Southern England contains some of the most scenic parts of the UK, from rolling green hills to breath-taking coasts, from sleepy rural villages to bustling seaside towns- the south really does have a variety of great driving roads. As part of our Top Driving Roads monthly feature, we will show you the best places to take your motors, whether you’re looking for a challenging piece of road to wrestle or a beautiful stretch to admire.
Image at the top shared through the Creative Commons License, via David Martyn Hunt
B3135 from Cheddar to Ashwick, Somerset
Think cider, bunting, winding roads, oh and cheese. The Somerset town of Cheddar has gained fame for being the home of the well-known type of cheese that is regularly eaten in Britain, but it’s also the starting point of this sumptuous route. The small but pleasant town located on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills is the perfect place to start and once you have departed along the B3135, you will be at the Cheddar Gorge before you know it.
The incredible Cheddar Gorge is situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and will give you a jaw-dropping experience, winding through the limestone cliffs that rise to 450ft at points. Britain’s biggest gorge is also littered with stunning stalactite caverns and if you stop off to take a look in the show caves you will get a chance to see Cheddar Man, Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton, estimated to be 9,000 years old.
Coming out of the gorge and you have a great stretch of B-road to get your teeth into with more familiar English countryside. Drivers will still need to concentrate, but maybe not at the same levels of intensity as in the gorge with its overhanging rocks and tight hairpins. Let loose on some fast stretches before Green Ore and Oakhill approach and the 14 mile road comes to an end.
Just picture it now, pressing softly down on the accelerator of your Porsche Carrera GT as you catch sight of overbearing boulders by the roadside, before a fast approaching blind corner means you’re almost immediately back on the brake pedal. With a car that grips to the road and gives you a confidence in its ability, this short route will be a dream.
Christchurch to Beaulieu Motor Museum via Lyndhurst
Christchurch is one of the largest towns in Dorset and sits at the confluence of the rivers Avon and Stour. The town was renamed Christchurch early in the 11th century after the construction of the priory and is now a popular spot for retirees and tourists looking to enjoy its harbour, beach and architecture.
The A35 road out of Christchurch may only be 10 miles in length, but the journey it will take you on is sure to bring a smile to your face. Church spires and beautiful gardens will roll on by, as well as heathland shrubbery and nonchalant wildlife. Stop off at The Cat and Fiddle pub along the route if you’re feeling thirsty or enjoy the open road until you hit the quintisentially English country town of Lyndhurst and it’s unfortunately complicated one way system.
Lyndhurst is known as the capital of the New Forest National Park in Hampshire and is full of twee gift shops, low-beamed pubs and dusty antiques. It has a lovely charm and serenity that proves popular with couples on romantic breaks and young families. There also happens to be a Ferrari/Maserati dealership at the bottom of the high street (Meridien Modena) that stands out like, well a Ferrari or Maserati roaring through the quiet, southern countryside.
Leaving Lyndhurst may be your biggest frustration on this route, but if you manage to exit the town roads without getting lost then the superb Beaulieu Road awaits. Long winding bends under forest canapé, give you a true woodland experience as shown in the picture above. It’s not long before you reach the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu that includes 250 vehicles documenting the history of motoring in Britain and provides the perfect finish to a route for the true motoring enthusiast!
B3306 from St Ives to St Just, Cornwall
The B3306 from St Ives to St Just is also sometimes referred to as the West Cornwall Coast Road and combines 13 miles of challenging driving with the reward of some truly stunning scenery. Along this route there are views across the Bristol Channel to the north, the Cornish Moorland to the south and plenty of stunning coastline in between. The sweeping bends, short straights and tight turns will have you on the edge of your seat, just as much as the views out the window.
St Ives is the epitome of a pretty English coastal town, lying on the north coast of Cornwall and shouldering arms with the Celtic Sea. The seaside town was once the most important fishing port in the region, but is now much more renowned for being a tourist resort with its beautiful beach and picturesque town centre. As you leave the town with the harbour in your rear mirror, you will realise it’s actually quite a steep ascent to begin with, but your journey has only just begun…
Travelling westerly along the B3306, there is a famous Y-junction that you come across in the first half mile and then the unpredictable and enjoyable road really gets going. Beware that this can be a very popular road with few overtaking opportunities, so if you get stuck behind a bus full of tourists, then pull over and make the most of the many beautiful vistas. If you are lucky enough to get a clear road ahead, then the S-bends, hairpins and climbs will keep you more than occupied.
Along the road, you will pass through many charming villages, but once through Zennor, you really are into rural territory and you will hit Porthmeor, Morvah and Bojewyan before arriving in St Just. St Just is the most westerly town in mainland England and Wales and one of only two towns within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Once there, you can park up and enjoy some lovely walks around the ancient settlement, or go explore the local Geevor mine and coastal footpaths.
Whether you are in a Jaguar F-Type Coupé or a Maserati Quattroporte, make sure you avoid the man with seven wives if you choose to do the route in the opposite direction- otherwise you could end up in a right muddle!
Godalming to Goodwood House
This route is more about how the surrounding countryside makes you feel, rather than doubling up as a World Rally Stage that you can rag it around. You cannot find a quainter way to drive through Surrey and West Sussex than the one we have set out and it all starts in the dreamy little market town of Godalming.
Godalming is incredibly aesthetically pleasing and features on many a postcard in the south, whilst also doubling up as an affluent London commuter town. Godalming has a claim to fame as it became the first town in the world to have a public electricity supply installed in 1881. So, as a tribute, jump into your McLaren P1, LaFerrari or Porsche 918, wind through the town and head down the road to the picturesque Milford.
From Milford you can open up the valves a bit along the A286 which goes all the way to Goodwood House on the edge of Chichester; the venue for the annual Festival of Speed as well as Goodwood Races and various other events. This rural route will take you through the delightful towns of Haslemere, Fernhurst and Midhurst, interspersed with typical green farmland and woodland. Each town is delightful in its own right and you certainly won’t be short of options if you’re looking to stop off for some tea and a slice of cake or a pint of I.P.A and a ploughman’s.
If you want to take a slightly different route from Milford via Dunsfold, where the now famous Top Gear studio and test track lives, then you need to take the smaller country roads to begin with. It’s not quite as pleasant, but you can get back onto the A286 at Haslemere to finish the route once taking the detour.
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