Route Napoléon, France

This Great Road was initially published in issue 104 of Total 911.

Simply put, the Route Napoléon deserves every plaudit that has so far been cast its way. It is a remarkable route to drive, and the fact that it resides in the south of France – making it a brilliant holiday destination in its own right – is surely all the excuse you need to get that vacation booked and cruise to Grenoble as soon as possible.

The full Grenoble-Grasse route on the N85 may satisfy the purist in you, but at 300 kilometres it’s a long day’s worth of driving and in truth the very best section of the Route Napoléon lies to the south between Digne-les-Bains and Grasse. The north section from Grenoble to La Saulce is 129 kilometres long, and while it’s peppered with some great little sections, it can be clogged with trucks and caravans.

Therefore, it’s well worth jumping onto the A51 at La Saulce for the 47 kilometre leap down to junction 21 (signposted ‘Nice par RN’); the N85 runs virtually parallel to the A51 here anyway so we’d suggest that it’s worth pocketing the time saved.

Route Napoleon 2

LOCATION: Grenoble-Grasse, Rhone Alpes-Provence Alpes Cote D’Azur, France

LATITUDE: 45.1900 N,5.7200 E-43.6589 N, 6.9258 E

LENGTH OF DRIVE: 186 miles (85 miles south section)

The Roc, Castellane

Ma Petite Auberge
8 Boulevard de la République
04120 Castellane
+33 4 92 83 62 06

After a quick 30 kilometre run down to Digne-les-Bains, things really start to get interesting, as the route climbs south out of town and the typically well-surfaced road starts throwing more curves into the mix. The scenery gradually changes too, with ever more impressive vistas coming at you as you traverse south.

The fast-flowing pace of the road affords plenty of overtaking opportunities before curling up like a tossed ribbon in the mountainous area north of Castellane, with numerous 180-degree bends challenging brakes and driver alike. A fast, clear run through here leaves you breathless, and a lunch break in Castellane is served by numerous restaurants.

There’s still another 60 kilometres to go before reaching Grasse, with stunning views to the coast as you reach the southern-most part and breathtaking combinations of fast open corners along the way. It really is a thrilling way to spend a couple of hours behind the wheel, and we would fully understand if you decide to turn right round and do it all again from the opposite direction.

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