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River Neet in Bude, Cornwall

The Atlantic Highway – Devon and Cornwall, UK

Devon and Cornwall are two of the most picturesque counties in the UK, and exploring all the quaint little villages along the coastline by way of the Atlantic Highway is a wonderful way to see them.  If you are doing it in a Motorhome or camper, it is even better!  There are just so many uniquely British places to visit along the way that a trip like this just begs to be done in a relaxed way without strict schedules – having your accommodation at your side makes this possible. 

The Atlantic Highway is also known as the A39, if you want to look it up on a map.  The part we are interested in is the section that runs alongside the coast between Barnstable in Devon and Bude in Cornwall, a stretch of about 135 miles.  This drive is all about admiring the beautiful scenery so switch off the Sat Nav and enjoy the experience – this is one of those times where the journey is more important than the destination!

You start the scenic drive at the busy little market town of Bridgewater, where you leave the M5 at Junction 23 and start your journey on the A39. A good first stop to stretch your legs would be Nether Stowey, which has a lovely old village centre and was once the home of Samuel Taylor Coleridge   On your right you have views of one of the best parts of the British coast, while on your left are the characteristic hills and dales of Devon. Dunster is a beautifully preserved medieval village watched over by a much-photographed castle on the hillside. 

Your drive will now take you past the Exmoor hills; pop into Minehead – one of the many charming old seaside resorts along the route.  Then follow a string of impossibly characteristic little villages, all post-card-pretty and begging to be explored. (Selworthy, Bossington, Porlock, to name a few).  Once you have visited all these move on to Lynmouth and Lynton, where you can try out the Victorian water-powered cliff railway that links the two, while admiring the brilliant coastal views.

From here the road loops and twists through some steep wooded valleys with many teashops, (be sure to try a Devon Cream Tea), grand old pubs and campsites – a great place to have an overnight stop.  Continuing along the A39, the drive will take you to Barnstaple, via Coombe Martin and Ilfracombe, a short side-trip worth doing for the views.  Along this part of the road you can also visit the National Trust Arlington Court – a superb example of a British stately home nestled in lush gardens and extensive parkland.

On the final stretch to the seaside resort of Bude it is almost obligatory to visit the ancient fishing village of Clovelly, another atmospheric photo opportunity.  From Bude you could continue driving to Lands End or, even better, return the way you came on the beautiful Atlantic Highway.  This trip could be done in a day, a week or even longer if you have the time.

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