Here are some of my favourite English roads with biased and largely irrelevant star ratings…
Great Driving Roads : England
Cheddar Gorge :
My nearest excellent road. Starting from the edge of Cheddar village, the climb up through the gorge is a series of challenging tight turns on a narrow two lane road. Cheddar Gorge is a busy tourist attraction, so a night run is the only option. Even then, I do a survey run first.
Freshly resurfaced in the Autumn of 2002, this is the new ‘must do’ road in my region. The new surfacing is more than just cosmetic, with a widening and smoothing of the entire gorge section. One single lane section remains, but throughout the rest of the undulating climb the visibility and safely is much improved. It is now of almost racetrack quality and full of character. * At the time of typing, a few 40 limit reminder signs have been placed at the foot of the hill. As below, the Mendips area is having new limits put in at various places, and the Coombe is a likely candidate.
The Mendip Hills offer the best driving roads close to where I live. Although Cheddar Gorge (above) is the star attraction, a few other sections are worth exploration. The A368 has long been a favourite of mine, but is increasingly busy and has had new speed limit sections added. One “good bit” remains between Marksbury and Bishop Sutton – a glorious run of approx. 6 miles. Out on the top of the hills, progress is swift and the overtaking space plentiful.
Exmoor Coast Road :
The A39 is a fast road with good sweeping bends, several nice ups and downs and corkers of hills at either end. My favourite section is from Lynmouth to Porlock. Great views at County Gate and throughout. Lots of interesting side roads, including narrow scuttles across the moors.
Exmoor Exe Valley Road
Rated highly by a famous motoring journalist, the A396 from Tiverton to Dunster is a twisting, narrow two-lane run through woodland alongside the River Exe. In following the course of the river the road meanders wildly offering an almost unceasing sequence of corners. Although I’m sure it will get resurfaced one day, I find that the rough broken tarmac a problem and because of the overhanging trees, the route is often damp and slippery.
Exmoor Brendon Common Road
The Brendon Hills and Brendon Common are crossed by fast B-roads that are rarely congested, even in the height of the caravan migration. The B3223 is the best of the bunch for driving thrills. Good visibility and nice corners make for a great few miles that you will probably want to repeat.
A short but stupendously entertaining section of the A350 exists just north of Blandford Forum. Here as the A350 makes a detour around an old manor estate, the extremely tight turns and short sprints remind me more of an airfield trackday than any other bit of road I know. Fantastic!.
Hardknott and Wrynose Passes :
Easily the most outrageous road in the Lake District, the single track road across Hardknott Pass and Wrynose Pass is just plain silly. The road is very narrow, roughly surfaced, extremely steep, world championship twisty and, all too often, busy with traffic. Great fun and hugely frustrating at the same time.
The climb up Hartside along the A686 is widely known as a stupendous ascent. It is often busy with bikers, tourists and other traffic. The sequence of twisties, sweepers, hairpins and short straights make it a challenge to driving skill and a rush like almost no other. There’s a cafe at the top, where you can view the road and grab some bad food.