Great West Way Travel Magazine


Salisbury Plain, the Mendips and the Ridgeway, take in the views and pretty villages, and soak up the laid-back lifestyle

- Words: Gareth Henrincx

Salisbury Plain, the Mendips and the Ridgeway, take in the views, and soak up the laid-back lifestyle and pretty villages


THE GREAT WEST WAY meanders from London to Bristol via historic towns and villages, country estates, canals, castles and vibrant cities.

As highlighte­d within our magazine articles so far, travelling the 125-mile journey can be enjoyed in a number of ways, on the water, railway lines, countrysid­e footpaths, and by road. Taking to explore the route by car is a great way in finding the undiscover­ed, and exploring the Great West Way in your own time, and under your own steam.

To help inspire your journey, and set you on your way, we’ve chosen three routes with a mix of entertaini­ng roads snaking through the countrysid­e either side of the Great West Way, all boasting history, culture and amazing sightseein­g. It is easy by road to stray off the Great West Way too, taking a detour north for example towards the Cotswolds, where there are yet more picture postcard villages and wonders of the world to discover.


►A blend of tight, twisty roads and open countrysid­e with a stop-off at Britain’s highest, inland limestone cliffs created during the Ice Age... Our first route is recommende­d as a day out, starting from your Great West Way accommodat­ion, ideally based west of the route, and beginning your journey from Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, one of Brunel’s most spectacula­r legacies – then heading south, and taking you a short detour off the route, to the medieval splendour of Wells Cathedral in Somerset. Opened to the public on →

December 8th, 1864, the bridge spans the spectacula­r Avon Gorge linking Clifton in Bristol to Leigh Woods in the North of Somerset.

Built to a design by William Henry Barlow and John Hawkshaw, (based on an earlier design by Isambard Kingdom Brunel) it’s a Grade I listed building and forms part of the B3129 road (just make sure you have a £1 coin ready for the toll).

Enjoy the spectacula­r views as you cross, then carry on along the B3129 and B3128 towards Clevedon where you might want to enjoy the delights of the only Grade I listed pier in the country. Described as “the most beautiful pier in England” by poet Sir John Betjeman, it’s celebratin­g its 150th anniversar­y in 2019.

Next, stop off at the National Trust’s Tyntesfiel­d - a gothic Victorian time capsule. From Clevedon take the B3133 towards Yatton, Congresbur­y and Cheddar Gorge.

From its stunning cliffs to its remarkable subterrane­an stalactite show caves, the gorge was forged some 1.2 million years ago and ‘Cheddar Man’ - Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton - was found in the caves in

1903. If you park up, take the 274-step walk to the Lookout Tower or enjoy the three-mile Clifftop Gorge Walk for awe-inspiring views. The first section of road as you leave Cheddar is the most dramatic, offering incredible views of England’s deepest gorge.

The B3135 snakes through rocky outcrops as it climbs away into the Mendips. After a series of tight bends, the road opens so that you can savour the countrysid­e. You’re now in the heart of the Mendips, but don’t miss the Wells Road turning, followed by the Old Bristol Road which will take you into Wells - arguably England’s smallest city.

Built between 1175 and 1490, Wells Cathedral has been described as “the most poetic of the English Cathedrals” and it’s the earliest English cathedral to be built in the Gothic style.

Head to Wells on a Wednesday and Saturday if you want to catch a traditiona­l market. The town is also popular with TV and movie makers - think Wolf Hall and Hot Fuzz.



►A gallop past two chalk White Horses and on to a couple of automotive treats…

We begin our second route in the Berkshire town of Newbury (turn off Junction 13 of the M4 and head south on the A34, then A329). It’s the perfect base for exploring numerous walking and cycling trails, visiting Highclere Castle, home of TV’s Downton Abbey, or simply spending a day at the races.

Head north-west from Newbury, picking up the Lambourn Road at Speen. It slices through the countrysid­e, much of it alongside the River Lambourn, before dipping under the M4 just past Easton.

Keep going until you get to Great Shefford, making sure you head east to Lambourn – the heart of the area known as the Valley of the Racehorse, so called because it’s one of the UK’s major racehorse training centres.

Watch out for racehorse crossings as you motor towards Ashbury on the B4057, followed by Uffington where you’ll see a 110-metre prehistori­c chalk white horse carved into the hillside.

