total of  2200 miles in five days; that is a lot of time to be stuck in a cabin space and what amazed me was the space. This is a car that takes spaciousness very seriously. Some people may say that Skoda has never set the world alight with cutting-edge design but I disagree. I think that the no-nonsense, squared off edges, simple lines and smart appearance gives an understated beauty to the vehicle.

Over 12 hours of driving and my back didn’t ache at all, thanks to the lumbar supported seats. This aspect, I think, is often overlooked. Tall people or those with lingering back-injuries, which I have both to contend with, usually find long drives difficult because of being in one position for too long in a seat not designed with long-term-comfort in mind. I was camping on the ground and driving literally from sunrise and my back didn’t even have one of those niggling twinges. The ride may have been jacked up by 33mm, but it’s still very easy to get in and out thanks to the wide door openings, meaning no twisting pains.

DRIVING EASE

Complicated dashes don’t work well with long marathon drives. I was grateful that the layout of the console was so simple. Unlike a Mercedes or a BMW that offers you more on the dash, the Scout offers a simple, straight forward method of operating everything.  From navigation to the radio to the set-up of your phone on hands-free.

From Cornwall to Ardnamurchan the roads vary from four-lane highways cutting through vast vistas of rolling hills to mountainous climbs. I strongly believe the Skoda enjoyed all of this more than me and it definitely felt more at home in this furthest West point in Britain, where whales occasionally break the surface and the rain comes in from every direction.

It seems that the entire west coast of Britain must be made up of rock because there was less topsoil and more shale. I turned six tent pegs into horseshoes, which the campers amongst us will appreciate was quite annoying.

In the morning I drove to Ardnamurchan lighthouse which is accessible via a precariously windy road. This area is is overpopulated with deer, badgers, sheep and ill-tempered goats and offers nothing in the way of sunshine!

donnie's iphone
Donnie's Iphone.
Stephen King would love this place.

I headed for the North East to Dunnet Head in the north of Scotland a mere jaunt of 256 miles.

NORTH. NO PROBLEM. 

Amazingly,  I had only used two and a half tanks of fuel and this was not your ordinary driving. You don’t get ordinary driving in these extreme tips of the country. The further from the cities you venture, the further from civil roads you find yourself.  You will never brake as hard as you will when you come face to face with an angry Highland Cow.

DUNNET HEAD

The Northern part of Scotland is an artery that feeds the Scottish oil and gas industry. So, the roads to Dunnet Head are not only spacious and accommodating but surprisingly flat. The weather, however, threw everything it could at the Scout. From lashing rain to aggressive midges and flocks of astonishingly accurate seagulls. The  windshield wipers and washers were tested, thoroughly.

That night I treated myself to a hotel room, because the next day would prove the hardest.

Donnies iPhone

Drivers reach Dunnet Head via  meandering roads upon a flat landscape that offers wonderful views of the distant horizon. Despite this, it provides less sunshine than Ardnamurchan.  So I  gloated over the  rugged handsomeness of the Scout, aimed myself south and shot off.

THE FINAL LEG. THE LONG STRETCH FROM NORTH TO SOUTH

Ill advisedly, the final  stretch was twenty two hours of driving. Thankfully, the Skoda Octavia Scout comes with a “Driver Warning” system that keeps the driver from driving erratically. This could involve not changing gears for too long or moving the steering wheel irresponsibly.

Most importantly, I rediscovered the A68 – a length of road with many long stretches across rolling hills. Leading through Bishop Auckland, Consett, Corbridge and Jedburgh this road is fun. Fun. And here the Scout rolled up its sleeves and went for it.

IN THE END

The Octavia is a benchmark for useful driving. It proved reliable in every weather condition and was eager to impress. Reliable and up for some fun, would be my conclusive review.