Driving the Rolls-Royce Dawn: Motoring to a Fantasy-Filled Four-Day Wedding

Attending the wedding of close friends, my 'plus-one' was the Rolls Royce Dawn. Not only was this regal convertible the perfect companion, but she left me more than a bit smitten.

If You Have An Opportunity To Take A Photo With The Rolls-Royce Dawn, You Should Definitely Go For It. Photo: Sue Mead
If you have an opportunity to take a photo with the Rolls-Royce Dawn, you should definitely go for it. Photo: Sue Mead

The Bride Wore a Reem Acra Manhattan Gown, and I drove the Rolls-Royce Dawn.

Weddings are always magical; some are particularly so. When I was invited to the four-day marriage celebration of Alexandra MacGillivray and Maximillian Parnia at the exclusive and private Cornwall Manor in the Cotswolds of England, I was honored, and I knew it would be truly magical.

I have been a MacGillivray family friend for more than three decades and was thrilled to get the invite; however, I was also a bit daunted about making all the arrangements to fly “across the pond” and set out on a week-long journey to attend this celebration.

I considered asking if I could bring a guest to accompany me but decided quickly that the best ‘plus one’ I could add to my itinerary would be a stunning motor car that was befitting of the occasion that would ferry me through an exploration of this swath of the English countryside.

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The Simply Sublime Rolls-Royce Dawn. Photo: Sue Mead

The simply sublime Rolls-Royce Dawn. Photo: Sue Mead

The Perfect Car for a Perfect Wedding

As an automotive journalist, I scrolled through the list of cars that I considered worthy to drive to this high-rolling venue; the Rolls-Royce Dawn rose to the top. This award-winning drophead coupe – a fancy name for a convertible – is the epitome of glamorous luxury, style, and beauty. It was designed borrowing inspiration from the elegant and timeless Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn dropheads of the 1940s and 1950s. 

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I Needed Just A Wee Bit Of Practice On The Roundabouts Before I Embarked For The Fabulous Countryside In The Rolls-Royce Dawn. Photo: Sue Mead

I needed just a wee bit of practice on the roundabouts before I drove to the events in the Rolls-Royce Dawn. Photo: Sue Mead

My Luxurious Journey Begins

As I began my trek from London’s Heathrow Airport westward along a busy multi-lane motorway, I quickly realized that my only other forays driving vehicles with right-hand controls on the “wrong side of the road” had been with colleagues or partners as co-drivers who could guide me (or yell frantically!) when things looked as if they could go awry, such as in roundabouts and when making turns. Trust me, if you haven’t done this, it’s an acquired art and one that needs practice.

Driving solo, I found that I sometimes needed to travel a few circles ‘round the roundabout’ to practice and plan my exit and even to pass traffic. On that note, my exquisite ride, which has been called the “sexiest motorcar ever designed and the most seductive model in the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars family,” navigated passing maneuvers with ease, despite tipping the scales at close to 2½ tons.

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Silent and Powerful, the Rolls-Royce Dawn is Impressive

Motivated by a 6.6-litre twin-turbocharged V12 engine with 563 horsepower and 605 lb.-ft. of torque, with a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic “satellite-aided” transmission, its power was a delicious
blend of a blessing and a curse. I often approached speeds that the British ”bobbies” would find objectionable. At times, I felt as if I was flying on a magic carpet when the multi-layer foldaway fabric roof was closed. The Dawn has been dubbed the “world’s quietest convertible car,” an accomplishment in a car that has a panel of cloth between you and the sky. Plus it has a supple suspension that makes it practically float.

Driving Down Narrow Country Lanes Could Not Have Been More Elegant Than In The Rolls-Royce Dawn. Photo: Sue Mead

Driving down narrow country lanes could not have been more elegant than in the Rolls-Royce Dawn. Photo: Sue Mead

Small Town Travel in the Rolls-Royce Dawn

Motoring was not as relaxing when I was traveling along the myriad of small country lanes outside of the urban areas. Many secondary lanes are the width of a single vehicle and are lined by stone walls. This is decidedly daunting when encountering a herd of sheep or an errant tour bus, as the Dawn is 208 inches long (nearly 18 feet) and 76.7 inches wide (approx. 6 feet). By comparison, standard automobiles and trucks are typically between 10-18 feet long. Its long “bonnet” and a two-to-one body height-
to-wheel height, along with its iconic grill, gives every Rolls-Royce its regal presence.

