Things to do | Itineraries | South West England by car

South West England car itinerary

3 Days

New Forest - Dorchester - Yeovil - Exeter - Padstow - St Ives

246 miles (395.6km)

Plan your route: VisitBritain Journey Planner

This tour of contrasts takes you on a journey through vast and enchanting woodlands, unspoilt countryside, sparkling coastal areas, picturesque villages and some of England’s most important heritage cities.

Day 1: New Forest - Dorchester

New Forest - Dorchester: 48 miles (77.3 km)
Totals for Day: 48 miles (77.3 km)

New Forest

First head for the New Forest, famous for its wild ponies that wander freely among the trees. This unimaginably beautiful woodland spreads over 150 square miles spilling into parts of Hampshire, Dorset and Wiltshire, and is undoubtedly one of the most important wilderness areas in Western Europe.


Must see & do:

National Motor Museum Beaulieu | Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway | Breamore House | Longdown Activity Farm | Paultons Park | Buckler's Hard | Rockbourne Roman Villa | New Forest Museum | Totton and Eling Heritage Centre | Eling Tide Mill


From here a scenic drive takes you to Dorchester, famously depicted in the novels of Thomas Hardy. The mood of the rural life he described so meticulously is recaptured at Hardy's Cottage and the Dorset County Museum. Also, much of the glorious Heritage Coastline remains unchanged.

Must see & do:

The Hardy Monument | The Keep Military Museum | Maiden Castle

Day 2: Dorchester - Yeovil

Yeovil - Exeter: 55½ miles (88.9 km)
Totals for Day: 76 miles (121.6 km)


Turning north into Somerset, you'll hit the bustling market town of Yeovil. For centuries the town has been a traditional area for trade, and you’ll find a curious mix of high street stores, independent retailers and frequent street and farmers’ markets, all with a distinctive West Country appeal.


Must see & do:

Jungle Jungle | Montacute House | Montacute Radio and TV Museum


For a breathtaking combination of coast and countryside, head south to Devon. Dramatic rugged headlands, surf washed sands and tree-clad combes await you in North Devon, whilst South Devon offers sandstone cliffs. Exeter is an intimate city brimming with colourful character and steeped in ancient history.

Must see & do:

Exeter Cathedral | Exeter's Underground Passages | Custom House | Northcott | Bill Douglas Centre

Day 3: Exeter - Padstow - St Ives

Exeter - Padstow: 75 miles (120.8 km)
Padstow - St Ives: 47 miles (75.9 km)
Totals for Day: 122 miles (196.7 km)


Padstow, with its fleet of trawlers, netters and crabbers and colourful harbour surrounded by pastel-washed medieval houses, is an example of what Cornwall does best - it's a working port which wears a holiday hat.


Must see & do:

Prideaux Place | Padstow Museum | St Breock Downs Monolith

St Ives

Your last stop on this breathtaking tour of South-West England is the historic fishing, farming and mining town of St Ives. Famous for its blue-flag beaches, coastal walks, art galleries, studios and craft shops, St Ives has been attracting artists and art lovers since the 19th century.

Must see & do:

Chysauster Ancient Village | Tate St Ives

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