South West England is bursting with enchanting countryside, sparkling coasts, picturesque villages and some of the country’s most important heritage sites. While there are trains that run to the major towns and cities from London (southwesttrains.co.uk), the best way to travel is by car so you can see as much as possible.
Somerset levels to Bude
We’re starting amid the Somerset Levels, heading south through Devon to Bude in Cornwall. The route is about two hours by car and heading west on the A39 is easy to follow – just stick to the road. You’ll witness some of Britain’s best coastline, the charming little-known villages of Brendon Hills and Selworthy, Lynmouth’s water-powered cliff funicular railway (cliffrailwaylynton.co.uk), and you can take in Ilfracombe and Combe Martin’s rocky seashores. End in Bude, Victoriana: dunes and surfing mark the first seaside town in Cornwall. Surf Haven in Flexbury (surfhaven.co.uk) is just £25 per night. For some grub with an amazing view, visit Life’s A Beach (lifesabeach.info), but if it’s a pasty you want (we are in Cornwall after all), there are plenty of pasty shops around practically every corner in Bude. We recommend Tasty Pasties (tastypasties.co.uk), which serves up delicious traditional pastry parcels.
From Bude, stay on the A39 and head down to foodie Padstow, which boasts some of the UK’s best seafood in an idyllic harbourside location (rickstein.com and number6inpadstow.co.uk) or go down to Newquay, the surfers’ party town. Tolcarne and neighbouring Fistral are where the best waves are and you can get lessons from Blue Wings Surf School (bluewingssurfschool.co.uk) from as little as £20. Tolcarne has six surf shacks you can stay in from £60-120 per night (tolcarnebeach.com) but for something a bit more comfortable, nestle into Tolcarne Apartments where a two bedroom apartment costs from £100-200 per night (sleeps four). When you’re not surfing you can kayak with dolphins with Coastal Rush (coastalrush.co.uk) and you can do pretty much every extreme sport going with ElementalUK (elementaluk.com). Between August 6-10 head to Boardmasters Festival (boardmasters.co.uk) and see Snoop Dogg (or is it Snoop Lion?), Bastille and many more in action.
Newquay to St Ives
Take a short trip along the A3075 and A30 in St Ives and you can visit the Tate Gallery (tate.org.uk/St-Ives) and take a boat to Seal Island (stivesboats.co.uk) to see the local seal colony. You will be spoilt for choice for tea rooms as the village’s cobbled streets are lined with cafes (teashop-stives.co.uk). You could also visit Trevaunance Cove, where there are a number of caves to explore at low tide. There’s also a pretty but less-crowded beach at the neighbouring Trevellas Porth (st-agnes.com).
St Ives to the Jurassic coast
Here ends our journey. Head east on the A30 to Exmouth – or rather Orcombe Point – where you’ll encounter the Jurassic Coast (jurassiccoast.org), a 95-mile stretch all the way to Old Harry’s Rocks, just outside Swanage in East Dorset. Stops along the way include Durlston Country Park (where there is a Jurassic Coast visitor centre), Tilly Whim Caves and the Anvil Point Lighthouse, Purbeck, the village of Corfe Castle – dominated by the ruins that give its name – the famous Lulworth Crumple rock formation in Stair Hole and the magnificent rock arch of Durdle Door. Along the route you’ll need food. La Trattoria (latrattoria.co.uk) is a very friendly, cosy Italian restaurant close to Swanage’s seafront, while The Fish Plaice (fishplaice.co.uk) is one of the busiest of Swanage’s many fish and chip shops. If you want to stay, Buddies B&B (buddies-b-and-b.co.uk) has rooms from £50 per night and Tom’s Field (tomsfieldcamping.co.uk) is a popular local campsite with pitches from £6 per person per night.
Why not explore this amazing region yourself? Book here through TNT Tour Search.
Image credit: Getty