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Britains Best Drives With Richard Wilson

Britain's Best DrivesIf youve ever hankered to rekindle the
  days when motoring was one of life
  gentle pastimes, rather than a rat-race
  necessity, share those days with Richard
  Wilson as he recreates some golden
  moments for Britain
s Best Drives in
  six interesting classic cars

CONSIDERED BY MANY TO BE THE GOLDEN AGE OF MOTORING, the 1950s was an era when there was more leisure time in the UK and the whole family looked forward to a Sunday afternoon driving in the country. With less traffic on the roads, you could relax and enjoy the fabulous scenery as you drove along.

Armed with a 1959 edition of Motoring Holidays In Britain instead of a SatNav and driving a classic vehicle from the Fifties for each of six locations, Richard Wilson takes to the road — with a soundtrack of suitable period music — to find out how his chosen routes have changed in half a century for the television series Britain's Best Drives With Richard Wilson, now available on DVD.

With the advent of the motorways — the M1 was opened in 1958 — you could get to your destination much quicker, but you could miss out on Britain's lovely scenic countryside. Driving has turned into a traffic-fuelled, stressful bore — but Richard shows you how to put the Ooh! back into motoring.

Richard drives a Morris Minor Traveller, 1957 Ford Zodiac, a Mini, Volkswagen Camper Van, Triumph TR3 and an Austin A30 and checks his guide book for places of particular interest — including historical Tintern Abbey and Cumbria's Duddon Valley.

Although many places have remained in perfect condition, many others have closed or have suffered vandalism. Britain's Best Drives With Richard Wilson finds a Britain that has been ravaged by motorways and car-mania but that still has some remarkably unspoilt swathes of countryside.

Richard travels Yorkshire's A169, described in 1953 as being "probably the finest moorland road in the world". It takes him through the magnificent Dalby Forest to meet the author whose work inspired the Heartbeat series, to the traditional seaside town of Scarborough and to Whitby, the Goth capital of the world. Ably assisted by 1957 Chevrolet-owner Goth Paul and his charming friends to reach ancient Whitby Abbey, an inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula, Richard says: "You never know when a Mohican-ed vintage car enthusiast will come in handy!"

Britain's Best Drives With Richard Wilson is a fascinating road trip that showcases much of Britain's beautiful landscape and wonderful characters who have recollections from the past and interesting viewpoints on the changes we see today. Capturing the spirit of enthusiasm and enjoyment of the bygone era, Britain's Best Drives is an exploration of Britain at its best and most beautiful, featuring timeless scenes and stunning aerial views.

Richard's guidebook states that: "England, Scotland and Wales between them are the finest countries in the world for motoring holidays". And Richard has recaptured some of that old magic along with experiencing the problems and pitfalls of today's motoring. In fifty years, routes have changed and slip roads, bypasses and new junctions have been built that make routes less peaceful and scenic than they once were.

Richard's Welsh adventure takes in Caernarfon with its splendid castle and circles Mount Snowdon. Richard finds handsome lakes, mountains, the lovely village of Beddgelert and the breathtaking sight of the Dinorwic Slate Quarry that closed in 1969. He meets Welsh language expert Bethan Gwanas, 71-year-old solo climber and base-jumper Eric Jones, who was the first British climber to solo the north face of the Matterhorn, and three former Butlin's ladies — one of whom used to date Ringo Starr!

At the North Cornish coast, Richard delves into a very un-PC Fifties guidebook — The Blue Book Guide To Cornwall — which extols the virtues of Cornwall: "The inhabitants are, racially, quite different from those in other parts of England" and Cornwall comes "without the drawback of long and fatiguing travel, foreign language, unusual habits and strange attendants"!

Exploring the spectacular rugged coast of North Cornwall in a Volkswagen Camper Van, Richard tackles the B3306, considered in 1959 to be "one of the finest coast roads in Britain". He takes in the cultural mecca of St Ives and meets artists Anthony Frost, son of sculptor and painter Sir Terry Frost, and 95-year-old Bob Crossley. Then it's on to the ancient and picturesque Zennor to investigate the village's associations with D H Lawrence and visit the 12th Century church that bears testimony to the legend of the mermaid Morveren. Richard's next stop, on his way to Land's End, is one of the dramatic ruins of Cornwall's tin mining heritage.

In the wildly beautiful landscape of the Lake District, Richard experiences the delightful lakes, grassy mountains and twisting roads of Wordsworth country and tackles the challenging stretch of road — The Struggle — that rises 1,500 feet in just three miles up to The Kirkstone Pass Inn, where he celebrates his 72nd birthday with a chocolate cake.

The area has been a national park since 1951 and comes under the responsibility of Chief Executive Richard Leafe. The highlights of this tour are the fabulous lakes, Windermere and Ullswater — and coming face-to-face with the hardy Herdwick sheep.

Produced by Jonney Steven, Britain's Best Drives benefits from the companionable Richard Wilson, the evocative voice of Christopher Slade on the guidebooks and the beautiful aerial photography by Matt Wyer. The Series is Produced and Directed by Neil Edwards — who also makes a guest appearance for some lighter moments.

Travel back in time to this golden age of motoring with the wonderful BBC series Britain's Best Drives. National treasure Richard Wilson (One Foot In The Grave, Merlin) sees Britain through a car window — and takes the scenic route for this hugely entertaining and educational series.

Britain's Best Drives With Richard Wilson is released on 6 April (2009) with a RRP of £19.99. Catalogue No: AV9709 | Running Time: 204 Minutes Approximately.

Special Features

Unseen Footage: 1 The AA Man | 2 Pen Y Gwryd Hotel | 3 Sir Nigel Gresley | 4 The Crown of Wye Valley | 5 Lake Windermere | Richard Wilson Filmography | Picture Gallery.

"The Best of the evening's travel presenters: roguish, cynical and excitable" — The Times

"He's such charming company… Lovely" — The Guardian

"Britain's Best Drives is an exploration of Britain at its best and most beautiful, featuring timeless scenes and stunning aerial views" — Maggie Woods, MotorBar