Heading out of the historic city of Bristol in your hire car is a great idea: this part of England is chock full of astonishing sites. Start with Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s jaw-dropping suspension bridge (close your eyes if you’re scared of heights, although not if you’re the one driving), explore the untouched countryside, stop off in the pretty city of Bath, and then head west towards Cornwall for a driving holiday that you’ll never forget.
Here are the very best spots to seek out in your rent-a-car if you’re planning a driving holiday in South West England.
Two miles west of Bristol, on the way out of the city, is the eye-popping site of Clifton Suspension Bridge. An engineering marvel found near the pretty enclave of Clifton, the bridge cuts over the top of the Avon Gorge towards the Leigh Hills and the various golf courses that spill out from this side of the city. Take a deep breath before driving your hire car across the bridge, and be warned: this is not a moment for those with vertigo. Afterwards, head south-east past the elegant Georgian city of Bath and through Combe Down towards the mythic, world-famous Stonehenge.
Driving distance: approx. 1 hour 30 mins / 48 miles
After visiting Stonehenge, make sure you make a quick stop at the imposing Salisbury Cathedral. Then it’s time to sit back and enjoy your countryside drive through Cranborne Chase and the Dorset AONB as you head roughly an hour and a half towards the coast. Make this drive a leisurely one: remember, this is a road trip and it’s about the journey as much as (if not more than) the destination. Find a country pub to stop in for lunch, breathe in the countryside, and arrive in the seaside town of Weymouth in the early evening in time to enjoy the laid-back ambience.
Driving distance: approx. 1 hour 25 mins / 56 miles
It’s time for an invigorating hour drive along the coast, taking in part of the West Dorset Heritage Coast on the road to the town of Lyme Regis. Stop off at Chesil Beach, made famous by the Ian McEwan novel, which you’ll find just six miles from Weymouth, and then enjoy the stunning Jurassic Coast views along this hugely popular walking route. Take in the town and breathe in the pure coastal air. Don’t forget to park the car and go for a reviving walk whenever you feel like it!
Driving distance: approx. 55 mins / 28 miles
Spend some time in Lyme Regis, the “Pearl of Dorset” that was once a popular retreat for 18th Century society ladies who needed to “take the water” on the south coast. After a leisurely few hours head the few miles north into the East Devon AONB, where you’ll find hills, river valleys, imposing cliffs and numerous hidden corners that just call out to be explored. Cruise around in your rent-a-car, stopping whenever you see a spot that looks like it needs to be climbed or explored.
Driving distance: approx. 25 mins / 10 miles
Your route to Dartmoor will vary depending on whether you want to explore its eastern or western side, but whether you skirt its eastern bounds or skim north and then drop down towards its west, there won’t be a huge difference in the time it takes to get there. Some of the very best look-out spots on Dartmoor can be found here. As you’ve got another 40-mile drive coming up, we might recommend that you explore the western edge so that you’re on the right side for your next stop.
Driving distance: approx. 1 hour / 46-60 miles
For your final drive of the day, jump back in the hire car and head west towards the Roseland and Polperro Heritage Coasts. You’re heading for Fowey, a pretty estuary town that’s hugely popular with visitors from elsewhere in the UK and further afield. Bed down in a pretty waterside B&B and get some well-deserved rest.
Driving distance: approx. 1 hour / 46 miles
Your final drive will take your rent-a-car down through central Cornwall towards the village of Marazion, the embarkation point for the picturesque island known as St. Michael’s Mount. If you’ve got time during this hour and a half drive, we recommend going off the main road and venturing into the Roseland and Polperro Heritage Coasts. Put a couple of hours aside to explore the area, if you have time. Further down the coast, at Marazion, leave the hire car behind and venture out to the hilltop medieval castle. The most beautiful way to end your trip, in our opinion.
Driving distance: approx. 1 hour 30 mins / 50 miles