Great Drives in Hampshire: 3 - Meon Valley

Bentley Flying Spur

Bentley Flying Spur - Credit: Archant

This month’s Great Drive in a Bentley Flying Spur whisks you between one of the county’s historic market towns and the culinary delights of an inn with an enchanting history says Mark Whitchurch

The route

Situated in the beautiful rolling countryside of the Meon Valley is Wickham. Once a Roman military outpost and then a Saxon settlement, Wickham today offers an intriguing combination of ancient history with a unique shopping experience.

Covering almost two acres, the medieval market square at the heart of the town is regarded as one of the largest of its type in England. Stroll around the perimeter to admire some wonderfully preserved architecture with 15th century cottages flanked by grand Georgian houses and intermingled with shops offering unique gifts, chocolates, crafts and antiques.

Before hitting the road, ensure you visit Chesapeake Mill to browse the extensive range of antiques, home furnishings, art and jewellery. Leave Wickham on the A334 in the direction of Curdridge. On arriving in Botley, join the B3354 with signposts for Fair Oak, continuing through Horton Heath, Fair Oak and Colden Common. With the River Itchen now running parallel to the road, continue on to reach Twyford and then the M3. Pass under this major artery to admire the Hockley Viaduct and then on to Pitt to pick up with the A3090 to cruise through Hursley and down to Romsey.

Remain on the A3090 to join the A36 in Wigley, heading in the direction of West Wellow to hook up with New Road and signposts for Nomansland. Now enjoying the lush scenery of the New Forest, continue to the cross roads with the B3079 where it’s left for Bramshaw and Brook.

In Brook, turn left onto the B3079 to briefly join the A31 before heading south on the A337 with signposts for Lyndhurst. Enjoy this fast straight section of road with sunlight bleeding through the thick woodland foliage. Once in Lyndhurst, the town at the centre of the New Forest, pick up signs for Beaulieu and join the B3056. Now on a more tranquil road enjoy the views across the plains covered with heather and grasses. On reaching the renowned village of Beaulieu, turn left into the village and our final destination, The Montagu Arms is situated on the right hand side.

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There has been an inn on the site of The Montagu Arms since the 16th century. At the heart of this charming village, this was once a place where farmers and seafarers gathered. The inn was also a hub for timber auctions as well as boasting its own cattle market!

Named the Montagu Arms in 1742, this establishment for discerning clientele has built up an enviable reputation for providing world class service and fine food. The perfect way to conclude a Great Drive across Hampshire’s stunning scenery enjoyed from a truly peerless machine.

The car

The Bentley Flying Spur is the embodiment of everything this most British of marques stands for: a luxurious machine with a keen lick of speed and a patriotic choice for those who have outgrown their S-class Mercedes Benz.

Now in its second generation, the Flying Spur boasts a freshly sculptured rear end and subtle revisions to the rest of its form. These enhancements give it a muscular yet elegant profile whilst helping to differentiate the model from its Continental GT cousin, a design that successfully continues to tread the fine line between the associated stature of a classic Bentley and the latest cutting edge design.

Clasp the driver’s door handle and the car recognises the key buried within your pocket and welcomes you in. Make yourself comfortable in one of the most opulent interiors to grace a motorcar. Soft leather, polished piano black wood and classically machine turned aluminium panels adorn the interior surfaces.

The centre console bristles with the latest technology including the starter button that stirs the 4.0 litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine into life with a mechanical roar that delicately teeters on the tipping point between sophisticated and sporty.

Engage drive and the four-wheel system transfers the Flying Spur’s 500bhp of power into motion. The breadth of the Flying Spur is at first akin to captaining a frigate, but within the shortest of time you are placing the car with the sharpest of accuracy around the by-ways of Hampshire.

Wafting around the countryside in a Flying Spur is an experience second to none! Electric blinds can be raised and lowered around the rear of the cabin at the touch of a button. Rear seats have as much adjustment as those in the front, plus heating and their own air conditioning! Forget four-wheeled transport, think twin-engined jet!

However if you are on your own and feeling mischievous, the Flying Spur can deliver an exhilarating motoring experience in the way only a Bentley can offer. Adjust the suspension, engage sports mode on the gearbox and release the full potential of that turbine-like engine and you have performance to rival many a supercar. Although the Flying Spur is no lightweight sports car, four-wheel drive helps to provide road holding akin to a car half its weight and size.

The Bentley Flying Spur V8 will relieve your bank account of £142,800 before you start adding your bespoke options. Pocket change for a captain of industry and far more patriotic and fun to pilot than an S-class!

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