UK Road Trip: Bristol to London via Salisbury & Newbury.
Words & pics by guest blogger & motorhome maniac Dane Preston.
Azure X: Do you fancy a luxury motorhome for a week, on us?
Me: What's the catch?
Azure X: Take pics and write notes so we can share with other members.
Me: Ok, sure. I'd love to. Where do I pick it up?
Azure X: Where would you like to pick it up?
Me: Well, me and my partner quite fancy this Great West Way trip everyone's raving about.
Azure X: Nice, so. . .
Me: So can we pick it up in Bristol, drop it off near London?
Azure X: Of course, email your preferred travel dates and we'll make all the arrangements for you.
Me: Great, thank you!
1. Bristol: Urban Jungle Feast
NATURE & STREET NOSH
After a morning wandering the highveld and cloud forests of the Bristol University Botanic Gardens, snapping Insta-licious Giant Amazon Waterlilies and Sacred Lotuses, we gorge on Tibetan dumplings and Thai doughnuts at St Nicholas's year-round street food market.
2. Avon Valley: Far from a Madding World
GREAT BRITISH OUTDOORS
We collect our motorhome and the Great West Way adventure begins. Based on one of the first Great Roads commissioned by the Kings of England, it’s a 125 mile stretch bursting with attractions. First stop, Knights Folly Farm, a pitch overlooking the Avon Valley. We unhitch the bikes for a 10k spin on the Bristol and Bath Railway Path.
3. Bath: City of Untold Charms
HOT SPRINGS & MASQUERADE
With a name like Marco Polo, how could our mobile home not visit Roman Bath? After a heavenly soak in Thermae Bath Spa’s natural hot springs on a rooftop overlooking the city, we retire to the motorhome and don breeches, gowns and Venetian masks and twirl the night away in the Spa’s Pump Room at the Regency Costumed Masked Ball, part of the Jane Austen festival.
4. Bradford-on-Avon: Boating Beauty Spot
GARDENS & CANALS
A relaxed slo-mo morning sauntering the romantic gardens of Great Chalfield Manor. Later, we hire Canadian canoes at Bradford on Avon, paddle the Kennet and Avon Canal to Barge Inn and polish off cured Wiltshire ham, egg and chips for lunch. In the late afternoon, we arrive at Hudson’s Fields campsite in Salisbury, overlooking the Iron Age hill fort of Old Sarum.
5. Stonehenge & Salisbury: All About the Light
ROCK & AWE
Early start for the Stonehenge Inner Circle tour. Standing among the towering, 5,000-year-old Sarsen rocks, there’s a real sense of mystical grandeur as the first rays of rising sun touch the ancient stones. Salisbury Cathedral’s soaring spire then lures us into its glass-roofed Refectory Restaurant for tea and scones with jam and Cornish clotted cream.
6. Wiltshire: A 10,560ft High
OF WHITE HORSES & BIRD'S-EYE-VIEWS
Must be something in the Wiltshire air that encourages daredevilry. Dropping from two miles high, we catch glimpses of a white horse in the Vale of Pewsey. More aerial eye-candy comes with a magical bird’s-eye-view of Stonehenge. Our feet hit the ground and elation erupts, all courtesy of a tandem jump in the safe hands of the Army Parachute Association at Skydive Netheravon.
7. Highclere Castle: Downton Abbey Binge
MOTORHOME TRIPPING & TV HOMAGE
We take the A343 northeast towards Newbury. Gorgeous, gently rolling countryside stretches to the horizon and we’ve the road all to ourselves. Many scenic stops later at Highclere Castle, we take our time in the Great Hall, recalling cherished Downton Abbey scenes, such as Atticus’s proposal to Lady Rose and countless ripostes from the Dowager Countess.
8. Donington Grove: Let Yourself Go Country
SHOOTIN', FISHIN', SIPPIN'
From our overnight pitch at Bishops Green Farm in Newbury, we visit Donington Grove, blast away at clay pigeons and learn from resident guide John Stevens how to fly-fish for wild brown trout on the gin-clear River Lambourn.
Next it’s the trailblazing West Berkshire Brewery, where we sip on award-winning brews Thamesis Stout and Good Old Boy, tour the high-tech brewery and toss a few cases of the dark stuff in our spacious ride.
9. Newbury: Top Teas & Flying Steeds
GOOD EGGS, A FLUTTER & BANGERS BY MOONLIGHT
After a good night of Good Old Boys, the morning brings a need to feed. The Tea Shop by the Canal is perfect. Old world charm, canal-side tables and amazing Eggs Benedict set us up for a couple of thrilling jump races at Newbury Racecourse. Back at the site, we make a fire and enjoy sizzling Vicars Game Cumberlands beneath a canopy of stars.
10. Reading: Festival Town on The Thames
POOL, TAPAS & TRACTORS
Hit the road again, to Kings Meadow, Reading, where we work out a few kinks at al fresco Thames Lido. The heated, fully restored Edwardian swimming baths include a Poolside Tapas Bar, where we got stuck into some proper Mediterranean tucker. After marvelling at the old ploughs, wagons and tractors at The Museum of English Rural Life, we’re off again.
11. Bray: UK's Michelin-Star Mecca
BLUMENTHAL BURGERS & ROUX MENU
We greet a new day in Bray, a sleepy village albeit with seven Michelin star restaurants. With funds dwindling, lunch is a cracking Irish Hereford burger at Heston Blumenthal’s The Crown, saving space and pennies for dinner at Alain Roux’s three-star Michelin masterpiece, The Waterside Inn. The Menu Exceptionnel does what it says on the tin. After a divine meal including lobster salad, pheasant velouté soup and pan roasted fillet of Angus beef with blue cheese, we take a super-sated 20-minute saunter back to Camp Amerden Caravan Park.
12. Maidenhead: Journey's End
WILD SWIM & MONKEY BUSINESS: SIGNING OFF IN STYLE
How do we end such a relaxing UK road trip that showcased so much of the UK’s incredible diversity? By taking a leisurely wander through water meadows at Cock Marsh near Cookham, where you can wild swim the clear, clean Thames. We end with afternoon tea at Monkey Island Brasserie, site of a former monks' abbey set on a lush private island on the Thames. The Monkey Room, with various monkeys smoking, shooting and fishing, is a real hoot.