A drive for your inner explorer

East Somerset Railway - a great sight to see on the drive

East Somerset Railway - a great sight to see on the drive - Credit: Archant

This month’s Great Drive journeys from coast line to county line in a car which leaves you wanting for nothing

Burnham-on-sea, wooden lighthouse with stilts

Burnham-on-sea, wooden lighthouse with stilts - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Route:

The fourth generation Range Rover - a "triumph of British design and engineering"

The fourth generation Range Rover - a "triumph of British design and engineering" - Credit: Archant

With clear views across the Bristol Channel, the seafront at Burnham-on-Sea makes for a quaint location for a brisk walk - maybe to the lighthouse on the beach and back?

Back in the warmth of the car, leave the shoreline via the B3139 in the direction of Highbridge for a short stretch on the A38 to re-join the B3139 heading for Watchfield and Mark. Now on the Somerset Levels, the narrow roads appear to float on water, with streams flowing either side of the roads and fields stretching out as far as you can see. Continue through Blackford and Wedmore to remain on the B3139, passing through the hamlets of Panborough and Henton until you reach the city of Wells.

Leave Wells on the A371 in the direction of the market town of Shepton Mallet, passing through Croscombe with its enchanting selection of medieval buildings and beautiful church. The road weaves its way through tunnels of overhanging trees along the valley floor, passing the former Anglo-Bavarian Brewery, reputed to be the first producer of lager in the United Kingdom.

Negotiate the centre’s one-way system to arrive at the A361, with the Mulberry factory outlet shop located just up the hill to the left. Or continue along the A361 for a steam train experience in the village of Cranmore at the East Somerset Railway. The A361 is dotted with hamlets, linked with fast open stretches of road with sweeping corners and is one of my favourites within our county. Before you know it you are in Frome.

Try to time your visit to coincide with the renowned Frome Farmers’ Market. Voted the best in Somerset in 2009 and 2010, there is a huge range of produce to tempt your pocket. More details at somersetfarmersmarkets.co.uk.

Back on the road, locate the A36 heading north towards Bath, past the village of Rode with its charming Bath stone built high street, well worth a quick diversion. Follow the A36 through Woolverton to its junction with the A366, turning right with signposts for Farleigh Hungerford. Pass through the village to arrive at the imposing walls of Farleigh Hungerford Castle, located on the border between Somerset and Wiltshire.

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Billed as one of the most remarkable surviving castles in the South West of England, construction started in 1380 and is said to be an architectural statement of wealth by Sir Thomas Hungerford, a former speaker of the House of Commons. Extensively redeveloped in the 15th century, the castle remained in use as a residence until the end of the 17th century. Now an English Heritage property, exploring the remaining towers and buildings are a relaxing way to conclude a Great Drive across Somerset.

The Car:

The fourth generation Range Rover is a triumph of British design and engineering. Not only the best 4x4xfar but possibly the best luxury vehicle money can buy. The external design is very much an evolution of the traditional, honed from solid stance of the original, launched in the 1970’s. Now in its 44th year of production, the Range Rover design has kept pace with current design trends to ensure that it remains desirable to the jet set who view this as a must-have machine. Effective flicks on both the front and rear light clusters together with a cleaner, slightly more aerodynamic stance complete the subtle enhancements to the Range Rover’s new look. Now made out of aluminium, the Range Rover also claims to be much lighter than the outgoing model. This, together with advancements in engine technology, has helped to make this nearly 2.5 tonne machine surprisingly economical to live with, achieving more than 35 mpg during our test.

Available with three engine options; a V6 diesel, and then both V8 petrol and diesel variants, we opted for the 3.0 litre V6 diesel, offering the best balance between power and economy. Land Rover will be launching hybrid versions of the Range Rover later in 2014.

In Vogue SE specification, the cabin leaves you wanting for nothing. Again the design has been enhanced, losing some of the previous model’s art-deco touches, but still remaining elegant and clean in its design. Brushed aluminium, high grade leather and mirror polished wood adorn all surfaces, fusing to create an environment in which captains of industry will feel at home. Switchgear and controls all look and feel that they have been designed for a premium machine - and not one with field crossing potential!

Bristling with discreetly hidden technology, long journeys are like first class on your way to New York. Rear screens to keep the children entertained, whilst the front screen splits its pixels to provide the driver with sat nav information, simultaneously allowing the passenger to watch a film or the television. More screens display the dials in the driver’s binnacle, radar assisted cruise control helps to keep your distance on the motorway, whilst you can sit back and enjoy the sumptuous heated seats and steering wheel. I particularly liked the optional glass roof which was so extensive it felt like the roof had been removed!

Plenty of head room and leg space only accentuates the feeling of premium travel. Boot space continues to be generous with the trademark split level tailgate now opening with the aid of electric motors as standard.

The Range Rover driving experience is very similar to that of the Rolls Royce Phantom, featured a few months back; light but responsive power steering, floating yet poised when necessary suspension that smooths out the road beneath you. The Range Rover’s high rise driving position is compelling both from a safety point of view as well as enabling passengers to view more of the countryside as it passes. And that diesel engine has been refined and insulated to the point that you can hardly hear it, very much like the Rolls.

Comparable to the Rolls Royce in many ways, the Range Rover is a premium product with little in common with any other 4x4, other than its ability to cross some pretty inhospitable terrain better than many of them! As a machine to rival the best premium cars in the world in luxury whilst offering real world practicality, the £78,000 price including options starts to look cheap compared to the £300,000 for the Roller!