Scenic Driving Routes Around the South West

“terrain covered by mist photo” by Colin Watts on Unsplash

The South West is home to many of the UK’s best beauty spots.

In this area, you will find stunning coastlines, quaint villages and windswept moors. Winding roads will lead you past ancient monuments and through historic cities, brimming with art, culture and great food. If you don’t fancy stopping at a city or town for refreshments, you will still be spoilt for choice with a selection of country pubs along your route, many serving high quality, locally sourced food and drink.

A road trip can be a fantastic way of exploring the UK, and this part of the country is perfectly suited to sightseeing by car whether you are on a day trip, weekend break or a longer holiday. Join us as we take a look at some of the very best scenic car drives on offer in the South West.

The Cotswolds

Famous for its distinctive honey-coloured stone architecture, thatched roofs and beautiful countryside, the Cotswolds cover an area of almost 800 miles through five counties (Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Oxfordshire). Popular with tourists from all over the world, the area offers visitors lots to see and do and is home to lively market towns, rolling hills, palaces, castles and country houses.

This scenic 80-mile route will take you through some of the best views that the Cotswolds has to offer while giving you an opportunity to really appreciate the smooth handling and agility of your Mercedes-Benz SLK, as the road twists and turns through the pretty villages and rolling countryside.

The drive begins in Chipping Camden. Before heading off you may want to take some time to stroll down the high street, described as the “most perfect high street in England”. Once you are ready to depart, head out of the high street to the rollercoaster ride that is also known as the A44. This very steep stretch of road is notorious for making your ears pop with its steep gradient changes! It also has some exciting twists and turns which seem to materialise before you out of nowhere and can be tighter than they first appear.

On this route, you will pass (or may want to stop at) Broadway Tower. For a small admission fee, you can climb to the top of and enjoy the view all the way to Birmingham in the Midlands and the Black mountains in Wales on a clear day.

As you continue to follow the A44, you will pass the small Wellington Aviation Museum, an independent museum dedicated to the memory of all those who served or passed through RAF Moreton-in-Marsh, before joining the A429 towards Stow-on-the-Wold.

Ivy Barn

The A429 will take you past Lower Slaughter with its picturesque stream making it a perfect site to take a break on a sunny day, and Upper Slaughter, home to the Lords of the Manor Hotel with its superb Michelin starred restaurant. Finally, the road will take you to Bourton-on-the-Water, a pretty village on the river Windrush which is known for its traditional Cotswold stone cottages. The village boasts a wealth of boutique and antique shops and is also home to the Cotswold Motoring Museum, a model village and the Birdland wildlife park.

After Bourton-on-the-Water take the A229 through the villages of Northleach, Abington and Bibury, taking time to admire the Cotswold stone cottages and flower-filled gardens before you continue along the B4425 to Cirencester. Then hit the A419 to enjoy a change of pace on this straight, fast road.

As you pass the ancient market town of Minchinhampton, you may choose to take a detour to enjoy the medieval architecture of the towns market square and the views over Minchinhampton common. Then follow Rodborough Hill to Stroud and take the A46 and B4070 to your final destination, the village of Slad. Here, you will find The Woolpack, favourite pub of famous Cotswolds author Laurie Lee (Cider with Rosie) and the ideal place to relax after your exploration of the area.

Cheddar Gorge

One of Britain’s most awe-inspiring natural landmarks, Cheddar Gorge is a limestone gorge that can be found dramatically slicing through the Mendip Hills near the town of Cheddar, Somerset. The gorge boasts the largest inland limestone cliffs in Britain, and the area is also the location of the Cheddar Show caves, naturally formed cathedral-like caverns of limestone rock that are also open to the public. The Mendip Hills are designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the Gorge and caves are recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Located just 10 miles southwest of Bristol the area is a popular tourist destination with many visitors flocking to see the sites, walk along the top of the gorge and drive along the serpentine B3135, also known as Cliff Road, which runs through the gorge itself.

On this 14 mile drive, you will enjoy the twists and turns of the B3135 and see some spectacular views demonstrating the power of nature from the elevated comfort of your Mercedes-Benz ML.

Thomas Tucker

After joining the B3135 by Cheddar (where you can also shop for a souvenir of the cheese that bears the towns name) as soon as you leave the town, you will begin to see the huge cliff faces of the gorge as they rise up around you on either side of the road. As you drive along the B3135 through the gorge you will find lots of interesting twists and turns to test your concentration and driving skills as the geography of the area dictates the route that the narrow road takes through the rock.

On your drive you may have the chance to spot some of the flora and fauna that calls Cheddar Gorge home, this includes the Cheddar Pink flower, peregrine falcons and Soay sheep who roam the top of the cliffs.

