August 19, 2015 at 9:39 AM
A South coast drive is not often considered as a holiday drive-away, it really is worth doing.
Driving from Kent to Cornwall is an experience that will mark you for the rest of your life, especially if the weather is good.
This drive-away offered by Westwood Car and Commercial will take you from Canterbury to Penzance, so let’s start in Kent by “The Garden of England”.
Famous throughout the World for its ties to the Monarchy, the Anglican Church and to English literature (Geoffrey Chaucer: “The Canterbury Tales”), the city is extremely old. Inhabited since Palaeolithic times it has seen many people settling and has been the capital of several Kingdoms such as the Cantiaci (Celtic Tribe) and the Jutes. Developed by the Romans as a stronghold following the invasion of 43 AD, it was crossroads of the ports of Dover, Richbourough, Reculver and Lympte.
Following the fall of the Roman Empire the city decayed for the next century. However, the “City of Bells” rose from its ashes by end of the 6th century thanks to the Benedictine monk Augustine (Later be known as St. Augustine) who was sent by Pope Gregorius I to convert King Ethelbert of Kent to Christianity.
Once this was accomplished the city became the official seat of Catholic bishop in Kent. By 978 the Abbey was rebuilt and burnt down by the Danes in 1011. The city was hardly hit hard by the Black Death of 1348 and its population fell from 10,000 to about 3,000 souls. In 1448, Canterbury was granted a City Charter. During the 17th century 40% of Canterbury’s population were French-speaking Protestant Huguenots, this community introduced silk weaving techniques that lasted till the middle of the 19th century supplanted by Indian muslins. During the 20th century the city endured much destruction during the two World Wars, however a breath of fresh air came to the city with the opening of the University of Kent at Canterbury and Christ Church College in the 1960s.
The city is still enjoys this thanks to projects like the Canterbury Enterprise Hub or Lakesview International Business Park. Tourism also plays a major role in the local economy thanks to the Cathedral and the city’s long history. Major landmarks are the cathedral, St. Augustine’s abbey, the castle, the Westgate, the Huguenots Weavers houses and the city walls.
After good-night’s-sleep take the A28 then switch to the A290 to Hastings, the drive should take about 1.5 hours. However you should probably allow about half-an-hour to find a parking space.
The historic town of England has had a long history particularly influenced by the Norman invasion, however the city has a longer history and was first referenced under the name of Hæstingas being the name of the local tribe during the 6th-8th centuries. This name also referred to the local Kingdom that finally fell under control of the Kings of Mercia, Kent and Wessex. By the beginning of the 2nd millennia the “Anglo-Saxon Chronicle” relates that Vikings overran Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Hæstingas. This defeat and sack by the Vikings led to the inaction of the locals when William, Duke of Normandy landed on the shores between Hastings and Eastbourne in Norman’s Bay. However 8 miles away the “Battle of Hastings” happened and sealed the future of the Saxon Kingdom of the Godwinsons. To secure its position, William had a castle built in the city on the grounds of the existing Saxon castle. The city became part of the famous Cinque Ports that included Sandwich, Dover, New Romney and Hythe.
The 13th and 14th centuries were very difficult for Hastings. In 1287 on St. Lucia’s day, a terrible flood impacted most of the city, in 1339 and in 1377 the town was raided and burnt to the ground by the French, following the raids Hastings entered a massive decline and even though Elizabeth I tried to recreate a stone harbour the foundations had been destroyed by the sea. The last harbour project in 1896 failed as well. However with the arrival of the railway Hastings grew significantly from 3,175 in 1831 to over 90,300 on the 2011 census.
Among its landmarks are the famous castle, the pier and Battle which is only 8 miles away, where you’ll be able to see the beautiful abbey dating back to the beginning of the 2nd millennia. If you plan to stay for the night we recommend the White Rock Hotel, if you are hungry they have a nice café-bar.
To drive towards your next destination take the A259 and then switch to the A27 towards Brighton, without traffic the journey should take about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Once you have reached “The Queen of Watering Places” you will probably struggle to find a parking spot, just forget about parking in the city during the summer, you will probably have to use the park and ride on the outskirts of the city. The stop is still worth it.
