How to find best European road trips

To mark the launch of our latest Best Trips book we asked Lonely Planet staff to share their stories of times spent on the road. Ever the adventurous bunch, these daring drivers recall time spent navigating hairy mountain paths, drifting down coastal roads on the hunt for brilliant beaches and driving into the downright bizarre on off-the-beaten track escapades.

 

A well-deserved picnic in the Pyrenees, France

I can confirm, hand firmly on steering wheel, that the craggy beauty of the Pyrenees is unimpaired by vertigo and a carload of terrified loved ones. As a student living in the south of France, I was the naive host of a family road trip through the range. Setting off from my hometown of Pau, picnic blankets in tow, we climbed through the foothills breakfasting on local pâté and bread, and remarked on the farmers drinking red wine at 9am. Rising higher, we spotted marmots gambolling in the grass, bought sheep’s cheese at a roadside stand, and started to see patches of snow.

Even higher, as an eagle hovered alongside our car, my mother closed her eyes and started clinging to the seat belt. Crawling around the switchbacks, the mountain dropping away below me, I had my own Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter moment: ‘What if I just turned the wheel?’ Somehow we made it over the border to Spain, the landscape opened up in a glorious green valley and we had our picnic, delicious chunks of cheese trembling in our hands.

 

Searching for the edge of the world on the Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye is a terrible place for a road trip; every five minutes or so, you have to pull over… to gawp, goggle-eyed, at the grandeur of your surroundings. Provided you’re a fan of such stop-start journeys, though, the most myth-steeped island of the Inner Hebrides delivers Game of Thrones-style spectacle at every turn.

At a push, you could drive around Skye in half a day; but that, in my mind, would be a mistake. For while such a bat-out-of-hell tour would give you a glimpse of the major sights – the Old Man of Storr, the Quiraing, Uig Bay and, of course, the awesome Cuillin Hills – you’d forgo a host of lesser-known marvels. Far better to linger, as we did for three days, exploring every back road in changing light as we searched for the edge of the world.