My Epic Scenic South West England Road Trip Itinerary
If like me you haven’t explored England enough, then you’re in luck! I’ve created the perfect itinerary for a road trip around the scenic South West of England!
I spent five days driving around the South East and taking in some breathtaking sights, scenery and ticking of a some epic bucket list worthy experiences along the way!
Picking up my rental car in London (thanks to Hertz for supplying!), I drove up the M4 to the historic town of Bath before heading onward to learn about the modern history of street art in Bristol. The trip took me deep into the Devonian countryside, down narrow lush green winding roads over hills with views of rolling patchwork fields and out to picture postcard coastal fishing towns and villages.
A Quick Note About This Itinerary
A quick note about how to use this page.
The map at the top of the page shows the places I checked into on our trip in order, starting with “25.” as the first check in. You can also click on place names on the itinerary below to view where they are on the map.
Please note, this is only a sample itinerary to give you an idea based on what I did on my road trip. I only really scratched the surface, but hopefully this gives you a taste of what is possible.
The trip was brought to you as part of the #lovegreatbritain campaign, created and managed by iambassador in partnership with Visit Britain and Visit England. As always, TravMonkey retains all editorial control of what is published.
For more adventures and inspiration take a look at Visit Britain’s Join The World website.
Starting in London I picked up my hire car at Marble Arch, courtesy of Hertz car rental and headed out of London to the west onto the M4. After roughly two and a half hours I arrived in Bath.
The very first thing you’ll notice driving into Bath is the beautiful honey-coloured buildings made from local stone which gives the city an elegance that you’ll find difficult to match anywhere else. The city has such historic and architectural significance that it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
There’s so much to see in Bath that spending a couple of days here would be advisable. I’m a big believer that the best way to get your bearings in a place is by walking around before hitting up any of the local attractions. Thankfully Bath have their own self guided walking tours, complete with maps and audio guide to get you on your way!
There’s far too many attractions in Bath to list or for me to discover on my brief stop but make sure you visit The Circus, The Royal Crescent and of course the ancient Roman Baths. You can read all about my experience visiting the Roman Baths by torchlight right here.
The Royal Crescent and The Circus are spectacular examples of Georgian architecture that you can visit on the walking tour, The Royal Crescent park is also a perfect spot to for a picnic if the weather is good.
Where I Ate
Bath’s most famous attraction, The Roman Baths are a must see and I was lucky enough to experience the evening torchlit tour as well as dinner at The Roman Baths Kitchen just opposite the Baths. They do a superb special torchlit menu to go with the whole experience, the service was excellent and the dishes had great complimenting flavours. I loved the Pan Fried Chicken Breast and the Guinness infused brownie rounded the meal off perfectly, even if it left me a little sluggish getting out of my seat and ready for the tour!
I won’t go into masses of detail about the Torchlit Roman Baths tour because I wrote a whole article about it if you want to get a better idea of what it’s all about. I can tell you that it’s one of the best roman sights in Britain and will take you at least good couple of hours to wander around. The torchlit tour gives the baths more atmosphere as the sun goes down and the torches flickering in the breeze, you can really imagine the Romans milling around the baths and socialising. The audio guides are also worth listening to as they lead you around the museum plus the hot and cold baths whilst giving you an insight into the way the Romans lived and the role the baths played.
Where I Stayed
I was hosted by Henrietta House, a beautiful Georgian townhouse. Just the kind of place you want to stay in when you’re surrounded by Georgian architecture and honey-coloured stone buildings. It well located pretty much in the centre of Bath, just a two minute walk from Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths themselves. They also do an excellent breakfast, I went for the eggs Benedict. The perfect way to set you up for a day walking the city’s cobbled streets.
From Bath, Bristol is just around a 40 minutes drive up the A4.
Being the largest city in the South West, there’s plenty to do in Bristol. Take a tour high up on the world famous Clifton Suspension Bridge or time your visit for the Bristol Balloon Fiesta in August, the largest annual meeting of hot air balloons in Europe (over 130 Hot Air Balloons from across the world). Another “must-visit” is SS Great Britain the award-winning visitor attraction and museum ship anchored in Bristol Harbour, back between 1845 to 1854 the ship was the longest passenger ship in the world.
On my fleeting visit I hit up the city’s most famous export, its street art scene! Starting at the M-Shed, I met up with Rob from Where The Wall who run the longest running street art tours around Bristol. What was different about this street art tour to any other I’ve been on before is that it really focused on how the history of street art is intertwined with the city itself. It actually gave you an insight into the city culture, how it’s grown and developed alongside the street art and ultimately how the city has come to embrace its street art culture.