One Must Dress The Part When Attending Such A Lovely Event In The Cotswolds. Photo: Sue Mead

One must dress the part when attending such a lovely event in the Cotswolds. Photo: Sue Mead

Arriving in Style

I felt regal, in fact, as I arrived at the collection of gatherings for the 140 guests who traveled from around the globe to observe the traditional wedding of Alix and Max, as well as the Persian Wedding Ceremony the following day. For the two main ceremonies, I wore a wide-brimmed hat with a small bow at a side angle atop my head, as is the custom of British ladies.

But the bride (and groom!) stole the show. She wore an exquisite Reem Acra Manhattan gown beset by pearl and rhinestone details, topped by a veil from BHLDN and footwear from Manolo Blahnik. As she took her wedding vows and promised herself to “the love of her life” and was serenaded in and out of the English country garden by a bagpiper. It was even more magical than I imagined.

A Bagpiper Lended Drama And Romance To This Beautiful Destination Wedding. Photo: Sue Mead

A bagpiper lent drama and romance to this beautiful destination wedding. Photo: Sue Mead

That Rolls-Royce Dawn Afterglow

Heading back to Heathrow, I realized that I had fallen in love, too. My “plus one” left me smitten. Its head-turning looks made me feel royal. I was cosseted within the hand-crafted interior designed with the world’s finest leather and hand-worked wood with exterior paint and color schemes that were sublime.

My favorite feature? The Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament raises and retracts in three ways: when the car is locked, by the push of a button in the glove box, or if someone tries to steal her, she will disappear instantly. All too soon, I parked the Dawn at the airport and headed for my flight, carrying a satchel of memories in my heart. No one would steal those; I knew the magic would stay with me forever.

If You Have An Opportunity To Take A Photo With The Rolls-Royce Dawn, You Should Definitely Go For It. Photo: Sue Mead

If you have an opportunity to take a photo with the Rolls-Royce Dawn, you should definitely go for it. Photo: Sue Mead

History: What is the Rolls-Royce Dawn?

Now on a hiatus, the Rolls-Royce Dawn is a gorgeous motorcar that replaced the earlier 2-door open-top car model, the Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé. The Dawn was spawned from the Rolls-
Royce Ghost, unlike the earlier model, which was based on the 7th generation Rolls-Royce Phantom. That was the flagship car model of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars until the arrival of the 8th generation model and the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé.

The Rolls-Royce Dawn is the last open-top combustion car made by Rolls-Royce; the Spectre replaces the Rolls-Royce Wraith Coupé and the Dawn Cabriolet.

I Found An Enchanting Hobbit Door Just Like In The Lord Of The Rings Books! Photo: Sue Mead

I found an enchanting hobbit door just like in the Lord of the Rings books! Photo: Sue Mead

If You Go:

The Cornwall Manor: This 2,000-acre estate is situated on a privately owned hamlet near Chipping Norton on the Oxfordshire-Gloucestershire borders. It’s situated in a region considered one of the most beautiful areas of the Cotswolds, within easy reach of Heathrow, London, and Oxford. Although never open to the public, it’s available for exclusive private hire, weddings, and events during a few months of the year. To stay here offers a glimpse into a rare and privileged, very British way of life; to be married here is a fantasy fulfilled.

Chipping Norton: Located about 12 miles southwest and 18 miles northwest, this small market town and civil parish in the Cotswold Hills in the West Oxfordshire district of Oxfordshire, England, is historically famous for wool and tweed production. Chipping Norton is the highest town in Oxfordshire and is situated on the western slopes of a hillside that was once the site of a Norman castle.

Stow-on-the-Wold or Stow: One of the most-visited Cotswold towns, Stow is home to a collection of shops, hotels, and eateries. It’s located on an 800-foot high hill on the ancient Roman Fosse Way that leads to the Midlands and was the center of the Cotswold’s wool trade. Today, it’s famous for the yew-tree framed doorway known as the Hobbit Door at St. Edwards Church, where legend says that J. R. R. Tolkien visited the Church and the entrance inspired his Doors of Durin (also known as the West-gate, the West-door of Moria, or Elven Door) in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Disclosure: Rolls-Royce provided the Dawn for this trip, but all opinions are my own. Additionally, A Girls Guide to Cars may earn a commission from affiliate links in this story.

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Sue Mead, who was among the first women to test and compete in the off-road field, travels the globe... More about Sue Mead