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Great drive: Dolebury Warren Hillfort to Montacute House

PUBLISHED: 14:46 15 April 2015 | UPDATED: 14:46 15 April 2015

The east front of Montacute House, Somerset with the balustraded wall of the East Court garden. This Elizabethan Ham-stone house was built in the late sixteenth-century for Sir Edward Phelips. The east front is in the usual Elizabethan

The east front of Montacute House, Somerset with the balustraded wall of the East Court garden. This Elizabethan Ham-stone house was built in the late sixteenth-century for Sir Edward Phelips. The east front is in the usual Elizabethan "E" formation with projecting wings to either side and central frontispiece.

©National Trust Images/Robert Morris

This month’s Great Drive takes a journey from Dolebury Warren Hillfort to Montacute House,with its towering walls of glass and glow of locally sourced ham stone

Axbridge in  the SpringtimeAxbridge in the Springtime

Route:

This month’s Great Drive transcends a pair of Somerset’s historical landmarks with a breath-taking walk around an Iron Age hillfort to exploring one of the county’s most significant examples of Elizabethan Renaissance architecture.

Accessed via the hamlet of Dolebury, just north of the Churchill traffic lights on the A38, Dolebury Warren is today registered as a site of Special Scientific Interest. Sitting on a limestone vantage point on the edge of the Mendip Hills, there is much evidence of an Iron Age Hillfort with earthen ramparts on three sides. Excavation of Saxon and Roman coins suggest the site was an active defence point for centuries to follow.

Used as a giant rabbit warren in medieval times, hence the name, today Dolebury Warren is a great place for a brisk morning walk with some fantastic views over Somerset.

Refreshed and with lungs full of country air, join the A38, heading south through Sidcot and down into the valley to pick up signposts for Axbridge and the A371. If you haven’t been before, take a diversion through the square at Axbridge. It’s well worth the slight deviation. Back on the A371 pass through Cheddar and then Draycott and Rodney Stoke on your way to the Cathedral City of Wells. Maybe pause for a walk around the Cathedral grounds and market if you time your trip for a Saturday morning.

As you exit Wells, hook up again with the A371 as it winds its way towards Shepton Mallet to pass the Anglo Trading Estate and the site of the first lager brewery in the country. At the junction with the A37 you can either explore the boutique shops at Kilver Court Designer Village or continue south on the A37 to retrace the Fosse Way, the longest Roman road to cross the country.

Cruise through Street on the Fosse and Lydford-on-Fosse at the junction with the B3153. Maintain course until you arrive at the A303 at Podimore. Briefly join the A303 with signposts for Ilchester and Martock. At the roundabout with the A3088 and signposts for Yeovil, start to pick up brown tourism signs for Montacute House and our final destination.

With its towering walls of glass and the glow of locally sourced ham stone, Montacute House has to be one of the most attractive grand houses in the county. Built by skilled craftsman for Sir Edward Phelips and completed in 1601, the house is a wonderfully flamboyant statement of Elizabethan wealth and showmanship.

The BMW Z4The BMW Z4

Lined with over 60 portraits from the Tudor and Elizabethan eras and on loan from the National Portrait Gallery, the Long Gallery is the longest of its kind in England.

The beautiful gardens that surround Montacute are constantly changing with the seasons, filling the house with scent in summer and providing an atmospheric backdrop for a winter walk.

Superbly managed by the National Trust, a wander around Montacute House is a wonderfully relaxing way to end a Great Drive. More details on Montacute House and other National Trust properties can be found at nationaltrust.org.uk

The Car:

The BMW Z4 has evolved from focused sports car to a machine that, whilst continuing to offer premium sports car qualities, now also proves to be a dab hand at performing the role of a grand tourer.

Larger in all dimensions and now boasting a folding hard top roof mechanism, the second generation Z4 feels like it has grown up with its fan base. Whilst the exterior is instantly recognisable as a BMW roadster, with a blend of nostalgic design cues from the past fused together with forward design visions that harmonise the Z4 with the rest of the current BMW range.

More muscular from the front; accentuated features give a shark-like presence to the form with contours and curves running along the flanks that continue this aquatic theme. Attractive alloy wheels fill the wheel arches to ground the design and again add to the Z4’s muscular posture.

Within the cabin you will find a superbly well-appointed space offering premium leather enhanced with subtle brushed aluminium and high quality plastics. Continuing the outward styling within there are again nice design nods to the BMW 507 Roadster of the 1950s, arguably the most stylish BMW ever produced.

Thumb the starter button to stir the engine into life. The rasp from the 3.0 litre straight six motor is unmistakably BMW. Engage drive via the joystick style gear lever and grip the chunky steering wheel to commence a driving experience that epitomises why BMWs are regarded as one of the purest driving machines.

Acceleration is swift, with 0-62mph dispatched in 5.1 seconds as the Z4 powers its way onto a top speed of 155mph. Lower the roof to allow the mechanical symphony to swirl around the cabin, which has been cleverly engineered to reduced buffeting and thus keep your hair where you intended! With a boot capacity of 310 litres it’s more than adequate for a long weekend away to the coast or for those more enthusiastic, why not cross the channel and head for the Med?

For me the Z4 remains a strong contender in the modern sports car class, offering superb build quality with that folding hard top for enhanced security and day to day usability. However the Z4 is eager to show its more glamorous side on a sunny day when the roof comes down and the Z4 offers one of the best sports car experiences available today. The 35i sDrive M Sport version tested starts from £43,480.

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