The best thing about taking a street art tour with Where The Wall is that it’s clear they have a real passion for the history of street art, how it’s shaped the city and the part it plays in the future. What I found interesting was learning all about Banksy’s local influences and how he first got a major breakthrough with media coverage in Bristol.
After getting an awesome lesson in the street art history of Bristol and marveling over some of the best artwork in and around the centre, I headed down to the south end of Bristol’s inner city to Southville. It’s this area that’s home to UpFest, Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival that attracts over 300 artists and 35,000 visitors to the city each year. Upfest turns the area into a canvas for street artists to create on, you’ll find artwork peaking around the corners of houses, on shop fronts, above cafes, on the pavement, basically everywhere you can think of. Each year street artists come to Upfest from all over the world to create their works along with live music and art workshops all spread out around Southville.
One interesting aspect of Upfest that I really liked was the regenerating effect the street art was having to this once neglected part of town. It was interesting to see how they were finding new and creative places to push the street art to such as areas that otherwise visitors to the city wouldn’t visit. Its an interesting way of regenerating an area with the help of graffiti/street art tourism.
You can check out a map of the festival and street art on their website.
Where I Ate
If you’re looking for the new places in town, CARGO next to M Shed (a museum all about the City) at Wapping Wharf is made up of converted shipping containers and hosts independent restaurants, cafes and shops. It’s part of a regeneration project of this part of the city that’s aiming to create a vibrant new quarter to the city. It’s well worth a visit even just for a quick coffee and a stroll around the wharf.
Heading south towards the coast, Brixham is a 2 hour and 10 minutes drive down the M5 but do allow for traffic, especially around the bank holidays.
I arrived in the beautifully colourful and quaint fishing town, where charming little cottages are squeezed in next to one another on the hills overlooking the harbour. The town is one of the busiest fishing ports in the UK and the focus of life here is, and has always been the harbour. I slowly drove into Brixham along winding narrow roads and up the hill looking down upon the harbour with stunning views out to Torbay. I’d only just arrived but was already out taking snaps with my camera before I’d even had chance to check into my hotel.
Where I Stayed
I was so lucky to stay in the wonderful Quayside Hotel as it has rooms (it’s worth paying extra for one) with spectacular sea views. It’s one of those jaw dropping moments when you first walk into a hotel room and just stare and say “wow!”.
Where I Ate
After freshening up and a quick change of clothes at the hotel I headed out around the harbour and to The Rockfish Restaurant. If you’re looking for fresh fish, then this is the place to be. Situated above the bustling Brixham fish market and right on the harbour, the Rockfish has superb views. It overlooks the boats that bring in their daily catch before it heads to the market and then onto your plate in the restaurant.
The Rockfish has a menu packed with different fresh fish options and the day’s fish specials are described by the friendly waiting staff. The menu is actually on the paper tablecloth and there were so many options that like on most occasions on my travels, I thought the best idea would be to ask the staff for their recommendations. I opted for the plaice which was fresh, tasty and particularly juicy. If the weathers good it’s worth booking a table on the balcony overlooking the sea and do book ahead because it can get busy in the evening during summers months.
If you can’t resist the lure of a beautiful morning sunrise then you might want to set that early alarm clock for the early hours and head out with your camera at the ready. I crept out of the Quayside Hotel and wandered down to Breakwater Beach, without a single person around I setup my camera to capture a time lapse of the sunrise.
Just as the sun was seeping over the horizon with my camera rolling, suddenly out of nowhere appeared a woman walking down the beach. I was puzzled, who would up at 5am to see the sunrise in a tiny fishing town? She walked all the way along the beach put a bag down and calmly walked into the sea for a sunrise swim. I was slightly jealous that hadn’t brought my only swimming gear as the prospect of a calm morning swim didn’t actually seem like a bad idea. I later found out from my kayaking guide that she goes for a morning swim every day at Breakwater Beach.
If you’re not quite brave enough to get up at 4am to experience the sunrise you can still get up a little early for a fascinating 6am tour of Brixham Fish Market, the largest fish market in the UK outside of Scotland. A huge £28 million pounds of fish is landed at Brixham Fish Market, it’s catch is sold on to top restaurants, supermarkets, fishmongers as well as being sold worldwide and particular Europe.
I met my tour guide and the manager of the market, Barry. He’s a super friendly character, clearly extremely proud and passionate about educating visitors to the market about the industry and how things work at the market. It’s this positivity to show transparency of the fishing industry that makes a visit to Brixham Fish Market so interesting, insightful and particularly welcoming. I was kitted out in a long white protective jacket, Brixham Market branded hat and shoe protectors before heading into the market.
