A classic drive

Dunster Castle

Dunster Castle - Credit: Archant

This month we take a drive packed with history, exploring forts and castles and enoy a ride in a modern classic Words by Mark G Whitchurch

The Porsche 911 turbo S

The Porsche 911 turbo S - Credit: Archant

Choose a crisp clear morning with the sun low in the sky and take an energetic walk from the car park at the base of Brean Down to the Palmerston Fort. Built in 1870 in response to the growing French naval strength under Napoleon III, the fort once boasted seven 7-inch rifled muzzle-loading cannons, which could pierce eight inches of armour at 1,000 yards!

The interior of the Porsche 911 Turbo S

The interior of the Porsche 911 Turbo S - Credit: Archant

Re-armed in World War Two with two six inch naval guns, the fort was also used for testing secret weapons, including a version of the bouncing bomb; you can still see the tracks for launching this today. The fort never fired a shot in anger, although it was substantially damaged in an explosion in 1900. Now under the custodianship of the National Trust, information boards around the site are great for bringing the history of this forgotten piece of

Somerset history to life.

Back in the car, we head south for a coastal journey to the Devon border and to another strategic coastal destination, but of a different kind! Pass the caravan sites along the Berrow Flats back to Burnham-on-Sea to join the B3139 and then join the A38 in Highbridge.

Heading south on the A38, pass through West Huntspill and Pawlett on your way to Bridgwater to pick up the A39 and some of the most spectacular scenery that Somerset has to offer. With the Quantock Hills dominating the landscape, pass through the pretty village of Nether Stowey and then the charming hamlet of Holford.

The idyllic church of St Audrey’s at West Quantoxhead always draws my eye as we pass.

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On arriving in Williton, turn right onto the B3191 with maybe a pause in the journey at the Mason’s Arms complete with its immaculate thatched roof typical of the area and head for Watchet, then for Blue Anchor with views out into the Bristol Channel.

Rejoin the A39 in Carhampton for a short blast to Dunster. Great for exploring both the castle and the village, however if the weather is right the beach is the most relaxed in the area. Who can resist a visit to the steam train sheds at Minehead before pressing on to Porlock and the steep assent up onto Exmoor that used to defeat so many cars before World War Two.

Now another change of landscape, but with faster open roads, the A39 hugs the cliffs and provides bleak but beautiful views across the moors. Nearing our journey’s end, descend Countisbury Hill into Lynmouth, enjoying more views out to sea to reach the end of our Great Drive.

Situated between the West Lyn and East Lyn rivers, and often referred to as ‘England’s little Switzerland’ there is plenty to do in the area for an afternoon or a weekend. Evolving from a rural coastal farming hamlet, to enterprise and tourism, this inviting town is bristling with attractive charm and character. Take a ride on the water-powered funicular cliff railway that joins the town with its twin, Lynton, high up on the cliffs, or stroll along the small harbour flanked by the famous Rhenish Tower that harks back to the herring trade that once sustained the community. For me though, Lynmouth was a great place to have my first ice- cream of the year!

The car:

The Porsche 911 range has boasted a hairy turbo model since the early 1970s. These early turbos were the Russian roulette of sports cars, with masses of power and an engine hung out behind the rear axle, you were never quite sure when the boost would kick in and send you into the nearest field! As the 911 model has grown into more of a grand touring experience, the turbo model has gained some electronic trickery, helping to harness the intimidating power that is now also applied through all four wheels.

Tested in the range topping Turbo S guise, this model boasts 560 bhp from its 3.8 litre 6 cylinder engine. Mated to a 7-speed double clutch or PDK gearbox, performance is nothing short of mind blowing. Let me put this into perspective: this new Turbo S 911 will beat the Ferrari F12 as well as the McLaren 12C from rest to 120 mph. On the public road, that makes this new 911 model the fastest car out there!

Referred to as the 991 generation of the 911 model (confusing I know), this latest version is the sleekest to date; additional width and length has helped to create a lower, more graceful form while still keeping the 911’s profile links to its 1950s forefathers, as well as the legendary Beetle.

Massive carbon ceramic disks and yellow calipers draw the eye and dominate the wheel arch apertures with the attractive multi-spoke wheels becoming a secondary focus. Tested in amaranth red metallic and a similarly coloured interior, I quickly fell for the balance of performance and refinement the model could offer. Not as exhilarating as a Ferrari 458 Italia to drive, although the power is the same, the Turbo S offered an experience you could live with everyday, whereas the Ferrari felt like a weekend toy.

On the road, handling is sharpened thanks to a rear wheel steering system that works with the four wheel drive system to ensure the car is travelling in the desired direction with minimal fuss. The PDK gearbox is seamless in town, never appearing to change gear. Featuring intermediary gears to match revs to gear to perfection, this clever system also helps to keep fuel economy to close to 40 mpg when on a run.

While the mechanicals give superior day-to-day, accessible performance, the interior helps to clinch the concept of creating the most rounded sports car money can offer. Superb quality materials are epitomised by the cold touch of solid aluminium that adorns the gear paddle shifters. Carbon fibre detailing merges with premium leather to create a space that cocoons you, perfect for those romantic trans-continental drives to the Mediterranean coast.

The 911 also remains unique compared with its peers in its ability to carry rear seat passengers. Okay, I really mean small children, but it does make a big difference to have that rear luggage space or the ability to pick the kids up from school for a treat!

For me this sums up the whole 911 experience, from its birth in the mid 1960s to date, the model continues to excite like all sports cars should, while offering key day to day practicalities - possibly my perfect car! However at £141,000 plus options, the Turbo S model remains way out of my reach!

This article was first published in the April issue of Somerset Life. To get the magazine delivered every month to your home, subscribe at www.subscriptionsave.co.uk/som or call 08448484217