‘Staycation’ Drives – The Mendips
Whether you believe in the old definition of ‘staycation’ (staying at home) or the seemingly modern variant (‘not travelling abroad’), it seems likely that holidaying in our cars in the UK will be the most likely vacationary relief from the strictures of pandemic lockdowns!
In this series of blogs we will highlight some parts of the UK that you deserve for a vacation and your car deserves for a good shake-down drive.
We start with the Mendips, an area that’s geographically close to – and close to the hearts of – the Petrolheads Welcome team.
Our tour starts at the north of the county by exiting the M5 motorway at Junction 19, Gordano Services.
Leave the roundabout at the first exit after the Services for the A369 towards Bristol and be ready to turn immediately right at the traffic lights.
Follow this road for about half a mile until it turns sharp left. Give way to oncoming traffic where the road narrows. It soon opens into a national speed limit winding road with some challenging bends. Care, most of the bends are blind, but it’s still a fun road.
You will pass Oakham Treasures on your left. This is a private museum that keeps perhaps unusual opening hours, but is well worth a visit. It’s packed to the rafters with ‘stuff’ from years gone by. From tractors and farm machinery to saucy postcards and toys. It’s highly recommended and has good parking and a cafe.
Another nearby attraction is the National Trust’s Tyntesfield. Many car clubs have graced the driveway to this Victorian Gothic mansion. Of course there’s a tea room and shop along with the house, its contents and ample grounds for walks, picnics, etc and a good level car park. It’s accessed from the B3128, by turning left out of Oakham Treasures and continuing to the T-junction where you turn right.
Care – countryside hazards may be encountered!
By driving south from here, you have the whole of the Mendips and North Somerset at your disposal.
From the B3128 (when driving towards Bristol) turn right to join the B3129 at Failand. The road becomes a very steep descent (Belmont Hill). Turn left at the bottom and shortly afterwards join the A370 southbound. After approximately 3 miles, turn left at a set of traffic lights for Brockley Combe and Bristol Airport. This is a gently-sloping gorge, the first of 3 gorges on this suggested route.
After passing the airport on the right, you will come to a T-junction controlled by traffic lights. Turn right on to the A38 and continue for about 5 miles to the village of Churchill. At the Churchill traffic lights, turn left on to the A368. This a road of many contrasts in speed and vista. You will pass through Blagdon (lake on the left), Ubley (fuel stop) and Compton Martin. As you exit Compton Martin, look for a right turn shortly after the speed limit signs for 40mph. Turning right here will take you up a steep winding hill to the top of the Mendip Hills and a selection of good roads with sweeping bends and long straights for overtaking.
Velvet Bottom near Charterhouse (half way between Priddy and Burrington Combe) is an old Roman mining area that’s now a popular walking – and brief parking – spot.
At the end of this road, opposite the Castle of Comfort Inn, is a three way junction that’s almost an off-set T-junction. Turn left here on to the main road (B3134) and continue to the crossroads with the B3135 and go straight across. You are now on a short stretch of road that is regularly used for car testing by television crews and YouTubers. There is a Forestry Commission parking area on the left just before a spectacular uphill bend that is the temptation of videographers.
This stretch of road is popular with motoring journalists
Turning right at the next crossroads and then right at the village of Priddy will bring you to the Cheddar Gorge road (B3135). In this direction, you’ll be descending the Gorge (care, there are a couple of very sharp and very narrow bends in the Gorge). If you prefer to drive up the Gorge (we can’t think why that might be!), you will be able to turn around at one of the parking areas or in the village of Cheddar after exiting the Gorge.
Join the A371 at Cheddar and at Axbridge, a mile further on, you can join the A38 and turn north towards Churchill to complete a loop.
The third gorge, Burrington Combe, is an easy detour from here. It’s at the Churchill end of the B3134 (uphill when driving east from Churchill).
Cheddar Gorge has a couple of parking areas before reaching the town at the bottom
Above is just our quick summary of some of the potential routes and circuits in this part of the world. It’s an area criss-crossed by many interesting roads and features worth stopping to enjoy. Simply driving our suggested route in each direction will give you a good few hours of road fun. Maybe factor-in lunch at Hartley’s Bistro, one of our gold-rated venues and a guaranteed warm welcome and lovely food. In 2020 we started and finished a day’s filming from there.
Why not make a weekend of it and see some of the local attractions?
However you choose to enjoy touring the Mendip Hills, please let us know.