After four miles, you will begin to exit the gorge and will find that the tight turns in the road are slowly replaced by gentle, sweeping bends and the rocky scenery gradually gives way to trees and hedges. Take some time to relax on the final leg of your drive as it takes you through peaceful countryside, passing the popular Hartleys Kitchen, famous for its great breakfasts and lunches. You may decide to stop for refreshments here before heading onwards to your final destination in Ashwick, a small village with a Grade 1 listed Victorian Gothic Church.

The Black Mountain Pass, Brecon Beacons, Wales

The M4 gives quick and easy access from Bristol into Wales making exploration of this beautiful country’s mountains, coastline, countryside and cities easy.

The site of our next great drive, the Brecon Beacons National Park, covers an area of 520 square miles and is located in South Wales, to the south of the market town of Brecon. The area includes four distinct mountain ranges; Black Mountain, Fforest Fawr (Great Forest) the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains. Although popular with tourists the area retains a real feeling of remoteness and is also used for military training.

The twenty-mile drive along the Black Mountain Pass (A4069) gives you the opportunity to drive what has, in recent years, found fame as one of the best roads in the UK. Now known by the locals as ‘Top Gear Road’ The Black Mountain Pass was brought to the attention of the world after Jeremy Clarkson made it a must-drive location for motoring fans everywhere when he famously tore along it in his Mercedes AMG SLK for the BBC television show Top Gear.

The Black Mountain Pass runs across the west corner of the Brecon Beacons and through the villages of Lower and Upper Brynamman, reaching a peak height of 1600 feet before dropping down into the market town of Llandovery. The road is famous for its sharp hairpin turns, and sweeping corners as it ascends and descends through the mountains. Despite its fame the road does not usually suffer from traffic congestion — in fact, out of season, it has been reported to be totally empty, which makes for an even better driving experience.

This unspoilt part of Wales was once mining country, but following the collapse of the industry, the mines are now deserted and so is the area with locals now having to commute to the larger towns for work. Sheep, however, are in abundance and wander freely here!This means that occasionally they can be found standing in the middle of the road, so take care not to allow the scenery to distract you so much that you take your eye off the road.

On this road trip, you will find out just why Clarkson chose a Mercedes for this epic drive as your Mercedes-Benz SL hugs the curves in the road through the tight hairpin turns, and then powers away easily as the road rises to run through pastures and moorland before falling once again towards the town of Llandovery.

The drive is truly an adrenalin pumping experience with the bonus of the beautiful backdrop of the majestic Black Mountains, scenery that would not look out of place in a Lord of The Rings film.

For those planning to make their stay in Wales longer than just a day trip, you will find a number of Bed and Breakfasts along the route. There is also a choice of accommodation along with further sightseeing opportunities such as a castle and the remains of a Roman fort when you reach your final destination in the market town Llandovery.

The B3224 Exmoor

Taking its name from the river Exe, Exmoor National park is located across the counties of Somerset, North Devon and Mid Devon. The park’s landscape is made up of a mixture of moorland, valleys, woodland and farmland bordering dramatic coastline. The area is popular as a tourist destination due to its rugged beauty and access to sandy beaches, quaint towns and villages. Several areas within the park have been declared Sites of Special Scientific Interest due to their flora and fauna.

Roads through Exmoor can be narrow with steep gradients, and hairpin turns. The payoff, however, is the opportunity to drive through some of the most beautiful scenery in the UK. On your journey you may also have the good fortune to spot some of Exmoor’s wildlife including wild Exmoor ponies, red deer and badgers.

The B3224 runs between East Combe and Exford, passing through the Brendon Hills and some of the best scenery that Exmoor has to offer. From its start at the A358, the road passes under the arches of a West Somerset Railway bridge and then begins to climb, offering wide views over the Quantock Hills.

Tom Keighley

As the road passes through Raleghs Cross, you may decide to take a break for refreshments at the old Raleghs Cross Inn before continuing on your journey. As you continue through Exmoor, the B3224 certainly keeps things interesting by combining long straight stretches of road with occasional unexpected sharp turns, steep climbs and equally steep descents all of which the Mercedes-Benz SLC is able to handle faultlessly.

Finally, the road passes through the village of Wheddon Cross, before climbing again and then dropping steeply down to the hamlet of Luckwell Bridge and finally arriving in the village of Exford with its charming village green surrounded by shops, restaurants and hotels.

If you are planning a scenic drive, you will find that these are just a few of the many available in the South West. Whether you are looking for a quiet relaxing drive in the countryside or something a little more challenging, with its varied scenery and roads, the South West really does have it all.

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Avantgarde Automotive is an independent Mercedes-Benz specialist located in Clevedon, North Somerset. With over twenty years experience in the prestige and specialist sector of the motor industry, Avantgarde Automotive is the only Independent specialist in the UK that is able to cater specifically for the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. Conveniently located just two minutes drive from M5, Junction 20 Avantgarde Automotive is perfectly located to serve customers from all over the South West.