Britains great roads

DEVON / SOMERSET

A396 Tiverton to Minehead - Exe Valley Extreme!

The Exe Valley Extreme starts at Tiverton in Devon and ends 30 miles later up the A396 at the seaside resort of Minehead in Somerset.

It’s a roller coaster ride not best suited to laid back cruisers – an adrenalin rush switchback punctuated by blind crests and tightening apexes. This trip would benefit from having a co-driver reading pace notes rally style because this road would be impossible to learn. Down in the valley bottom the road follows the twists and turns the river has carved out of nature. No relaxing straights here – and precious few places to over take, so the A396 is definitely at its best on an early morning run.

The road surface is not good either. It isn’t potholed, just rough, and the occasional section of smooth surface makes an unexpected treat as the twists and turns go on and on. Hedges or guard rails lie close by on the left side of the road, rock faces rising to the right. You will mainly keep in third gear, but there is an odd chance to grab fourth and the occasional need to drop to second.

The River Exe is still there on the left, narrower now as you head upstream towards its source, but after 21 miles it isfinally left behind, blasting uphill through a hedge lined avenue to Wheddon Cross and then back downhill to a really nasty tightening right-hander with a big drop to the left – a real Colin McRae of a corner.

No longer dictated by the whims and wherefores of the river, the road opens out slightly from here to the twee town of Dunster where American tourists will whimper in awe. You then carry on through to join the A39 coast road and cruise the last couple of miles to the Minehead sea front.

WILTSHIRE
A369 / B390 from Stonehenge to Heytesbury

Anybody who’s ever attempted to take the A303 down to Devon and Cornwall will know how clogged this road can get on a summer’s weekend. So while the rest of the world sits and stews in the traffic, peel off the A303 onto the A360 just before Stonehenge and enjoy a blast across Salisbury Plain. Link up with the B390 heading through Chitterne and stop off for a lazy lunch in The Angel pub in Heytesbury. It’s mainly straight open roads with good visibility and the occasional dip and crest to test your suspension to the max. The road surface is good but watch out for standing water after heavy rain and the corking right hander after the long straight to Chitterne.

HAMPSHIRE
A339 Alton to Basingstoke

This road links the M3 with the A31 and like so many of the best roads is also a bikers favourite. My advice is to let the two wheeled brigade have their fun at the weekends and save your trip for a warm weekday summer eve. Leave the M3 at Junction6 and follow signs for Alton. It’s a classic British A road: decent straights linked by a heady concoction of chicanes, double apex bends and corners that tighten unexpectedly – so take it easy. Its notorious for motorbike accidents and understandably the local police take a dim view of speeding. You have been warned!

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