Croyde Day 4: Driving Home

Our last day in Croyde started with breakfast at the Thatch, followed by a final stroll down to the beach. Even though the sea was calm and we wouldn’t be missing any surfing, we felt sad at having to leave Croyde after a great stay.

The plan for the return journey was to carry on our journey up the A39 from the previous day. I had driven the A39 from Barnstaple to Minehead in the Fiat 500 last year, and was looking forward to returning in something sportier. Rather than driving to Barnstaple, I decided we should cut across the back roads from Braunton, which despite being more direct, ended up taking longer, due to the narrow roads. It didn’t really matter though; part of the fun of roadtrips is exploring!

After eventually joining the A39, we continued past Lynton and Lynmouth and up onto Exmoor, stopping a few times to take in the scenery and leave a good gap to the traffic in front so the MX-5 could stretch its legs on the brilliant moorland roads. After descending Porlock Hill the A39 resumed it’s character from the day before; varying from narrow country road to wide A road and keeping us entertained.

When we got to Bridgwater, we kept off the M5 and continued to our planned lunch stop at Cheddar Gorge. I’d not been there before, so wasn’t sure what to expect, and was a bit disappointed to see all the tourist shops and cafes. We only stopped long enough to buy some ice cream to cool us down (it was one of the hottest days of the year and we had the roof down on the MX-5) and some cheddar cheese to take home. Suitably cooled down from the ice cream we continued through the gorge on the B3135, which was a great bit of road, only spoilt by the traffic. I imagine it would be a great road for an early morning hoon before all the tourists get there!

Leaving Cheddar Jen navigated us the country route to Chippenham and from there I knew the way back through the Cotswolds from my previous trips to Castle Combe race circuit. Rather than heading back to Coventry, we continued up the Fosse Way to Nuneaton, as it was Jen’s Dad’s 65th birthday! We spent a lovely evening relaxing in the garden, then a family meal out in a local pub – a great way to end our long weekend!

Total mileage: 676

Croyde Day 3: Cornwall

Day three started off with a pre-breakfast walk to the beach, the crowds (and waves) from the weekend had gone and the beach was really peaceful. A great start to the morning.

After a full English breakfast back at The Thatch, we set off to see Jen’s friend in Penryn, near Falmouth. Rather than going straight down the A30 dual carriageway, I decided to take a more scenic route, from Bideford to Tavistock on the A386, then the A390 to Truro. The drive to Penryn ended up taking three and a half hours, a bit longer than I had been expecting – Devon is next door to Cornwall, so it couldn’t be too far! The A386 started off twisty, with tree tunnels to give us a break from the sun, then as we got alongside Dartmoor the road opened out and we got done amazing views. Turning west onto the A390 took us into Cornwall, although none of the Cornish towns were signposted until we crossed the border. I’d only ever been to the Cornish coast, so was pleased to see that the middle of the county was really pretty, with great driving roads too.

After a long, but enjoyable drive, we got to Katy’s house in Penryn. Like our house, it is an ongoing renovation project, but with a much better view! We spent a lovely afternoon catching up, meeting Katy’s six month old son and seeing the sights of Penryn/Falmouth.

We decided to take a slightly more direct route back, straight up the A39, with a detour into Padstow for fish and chips. Rather than joining the queue for Rick Stein’s chip shop, we found a less glamorous place next to the harbour. The food probably wasn’t as good, but there wasn’t a queue and sitting next to a pretty harbour eating fish and chips was perfect.

From Padstow we continued up the A39, with a quick detour into Bude, as neither of us had been there before. Driving up the A39 we experienced the full spectrum of A roads, from fast dual carriageway, to barely enough room for two lanes of traffic, which kept the journey interesting. Nearing Bideford, I had to pull over for Jen to drive as some sun cream had run into my eye and under my contact lens, making my eyes sting. As that wouldn’t have the best way to end what had otherwise been a great day, we stopped of at The Thatch for an ice cold pint of cider.

Mileage so far: 425

Croyde Day 2: More Surfing

The main plan for day two was more surfing! After breakfast we got back into our still damp wetsuits and began the long walk down to the sea. We hit the beach just before low tide, so the waves weren’t quite as good as the previous day, but we still had fun and Jen made good progress.

We spent the afternoon wandering around town and back down to the sea. It was nice spending time walking along the edge of the sea and paddling in rock pools – Croyde beach really is a wonderful place.