The tour puts you in the middle of the action with live auctions for the freshly caught fish going on right in front of you. It’s intriguing to watch the auctioneers at work, their hand signals and gestures whilst attempting to work out just what is actually going on! It’s quite refreshing that although you’re on a tour, this is a working fish market… there’s nothing staged or put on just for the tourists. At the same time the market is welcoming… after all, this a place of work for many people and I was tip toeing over crates pointing my camera around and didn’t get so much as a frown.
I wandered around the market, taking plenty of photos of the sole, turbot, monkfish, plaice as well as getting a peek into the chilly cuttlefish store where the crates of cuttlefish covered in black ink were stacked high. Apparently they’re quite a money maker and sold all over the world and in particular to Europe.
As I was on a private tour of the market I also had the chance to have a look around one of the fishing boat docked in the harbour. It was a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the fishermen and a working fishing boat. I was able to get a quick glance at the living quarters, engine room and up on the bridge with all the controls and the all important captains seat. What was surprising was just how well kept and clean the boat was, not at all what you expect from a working fishing boat.
With the tour of Brixham Fish Market over, I said my thanks to Barry for showing me round and walked back to check out of the Quayside Hotel. Next stop on my road trip was Dartmouth for a spot of epic kayaking!
Dartmouth is roughly a 40 minute drive from Brixham, including a quick trip on on the ferry. I took the Higher Ferry (there’s a Lower Ferry too) and drove into Dartmouth. Unfortunately for me the Dartmouth Regatta was on so I had to park further out of the town and catch the park and ride bus back into town.
After picking up a bit breakfast on the run, I wandered back towards the Higher Ferry to meet the owner of Sea Kayak Devon and my guide for the day, Elisabeth. After running through the kayaking basics we carried our kayaks out onto the water for a relaxed and calm paddle through Dartmouth harbour. We paddled past waterfront mansions and houses and out towards the sea. As well as being incredibly experienced at kayaking, Elisabeth had a real passion for the local area. As we paddled the harbour she told colourful stories of the history of the town and local landmarks, it was the perfect way to get a grasp on the history of the area whilst also viewing the town from the best possible angle.
Further out from the harbour towards the sea the kayaking got a little more adventurous, with narrow rocky channels to navigate as we passed beneath Dartmouth castle perched high up on the hill. We paddled out towards Deadmans Cove to check a lobster pot, to our surprise… or maybe just mine, it contained a couple of lively lobsters, Elisabeth set them free before we paddled against the tide back into town.
Elisabeth was a great guide, very patient, friendly and knowledgeable. The tour had just the right balance of exercise, fun and information, plus seabirds, caves and if you’re lucky, seals. I often forget how much fun kayaking is and how it gives you a different perspective on an area. I enjoyed getting to know Elisabeth and sharing a few stories… I also found out that she’s a sculptor and actually produced the bronze statue piece, “Man & Boy” in Brixham.
With my feet back on dry land and feeling just about returning back to my legs, it was time to get back in the car and drive to my accommodation for the evening. If you’re not used to driving in this part of the world (like me) then you’re in for quite an adventure. You’ll find yourself flanked by tall lush green hedges as you drive down the narrow winding country lanes in Devon. If you not aware of the driving etiquette on these country lanes you’ll soon learn! The narrow lanes have passing places every so often that you can pull into to allow other drivers to pass. After driving these lanes for a while you get used to pulling over and giving way, or having to reverse a little to let drivers pass.
I was relying totally on Google Maps and my cars built in Sat Nav to navigate to Upcott Roundhouse. Thankfully the instructions on how to get there were pretty detailed and the postcode seemed to bring me just to the right spot, just outside the gate.
Dartmoor – Upcott Roundhouse
I wasn’t staying at just any old accommodation, this was the ultimate “escape the city”, “get off the grid” getaway nestled in the middle of the Devonian countryside.
Upcott Roundhouse, is an iron aged inspired and traditionally built roundhouse with thatched roof and open fire. The perfect setting to get away from it all and an amazing spot for stargazing. Walking up the winding path approaching the roundhouse you get a glimpse of the beautiful thatched roof and doorway, it’s like stepping back in time into another world.
Opening the giant wooden doors, the roundhouse is lit with candles and the mesmerising centrepiece of the building, the roaring open fire (called a hearth). Forget the cold and damp you get with camping, you can still leave all the modern distractions at home and experience comfort in the great outdoors.
Where I Ate
As darkness fell, I jumped in the car and drove back down the country lanes to a lovely old country boozer, The Lamb Inn. The pub is a 16th century former coaching house with low ceilings, exposed beams and open fires. Just my kind of place, friendly staff, great service, plenty of character and a great range of local real ales. For dinner I had the rump steak and it was perfectly cooked and served with a lovely peppercorn sauce. There’s plenty of choice on the menu just make sure you book ahead as they get quite busy and have a limited number of tables available.
