The West Country & Dorset – A Motorhome Tour

Continuing my recent theme of writing up my motorhome trips from a few years ago, this is a diary of a tour around Cornwall and Devon in 2006.

Always one of the most popular areas of the UK for holidays, it’s a great area to visit in the spring and early summer, when we were there. Our trip started with an overnight journey from the East Midlands to Exeter services on the M5, where we rested for a couple of hours and had an early breakfast.

As morning approached, we continued on down to Dartmoor, driving through Dartmoor National Park. This would normally be very scenic but was unfortunately very foggy on that particular morning. Continuing onwards (we had decided to start at the end and work our way back) we visited Tavistock and Truro, eventually ending up at Lizard, a rather grim and bleak settlement that shares a name with nearby Lizard Point, the most southerly point in mainland Great Britain.

Geographic features duly noted, we moved on again, heading towards Penzance. Our final stopping point was a parking area just outside Marazion, a fishing/tourist village that’s pretty empty out of season but quite attractive. The road runs alongside the sea at this point, meaning that we were parked directly by the beach – a stunning spot that is also directly opposite St Michael’s Mount, a historical castle in Mounts Bay to which one can walk at low tide.

St Michael's Mount, Marazion, Cornwall
The view from the side door of our van to St Michael’s Mount
St. Michael's Mount, in Mounts Bay, Cornwall
A closer view of St Michael’s Mount

The next morning came and we trundled onwards towards Penzance, which is everything you’d expect a large town-cum-seaside resort to be. After investigating the town and slurping an ice cream, we headed inland a little along the B3311 in search of a Cornish pottery that doesn’t welcome visitors (don’t worry, we just drove by!). That done, we continued on our journey towards the resort town of St Ives, which is on the northern side of the Cornish peninsula.

Carn Pottery, Nancledra, Cornwall
Carn Pottery, Nancledra – visitors aren’t welcome, artistic solitude required…
The ruins of an old Cornish tin mine
The ruins of an old Cornish tin mine, looming out of the fog

St Ives is picturesque, trendy, expensive and very busy in summer. However, we were there just before the season got going and it was pleasantly quiet – yet everything was open. The weather was doing a passable imitation of summer, so we enjoyed the blue skies, beach views and fresh air and just wandered around for a while, until it became time to think about going somewhere for the night.

Beach at St Ives, Cornwall
St Ives was sunny and warm but the summer tourists hadn’t arrived in great numbers yet – perfect!
The sea at St Ives
Fancy a dip?
The Sloop Inn, St Ives, Cornwall
The Sloop Inn, St Ives

Due to other commitments, we had to cover a substantial distance that evening so that we were back where we needed to be – near Exeter – the next morning! Our eventual stopping place was in Bovey Tracey, as small town close to Newton Abbott.

Topsham Quay
Topsham Quay area

Next morning, it was back into Exeter, then onto Topsham, a small, picturesque place by the sea that’s close to the M5, just south of Exeter and has a huge antiques centre. That done, we headed to our first proper campsite of the trip, Wear Farm, near Teignmouth. An internet search will reveal plenty of reviews of this campsite – our experience was that it has a cracking location by the Teign and that the shower and toilet facilities in the main block (a bit of a walk) were dated but very clean and in excellent order. Access to the site is a little steep – no trouble in a motorhome but perhaps requiring care with a caravan. The campsite is away from nearby towns, so don’t imagine yourself walking out to pubs/shops in the evening – you can’t.

Wear Farm Camping and Caravanning Site, near Teignmouth
The view down to the river at Wear Farm Camping and Caravanning Site

The next morning, we left Wear Farm and started a leisurely amble along the south coast that took us into Dorset. One of the highlights of the day was the Donkey Sanctuary, at Sidmouth. This organisation both cares for the welfare of working donkeys — at seaside resorts, for example — and cares for abused and abandoned donkeys. It also does valuable educational work with children.

The Donkey Sanctuary, Sidmouth
The Donkey Sanctuary has its headquarters, and visitors centre, at Sidmouth
Donkey version of the Kilburn White horse, Donkey Sanctuary, Sidmouth
They’ve even got the donkey equivalent of the Kilburn White Horse

We ended the day parked by the harbour in Bridport, Dorset. A pleasant fishing town with a tacky holiday park attached, it nonetheless provided us with some wholly-satisfactory fish and chips and a peaceful night.

Bridport Harbour
Bridport Harbour

From Birdport we went on to Weymouth, to visit an exhibition, before moving on to Springfield Touring Park, a campsite at Corfe Mullen, near Wimborne (just to the north of Poole). Springfield Touring Park was very nice indeed, with immaculate modern facilities and well laid out pitches. It was almost a bit too posh for us, in our self-converted Transit…

The final two stops on our tour were Poole and Salisbury:

Sunseeker Yachts, Poole, Dorset
The Sunseeker Yachts factory at Poole – each of these is probably worth more than my house…
Poole Arms, a tiled pub in Poole
The Poole Arms, covered in the tiles that were once a local product
Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury Cathedral

 

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