It’s not every day I’m invited to drive an Aston Martin for a day, a car so inextricably linked to James Bond it’s many a man’s dream fantasy to drive one, but last week I was invited to South Wales by Michelin and Supercar Driver to do just that. With a Michelin dining experience and an overnight stay to boot. Yep, there’s no way I was going to say no. I also recently just traded in my poor battered and very overworked BMW on CarBrain.com because it just suddenly stopped working! So yep I was very much looking forward to this trip. Channelling my inner Daniel Craig, I headed off to Wales.
The location was a sublime corner of South Wales, the Brecon Beacons National Park. Rippling dramatically for 45 miles this beautiful unspoilt stretch of landscape encompasses some of the finest scenery in the United Kingdom. A visual feast of high mountain plateaus of lush grass and heather which rise above forested, waterfall-splashed valleys and verdant rural landscapes. The event itself was a Michelin Exceptional Drives which aim to encompass the best of Great Britain, showcasing the best driving roads as well as the finest (Michelin-starred of course) restaurants.
I was met by the friendly Michelin experience team, a fellow group of supercar appreciators and my shiny Aston Martin Vantage 4.3 V8 convertible which was to be mine for the day. No slouch in the visual department, it’s also a rare aural delight and had an engine that roared like a tiger and then purred like a pussy cat. It car I was determined – but admittedly nervously at first – to tame. Equipped with Michelin’s acclaimed Pilot Sport 4S tyres, although it’s easily in the fastest car I’ve driven, I’ve never felt safer, glued to the road by the clearly efficient rubber. Driving the Aston Martin did nothing to crush my schoolboy fantasy. In fact, it was a sublime joy. It skillfully hugged the sharp corners as the senses reached skywards, delivering an exhilarating and yet pleasingly controlled drive. I spent a glorious day cruising with my new supercar member mates through the beautiful countryside stopping a few points. At one point we parked on top of a forested hill to commune with nature leaving the cars to glint in the small shafts of sunshine which managed to break through the crowds. Driving the Aston Martin did nothing to crush my schoolboy fantasy, it was just pure elation.
We had around 10 planned checkpoints which included 5 or 6 stops for photo opportunities, being able to really appreciate the beauty of both the cars and scenery, was a beautiful backdrop. We were kept together and guided by the Supercar driver team (by walkie talkies) led by Adam Thorby the passionate founder of the company.
Over four hours later of exhilarated cursing, we ended up at Whitebrook, one of Wales few Michelin star restaurants – a highly acclaimed place headed up by Chris Harrod. He expertly delivered what was an exceptional tasting menu which oozed flavour and quality, topping it off with being able to actually stay at the restaurant too (it also doubled as a hotel). It was known locally as a rural gastronomic haven that offered both local and foraged produce at the heart of chefs cooking. Along with a place in the 2017 Waitrose Good Food Guide Top 50 UK Restaurants, these prestigious accolades put The Whitebrook amongst the very best restaurants in the country.
Both the driving, the fine dining and the luxury overnight stay gave me a much-treasured glimpse into another life. I may not be James Bond, for a day at least I knew a little what it was to feel like him…
How to have this experience yourself
From the Yorkshire Dales to Goodwood, Michelin Exceptional Drives combine some of the UK’s most beautiful driving routes with outstanding restaurants to deliver memories that will last a lifetime. For more information visit the Michelin UK Website.
Gary was invited by Michelin and Supercar Driver but all his opinions are his own, it was probably hard not to love cruising around in an Aston Martin for the day…