I suppose the idea began the first time I saw The Trip, inasmuch as it started from an idle thought along the lines of “I’d like to do that one day”. The first time I saw it was on its first airing in the UK, on BBC2, back in the autumn of 2010. Life was different then. Two years before I had my first child, four years before my second. Another series has taken Steve and Rob to Italy (2014) and, as I write, they are on location filming the third series in northern Spain.
From time to time it came back to me. The movie version on a transatlantic plane in 2011. The second series broadcast in Spring 2014. Passing mentions in interviews, podcasts and articles. A Children In Need sketch. A lingering memory of a particular impression that cried out to be retold or shared on social media.
And so the original idea of a Trip of my own endured. Endures.
As life with two small children slowly settled into a semblance of rhythm and predictability I talked about it with my twin brother perhaps a year or so ago. A frequent-ish visitor to the moors and lakes of northern England and a more accomplished domestic traveller than me, John has often enthused about a trip of any kind to that part of the world. Particularly a masculine joint enterprise and one that embraces the unpredictable English weather in a way that my wife never could.
But talking is as far as we got. John’s solo trips came and went. Enviable photo diaries of windswept snowy peaks and crags. Sunnier visits of his saw epic lakeland vistas and tales of foodie delights, free wifi and cosy stone-built inns. More inspiration but no plans of my own.
Often I returned to YouTube clips of the famous restaurant scenes, the mimicry, the testy exchanges but it was the feel of the whole Trip that I wanted to capture for myself, ourselves. I indulged. I bought the DVD, to watch it again; not the expertly-edited movie version but the full-length TV original.
On a sort-of solo dry run to the Cotswolds in Spring 2016, I immersed myself in each episode, holed up above a gastropub in Didmarton. At the same time John began a collaborative itinerary on Google Docs and, remotely, we worked through the details of a truncated homage. Three days instead of six. Mid-October instead of the assumed late-winter setting of the first (it was filmed in February 2010) and an eye on a more budget-conscious (but worthwhile) gastronomic experience.
I took notes from each episode: place names, road signs, landmarks. I plotted routes and trawled for as much deleted and behind-the-scenes content as I could to draw out what made it feel so authentic. Well aware that it is a contrived, caricature version of Steve and Rob and to some extent there is poetic licence in the setting and the routes taken, it does still feel like it’s real. Or at least that one could follow in their footsteps, echo their experiences.
With that in mind I was surprised to discover that there isn’t much online documenting others’ attempts to copy The Trip. Or even a nerdy obsessive cataloguing the route. There is a (very useful) article by The Guardian about how to do it on the cheap and some discussion about locations used for filming. Some of the restaurants and venues reference the series on their websites but no-one has, so far as I can tell, documented their own version (this limited exception takes a less authentic, but no less enjoyable approach). Although it is possible to waypoint The Trip using the restaurants and hotels (and take some cues from the directions Steve rattles off at the start of some episodes), it’s surprisingly difficult to put it all together. But, understanding it was originally filmed in sequence and the production stayed at the venues they filmed, it should be possible.
Interestingly The Trip to Italy has inspired more attempts to copy it, no doubt drawn by the sequel’s more extensive travelogue nature. The comparatively exotic (but equally romantic) settings perhaps more aspirational. Consequently however I am not convinced it would be so easy to ape it quite so faithfully.
And so we started to carve out a workable itinerary for our Trip. Over the summer of 2016 it started to gather pace. Restaurants were booked, hotels and B&Bs too. A Google Map document was virtually punctuated with place markers and travel times. Family and frankly financial commitments mean we’ve had to forgo a handful of elements of the original. We won’t be eating at l’Enclume but rather Simon Rogan’s sister venue, Rogan & Company. Hipping Hall and the Yorke Arms are other casualties and we won’t be scaling Malham Cove and limestone pavement or braving the stepping stones in the river by Bolton Abbey. But finally, some time last month, we put the final pieces together and, in one week we’re off.
Of course this trip won’t spawn a series of restaurant reviews for the Observer Magazine, just some self-interested blog posts. Among the many divergences are the absent literary connection. I can’t vouch for John but I’m pretty sure he hasn’t read any Coleridge either. My Wordsworth doesn’t extend much beyond daffodils. It’s fair to say the cultural (and perhaps philosophical) element will be lacking.
Other necessary differences are that the black Range Rover Vogue SE will stay on the dealer’s forecourt. I’ll have to navigate the dry stone walled lane-ways in a black Jeep Cherokee (KL) Limited (not achieving quite the fanboy impact of the original vehicle but still my pride and joy) . We’ll be driving out through Surrey and not the Edwardian streets of North London but in a week or so we’ll be following in the tyre tracks of Steve and Rob.
And yet I hope the gastronomic experience will still delight, the over-dinner conversation amuse – albeit with less mimicry – and the landscape enthral.I don’t think it helps to align either of us with the characters on screen (blog artwork notwithstanding) but to some degree the undertones of a career anxiety if not personal strife perhaps remain. It should be a good Trip.
I’ll take notes and write further blogs after the event. Here’s to Steve, Rob and Michael Winterbottom, cheers!
Our Trip itinerary:
DRIVE: Depart Surbiton. M3, M25, M1 to M6 then A59 at junction 31 to Clitheroe and then to Whitewell.
LUNCH: Inn at Whitewell.
STAY: The Red Pump Inn, Bashall Eaves.
DRIVE: Bashall Eaves to Cartmel. Dunsop Bridge to Abbeystead, join M6 at junction 33 to junction 36 (A590).
LUNCH: Rogan & Company.
DRIVE: to Greta Hall. Non-direct route follows Steve and Rob, B5278 to west of Windermere via Rydal and A591 to Keswick.
STAY: Greta Hall.
DRIVE: From Greta Hall to Holbeck Ghyll via Kirkstone Pass.
LUNCH: Holbeck Ghyll.
DRIVE: To Dove Cottage &/or Great Langdale.
STAY: Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel.
DRIVE: via Hipping Hall. Follows Steve & Rob, “avoiding A roads B6255 to Hawes, Oughtersahw, Yockenthwaite, Buckden, B6160 though Kettlewell” and onto the Angel Inn.
LUNCH: Angel Inn at Hetton for brunch/lunch onto or via Ribblehead Viaduct
DRIVE: to Surbiton.