Now go north through Hinton Parva, over the M4 and onto the A346 which sweeps towards the village of Wroughton, west of Swindon. From here, go south and onto the A4 westwards, looking out for a sign to our second white horse of the day, at Cherhill - 3.5 miles east of the town of Calne in Wiltshire.

Calne is also the home of the small, friendly Atwell-Wilson Motor Museum, exhibiting cars and interestin­g motoring memorabili­a from the 1920’s onwards.

The final section of our journey takes us to the historic Castle Combe circuit. Just follow the A4 west. You can also stop off at the picture postcard village of Castle Combe, a favourite TV and film location for production­s such as Stardust, War Horse and the original Doctor Dolittle with Rex Harrison in 1966.

Castle Combe Circuit was opened just 18 months after Silverston­e in the summer of 1950, making it one of the longest establishe­d (and fastest) tracks in the UK. Still an active circuit, it’s even possible to test your own car to the limit during special ‘track days’ staged several times a year.



►A loop up to the Cotswolds, a visit to

Westonbirt, The National Arboretum and drive on the ancient Fosse Way…

Route three starts in the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath. Historic and beautiful with its honey-coloured stone, it’s located within a valley of seven hills.

Our journey takes us north out of Bath on the A46. Before you know it, you’ve crossed the border from Somerset and into South Gloucester­shire. Stay on the A46 and before crossing over the M4 look out for the village of Pennsylvan­ia, which is said to have been named after the American state by Quakers.

There are more intriguing­ly named villages as we head further up the A46, with its fast stretches of open road. There’s Petty France and the slightly smaller hamlet of Dunkirk - both are believed to have been Huguenot (Protestant) settlement­s after thousands fled (Catholic) France during the 17th century.

Just past Dunkirk we take a right fork onto the A433 for the short drive to Westonbirt, The National Arboretum in South Gloucester­shire. With 15,000 specimens and 2,500 species of tree from all over the world it’s the perfect place to escape, relax or have an adventure.

Soon you’ll be back on the A433 where you need to cross over onto the Tetbury Road towards Sherston.

Carry on south, turning off onto a section of the Fosse Way just after Ladyswood. Stretching from Exeter (Isca Dumnorioru­m) north-east to Lincoln (Lindum), today’s Fosse Way follows the course of a major Roman Road.

Now continue over the M4 through the pretty villages of Yatton Keynell and Biddestone before crossing over the A4 Bath Road and into Corsham.

The historic market town is an ideal base for exploring the surroundin­g area, including the picture postcard villages of Lacock and Castle Combe.

Corsham, where some of the hit TV period drama Poldark was filmed, is also home to a number of historic buildings including Corsham Court.

The art collection at Corsham Court contains important paintings by such masters as Fra Filippo Lippi, Van Dyck, Carlo Dolci and Joshua Reynolds. The mirrors and tables in the Picture Gallery were specially designed by Robert Adam, while ‘Capability’ Brown was responsibl­e for the layout of the park and gardens.

The 20-minute final leg of the drive takes us on the A4 west, forking off down the B3109 to Bradford on Avon. Occupying a unique position on the edge of the Cotswolds facing the River Avon, Bradford on Avon’s ancient bridge in the centre remains the town’s natural focus and still retains two of its original 13th century arches.

Stroll southwards and you can walk along the Kennet & Avon Canal or visit the spectacula­r Tithe Barn for free. It’s been described by English Heritage as “one of the largest medieval barns in England, and architectu­rally one of the finest”. Did you know? You can fly to Bristol from over 60 destinatio­ns. Find out all you need to know, including the £7 Airport Flyer Express Link, from GreatWestW­

 ??  ?? Pictured: Vintage Classics car drives through pretty Wiltshire Cotswolds village
Pictured: Vintage Classics car drives through pretty Wiltshire Cotswolds village
 ??  ?? Pictured left-right: The beautiful Wells Cathedral; Uffington White Horse; Bath’s Kennet & Avon Canal; Bradford on Avon’s ancient bridge still with two of its original 13th century arches
Pictured left-right: The beautiful Wells Cathedral; Uffington White Horse; Bath’s Kennet & Avon Canal; Bradford on Avon’s ancient bridge still with two of its original 13th century arches
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