That’s the semi-printable version of what came out of my mouth when I rounded a bend at not inconsiderable speed to find a sheep stepping out in front of me. My right foot jumped from the accelerator to the brake, and I mashed the pedal into the firewall as the Seat stopped with the unmistakable clatter of ABS.
The sheep took a couple more steps and stood stock still on the grey tarmac, eyeing me dispassionately as it chewed on some grass and waited for me to do something.
We stayed thus for a couple of moments, then the sheep got bored of looking at an unmoving red Seat, and soon trotted off uncaring. I slid the gear lever into first, gave the engine a quick rev and set off, once again enjoying what is, to my mind, Britain’s best driving road.
I love Yorkshire for many reasons, including the cheese, the beer and the scenery, but one of the best things about God’s Own County is the roads.
The best of these, and the site of my run-in with the sheep, is the stretch from Ingleton, on the southern border of the Yorkshire Dales, to the sleepy Swaledale village of Thwaite.
Technically speaking, it is actually two sectors, the first of which takes in the B6255 between Ingleton and Hawes, while the second involves the infamous Buttertubs Pass, widely regarded as Britain’s best and most demanding driving road. It’s something of a Mecca for cyclists, too, having been used on the Yorkshire leg of the 2014 Tour de France, although only the hardiest cyclists dare tackle it, due to the steepness.
It was chosen because it’s tight, twisty and technical – the perfect place to test Seat latest hot hatchback: the Fiesta ST-rivalling Ibiza Cupra.
As I climbed into the Dales, the Ibiza’s 1.8-litre turbocharged engine sang in its strangely high-pitched rumble, and the road suddenly presented itself before me. The first mile or so is virtually arrow-straight, and it’s a deceptively difficult drive.
The road follows the rounded undulations, almost like a child might draw a rolling sea, and the dips can hide anything from tractors and tour buses to manholes and, you guessed it, sheep.
Hitting a sheep is undoubtedly a bad thing. Not only will you have to reimburse the farmer (you’d be surprised how much a good sheep fetches at market), but you’ll have to live with the guilt of killing the poor beast and you’ll probably be rewarded with a hefty repair bill.
However, once that obstacle had been left well behind me, I was free to explore some of the Seat’s capabilities. Until you get to the grey, sober-looking rail bridge that is the Ribblehead Viaduct, one of the Dales’ best-known landmarks, the road is a mundane but fast dash that allows you to enjoy the scenery.
Once you pass the cattle grid next to the pub, however, it becomes a more demanding test of a car. With the Seat’s raspy exhaust note ringing in my ears, I punched the sport button in hope of some ballistic mode that would turn the unassuming red hatchback into a time-warping track weapon.
Sadly, all that happened was a mild change in the soundtrack and a noticeable increase in the suspension’s firmness. After clattering through the S-bends just 500 yards from the cattle grid, the sport button was pressed once more and the little orange light went out. It certainly reduces body roll and it might make sense on a track, but it’s far too uncomfortable for use on British roads.
Admittedly, though, this road is not typical of the UK. Sweeping high-speed bends are punctuated by tight, 90-degree turns that, happily, mean a little heel-and-toe downshift practice is required.
The Seat’s steering proved a little too short on feel to offer up much confidence during the fast direction changes, but the Ibiza’s mountainous amounts of grip ensured it never once washed out in the way front-drive hot hatches are prone to.
That’s a useful quality to have underneath you once you’ve passed through the popular market town of Hawes and reached the Buttertubs Pass. Named for the limestone hollows which, legend has it, were used to keep butter cool during the summer, this narrow road is draped across the mountainside, leaving a precipitous drop.
Another requirement is good brakes, because the road descends into the narrow valley of Swaledale via a series of tight bends flanked by drystone walls. Going into one of those carrying too much speed will lead to a spectacularly nasty accident, but fortunately the Ibiza’s callipers provided plenty of stopping power.
They were, however, noticeably warm by the time I got into Thwaite, the sleepy hamlet at the bottom of the valley. After stopping for a minute to let them cool, and to reduce my racing heartbeat, there was only one thing left to do: turn around and do it again.