Great drive: From Tyntesfield’s towers to Tarr Steps

A distant view of Glastonbury Tor

A distant view of Glastonbury Tor - Credit: Archant

The Great Drive takes a scenic tour in a car with attitude and discovers Gothic splendour, an enchanting tree lined valley and a famous medieval landmark

The Audi RS6 at Tyntesfield

The Audi RS6 at Tyntesfield - Credit: Archant

The Route

The interior of the Audi RS6

The interior of the Audi RS6 - Credit: Archant

This month we embark on a Great Drive that starts with grand architecture and ends in the tranquil surroundings of medieval marvels, seamlessly linked with a scenic tour across Somerset.

Tyntesfield, near Clevedon, is the former grand residency of Lord Wraxall, whose family made its fortune from importing guano from South America. Now the jewel in the crown of the National Trust’s South West portfolio, Tyntesfield is a breathtakingly beautiful estate to explore early in the morning before the madding crowds descend to break the peace.

Exit the estate via the yew tree lined avenue and turn right onto the B3128 in the direction of Failand to descend Belmont Hill and pick up the A3130 that leads to the A38 via the picturesque village of Barrow Gurney. Head south on the A38, passing Bristol Airport and the traffic lights at Churchill to the junction with the A371 and signposts for Cheddar.

Pass through Cheddar, the hamlets of Rodney Stoke and Westbury-sub-Mendip to reach the cathedral city of Wells to pick up the A39 to Glastonbury with the Tor beckoning you on. Continue to Street and follow the B3151’s signposts for Somerton with some wonderfully flowing roads and rolling scenery to spur you onwards. The B3153 links Somerton with Langport where we pick up the A378 and signposts for Curry Rivel and Taunton.

Negotiate the bustling market town of Taunton, heading for Norton Fitzwarren where the B3227 ambles its way to Wiveliscombe, continuing onwards through Waterrow, the hamlets of Petton and Shillingford and finally Bampton before arriving at the Exe Valley and the A396, where it’s a right to Exebridge and the B2223.

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Maybe one of the most charming roads in Somerset, the B2223 winds its way along an enchanting tree-lined valley with the River Barle running alongside. Passing through the beautiful village of Dulverton, complete with thatched cottages typical of the area, the B2223 continues onwards and up onto the breathtaking plains of Exmoor. After passing through Higher Combe look out for signposts for Tarr Steps on the left hand side and follow these to our final destination.

A medieval clapper bridge over the River Barle, Tarr Steps is a great place to explore with the family. Spanning the 55 foot river in 17 spans of flat stone, the bridge is a centre-piece of a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The surrounding woodlands provide a wide range of walks to suit all ages, abounding with wildlife, ranging from red deer to dormice. The clear, fast following river is also a favourite haunt of otters. We enjoyed a one and a half mile circular walk after a hearty meal in the Tarr Farm Inn, recently awarded the AA 5 star Highly Commended Inn award. Good food and service were matched by a stunning view across the valley and medieval bridge. And there completes a rather special day out in our beautiful county.

The Car

Not only are Audi the kings of the ultra-sophisticated four-wheel drive or ‘Quattro’ power delivery systems, but the four ringed German brand is also home to the ultimate estate car. Called Avant in Audi speak, the RS6 is the latest in a long line of RS Avant models, which started with the RS2 in the mid-1990s.

Marrying estate car practicality to super car performance, the RS6 boasts 553bhp from its 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 engine, providing performance that is as aggressive as its styling. Whilst the top speed is limited to a sane 155mph, it’s the acceleration to get you there that really impresses, with 60mph from rest coming up in just 3.9 seconds and 100mph arriving in a staggering 8.7 seconds! To put this into perspective, this is considerably quicker than a Porsche 911 S with an equivalent 0-60mph time of 4.5 seconds.

Exterior styling is full of attitude with wheels from the R8 filling blistered wheel arches and a chin spoiler that looks straight off the race track. However, and in contrast, there is also an air of class to the RS6’s profile. The elegant shooting brake form with ultra-modern LED headlamps never looks cheap or overdone. It just looks like it means business!

Within the cabin you can experience one of the best interiors available in any car today, leather, alloy and premium switchgear all feel tactile; creating an ambiance to which other premium brands can only aspire. Clever design and attention to detail really create an interior that makes you feel special. I particularly liked the honeycomb design on the leather as well as the sat nav screen that theatrically rises out of the dashboard!

The driving experience only adds to the desirability of this fusion between load lugger and autobahn basher. Grip the fist-filling flat bottomed steering wheel and allow the sports seats to hug your frame. Engage sport mode on the 8-speed gearbox and open the taps on that V8 engine to experience a motoring thrill second to none outside the super car world.

The suspension and steering feel fine tuned to get the best out of Somerset’s A & B roads, with the RS6 always engaging to drive, but never intimidating. It’s this final point that makes the RS6 a compelling purchase. Whilst it offers the performance of a high end sports car, it also allows you to use it as a daily driver, practical to drive to work, it even shuts down half its cylinders on the pootle to the city to save fuel and pollution. The boot and rear seat space are cavernous, swallowing up all that a growing family can throw at it.

For me, the RS6 presents a very compelling case for a single car that can cover all the bases from super car to family wagon, helping to justify a starting price of £76,985.