RE: Exmoor: Dream Drive

Friday 29th May 2015

Exmoor: My Dream Drive

PH heads out west for a Dream Drive across the wilds of Exmoor



Name: Mike Duff
Where: Exmoor, Somerset
Car used: Range Rover Sport SVR


The route:
"A veteran road rally organiser once told me his almost infallible method for finding good venues for events - 'head to where the people aren't.' And while most of Somerset's minor roads feel tight and congested, aiming for the unpopulated wilds of Exmoor gets you onto some brilliant tarmac. Time your trip well and you can pretty much have the place to yourself.

"From Taunton I take the A358 towards Minehead and then, after a couple of slow miles, turn left onto the B3224 just after Bishop's Lydeard. This starts out tight and hilly but opens up as it crosses into the Exmoor National Park. The only real navigational challenge is remembering the take the right fork a mile or so after the Raleigh's Cross pub. For the next stretch the hedges start to get closer again - this is one of those roads where you can feel like you're going properly fast without ever breaking the NSL. After Wheddon Cross - the most sizeable village hereabouts - I keep on the B3224 to Exford and then Simonsbath. Then I turn right and head north towards the coast on the B3223, a fast, flowing road across open moors that has served as the backdrop for numerous car magazine photo shoots. As you get close to the coast there are spectacular views across the Bristol Channel, all the way to South Wales on a clear day.

"After reaching the sea at Lynmouth there's a choice - either take the A39 along the coast towards Minehead or retrace your steps. The A39 is a lovely road, and has a spectacular clifftop climb as you leave the town, but it tends to get busy with holidaymakers and caravans. A good alternative is to head back across the moors to Wheddon Cross and then to turn south onto the A396, which will eventually take you to Tiverton where you can rejoin the M5."

Why it's a dream drive:


"For sheer variety you'd be hard pressed to cram more into the distance - tight, hedge-lined lanes, fast flowing roads and then a chance for a blast across empty moors. And it feels like a proper journey, from the rolling valleys of agricultural Zummerzet to desolate heathland and then the sea. It's definitely best to try and hit it in the early morning, and on a quiet day you can go for miles without seeing another car. Most of the tourists tend to stick to the coast, so even in peak season Exmoor itself is rarely busy. It's a great place to extend a powerful car, but also a stern test of steering accuracy and body control (two areas where the SVR in the photos acquitted itself particularly well, despite its size). Picking something taller also lets you see over the lower hedges in tighter sections, helping you to spot approaching traffic on corners."

Highlights and lowlights?


"The B3223 north from Simonsbath is practically good enough to justify the trip by itself - open, well-sighted and with some lovely sequences. It's always hard to resist the temptation to turn around and drive it again. On the narrower and twistier bits of the route you definitely need to pace yourself, it's fair to say that life moves a bit more slowly out here and it's not unusual to come around a corner and find livestock or horses on the road, or even a couple of Land Rovers stopped door to door while their drivers have a natter. There are wild ponies and sheep to look out for on the open moorland too. Always consider the weather - few places feel colder, wetter and more desolate than Exmoor in the rain, and any low cloud will deny you the views that make the drive feel epic as it should.

"Also be aware of diverting off the 'main' route - most of the local lanes are almost comically narrow, with a road-laying diversion sending the SVR down what appeared to be a gravel driveway."

Sights, stop-offs and diversions:


"Exmoor itself offers some great hiking, and the chance - as I once did - of finding mega-explorer Ranulph Fiennes honing his sled-hauling skills by pulling an old tractor tyre across the moorland. If you're in the mood for a walk then Dunkery Beacon, just after Wheddon Cross, is an easy climb and offers a spectacular vista from the top. There are some nice pubs along the way if you're looking for unpretentious grub, with more eating options in Lynmouth, although most of these seem aimed at catering for coach parties. Lynton, next to Lynmouth, has the Valley of the Rocks, which sounds a bit Father Ted but actually looks like a mini Lord of the Rings set. Just watch out for the feral goats.

"And Minehead is worth a stop if you want to know what British seaside resorts looked like in the 1970s - it's got everything from Kiss Me Kwik hats to a Butlins Holiday Resort."

Follw the route here.
 





Author
Discussion

Hoopsuk

Original Poster:

123 posts

134 months

Friday 29th May 2015
quotequote all
The road over the side of dunkery is the highest in somerset, almost 500m above sea level and if you can be borthered with the short walk to the beacon itself then you're 520m up above the sea looking out and the highest yokle in Somerset.

Great write up, lots of other fun roads in exmoor but gives the jist well.

Ooooh arrrrrggghh

Allyc85

6,672 posts

117 months

Friday 29th May 2015
quotequote all
They are great roads, and driven at the right time can be extremely quiet!