After our walk we stopped at Billy Budd’s pub to catch the tennis – well done Andy Murray! We finished the day with a drink at Blue Groove, then dinner at Hobb’s Bistro, possibly the only restaurant in Croyde I hadn’t been to. It was a bit posher than I would normally go for, but the food was good.

Mileage so far: 190

Croyde Day 1: Surfing

Another weekend, another roadtrip! Croyde in North Devon is possibly my favourite place in the world, and this is the fifth year in a row I’ve been there.

The drive down started a bit later than intended, due to a lie in and needing to wait for the post office to open – I had to send some paperwork back to the lease company as the MX-5 goes back in less than 2 months.

Jen drove the first stint, until just before the roadworks on the M5, where I took over. I got really frustrated at the poor driving, you could tell that it was mainly people who drive a few miles to work every day, then once a year head down to the south west, on the road. Every couple of miles there was a car broken down on the hard shoulder (remember your pre journey checks people – oil, coolant, tyres etc) and no one seemed to be using the inside lane of the motorway, they were all bumper to bumper at 60mph on the outside lane – argh! Even with all the numpties on the M5, we made it to Braunton for lunch in four hours, and after a bit of shopping it was only five minutes round the coast to Croyde.

After checking in the first job was to get a white chocolate milkshake from Blue Groove and book our table there for dinner. On the way back Jen bought a wetsuit – then we went for a surf! The waves were small, but clean – perfect for us, as we hadn’t surfed since Costa Rica last year. I surprised myself by catching a really good wave first time out, possibly my best of the day and Jen seemed to make good progress through the afternoon. The only bad bit about surfing, was the long walk to/from the village, barefoot and carrying the boards. Being able to ride a smaller board is certainly an incentive to get better at surfing.

For dinner we went back to Blue Groove, I had beef enchilada followed by Belgian chocolate waffle and Jen had Tuscan pork stew followed by some Spanish almond and cirrus tart, all of which were very tasty. After all the walking/surfing we felt like we’d earned our dinner, but still went for a stroll to burn it off. We took a different route to the beach, checking out all the new houses being built, then sat at the foot of the dunes watching the sun dip behind the horizon. A perfect end to a great day!

Mileage so far: 190

Scottish Roadtrip 2013 Days 4 and 5: Bacon, Ice Cream and Pizza

After the graduation, Simon and Sophie stayed in St Andrews for the graduation ball. We went to collect them on the Saturday morning, via breakfast at The Horn on the A90. The Horn’s A90 Behemoth was voted the best bacon sandwiches in the world in an online poll, so naturally, we had to verify that – I can confirm that they are indeed amazing – more than 10 rashers of deep fried bacon in a roll really sets you up for the day! Having said that, we spent the rest of the day chilling at the flat, or wandering around Perth, I didn’t even get out in the MX-5! Aside from the bacon roll, my highlight was watching Lewis Hamilton’s stunning pole lap at Silverstone.

The last day of our trip, also mine and Jen’s anniversary, was mainly spent driving back to Coventry. Leaving after breakfast meant that we had all day to make the journey, so decided to take a scenic route through the borders, insprired by the 2012 Evo COTY which was partially based in the area. After reading through the Evo article, the A708 from Selkirk to Moffat, along the shore of St Mary’s Loch, was chosen as our route. Seeing as we would need to pass fairly close to Musselburgh to get to the A708, we decided to stop at Luca’s, my favourite ice cream shop.

After a gorgeous “Alaskan” sundae for me and a hot fudge sundae for Jen, we got back to the car and for the first time this year had to put suncream on (remember we were still in Scotland at this point!), before setting off towards the A708, passing through Newtongrange, where my Dad grew up. Diving down the A7 brought back memories of driving to Newtongrange when my gran still lived there. Turning off onto the A708 got us out of the traffic, but the road was much narrower, it was mainly second and third gears in the MX-5, but the road flowed nicely. As we approached Saint Mary’s Loch the drizzle started, by the end of the loch it was full on raining – rubbish! Then, to make matters work we got stuck behind a group of bikers and some tourists, who were driving very slowly. I probably wouldn’t have driven much faster, as the road had narrowed and the conditions were pretty bad, but it was frustrating being stuck at the end of a long, slow moving queue of traffic on twisty roads. When we got to Moffat we drove past a classic car show, which lifted the mood. From Moffat it was straight down the M74, then M6 and M6 Toll to Coventry.

As it was our anniversary, we went for dinner at the Pizza Express we went to on our first date – the perfect way to round off a brilliant long weekend!

Total mileage: 1,087