Activity Sports - Off Road Driving
Despite getting stuck in a stream, Claire Prentice enjoys a lesson in off road driving
‘More to the left, hard left, left!’ When you’re in control of a £25,000 vehicle, it’s worth listening to your instructor. Mine clearly has nerves of steel, which is just as well given that I have just narrowly avoided driving his Land Rover Defender 110 into a tree. There’s no time to count my blessings; we’re currently half way up a huge mound of rubble and about to crest the top.
Before the tree threw itself in my path, instructor Mark Bailey had been explaining why it’s essential to approach a steep climb at an angle and to change from second to first gear at just the right moment. If you don’t, you’ll get stuck, seesaw-style at the top of the hill, like something out of a cartoon.
‘Women tend to be much better at off road driving than men,’ says Bailey (rather generously under the circumstances). ‘You can be the best road driver in the world and be terrible at this. Four by four driving isn’t like other driving. It’s a whole new skill and women are better at listening than men.’
The driving school is in a former quarry in Crieff, where instructors put you through your paces on a ‘nursery’ course of tiny mounds of rubble before letting you loose on the real thing. As I accelerate up a steep mound, boulders crunch under the tyres and rubble is sent flying. ‘Take your foot off the accelerator,’ shouts Mark mid-hill. I do and, incredibly, the vehicle continues to climb, its diesel engine pulling us to the top of the hill. It gives a whole new dimension to hill starts.
Feeling like a cross between General Paton and Jeremy Clarkson I ‘wade’ through a stream, driving the Land Rover up to its axle in water. It’s a thrilling experience, until I stall.
Although it looks like the ultimate adrenaline sport, off road driving is best done at a walking pace - the need for concentration at all times makes it surprisingly relaxing. Just watch out for the trees and put the £25,000 price tag out of your mind.
The Activity Centre at Crieff Hydro offers off road driving packages from £75-80 for an hour for up to five people (www.crieffhydro.com, 01764 651 622).