The story of the West Country holiday trek in pre-motorway days.

West is Best

This site tells the story of a period in road history, before motorways or dual carriageways, when a long journey was a test of endurance. Travelling to the west for the annual holiday, or, for lorry drivers on long distance haulage, was a major expedition in the 50's, 60's and early 70's. Holidaymakers would have to plan for a full day or even 2 days, after sleeping in a layby, to reach their destination. Long distance coach schedules allowed for an all night journey with refreshment breaks, to arrive in the morning in Devon or Cornwall. Haulage contractors would also run through the night, stopping at 24 hour transport cafes, which were far more numerous then than they are now. These places were also used by motorists and coach parties as well. There were tea rooms for the more well-heeled traveller but, mostly, everyone mixed in together.

The A30/A303 travellers had slowly negotiated their way through Staines, before the 1961 bypass, Camberley, Basingstoke bypass, Andover, Amesbury, Wylye, Mere, Wincanton, Ilchester, Ilminster, Honiton and, numerous villages, before finally arriving at the Exeter bypass, and merging with the A38.

The A38 from Birmingham to Exeter was known as The Longest Lane, as it passed through every town and village on the 140 mile long route. The section  through Bromsgrove, Droitwich and Worcester was bypassed fairly early on, in July 1962, by the first section of M5. It connected to the M50 to Ross-on-Wye, (the Ross Spur) but, traffic bound for the South West, had to leave at J1 to join the A38 southwards. This passed through Tewkesbury, Gloucester, Bristol, Highbridge, Bridgwater, Taunton, Wellington, Cullompton, many villages and, onto the Exeter bypass, where it met the A30, carrying all the traffic from London and the Home Counties.

This bypass became one of the most famous roads in Britain in the 1960's, notorious for holiday tailbacks in all directions, as those that had finished their holidays queued eastbound, passing the westbound tailback of arriving holidaymakers. It could take up to 5 hours to put Exeter behind them.

We will head west from London or, south from the Midlands, on both routes and relive those tiring, frustrating yet also,  adventurous journeys, when finally arriving at your destination, really felt like an achievement.

Contributions to steve337@btinternet.com       

After the Memories and Photo sections listed at the top of this page, there is more at  http://www.holidaywest.weebly.com/

The West Country Historic Omnibus & Transport Trust at  http://www.busmuseum.org.uk/