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

But there’s no reason why this road trip can’t be a boost for parts of the South West that don’t already get hordes of tourists. Drivers need information about parking and live feeds of accidents. E-car drivers need plugging-in sites. The website team should dispense tips on “what to avoid” and hire some historians, culture-vultures and archaeology buffs to provide really original local insights.

A strictly coastal drive means shunning Totnes, Dartmoor, Bodmin Moor and other inland delights. Personally I’d drop Salcombe and Padstow and make a few inroads if you’ve not driven down here before. But driving holidays can be delightful, especially when taken slowly, with lots of stopping and consideration for other road users and walkers.

My 10 unmissable highlights on the route

Higher Bockhampton – Hardy Country

Great books have been conceived and written all over the West Country, from Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn to Winston Graham’s Poldark series. But no author speaks to their landscape like Thomas Hardy, who found in the rolling hills, market towns and ancient byways of Dorset a universe as complete as anything Tolkien could dream up. A pint in the King’s Arms in Dorchester is a must, and then you should drive up to Higher Bockhampton, to see his birthplace, and do a short walk through “Hardy Country” to Max Gate, his home from 1885-1928 – now a National Trust property. And yes, I know I’m not strictly on the coast as we set off, 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 a stop. The looming gold-tinted cliffs, the long sweep of the beach and the raw fame of the place make it feel special. Lyme Regis has a literary loveliness, Seaton is a proper seaside town, Sidmouth has its Regency airs and graces. I like West Bay because one minute you’re wandering around dozens of small chippies – fish and chip kiosks that offer such similar fare they could be nationalised and you wouldn’t notice – and the next you’re out there on the remarkable strand, at the far end of Chesil Beach, beneath crumbling walls of sand. Everyone is laughing and wiping chip grease and ice-cream slops on to their swimming cozzies, watched over by cliffs full of prehistoric secrets.

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