Coniston Hotel and 4x4 Experience

It was decided during a meeting with the Northern Group of Motoring Writers, the oldest regional journalistic writers group in the UK, that a day out was required for all its members, and cutting a long story short, it would be at Coniston Hotel (between Skipton and Long Preston).  It was chosen not only because it’s central to most members, but mainly because it has an off-road course and spa.

Arriving on a wet and miserable Friday afternoon we all caught up over coffee and biscuits, and after a quick safety briefing we walked out and chose our steeds.  Our choices were either a D-Max, Discovery 5, Defender 110 and a new Mitsubishi Shogun Sport. I opted for the latter as I have one coming to test out and review soon, and I wanted to see how well it would perform in a tougher environment than I’m willing to take the press car.

Of course, it isn’t all about tearing through forests and mud holes, nope, green-laning or off-roading, which ever you choose to call it, is all about steady control and knowing your 4x4.  Of course there are always going to be times when you require a bit of momentum…

Initial impressions of the Shogun Sport was that it was roomy and comfortable, but our first obstacle didn’t exactly go according to plan.

As instructed, I pointed the Sport at a line of tarmac moguls, aka diagonally opposing mounds of concrete that test the vehicles articulation, and ability to carry on forward motion if its opposing wheels are off the ground.  

We almost reached the end when there was a painful crunch from underneath. It transpired that the ground clearance wasn’t up to the job and we ground to a halt on the near-side (passenger) running board - ouch.  A quick inspection found that there was no damage, but in order to minimise any more, it was decided that I should reverse back.

Slotting the Shogun Sport into reverse I gently did as he asked.  On a couple of occasions it became cross-axled, but maintaining a steady throttle the Sport figured things out and sent traction to the other wheels and got us out without any further drama.

There were further obstacles to overcome, from wading to steep declines during which the Shogun Sport proved to be a competent off-reader - but watch out for its non-removable running boards!

Of course it wasn’t all about me, and soon it was someone else’s turn, Muddy Madam didn’t fancy a go, so a colleague’s wife took the reigns - hello Kay!

It was Kay’s first foray behind the wheel whilst off the beaten track, and it’s fair to say she was a bit nervous, but after only a few minutes with the expert guidance of our driver, whose name escapes me, she had it all under control, from less severe moguls to the steep decent in which you have to take your feet off the brake and trust the vehicle.

Of all the vehicles I could have chosen next I opted for the least comfortable, that’s right, the Defender.  I decided on this because I know what a Discovery 5 can do, and it’s easy, but in a Defender you have to actually drive it, and even though it still has traction control, you still have to utilise your own skills.

Jumping out from the Shogun Sport into the 110 was of course a culture shock, I had to wind down the driver’s door window just so I could turn the ship-like steering wheel.

Again, our instructor guided us up a stepped incline, water sections and mad side slopes, and of course the fully laden 110 took it all in its stride.

When it was time for someone else to take the helm the only seat available was one in the back, and I mean back, back.  I’m a 6ft 1inch, nearly 19 stone bloke so the struggle to get in there was real, I’m glad no one had a camera, it wasn’t flattering.

All too soon, our afternoon’s off-roading jaunt was over and it was time to retire to our rooms until later when we all congregated downstairs for our evening meal.

Set in a 1400-acre estate, the hotel and estate originally started life as a farm shop selling produce from the estate and, some 50 years later, has grown to become one of North Yorkshire’s premium landmark destination hotels. Although Muddy Madam and I didn’t get to sample the spa, due to a forgotten swimwear snaffoo, I’m led to believe that it’s very nice, as was our large room with its balcony facing the lake and hills. We would have enjoyed breakfast on the balcony if it wasn’t for the constant drizzle!

After a cracking nights sleep we were up at the crack of dawn for a lovely breakfast and a mad dash home so that Muddy Madam could leave for a Sci-Fi convention in Sheffield - don’t judge her!

Overall we had a great time, Coniston Hotel is a beautiful place stay and the off-road course, along with the instructors, provided an exceptional afternoon experience for both the experienced and novice ‘mud-pluggers’, it’s well recommended.