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Great drive: Clifton Village to Bicknoller

PUBLISHED: 12:22 19 January 2016 | UPDATED: 12:22 19 January 2016

Crowcombe Church

Crowcombe Church

Archant

MARK G WHITCHURCH enjoys a special motoring experience from north to west Somerset in a newly launched motor with charm and Latin character

Maserati Ghibli and Bicknoller Inn.JMaserati Ghibli and Bicknoller Inn.J

The Route:

Mooching around Clifton village on a crisp winter morn is a moment to savour. Stroll up Princess Victoria Street and onto The Mall admiring the exclusive boutique shops along the way. Maybe pause at Bar Chocolat on the corner of Portland Street for a warming brew or something sweeter before continuing on to the Clifton Downs, ambling in the direction of the Suspension Bridge. A brisk walk back and forth across this famous landmark culminated in the kids enjoying the swings and exploring the adjacent children’s play area.

Leave this village within the city of Bristol via Brunel’s pioneering bridge to join the A369 in the direction of Portishead. Just before the M5 motorway junction take the left turn to Portbury and ascend Mill Lane, twisting upwards towards the B3128 passing through several pretty wooded sections where we turn right at the junction. The B3128 follows the high ground as it travels towards Tickenham, dipping down as it joins the B3130 to Clevedon.

Before entering the Victorian seaside resort of Clevedon turn left on to Court Lane. Davis Lane, Kenmoor Road and Moor Road express you to the village of Yatton where the B3133 will take you to Congresbury and on towards Langford, where we head south on the A38.

Maserati Ghibli InteriorMaserati Ghibli Interior

Pass through the villages of Churchill and Winscombe. Dropping down onto the levels, the A38 soon has you in Highbridge followed by Bridgwater shortly afterwards. Locate the A39 which wiggles its way to Cannington and onwards towards the picturesque hamlets that nestle in the foothills of the Quantock Hills.

Shortly after passing Whitnell, turn left, signposted for Over Stowey to join the network of lanes. Cautious progress finds you in Over Stowey where you pick up signs for Crowcombe. Now narrow and often steep, this pretty road weaves its way up through dense woodland onto the bracken covered peaks of the Quantock Hills.

We paused in one of the many car parks and took a gentle stroll to Hurley Beacon, passing the numerous Bronze Age burial mounds that punctuate the landscape. Hurley Beacon, originally a Bronze Age Barrow, also served as a fire beacon to warn of the arrival of the Spanish Armada. The silence up here on a clear day is almost as breathtaking as the views!

With the children now asking more questions than we could answer without internet access we return to the car to complete our journey. Travelling down through the pretty village of Crowcombe to join the A358, now heading towards Minehead, looking out for signs to the hamlet of Bicknoller. Take the first turning into Bicknoller, another one of the Quantock’s sleeping gems, and travel the short distance to the Bicknoller Inn.

Affectionately known as ‘The Bick’ in Somerset, it is believed that a pub or hostelry has stood on this site since the 16th Century. Now bristling with charm, a warm welcome encourages you in and out of the cold. Sit in either the traditional bar with its flagstone floor and wood burner, the snug or the lofty, more contemporary dining area with its distinctive oak beams and panoramic views into the garden and courtyard.

The Sunday Roast made from locally sourced ingredients tasted truly homemade. A well-stocked children’s and desert menus completed a very pleasant Sunday lunch and another Great Drive across Somerset.

The Car:

Once created to generate funds to feed its racing programme, Maserati’s road cars have to date been low volume affairs. The artisan factory in Modena, created chic Italianesque silhouettes with interiors bathed in leather and powered by engines that produced a mechanical symphony that would make the hairs on your arms stand to attention.

To own a Maserati was to celebrate its racing pedigree, a rarified experience that said you knew your cars. The newly launched Maserati Ghibli is a car designed to capture the magic of this exotic Italian marque whilst widening the appeal to a new generation of admirers. With the Mercedes-Benz CLS and Audi A7 as its rivals, the Ghibli might not possess the Germanic fineness of its competition, but what it does have is charm and Latin character to make this one special motoring experience.

Offered with three V6 engines, two petrol variants and a diesel, the latter is a first for the company and is seen as the volume seller, combining the essence of Maserati with sensible everyday economy. However, with the range topping Ghibli S producing 404bhp from its Ferrari-built 3.0 litre twin turbo heart, I couldn’t resist the recipe of power and Maserati flare!

Bristling with Maserati design cues and with Neptune’s trident dominating the sleek nose, this is undoubtedly a Maserati. A compact behind, high waist and swooping roofline, help to give the Ghibli a sleek coupe profile whilst offering the practicality of a four-door saloon.

Make yourself comfortable in the signature horseshoe inspired fine grain leather seats to admire the vista of hand stitched leather fascia, complimented by carbon fibre and aluminium detailing that make up the Ghibli’s dashboard. Like a Ferrari, some of the functions take time to acclimatise to rather than being intuitive, but that is part of the charm of owning an Italian thoroughbred.

A tale of two driving experiences; with its eight speed ZF automatic gearbox, the Ghibli is a wonderfully relaxing experience on the daily commute. The pleasant grumble up front and the trident on the thick rimmed leather steering wheel remind you that you are driving something rather special.

Yet press the sport button and this Maserati is keen to demonstrate there is racing blood pumping through its veins. Pin the accelerator to the floor and cycle up through the gears via the column mounted paddle to experience breathtaking performance. The suspension becomes more taught and the steering tightens to make threading the Ghibli through Somerset’s flowing A-Roads an exhilarating experience.

No one is perfect and the Maserati Ghibli is the same, but like a loved one, it’s those quirks and idiosyncrasies that you learn to love and live with! In this performance focused S variant, the Ghibli will set you back a shade under £65k, whilst the more modest Ghibli Diesel model kicks off at just under £50k.

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