One of the many benefits of living in the South West is our beautiful scenery, which makes it perfect to test drive the outstanding features of a new Mercedes GLE. One such drive is Exmoor’s Valley of the Rocks. We asked One Magazine’s Jake Tucker to take our new GLE for a spin, to test the agile handling and enhanced acceleration of our most dynamic SUV yet.
Car: Mercedes GLE450
Mpg: 23mpg + EQ Boost
Mercedes-Benz of Exeter kindly lent me their top of the line GLE450 to test drive – the only petrol in the GLE range. It features dynamic seat adjustment which reacts and shapes itself to your body for ultimate comfort and a birds-eye view camera means that its larger size is absolutely no problem when navigating the tighter lanes. If you’re looking for luxury comfort, shed loads of space, all the latest technology and a decent handling vehicle with stunningly good looks to match, then this is the car for you.
This figure of eight loop drive takes in 21 miles of diverse Exmoor scenery. From the cliff top coastal views high up on Porlock Hill and the riverside twists and turns near Watersmeet, to quaint villages, views of passing steam trains and the awe-inspiring spectacle that is the Valley of the Rocks.
Most readers will want to pick up this route heading north off of the A361 North Devon link road on the A399 – a spirited route with twists and turns and great scenery in itself – and then by turning right onto the A39 heading north. After approximately 3 miles, take a left turn signposted to Hunters Inn and Heddons Mouth.
The first half of the route will take you down some particularly narrow lanes (especially so when you near Valley of the Rocks) so if you have an aversion to reversing this isn’t the route for you! That being said, there are plenty of passing opportunities and the unwritten etiquette is to follow this section of road from The Hunters Inn to the Valley of Rocks in a clockwise direction, as instructed, to avoid encountering any oncoming vehicles. Make an early start and you’ll not have a problem – I travelled this part at around 9:30am and didn’t have to reverse once!
As you make your way down into the National Trust managed Heddon Valley you’ll descend through the trees close alongside the River Heddon on your left. Here you’ve got the option of stopping and walking just over a mile further along the river out to Heddon’s Mouth.
Otherwise, follow the lane to the right of The Hunters Inn heading uphill – a steep 25% ascending 500m – into the thick tree cover. You’ll tackle a tight hairpin as you near the top before emerging out into more open air heading towards a junction. Turn left here following the sign for Martinhoe.
Once you’ve passed through Martinhoe the landscape starts to open out and the views along the cliff line will fill the horizon. Turn left when you reach the signpost for Woody Bay and stop off in the gravel car park right on the junction here to stretch your legs and really admire the view of Woody Bay itself directly below and further still along to Crock Point and the mighty Valley of the Rocks in the distance to the east.
Continue down this lane for another two miles and enjoy more striking coastal views as you descend close to England’s highest sea cliffs, admiring beautiful sloping fields as they merge into jagged coves. After a tight stone walled hairpin you’ll soon reach Lee Abbey where you’ll see a notice for an optional £2 donation to what used to be an enforced toll road. With views that breathtaking it’s certainly worth it.
Carry on along this lane and you’ll soon head over a cattle grid and the mighty Valley of the Rocks will fill your windscreen. Take in the view as you wind down into the valley and be sure to stop in the car park and have a walk around and take some pictures of the car too – it makes for a spectacular backdrop for photos as you can see!
Once done, head through Lynton and descend Castle Hill. Here you’ll need to make a tight left turn down Lynmouth Hill where you’ll wind your way down looking out over the West Lyn River mouth. Turn right just past the the entrance to Glen Lyn Gorge signposted to Watersmeet – a former fishing lodge. Here you have the opportunity again to enjoy a dramatic drive as you ascend through this picturesque gorge and ancient woodland.
At the hairpin, turn left towards Simonsbath then immediately left again up the lane. At the junction, turn left towards Brendon and wiggle your way further up along the East Lyn River. Turn left at the green towards Lynmouth over the beautiful stone river bridge and follow the road up to the A39.
After navigating through the hamlets of the Brendon Valley, there’s a chance to kick it up a gear as you return to Lynmouth via the stretch of the A39 known as the Atlantic Highway. Multiple laybys along here provide more photo opportunities and a chance to enjoy more sensational coastal views.
Once back at Lynmouth follow the B324 south to the A39 and for your return journey home.
Try it yourself
Explore our blog to learn more about the features of the GLE and reviews from other local motoring enthusiasts. Take advantage of our 48 hour test drive offer before 31st July and experience the GLE for yourself.