The hidden highlights of England’s new response to Route 66

But there’s no reason this road trip shouldn’t be a boost for parts of the South West that aren’t already receiving hordes of tourists. Drivers need parking information and live accident information. Electric car drivers need plug-in sites. The website team should dispense advice on “what to avoid” and hire historians, culture vultures and archeology enthusiasts to provide truly original local information.

A strictly coastal route means avoiding Totnes, Dartmoor, Bodmin Moor and other inland delights. Personally, I would skip Salcombe and Padstow and do a few forays if you haven’t already driven. But driving holidays can be enjoyable, especially when taken slowly, with lots of stops and consideration for other road users and walkers.

My 10 essentials of the course

Upper Bockhampton – Rustic Country

Great books have been conceived and written throughout the West Country, from Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn to Winston Graham’s Poldark series. But no author speaks of their landscape like Thomas Hardy, who found in the hills, market towns and ancient lanes of Dorset a universe as complete as anything Tolkien could imagine. A pint at the King’s Arms in Dorchester is a must, then you should drive to Higher Bockhampton, to see his birthplace, and take a short walk through ‘Hardy Country’ to Max Gate, his 1885 home in 1928 – now a National Trust Property. And yes, I know I’m not strictly on the coast when checking out, but Weymouth is only 20 minutes away.

West Bay – Jurassic Lark

Ammonites, with salt and vinegar, please. To be honest, anywhere on the Jurassic Coast is worth seeing. The looming golden cliffs, long stretch of beach and raw fame of the place make it special. Lyme Regis has literary beauty, Seaton is a true seaside town, Sidmouth has its Regency airs and graces. I love West Bay because one minute you’re walking through dozens of little chippies – fish and chip kiosks that offer fare so similar they could be nationalized and you wouldn’t notice – and the next you are there on the remarkable strand, at the far end of Chesil Beach, beneath crumbling sand walls. Everyone giggles and wipes grease from fries and splatters of ice on their bathing cozzies, watched over by cliffs full of prehistoric secrets.

About Marco C. Nichols

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