Conscript

1,247 posts

52 months

Friday 29th May 2015
quotequote all
This article is spot on, I went for a drive around Exmoor just over a year ago stopping to take photos every so often.
Enjoyed it so much I did a little mini review myself: http://www.pistonheads.com/gassing/topic.asp?h=0&a...

330p4

668 posts

161 months

Friday 29th May 2015
quotequote all
One of the most memorable drives ever the children were old enough to leave at home did this in a 5.0 TVR Griffith absolutely superb with little traffic in the way
Ian

DonkeyApple

30,182 posts

100 months

Friday 29th May 2015
quotequote all
How convenient. I am presently in Woolacombe for the weekend. Looks like the route back to the M5 is sorted. biggrin
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Mr2Mike

19,344 posts

186 months

Friday 29th May 2015
quotequote all
Lovely place, shame about the car.

LordGrover

29,408 posts

143 months

Friday 29th May 2015
quotequote all
One of my favourite areas. This and the Brecons.

Rincewind209

288 posts

48 months

Saturday 30th May 2015
quotequote all
Drove most of this on Monday, was glorious. The bit from Raleighs Cross to A few miles past Simonsbath was my commute for 6 months a few years ago. Parts of it are just amazing really early in the morning.

DonkeyApple

30,182 posts

100 months

Saturday 30th May 2015
quotequote all
Mr2Mike said:
Lovely place, shame about the car.
A brilliant car for those sorts of roads. Very well matched.

tog

3,383 posts

159 months

Saturday 30th May 2015
quotequote all
Lovely roads round there. I did most of that route in my Bitter once. Great fun, although not its natural environment and did suffer from brake fade a bit (long enough straights to get a good speed up, then a sharp bend, then repeat, then repeat…).

Mr2Mike

19,344 posts

186 months

Saturday 30th May 2015
quotequote all
DonkeyApple said:
A brilliant car for those sorts of roads. Very well matched.
It's not a brilliant car period, IMO. A triumph of style and marketing over function. The roads are still excellent though, whatever car you use.

DonkeyApple

30,182 posts

100 months

Saturday 30th May 2015
quotequote all
Mr2Mike said:
DonkeyApple said:
A brilliant car for those sorts of roads. Very well matched.
It's not a brilliant car period, IMO. A triumph of style and marketing over function. The roads are still excellent though, whatever car you use.
It's a very good car and one that excels at these types of roads where power out of corners is king and being able to see further is extremely beneficial. It'll be safer and therefor faster down this type of road than any other type of car.

Allyc85

6,672 posts

117 months

Saturday 30th May 2015
quotequote all
The B3223 is one of my favourite roads anywhere..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOGnjzUm-uw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcHDaKysPCc

While as said in the article, the A39 is good, but can be busy..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQ0t35qRaI8

Mk5 Vw Golf GTI on Exmoor by Alastair Cummins, on Flickr

firebird350

253 posts

111 months

Saturday 30th May 2015
quotequote all
Brilliant roads over and around Exmoor. I spent the summer of 1977 working as a bartender at the Anchor Hotel in Porlock Weir during my student vacation.

Drove a 1969 Riley Elf back then and used to race back from Lynmouth on Sunday evenings, up Countisbury Hill and across the top, finishing with the notorious 1-in-4 descent down Porlock Hill. I used to time it so that I was listening to the Radio 1 Top Twenty countdown and aim to hear the No.1 song finish just as I arrived to open the bar up at 7pm (old licensing hours in those days).

Donna Summer spent most of that summer at No.1 with "I Feel Love", Virginia Wade won the Ladies Singles Championship at Wimbledon, it was the Queen's Silver Jubilee year and I drove to Taunton FIVE times that summer to watch "The Spy Who Loved Me" - that's how much there was to do in that part of Somerset if you didn't own a Ferrari and were too young to enjoy walking and to be wowed by scenery (except to watch it flashing past your side windows).

A great summer though and I've used that Porlock/Lynmouth road as my 'test track' for every car I've ever owned since, judging them all by how well they handle THAT road!

RoverP6B

3,661 posts

59 months

Friday 5th June 2015
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Sounds like something to combine with visits to the West Somerset and Lynton & Barnstaple railways...

Mouser73

135 posts

93 months

Friday 5th June 2015
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Following the published map. Watersmeet house (a mile or so before you hit Lunmouth) is an amazing place for lunch. You can either walk down from the car park above. Or drive into Lynmouth and take the nature trail (just under 2 miles).
http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/watersmeet/
Cheers.

Baryonyx

16,163 posts

90 months

Friday 5th June 2015
quotequote all
Looks alright, I know great roads in The South are fairly sparse so you take what you can get. Interesting choice of cars to do the drive in. I wouldn't have thought a tall, bulky luxo-cruiser would have been the ticket.