Don't knock it before you try it
Assumptions are oh so easy to make and usually once made they're often filed away neatly in the 'decision pending' section of your mind, never to be seen again. This was very much how it went regarding my view of the B3135, a road that kept cropping up as a great road but I'd always assumed it couldn't really be that good for 3 reasons: (1) it's too small, only 14 miles so surely you'll just get into your stride and then it'll stop, (2) it's bloody tourist central, there'll be hundreds of 'em spilling into the road left, right and centre clutching crystals and bits of stalactites they'd managed to rip from the caves, and (3) it's too small. Or was it? I decided enough was enough and on a bright July morning I took a detour to visit the home of Cheddar cheese and find out whether this road was as tasty as people say it is.
Upon my approach into the village of Cheddar it all went a bit odd; the roadside was awash with strawberries, postmen were riding past on their bikes en route to deliver mail to people who all seemed to be holding fetes in their garden, at least judging by the amount of bunting on show. If that doesn't set the scene for you then the woman cruising along in her horse and cart should do the trick. Navigating through all this didn't take too long and soon I was greeted with cafes, pubs and a plethora of cider shops which told me I must have made it to Cheddar.
Leaving the grockles behind the road sets you to work straight away as you climb out of Cheddar. Busy would be one word for it as you wring your steering column's neck, slaloming your way along. While not particularly technical, your car placement does need to be precise as this section squirms like an eel and is as snug as David Coulthard's denim so a brief lapse in concentration could be costly. Heading onward it's apparent that nature has certainly dictated the layout of this road. Corners are thrown at you with vigour in an attempt to circumnavigate great bits of ancient rock. Passengers should enjoy what's on show but the wheelman will probably be too busy to notice. Expect three or so miles of this before things start to even out. Exiting the gorge signals the calming in the road, rocks give way to trees and the volley of tight turns subside and what are left soften considerably. A few half-hearted turns later and the scenery opens into more familiar countryside.
The road remains tight as it shakes itself free from the claustrophobic clutches of the gorge, but you can relax a little as you enter the mid section of this journey. Hairpins are swapped for sweeping bends, and the cover of trees are exchanged for sky. Five miles on and you enter the final third of this route. Long placid straights and mild gradient changes make for a rapid finale to this route. My journey was great fun; swift and without too many interruptions. The traffic I encountered wasn't an issue in any way, I was either too busy navigating the gorge to care or in a section of the route where overtaking was simple. Back in the Oakhill Inn with a drink and a ploughman's I decided that next time, rather than base my opinions on an assumption, I'd get off my lazy ass and find out for myself.
With scenery that'll get the juices flowing and a road layout that'll get the blood pumping, overlook this road (as I nearly did) and you'll be the one missing out. Be careful when you visit this area as I'm sure it can get busy. It may be smaller than you'd like but it does hit the mark. Think of it as a really nice glass of port, innocuously small but packing a wallop for the taste buds, and in perfect harmony with its surroundings.
At a glance
Things you'll love.
The lively start, the scenery and the fast bits.
Look out for
Busses, tourists, farm vehicles and sheep.
In and around Cheddar to Ashwick
Cheddar Gorge and Caves Tel 01934 742343
Explore Britain's biggest gorge from the dramatic cliffs rising 450ft to the stunning stalactite caverns. This world-famous beauty spot is a National Nature Reserve, reveals many fascinating stories of our prehistoric ancestors, and is an international centre for caving and rock climbing.
The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company Tel 01934 742810
Come and watch the only cheesemakers left in Cheddar transform their rich, local milk into award winning authentic Cheddar Cheese every day of the week throughout the year.
Haynes International Motor Museum Tel 01963 440804
The prestigious Haynes International Motor Museum, at Sparkford in Somerset offers an excellent day out for everyone. With more than 400 cars and bikes displayed in stunning style, dating from 1886 to the present day, it is the largest international motor museum in Britain.
Fleet Air Arm Museum Tel 01935 840565
As much an 'attraction' as it is a 'museum', the Fleet Air Arm Museum is where Museum meets theatre. You'll 'fly' by helicopter to the replica flight deck of the aircraft carrier HMS ARK ROYAL where you'll see fighter aircraft and two enormous projection screens showing a Phantom interceptor fighter and a Buccaneer strike bomber.
For an unforgettable family day out, visit the World Heritage Site of Stonehenge. Located near Salisbury in the beautiful Wiltshire countryside, it is a highlight of the South West.
Seaquarium Tel 01934 641603
SeaQuarium offers an underwater voyage of discovery, where you can experience aquatic life from several regions of the world including the Amazon, the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and from our own shores around Britain.
Clarks Village Tel 01458 840064
Located on Clarks original manufacturing site, the village is an exciting leisure and shopping development. Factory shopping and entertainment for the whole family is available in an attractive landscaped setting. Attractions and facilities include the shoe museum, children's play areas (indoor and outdoor) covered walkways, 90 factory shops selling High Street brand names, picnic area and restaurant.
Middlemoor Water Park Tel 01278 685578
Middlemoor Waterpark was created in 1989. This purpose-built lake set in the historic Somerset levels gives you the opportunity to try something out of the ordinary. Although situated in a peaceful rural setting, everything you need for a super day out is at hand! This unique water sports centre with water ski, wakeboard, jet ski and karting facilities also has it's own fully licensed clubhouse overlooking the lake.
Wookey Hole Tel 01749 672243
Wookey Hole Caves is a great day out for all the family, whatever the weather... Wander through the prehistoric valley of the Dinosaurs featuring King Kong and relax in our magical Fairy Garden. The 19th Century Paper Mill houses a variety of fascinating attractions including the Victorian Penny Arcade, Magical Mirror Maze, Crazy Mirrors, Cave Museum, Pirate Zap Zone and Soft Play Areas.
Cheddar Crazy Golf Tel 01934 741112
A British mini-golf association approved 18 hole course which provides intrigue and fun. It is frequently described by players as 'The Best Course I have played.' It is set in the lower gorge on different levels, landscaped and planted with trees shrubs and flowers. A 19th century grotto and views of the cliffs make this an exceptional location. Be warned, you will probably want a second round.
Driving in Britain
The UK is the only country in Europe to measure their speed in Miles Per Hour, not Kilometers. Along with Malta and Cyprus they are the only country in Europe to drive on the left hand side. The UK speed limits range from as low as 20mph in built-up city areas up to 70mph on the motorway. It's understood that Police will allow you to drive 10% over the speed limit but it's the speed cameras you need to look out for. They are scattered everywhere and will take a picture of your car / plate while speeding. If you're driving a hire car when caught by a speed camera you'll probably be tracked down through your rental agency and issued with your ticket! Speed cameras are always accompanied by warning signs so look out for them while enjoying your drive.
The law states that it is illegal to ride a motorbike or drive a car while you are using a hand held communication device. Hands free phones may be used, but they are ultimately a distraction and you are still open to a charge of careless driving should a police officer think you are driving poorly while using one.
Things you might want to have with you
Driving licence (if from UK both card and paper licence)
Vehicle registration form
Headlight beam deflectors
First aid kit
High visibilty jacket
For more information on driving in Europe visit the European Traffic Police Network website www.tispol.org