Probably not a route for those afraid of heights
"Inland from the beachside resorts of Malaga and its neighbours the mountains rear up dramatically, opening up suddenly dramatic scenery and very quickly dropping you into a rugged and awe inspiring landscape. In basic topography, vegetation and even architecture there's more than a sense of California about this stretch of Spanish coastline. Of course, we're less interested in fancy pants golf resorts for pastel-clad millionaires and more into the driving, which mirrors that of 'canyon culture' California as narrow, twisting tarmac tangles into steep valleys rising into the mountains.
"The Ronda road is a well-known route up into the hills and wears its significant investment in road surface and width well. There's been some serious earth moving to make it into the road it is now - glimpses of the old one and its stone bridges are visible on some corners - but as one of the main roads up from the coast it's well used and heavily trafficked, not least with lumbering trucks. You might score a clear run but don't worry if you don't - it's just the warm-up act.
"The route here was an improvised 'pick a squiggle on a map' job on the recent McLaren 650S launch and from Ronda goes past Ascari Race Resort and inland, before doubling back to Ronda across a remote feeling pass, crossing the Ronda road and then dropping back down to the coast on roads considerably less well travelled. And don't feel bad if you don't happen to have access to a McLaren - frankly this would probably be as much, if not more, fun in that unsuspecting holiday rental you picked up from the airport. Let the rest of your party sweat it out on the beach and give that base-spec Eurobox hatchback death up in the hills!"
All this just an hour from the crowded beaches
"To be completely honest this route is 50 per cent about the driving and 50 per cent about scenery. There's plenty of both but much of the return loop to Ronda is exposed single track more suited to that rental SEAT Ibiza than a broad-hipped supercar. The landscape is amazing though. To think you're just 20-30 miles inland it's another world here of heat-scorched hillsides and narrow tarmac twisting, curling and occasionally clinging to their sides. You're never that far from civilisation really. But it does feel like you are at times, making it properly exciting even if you're just picking your way along.
"Of course the real dream would be to include some laps of Ascari Race Resort too but that's a pretty exclusive ticket and even without that you'll have more than enough to entertain you. Alternatively take to two wheels and use a bike to explore these deserted Spanish backroads. Many seem to; we encountered several groups of BMW GS-riding motorcycle tourists along the way and given how narrow and bumpy the roads in places that could well be the weapon of choice.
"You certainly get a glimpse of 'proper' Spain that feels a world away from the manicured and artificial world of the coastal resorts. We're talking sleepy little villages, imposingly craggy valleys and hairpins through olive groves between white-washed farm buildings. And a beer by the beach when you return!"
Wild and rugged landscape will amaze
Highlights and lowlights:
"Fast, sweeping and running from lush sea level to bleak moonscape in just a few miles, a clear run up the Ronda road is one of the great drives. But the reality is often trundling along behind a smoky tipper truck, overtaking opportunities scuppered by the flow of commuters coming down the hill from Ronda. Don't worry though, once beyond Ronda and on the smaller roads it gets a lot quieter.
"The westbound leg to Ronda has a stunning middle section that's like a three-quarter scale Ronda road. But much of the rest is single track and full of blind corners (many with surprises lurking around them) so best taken at a leisurely pace. So enjoy the moments to let off steam when you can.
"The long, meandering descent back to the coast is more open and faster in places but gets seriously bumpy towards the bottom. Ideal vehicle for this? Probably not a low-slung supercar! While driving it we were thinking a tarmac-spec junior rally car would be the perfect tool for the job, if sadly absent from Avis's rental fleet."
The road sign isn't underselling what to expect
Sights, stop-offs and diversions:
"If you want a taste of Spain and can speak the lingo there are lots of tempting looking little bars and restaurants in the villages along the way and Ronda is a stunning town in its own right with its dramatic gorge and famous bridge. A hike off the main road outside Ascari to peer over the fence to see how the other half live might be worth a punt too; all sorts of exotica lurks in its chilled underground garages and visiting owners may well be out and enjoying them on track."
View Larger Map