West Country, Devon & Cornwall Self-Driving Itinerary
See another side of the United Kingdom on a scenic West Country 6 day road trip with DriveNow. From historic towns and villages to seaside retreats, prepare to fall in love with this special corner of England.
After you've picked up your hire car from Heathrow Airport, head away from the big smoke to discover the scenic area of the West Country. Get ready to discover the rolling hills and seaside towns of Devon and the sandy beaches of Cornwall at the most southwestern tip of Blighty.
From Torquay and Penzance to Bath and Bristol, there's a discovery to be made around every corner. Your final destination of Gloucester is the icing on the cake, positioning you perfectly to explore Wales and the Cotswolds.
- St Ives
Distance: 575 miles
Day One: Heathrow Airport - Salisbury - Bournemouth (2 hours, 15 minutes)
Once you emerge from the sprawling Heathrow Airport, start up your hire car and jump onto the M25, following London's outer ring road until you reach the turn off for the M3. This will take you all the way to your first stop of Salisbury, about 1 hour 30 minutes from Heathrow.
As you draw closer to Salisbury, you'll be able to catch a glimpse of the cathedral spire - it's the tallest in Britain! The Salisbury Cathedral also houses one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, dating back to 1215.
This gorgeous Wiltshire town is also the perfect base to visit some of the area's attractions such as Wilton House, just 10 minutes' drive on the A36. Home to the Earls of Pembroke, this historic English country home also houses an impressive art collection with works by Brueghel and van Dyck. From Wilton House, it's also a short drive to Stonehenge, one of Britain's mysterious, most well known landmarks.
On your way back to Salisbury, you can also stop by Old Sarum, the site of an ancient fort dating back to the Iron Age. Legend has it that an arrow was fired from this very site to determine the location of what would go on to be the present-day Salisbury Cathedral.
When you've finished exploring Salisbury, jump onto the A338, passing through the village of Downton en route to Bournemouth. Here, you can enjoy the beauty of your first seaside town. While you're here, don't miss Hengistbury Head, as well as the city's beautiful gardens. You can even try to catch a football game at Vitality Stadium, the smallest in the English Premier League.
Day Two: Bournemouth- Weymouth - Paignton (3 hours, 30 minutes)
From Bournemouth, continue west to the Dorset town of Weymouth with its pleasant beach. If you set off early enough you'll have time for breakfast or brunch at UNCLE Charlie's Restaurant, an American-style diner with mouth-watering pancakes. Fancy a good cuppa? You can pop in at Abbotsbury Tea Rooms Restaurant for a pot of tea with a lovely garden view.
You'll be taking the B3157 road to your next stop, passing Abbotsbury Castle on your right as you eventually join the A35. Take the turn off for the A358, keeping to it until you reach the turn off towards Colyford. Follow the road until it becomes the A3052 and look out for Dunscombe Lane on your left.
Here you'll find the Donkey Sanctuary, a place sure to bring a smile to everyone's faces. Once you've said hello to the donkeys, continue on the A3502 to the historic city of Exeter, dating back to Roman times.
Visit the magnificent Exeter Cathedral before swinging by the lively quay area for lunch, then head down to the English Riviera region in Devon via the A380. Enjoy the surrounds of Torquay, a quintessential English seaside town renowned for its beaches and Victorian aesthetic. Just south along the coastline is Paignton, where you'll be spending the night.
Day Three: Paignton - Plymouth - Penzance (3 hours, 15 minutes)
Spend a relaxed morning in Paignton at the Zoo or Goodrington Sands, a charming beach with its row of colourful beach huts. For a quieter spot, there's also Broadsands Beach nearby.
While you're in this Devonian port city, make sure you check out the historic Barbican district with its cobbled streets, as well as the aquarium by the harbour. If you're feeling peckish, take the opportunity to get some lunch at the Mission, a restaurant housed inside an old church. With high ceilings, wonderfully preserved architecture and delectable food, you can't go wrong with the Mission and its menu of modern British cuisine.
