Undiscovered Britain: East of England – The Only Way to Travel

To celebrate the launch of the 2016 Best Loved Hotel & Travel Guide, we are pleased to bring you a series of stories on Undiscovered Britain by leading travel writers.

The Only Way to Travel by Sophie Butler

Ratty and Mole might not approve, but I’ve always secretly sided with Toad of Toad Hall in his fascination with the shiny motorcar. “The poetry of motion! The real way to travel! … that swan, that sunbeam, that thunderbolt.” So, as I lower myself into the creamy, leather seat of the ivory-coloured Morgan, mine for just a day to tour the Suffolk lanes, I give the walnut dashboard a little stroke as if the car were alive.

And it almost is. Its mood changes as it revs down from throaty roar to low purr and so does mine as the warm, end-of-summer air fans my face and flicks up my hair. Just as Toad imagines, a flowery track spreads before me, dust-clouds spring up behind, as I speed along on my reckless way – or as reckless as the thought of a £1,000 pre-authorisation on my credit card will allow. Onward, onward, along the narrow, gritty lanes of the Sandlings, stopping here and there, but only for a moment because the point is the journey not the destination. A drink at the Ramsholt Arms on the shores of the Deben estuary; a quick tour of the ancient, thatched church at Iken; an unplanned pause to admire a sudden, breathtaking glimpse of the River Alde. There are envious sidelong glances at the car as I pull up in the little square at Orford for a lunch of locally smoked fish, freshly shucked oysters and a fruity, white Burgundy at the Butley Orford Oysterage. Then, a stroll around the 13th-Century castle tower, a glimpse of the sea.

People say it and, you know what, it’s true. Driving along country lanes in a vintage sports car makes modern life pull back. Farmers really do lean on gates and smile; passing motorists honk in a hail-fellow way; hikers wave and nod; hedgerows are frothier and more flower-filled; wild hollyhocks reach out to greet you. What stands out are the thatched cottages, the halftimbered pubs, the age-old woodland, the mellow-brick walls and the purple-flushed heathland. Wildly exhilarating, a chance to pose, a day out like no other. As Toad would put it: “Poop poop!”

Open Top Touring Classic & Sports Car Hire: http://www.open-top-touring.co.uk/

For a selection of hotels in the East of England, including the latest special offers, visit Best Loved Hotels in the East of England.

Sophie Butler is a travel writer who specialises in consumer affairs and is a regular contributor to Telegraph Travel. She has lived in East Anglia for more than two decades.