Surprise! What its like to take a road trip when the destination is a mystery

Getting behind the wheel of my hire car, I have no idea where I’m going. And, no – it’s not because I can’t read a map – it’s because I literally don’t know yet.

My boyfriend and I are setting off on a road trip from central London, but we have no idea where we’ll be sleeping tonight, or how long it will take to get there. All we know is that we’re finally getting out of the city after several long months.

We’re not masters of our own destiny, however, because we’ve put ourselves in the hands of a company called Srprs.me.

Avid Metro readers (that’s all of you, right?) may remember that thanks to them, I found myself in a similar situation at an airport, when, nail-bitingly, I didn’t know where I was flying until an app counted down to reveal my destination.

Since the pandemic, Srprs.me have pivoted – that essential 2020 word! – to offering surprise road trips around the UK, and this morning there’s a similar countdown. Where could we end up? Shamefully, I’m more familiar with the roads in other countries than I am with those in my own.

As the timer hits zero, it turns out we’re spending our first night – of four – near…Stroud. Aha! This is Cotswolds country – somewhere I been before, and loved.

After a stint on the M40, we switch to smaller roads, passing through scenic countryside. Quaint villages, like Woodchester and Upper Windrush, unfold in front of us, their handsome, honey-stoned cottages reflecting the late autumn sunshine.

We’re heading for Hammonds Farm, a stylishly-converted b&b (hammonds-farm.co.uk; from £126pn) in the middle of rolling fields, and eventually reach it through what seem like endless tunnels of trees, their branches bending to form green, leafy avenues.

Friendly owner Bea is as excited about our unusual trip as we are about the 100 alpacas in her backyard, which we visit before heading out to explore.

First stop is Nailsworth, a tiny town with a picture-perfect weeping willow in the main square, lined with cute boutiques and coffee shops.

The app recommends we do a canal walk by the River Severn, or wander the magnificent gardens of National Trust property Newark Park, but drizzle puts us off and we motor on to Stroud itself, where we stroll around its flagstone-paved old quarter.

After a fortifying coffee in the hip Curio Lounge, next up is the ridiculously beautiful village of Painswick – so photogenic it looks more like the set of a Hollywood movie, it’s crammed full of cottages with roses winding around doorways, ancient pubs, and a highly Instagrammable churchyard, home to 99 huge, globe-shaped trees.

Dinner’s at the Falcon Inn, as perfect a gastropub in which you could wish to devour honey-glazed salmon and seared steak.

The next morning I fear too much wine has affected my eyesight because the app seems to show that we’re returning to London. I’ve blearily read ‘Islington’ – which is the borough where I live – but it turns out we’re actually going to , a village on the edge of Dartmoor, in Devon, near the English Riviera.

En route to our base for the next couple of days, the app recommends we stop off at Huxbear Vineyard, where we purchase a bottle of crisp-looking English rose, and Stover Country Park, where we do a peaceful circuit of a large, forest-ringed lake, to the sound of ducks and other birdlife.

After our first night at the Ilsington Country House Hotel (from £100pn), it’s off to the seaside. We stroll the craggy path between Babbacombe and Oddicombe beaches, feasting on fresh crab sandwiches for lunch.

The vintage Babbacombe Cliff Railway has too long a queue, so we plough on to the faded grandeur of Torquay, where we follow in former resident, Agatha Christie’s, footsteps, then experience the kitsch of the pier at nearby Paignton.

The following morning it’s onto our last destination, revealed as Corfe Castle, a gorgeous, horseshoe-shaped hamlet, loomed over by the ruins of a 10th century castle.

After dropping our bags at Mortons Manor, a gloriously renovated Elizabethan mansion (from £145pn) we make a beeline for Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove, made notorious earlier this summer thanks to overcrowding.

Today, in the crisp autumn air, the area’s speckled with a few dog walkers and hardy beach-goers, while kayakers coast under the craggy, natural arch. I’ve loved it all, but I’m sad, because tomorrow I know where I’m going: home.

From £100 per day, srprs.me.uk. Car hire from Hertz, who are currently offering the chance to add an additional driver to your reservation for free, up until October 31 (valid on all bookings; ts&cs apply).

How a trip with srprs.me works

  • Through the website, srprs.me.uk, you can choose how many days you want to be away, based on where you’ll be starting from, and also specify whether you want the trip to be Urban, with city stays, or Rural.
  • You can add extras, like whether you want breakfast at your accommodation, if you want to bring your dog, or carbon offset.
  • You can customise the level of accommodation you want, from glamping, to b&b, or more upmarket.
  • You then download the srprs.me app, which will start the countdown to your trip. Then each morning your destination that day, and your accommodation, is revealed.
  • Maximum daily driving time is 2-4 hours per day.
  • They recommend sights and tips on the way, and at your destination.
  • You are responsible for parking, meals and activities.

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