The last stop of the day brings you towards the most southwestern tip of the isle, to the historic city of Penzance. You'll be taking the A38, passing through Helston before you are reunited with the coast. If you have time, take a small detour to the Cornish town of Marazion, whose shoreline faces the picturesque St Michael's Mount.
Take the Longrock Bypass and follow the A30 into Penzance town centre, where you'll be stopping for the night.
Day Four: Penzance - St Ives - Newquay - Barnstaple (3 hours, 5 minutes)
Ahoy and welcome to Penzance! The unlikely setting for a pirate-themed comic opera, The Pirates of Penzance, this is a great place to start the fourth day of your West Country road trip. You'll want to set off relatively early to visit the beautiful St Ives on the opposite coast. Another wonderful Cornish coastal town, you'll find an almost Mediterranean shoreline at Porthminster Beach, as well as the postcard-perfect wharf with boats anchored just a stone's throw away from the cobbled street.
Take the Old Coach Road, staying with it until it turns into Mill Hill. When you reach the St Erth Roundabout, make sure that you take the second exit onto Hayle Bypass. Then it's smooth sailing to the seaside resort of Newquay, home to some of the biggest swells in the UK. Tuck into lunch with an ocean view at either The Fish House or Lusty Glaze Restaurant.
Jump back into the driver's seat and head along the A3059 to St Columb Major, home to the Screech Owl Sanctuary and Wildlife Park. Started in 1990, this conservation haven for owls allows visitors to get up close and personal with the birds, many of whom are rehabilitated and released back into the wild.
Back on the A39, you'll take the turn off for the historic port town of Bideford - keep an eye out for the charmingly named town of Westward Ho! on the way. Once you cross the River Torridge, stay on the A39 until you arrive in Barnstaple, the final stop of the day.
Day Five: Barnstaple - Bridgwater - Glastonbury - Bath (3 hours, 30 minutes)
Setting out from Barnstaple, hug the coast on the A39 through the scenic Exmoor National Park until you reach the old market town of Bridgwater. Grab a bite at one of the local pubs such as the Crown Inn, the Babbling Brook or Bower Inn. There's also the ancient ruins of Burrow Mump to visit nearby if you have time to spare.
Next up is the town of Glastonbury, famous for its popular annual music festival held in June. Here you can visit a number of historic sites such as the Glastonbury Tor and the Chalice Well as well as the ruins of the Glastonbury Abbey. If you have time on the way up to Bath, stop in at Wells to see the stunning cathedral with its impressive stained glass windows.
Your final stop for the day is Bath, an ancient city in Somerset that dates back to Roman times. If you fancy staying the night in Georgian-style accommodation, drop your bags at the luxurious Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa, or The Gainsborough Bath Spa.
Day Six: Bath - Bristol – Gloucester
Take your time to explore the wonderful Bath, from the Royal Crescent to Bath Abbey and the actual Roman baths themselves, dating back to the 2nd century. There's also the well-presented Fashion Museum, adjoining the magnificent Assembly Rooms where lavish dances used to take place in the 18th century.
When you're ready to bid Bath adieu, you can find the A36/Bath Road to head northwest towards Bristol, a city with a long maritime and industrial history. Make sure you visit the Cathedral and the Grand Pier while you're here, both icons of the city. There are plenty of great places to stop for lunch, including Souk Kitchen, The Wild Beer Co and Birch.
On your way out, jump back into the car for the last time and drive over the spectacular Clifton Suspension Bridge. You'll be following the M5, which will bring you to your final stop of the road trip, Gloucester. As you approach the 'Cathedral City', you'll be treated to a glimpse of the renowned Cotswolds beauty as you near the a wonderful way to end your tour of the West Country.
If you've been dreaming of your perfect British road trip, DriveNow is here to make it happen. Skip the scouting around a bunch of different hire car websites and go straight to DriveNow to see the best deals for hiring a car from London Heathrow airport, or any UK destination.
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