Sunset on a secret road in HawaiiIn Wednesday’s post from our honeymoon (including pictures if you didn’t check it out), I talked very briefly about ‘secret roading’.

As promised (and after a couple of questions about it), here’s the lowdown on just what secret roading is and how you can enjoy the fun, too.

The O.K. Guide to Secret Roading

We first started secret roading as friends when we lived together in the flat. I wasn’t always well enough to get out and actually do things, but I’ve always loved driving, so we used to take random trips out in the car to explore the countryside and seek beautiful views or, in lambing season, to see cute little country sights while we toured around.

Once we knew and had learned all of the roads around the apartment and it had become less interesting, we started trying to liven it up a bit by going off the main roads. Initially, we would only choose to go down unmarked/unsighnposted roads that were usually small, single-track farm roads and the like, but it soon widened to being based purely on instinct.

Here are the essential ingredients of a great secret-roading trip.

Drive

An obvious one, really, although I suppose you could do it on bikes. It’s quicker and easier1 in a car, though.

It doesn’t matter the type of car you use, particularly in this country where truly impassable roads are few and far between, but having a 4×4 can give you more confidence in what you’re doing, as I suggested in our honeymoon post.

I should add, though, we have never used a 4×4 in the UK, so it’s far from a necessity. Any car with a full tank will do you fine.

Turn

Where you turn is a question of the rules of secret roading you’re playing under. There are two options:

  1. Turn down whichever road you fancy. This works much better if you choose the unmarked road. Any passenger may at any point shout for the driver to take a turning, or a driver may do so themselves. This can lead to rather exciting breaking/turning maneuvers or to dicey mid-road 3-point turns when you overshoot.
  2. Nominate a direction. ie, “We will take the next turning on the right.” or, “We will take the third road on the left”. Whatever you nominate, you must follow, even if it looks like someone’s driveway.

Any secret roading session can be made up of either or both of these options at various points.

Carry On

Secret roading is never about one single road or turning; it’s an adventure, you have to commit to it fully. Secret roading should never be undertaken with the object of getting somewhere. If you arrive, that’s wonderful, but you shouldn’t be focused on a destination. Other than getting home at the end.

Get Lost

The biggest rule of secret roading is that you should never know exactly where you are. Rough ideas and geographical knowledge are fine, but if you know immediately where to go to get home, you’re not playing it properly.

Because of this, and the tendency we have to wander up long, single-track roads that turn out to be private driveways to farms or posh houses, don’t forget:

Make Up An Excuse

It doesn’t really matter what it is as long as it’s semi-believable if someone stops and asks you what you’re up to or you find yourself face-to-face with irate house-owners.

If we’re driving through or near a small village, we’ll often make up a house name (“Is this Tumbledown Cottage?”), or out in the wilds of nowhere we might say we’re out on a property hunt in the area to see if there’s anywhere nice for us to move to.

You’d be amazed what you can get away with if you just play the embarrassed, bumbling English tourist (in the UK or abroad) – as long as they don’t get the feeling you’re local, you’ll usually be fine.

Smile

Remember it’s an adventure. Not matter what happens, keep smiling.

We once got stuck in a single-track road which had flooded in front of us and we were forced into a VERY tight, Austin Powers-like 3-point turn in the lane that very nearly got us beached on a bank. Getting out to survey the damage, we discovered nothing untoward save for the small grass beard the car had picked up from the verge. That kept us amused for weeks.

Enjoy

Secret roading is all about having fun; it’s about getting out, seeing the countryside that surrounds you and forgetting your troubles for a few hours while you galavant around.

I once asked a well-known American travel author what he liked best about the UK. His answer? You’re never more than about 30 minutes away from some glorious countryside. The fact that we so often fail to see it or, if we live in big cities, fail to even attempt to see it is really quite sad.

The same goes for just about anywhere else in the world. We found our very favourite beach in the world thanks to a little bit of secret roading, a pinch of bravery and a Jeep Wrangler named Lilo.

If you do decide to go try it out, let me know where you went, where you got to and how much fun you had. I’d love to know it’s caught on, even a little.

Some other posts you might like:

  1. if less environmentally friendly []