Day 27 to 30 – Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset
I had no idea what to do in Somerset but I’d heard of the Cheddar Gorge so I set the sat nav with no idea what to expect. Leaving Gloucestershire after watching the Severn Bore for a second time in the morning, with much snapping of overhanging branches as the surge made it’s way along the far bank, I drove down past Gloucester, under the Clifton Bridge and on to Cheddar. I descended through wooded valleys into Cheddar, parked up, had a pub lunch with plenty of cheese and wondered what all the fuss was about.
I organised a camp site at a handy pub in the village of Rodney Stoke nearby (1988 total miles). (Rodney Stoke Arms I think it was but you’ll find it if you want to. Nice little camp site with a friendly pub and restaurant on your doorstep.) After setting up I headed back to Cheddar to find this gorge I’d heard of. I can honestly say I was gobsm… No sorry, I can’t use that word, I was stunned.
You can’t see it from the village but turn right at the roundabout outside the pub and go through the tourist traps and you find yourself in this gorge. There is no other word for it. What is amazing is the transformation from the village landscape to the gorge. You might think it would be further but it’s right there, yards from the pub.
I drove up through the gorge and back down again hopping from car park to car park to save me walking back up the steep hill (it is steep), around a series of tight switchbacks up increasingly steep inclines with cliffs towering apparently hundreds of feet above. This is a bucket list location, if you haven’t been and you like dramatic landscapes give it ago. I had a friend years ago who moved to the lake district to have access to climbing. I have no idea why he didn’t move to Somerset.
The next day I drove down to Devon, across Exmoor, which I was a bit surprised to discover is mostly in Somerset. It was mostly pissing with rain across Exmoor so I didn’t really stop other than to buy some great muffins at the general stores in Exford, the self styled heart of Exmoor. Exmoor is surprisingly unspoilt by the tourist industry with no apparent tourist influence at Exford despite it’s claims about being the heart of Exmoor. It took me most of the day to get across Exmoor, stopping to take pictures and the like, so I drove onto to Barnstaple, arriving late afternoon to find a camp site (actually at Croyde Bay 2090 miles) full of surfers and overpriced chips. I met a great bunch of guys with Khyam G4 tents in orange with the Land Rover logo, obviously serious surfers and outdoor types.
Cornwall was a more successful day. I was on the impressively named Atlantic Highway travelling down the north coast of Cornwall when I spotted the signs for Tintagel Castle. Tintagel Castle is astonishing. That is astonishibg if you didn’t have to build it or carry anything up there to live in it. Just delivering the drinking water must have been a pain in the arse and if they had a well then delivering the food would make the same point. I bet it was great if you were in charge, a pain if you worked there.
After Tintagel I checked out the Witchcraft museum at Boscastle and then motored on down to Land’s End where I just had time to take some pictures of the sun setting over the lighthouse (see the Instagram pictures) before finding the last camp site in England (2248 miles).
Dorset meant heading back. Just getting through Cornwall and Devon took all day. Eventually I ended up at a tiny little harbour just near Bridport called West Bay. I watched the tide come in for a couple of hours in the rain as I listened to the radio and I bought the biggest portion of cod and chips I’ve ever had Honestly the cod must have been a foot or more long. There were a number of fish and chip stalls along the harbour and I went to the second from the right as you face the amusement parlour. If you are in the area I recommend it (2441 miles).