Rich with a history dating back to the Neolithic with a settlement located in nowadays Whitehawk Hill. Also the Brythonic Celts colonised the area in the 7th century BC. The Roman Era saw the city flourish with the erection of many Roman Villas and Romano-British farming settlements. Following the Anglo-Saxon invasion of the 5th century AD the region became part of the Kingdom of Sussex. Under the Saxons, the city looked towards the sea for its economy. The Domesday Book of 1086 established a rent of 4,000 herrings. By the 14th century there was a parish church, a market and rudimentary law enforcement by the presence of town constable. In the early 16th century “London-by-the-sea” was sacked and burnt by the French, but thanks to its thriving mackerel-fishing industry the town recovered quickly. During the 18th and 19th centuries the cities saw its fishing industry declining and at the same time the rise of the wellness and tourism industry which led to the construction of the Grand Hotel, the West Pier and the Palace Pier. Throughout history several monuments have been created such as the Royal Pavilion with its distinctive Indo-Saracenic architectural style and Brighton Pier. If you plan to stay for a night the Brighton Hotel may be a good choice. If you are hungry we recommend their pan fried seabass.
Once you have rested enough and have finished exploring this charming city take the A27 to Portsmouth for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, the train station car park is a bit expensive but still affordable if you want to walk around the city.
Even though the area was inhabited in Pre-Roman times, some sources maintain that the town was founded in 1180 by the Anglo-Norman merchant Jean de Gisors in 1180. However, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle claims that Portesmuða was founded by a Saxon warrior called Port in 501 AD. Portsmouth was granted its first Royal Charter by King Richard the Lionheart granting permission for a 15 days annual “free market fair”, weekly markets and a local court. The borough was also exempted from paying the annual tax for the purpose of local economic development. In 1200 King John established a permanent naval base; in conjunction the commercial port activities rose particularly for wine from Aquitaine. In 1338, a French fleet raided and destroyed much of Portsmouth which led King Edward III to exempt the city from national taxes to support the reconstruction, but only a decade later the city was struck by the Black Death. To prevent the reconstruction of the city the French sacked it in 1369, 1377 and 1380.
The first permanent fortifications were only built under the reign of Henry V. Following the Act of Dissolution of the Monasteries and in prevision of a potential conflict with France, King Henry VIII had Southsea Castle Built and made Portsmouth home of the newly founded Royal Navy. Portsmouth was also the port of sailing of the fleet that would found the first colony in Australia, it also has a deeply rooted relationship with the British Colonial Empire. In essence, Portsmouth has the sea within its DNA.
Among its landmarks are the HMS Victory and more generally the historic dockyard, the cathedral, Gunwharf Quays, Southsea Castle and the Royal Marines Museum. If you plan to stay for the night we recommend the Seacrest Hotel if you are hungry just go to the Loch Fyne Restaurant & Oyster Bar. Once you are done with your discovery of the city you can either board a ferry in your car or take a passenger ferry to the Isle of Wight, however, we recommend you take your car. It takes about 45 minutes.
Isle of Wight
Once the boat has berthed you can drive to Bouldnor it should take about 30 minutes to reach it. Bouldnor is supposed to have been an active seaport trading with the Middle East around 6,000 BC. The Isle of Wight was mentioned for the first time by Ptolemy in his Geography, it seems that the first Celts to have inhabited the Island were the Durotriges supplanted in 85 BC by the Belgae, the Island was captured by the commander Vespasian who later would become Emperor. At the fall of the Roman Empire, the isle became a Jutish Kingdom until 661 AD when it was invaded by the Mercians, in 685 it fell in the hands of the Kingdom of Wessex and around the 9th century it became an integral part of England. The Vikings raided the isle many times. Following the Norman Conquest the title of Lord of the Isle of Wight was created which led to the building of Carisbrooke Castle. Under Henry VIII’s rule the island was fortified to be the anvil of Portsmouth and became a bottleneck for the protection of the Royal Navy. The isle was used on many occasions as a spearhead for the logistics of invasions of France such as Operation Overlord.
If you plan to stay we recommend the Royal Hotel a charming place to chill. Once you are done exploring the island just take the ferry back to the mainland and take the A31 to Weymouth, the journey should take about 2.5 hours.
Weymouth seems to have been a simple settlement that started to develop from the mid-12th century onwards. By 1252 it was established as a seaport and became a chartered borough. By 1310 it was mentioned as a licensed wool port, but French raiders finding the port so accessible led to the transfer of the staple to Poole in 1433. Melcombe Regis port (district of Weymouth) became England’s entrance gate of the Black Death in June 1348. In order to protect South Dorset from invasions King Henry VIII had Sandsfoot Castle built. The city has also been the place of birth of many emigrants to America who founded Weymouth, Massachusetts. If you have kids take them to SeaLife Adventure Park, it is a fantastic place to teach your children about the beauty of marine life.
If you plan to stay for the night the Riviera Hotel is a great place to stay and you can also have a great dinner there. Once you have finished discovering Weymouth get on the A35 and in about 1 hour and 45 minutes you should reach Torquay.