Back at the roundhouse I stoked up the open fire and picked up my notebook and pen. It was quite liberating to not have any gadgets and screens to fidget with and for some reason seemed like I had much more time on my hands. I filled the kettle, boiled it Iron Age style over the open fire and made a cup of tea before heading outside into the darkness to stargaze.
When traveling there’s always those special moments when you finally get out into the countryside, away from the city’s light pollution. where you can see the planets, moons and stars. Upcott Roundhouse is one of those places, in complete darkness with only the sounds of insects for company I gazed up to try to pick out the constellations in the sky. Unfortunately my astrology knowledge isn’t that great but it was an experience just to sit and wonder at the night’s sky without a single distraction, message, notification or phone call.
Inspired by my morning sunrise at Breakwater Beach, I set my alarm for an early start. I dragged myself out of bed, bleary eyed but just about awake and trekked up onto the hillside behind the roundhouse for a view over the valley. I’m glad I made the effort, the mist in the valleys and the sun over the hill was an epic sight and one I managed to capture a few video clips of.
I really loved my stay at the Upcott Roundhouse and could have spent at least two or three nights there, taking a digital detox, getting offline for a while. It’s the perfect spot that gives you more luxury than camping in a tent but really feels like it connects you back with nature and the environment around you. Sadly it was time for me to pack up and more on, having ticked off something of a bucket list item.
More Information: Upcott Roundhouse – Canopy and Stars
Where I Stayed
From Upcott Roundhouse near Cheriton, it was about a 2 hour drive down to Cornwall and my stop for the night at The Mount Haven Hotel. Checking into my room I knew this was my kind of hotel, newly renovated and modern, the decor reminded me of my own new flat. The room was spacious with a terrace area outside and a huge bathroom complete with excellent power shower. For me, two things really matter when it comes to a good hotel room, the first is having a comfortable and clean bed and also how good the shower is. The Mount Haven Hotel excelled at both and topped it with an excellent breakfast… when I eventually managed to get myself out of my slumber! The hotel also has a lovely view over the ocean and Mount’s Bay from it’s cafe/bar terrace.
Where I Ate
A short work from The Mount Haven Hotel with a stunning view of St Michael’s Mount is the Godolphin Arms. Well presented, spotlessly clean and also fairly recently refurbished, the Godolphin Arms really is a great place to stop off at.
The restaurant has tables right in the window, offering superb views out to sea and of St Michael’s Mount. The staff are professional, friendly and attentive. Everything you’d want from a restaurant. As I was by the sea I thought the best option would be to try the fish and chips. The batter was crisp, light and the fish as fresh as you’d expect from the area. Fish and chips is really a true British art form and The Godolphin didn’t disappoint! Unfortunately I didn’t get to try any of the local ales on tap because I had to drive later on, but there was a pretty good selection.
The Godolphin Arms also has a terrace along with it’s two dining floors with views of the mount. It’s well worth a visit for a spot of lunch or dinner but do book ahead just in case.
More Information: https://www.godolphinarms.co.uk
The Minack Theatre
With a belly full of fish and chips I waddled back to Mount Haven Hotel, jumped in the car to drive down the winding roads and back out to a coastal outlook where the Minack Theatre is situated. This is no ordinary theatre, it’s made it onto many people’s bucket list because of it’s beautiful unique location. Perched high up on a rocky outcrop, carved into the granite cliff and overlooking Porthcurno Bay.
I was extremely lucky to tick this experience off my own bucket list. The Minack has the perfect setting for theatre, you can hear the waves crashing into the rocks as the play goes on, superbly atmospheric and is worth a visit for the view and to marvel at the theatre… even if there’s no play on. I had the chance to experience Twelfth Night by the Winchester Players. An excellent engaging performance and great all round experience at the theatre.
After an amazing night at the theatre I woke up refreshed and ready for the drive back to London. I had just enough time to explore the beach in front of the Mount Haven Hotel to grab a few shots of St Michael’s Mount before hitting the road.
The drive back to London took around 7 hours in total so if you do have time to plan in a stop off on your way back it would be advisable. I had such an amazing time on this trip and the experiences were so varied that each one of them had their own “wow” factor. I ticked off some truly epic once-in-a-lifetime experiences along the way whilst it also left me wanting to come back for more!
If you’re looking for more information and inspiration for travel around Britain, take a look at Visit Britain’s Join The World website.
Hertz supplied me with my lovely red Renault to explore the south west of England. Hiring the car gave me plenty of freedom to get around the south west of England that I wouldn’t have been possible on a train.
This post was brought to you as part of the #lovegreatbritain campaign, created and managed by iambassador in partnership with Visit Britain and Visit England. As always, TravMonkey retains all editorial control of what is published.