Fearne Cotton, interviewed by Danny Scott

June 2024

Behind the wheel with Fearne Cotton

Broadcaster, writer and podcaster Fearne Cotton on mastering her motorway fears, New York in rush hour and why her 11-year-old son is holding the stereo hostage…  

Are you a good driver?
My husband might not agree, but I think I am. There was a period where I really didn’t enjoy it. I suffered with panic attacks for a long time and one of the biggest triggers was driving on motorways. I’ve since had a lot of EMDR therapy [eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing] and that’s helped a lot. I’m grateful to have conquered my fear.

How long did it take you to pass your test? 
I was one of the oldest kids in my year at school and desperate to be the first one with a licence. I took my test at 17 and passed first time. I remember I didn’t really gel with my instructor and he was convinced I wouldn’t pass. Ha! I came out waving that certificate. I’ll be driving home myself, thank you very much.

What was your first car? 
Because I started working on the telly at 15, I’d been able to put away a bit of money. I’d fallen in love with a glittery pinky-red Fiat Punto and as soon as I’d passed, I handed over the cash. It had that boxy, 90s look – not particularly glamorous, but it was my pride and joy. 

First time you drove abroad? 
I must have been 22 or 23 and I was presenting a programme for CBBC called Only in America. Basically, they put me in a huge, bright yellow Mustang and told me to drive around the whole of the US. Wrong side of the road, wrong side of the car, motorways that were about ten lanes wide, New York in rush hour... Hardcore, but a truly amazing experience.

tv show

Fearne Cotton and co-host Reggie Yates visit the Elvis-A-Rama Museum in Paradise, Nevada (Only In America, BBC)

Your favourite road trip destination?
The UK’s southwest coast. My mate, Giovanna, and I drove down to Cornwall recently. Leave London after an early breakfast and you can be tucking into a late lunch on Fistral Beach. The beauty of that drive is you can’t really rush it. All A-roads down there. We had a proper catch up just watching the beautiful British countryside drift by. 

Have you ever crashed?
Not long after I passed my test, I decided to drive down to the local Budgens with my mates in the back. Thinking we were sooooooo mature. I was reversing into a parking space and... straight into another car. I felt so guilty that I left a note with my details on the windscreen.

Prone to road rage?
Because I’m someone who’s suffered with anxiety, I prefer to stay as chilled as possible in the car. Well, I prefer to stay as chilled as possible in life, full stop!  

What’s your ultimate driving album?
My children have no memories of me being on Radio 1 and truly have no idea how cool my music tastes were. These days, though, music is very much dictated by Rex, our 11-year-old. And it’s usually some awful, insanely fast rubbish that he’s found on the internet. Oh God, I’ve turned into a grumpy grown-up!

Most dramatic road-trip story?
On my 26th birthday, seven of us went to Spain and booked a lovely house in the mountains. We’d hired a minibus but no one else wanted to drive. Give me the keys! We started going up these ridiculously narrow roads, twisting and turning with about an inch between me and nothing. I was gripping the wheel, drenched in sweat. The first thing I said when we arrived was, “Someone get me a vodka and orange!”


Fearne’s dream car: the MGB-GT (Alamy)

What cars do you own now?
We don’t own any cars; we just lease them. We’ve got a couple of Volvo XC40s... one’s fully electric, one’s a hybrid. Having said that, I can’t remember the last time we put petrol in it. We only use it for the school run. 

What’s your dream car?
When I was growing up, my mum had a black MGB GT. It hardly ever started and even when it did, it broke down, but Mum looked such a badass when she was behind the wheel. I’d love to get her one that works.

Describe your relationship to driving in five words or less.
Panic attacks won’t stop me!

Fearne Cotton's Happy Place festival takes place on 13-14 July at Chiswick House and Gardens, and at Tatton Park, Cheshire, between 31 August and 1 September. Tickets available here 

This article has been tagged Adventure, Driving