Torquay aka “The English Riviera” is a beautiful town on the shores of Devon. Inhabited since the Palaeolithic, the town only remained a minor settlement until the Napoleonic Wars. However several populations have inhabited the area and some traces of Roman presence can be found. Torbay was a sheltered anchorage for the Channel Fleet. With the arrival of the railway in 1848 Torquay quickly expanded and was soon granted borough status. During World War I the city was a major recovery location for British soldiers, while during WWII it was used as a host city for London’s evacuees. The town is absolutely amazing; don’t forget to visit the Abbey and Kents Cavern, if you feel more like relaxing you should go to one of the beaches, Watcombe Beach is probably the nicest, if you feel more energetic why not going for a fishing boat trip.
If you feel like staying for the night the Corbyn Head Hotel is a nice place to crash and the view is amazing. When you are done take the A38 and in roughly an hour you should reach Plymouth.
Welcome to the city of “Janners” also known as “Guzz”: Plymouth. Inhabited since the Upper Palaeolithic, the area was one of main trading ports of the country over a period spanning from the Bronze Age to the Middle Iron Age. Ptolemy mentioned a settlement called Tamari Ostia (Mouth/Estuary of the Tamar) which is thought to be located under the modern city. The name Plym Mouth was mentioned for the first time in 1211 on a Pipe Roll. During the Hundred Years’ War the city stood several attacks and started to be fortified around the late 15th century, including the Barbican used to protect Sutton pool where the fleet was moored prior to the establishment of Plymouth Dockyard. During the 16th century Plymouth was one of the main ports involved in the Triangular trade Route, it was also home of Sir Francis Drake and saw the Pilgrim Fathers setting sail for the New World.
Through the 17th century the trading port entered a decline period, however at the same time the dockyards started to develop and quickly became the main employer of the area, from that point its economy started to shift from a trading economy towards a military economy. The city saw this later role reaching its peak during the two World Wars, enduring heavy destructions from the Luftwaffe’s blitz raids. Plymouth is also a major education city with over 30,000 students and almost 3,000 staff.
When in the city you cannot miss the National Maritime Aquarium (The UK’s largest), the Merchants’ House, the Mayflower Museum and the Citadel (Between the 5/5 and the 29/9, only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays).
If you plan to stay longer than a day book a room at the Grosvernor Plymouth and if you are hungry we recommend The Waterfront. When you have finished exploring Plymouth get ready to leave for your last stop Penzance. Take the A38 and then switch to the A30, if you do not hit any traffic it should take you roughly 1 and a half hours.
Welcome to our last stop Penzance, located only 10 miles from Land’s End, the area has been inhabited since Prehistoric times but the first settlement dates from the Bronze Age as shown by findings like a palstave (Bronze Age axe), a spear-head, a knife and pins. The Iron Age was marked by the creation of defensive earthwork like Lescudjack Castle. It seems that the area was occupied for a small time by Romans with the finding of three coins. The first mention of the name Pensans is in the Assize Roll of 1284 which spelling evolved to Penzance.
The Medieval Period led to the growth of the settlement. A Royal Charter had been granted by King Edward III by Alice de Lisle allowing the foundation of a fair and a market. It seems that a quay was built in Penzance as revealed in records. The town was often raided by Turkish Pirates. The city was visited by the plague in the summer of 1578 and 1647, roughly 10% of the population was killed each time. In 1595, Don Carlos de Amesquita raided and burnt down Penzance and its surrounding villages. In 1404 the town was granted the right to hold a Royal Market, then in 1512 it was granted to charge harbour dues. In 1614, it was granted the status of a Borough giving it the right to hold a civil court, owning land and property, the right of fining and having a prison. During the Civil War Penzance was sacked by the Parliamentary Forces. In 1755, following the Lisbon earthquake the Cornish coast was stricken by a Tsunami which’s wave reached 8 feet, in Penzance only a little damage was recorded. During the 19th century Penzance was equipped with modern commodities such as; gas lighting, paved or macadamised roads, waste collection and water pumps.
At the same time Penzance railway station was made the terminus of the West Cornwall Railway, the train gave Penzance the chance to export perishable items and then increase the revenues extracted from these. Penzance now has a mixed economy powered by light industry and tourism. Don’t forget to visit the Morrab Gardens and take a dip in the open-air seawater Jubilee Pool. Meanwhile if you are in the area stop by the Geevor Tin Mine to discover one of the multiple aspects that marked the history of the area.
We will leave you here to enjoy the city however if you plan to rest somewhere before heading home we suggest the Hotel Penzance. Hoping you have enjoyed the trip, we wish a safe journey wherever you drive to.