Great British Drives: Classic Triumph TR6 sports car on a tour of the Cotswolds

Triumph TR6

If there ever was a perfect day to drive my first ­convertible, with the top down and the sun ­warming my skin, then this is it. It's a gloriously sunny morning and the Cotswolds countryside has burst into life, like ­Dorothy walking out of her front door and into Technicolor Oz. The fields are either a vivid green or swathes of yellow rapeseed as we hurtle along past low-level hedges.

I love driving. But with an 18-month-old normally in tow, I ­usually have to plan journeys to within a millisecond, to ensure that my daughter doesn't spontaneously combust with fury, chucking food at her or singing The Wheels on the Bus as I nervously calculate how much "jolly reserve" I have left compared with the ETA countdown on my satnav. But she's at her grandparents' for the day, and my husband and I are alone.

It's bliss. From the moment Graham Eason, the owner of Great Escapes (a Redditch-based vintage car hire company that operates nationwide), drops off a beautiful 1974 red Triumph TR6 at my hotel, with the instruction "Have fun", it feels like total freedom. 

It's low and sleek and, most ­importantly, has "no back seat", as my husband notes, approvingly, when we climb down into our walnut-veneer-lined freedom wagon. We strap into the four-point harness (momentarily distressingly similar to a child's car seat), rev up the engine and set out on the so-called "romantic route" of the Cotswolds that will take us on a ­60-mile round trip, crossing county lines from Gloucestershire up to Worcestershire and back via Oxfordshire.

We've had a leisurely morning after an overnight stay at a beautiful barn conversion (freestanding bath in the bedroom and freshly laid eggs for breakfast; something the Cotswolds does so well) called Thyme in the ­village of Southrop. Kate Moss is a local - she got married in Thyme's garden to her now ex-husband Jamie Hince and, it turns out, she used to hire vintage cars for him from Eason, too. It's the closest I'm going to get to a celebrity lifestyle and I'm prepared to milk it.

The TR6 is the archetypal hairy-chested British sports car of the Sixties

Eason started his business as a hobby in 2006, and it shows: the car has been lovingly renovated by a TR6 specialist to a magnificent standard. As well as ­installing comfortable bucket seats, the bumpers have been removed to ­reduce the weight, and a big bore ­exhaust added.

Driving through the single-track roads we're so low to the ground in the TR6 compared with our normal car, modern and cushioned and elevated as it is, that 30mph feels so much more thrilling. But when we turn a corner, a combine harvester is hurtling ­towards us uphill. There's nothing for it but to turn into the hedge and breathe in. Farm vehicle successfully navigated, we turn on to an A-road to take to us to the first stop and, with a national speed limit and straight roads, I can really test the engine, flicking down the overdrive lever, while pushing up to 50mph; the top speed is ­apparently 120mph, but we are already shouting over the thrum of the engine and this is bone-rattling enough for a fun drive. Plus, the volumising effect on my hair of an open-top is better than anything I have ever bought in a bottle.

Turning into a tight parking space at our first stop, Bourton-on-the-Water, without power steering takes biceps of steel; luckily there is plenty of parking and the traffic is slow. The town is known as the "Venice of the Cotswolds" and, while it's undoubtedly pretty with its honey-coloured stone buildings and manicured river banks, the throng of retired day trippers and dominance of gift shops leave it feeling a bit of a ­tourist trap.

Bourton-on-the-Water is utterly charming, despite being a bit of a tourist trap Credit: imagenavi

There is a popular-looking motoring museum but, given that we're driving a piece of British motor history - of the 91,850 TR6s produced between 1968 and 1976, only just over 8,000 were sold in the UK - it seems unnecessary. So after a quick walk down the river, we climb back into the Triumph to continue the drive northwards.

Ten minutes later, we're rewarded with the picture-perfect Lower Slaughter. I slow to a crawl as we pass a still river reflecting the low-level stone houses, a few families picnicking on the banks near a water wheel, a dog lapping at the water. It's quiet, ­private and perfect.

Up the hill in Upper Slaughter an early lunch beckons. We spot a walled garden, with an inviting ­terrace that belongs to the hotel, Lords of the Manor, and pull in. Its set among eight acres of grounds with a lake and beautiful views. It's the perfect spot to sit in the shade and enjoy a cheese sandwich and a pot of Earl Grey, served by a waiter in a tweed waistcoat.

I could sit here all day, but we have more to explore. Pulling out of Upper Slaughter, we motor along the wolds up through Naunton, Guiting Power and up to Stanway House, a ­Jacobean manor house that was owned by Tewkesbury Abbey for 800 years, ­before the Tracy family and their ­descendants took residence for the past 500 years. We've dallied so long this morning that we don't have time to do more than pull in at the impressive gatehouse and have a peek in, but it's one to return to.

Broadway Tower in the Worcestershire is the second highest point on the Cotswolds, from where you can see 16 counties  Credit: Ryan Beyer/Getty Images

Shifting gear with a 6ft 4in ­passenger is tricky - his knees are seemingly ­always in my way - although probably not as much of a challenge as him ­driving. But he gets a chance to stretch his legs when we make it up to Broadway, and walk up to the Broadway Tower, designed by the landscape ­designer Capability Brown and built in 1798. Standing on the second highest point on the Cotswolds, it's a ­wonderful spot to survey the area; on a good day, which it is today, you can apparently see out over a very precise 62-mile ­radius and 16 counties, three of which we've crossed already.

It's time to get back and we wind our way back down the other side of the route, passing through the pretty and sleepy Temple Guiting, the bustling market town of Stow-on-the-Wold and the medieval town of Burford, with its wide road lined with such impressive houses that, despite our time ­constraints, we just have to turn off to ­explore the side streets. Church Lane, with its 15th-century almshouses that almost look sunken into the road, is well worth the detour.

Leaving Burford's relative metropolis, and a few admiring waves, we wind back down narrow, tree-dappled lanes and cross the river Leach back into Southrop, where Eason is waiting ­outside the village pub, The Swan (it's easy to spot: there's only one). It's tough handing the keys back; my supermodel dreams disappearing along with the car. But there is one comfort: chef's ­signature chicken and bacon pie to fuel us up before we head back to London. Probably not what Kate Moss does.

The Triumph TR6 costs £229 for daily hire (£59 for one-hour Classic Taster); greatescapecars.co.uk

THE FACTS

1974 Triumph TR6

PRICE NEW £1,333.19s.1d

PRICE NOW £25,000 approx

ENGINE 2.5-litre straight-six, four-speed manual gearbox

POWER 150bhp

TOP SPEED 120mph

FUEL ECONOMY 25mpg approx

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