Driving to Cornwall tomorrow, any tips?

(53 Posts)
flowery Fri 23-Aug-13 07:35:43

We are travelling from Cambridgeshire. I realise the traffic will be an utter nightmare so looking for tips on routes to take, what time to leave (have been advised 3am, 4am, 7am and overnight so far), good places to stop etc
We have two DC 6 and 3 if that helps.

Am hoping the journey doesn't make me regret booking it!

Thanks in advance smile

Morgause Fri 23-Aug-13 07:38:54

Get past Bristol as early as you can then enjoy the scenery. It's a long journey but a pretty one.

CorrieDale Fri 23-Aug-13 07:41:13

Hope it goes well for you! We break the journey in Devon for a night or 2. That way we don't travel too far on a changeover day (Friday and Saturday). Agree that you need to be well past Bristol by 9am.

Theincidental Fri 23-Aug-13 07:42:18

Avoid m4/m5 around bristol if you can. You can either go a30 I to Cornwall or a39 on the north.

I'm sooty but it will be hellish. I'd leave very early or mid evening to avoid the worst of it.

My geography is shocking, but if you were planning to use the a303 anywhere near Stonehenge, be aware that there are major roadworks as they've closed a nearby road.

Theincidental Fri 23-Aug-13 07:43:05

I'm clearly not sooty, but I am sorry!

OohMrDarcy Fri 23-Aug-13 07:43:13

I am going tomorrow too - with a 6 and 3 year old as well!

We are driving from hampshire and leaving at 5am if that helps - we did it at the start of the holidays too and leaving that time was perfect... not many traffic issues at all. So basically - leave as early as you can bear!

Meglet Fri 23-Aug-13 07:44:43

We leave at 8am from Hampshire and the traffic is still grim. Always drive via the A30 as it reminds me of my childhood and I'm a LP so I like my comfort zone.

Stonehenge area tends to be one huge traffic jam. There's a little chef not long afterwards. The rest of the drive to exeter isn't too bad. Exeter services is huge and a PITA to get into via the roundabout but they have an M&S food as well as the usual motorway fare.

It's one hell of a drive but worth it.

PartyFops Fri 23-Aug-13 07:53:18

OK, I live in suffolk and drive to Pastyland a lot as I am from there. The best route really is A11, m11 m25 m4 m5 a30. There are other routes but that really is the best. I would suggest leaving at about lunchtime, stop at Lydiard Park near Swindon, it's a big country park with a great huge play park etc. Just 2 mins off M4.

If you leave at 1, with a good stop off and a few wee stops it will probably take you about 6.5 -7 hours all in. By that time the Bristol and Cornwall end will be clear.

Have fun, enjoy Cornwall. I will be there in a few weeks.

domesticslattern Fri 23-Aug-13 07:56:11

The service stations are hell on earth on Fridays and Saturdays in August. Massive queues to get in and completely over run when you manage it. Ideas to stop slightly away from the motorway itself are v sensible.

We always leave later - because I pack in the morning! So are behind the early starters and it works well. So I'm with PartyFops on the lunchtime start.

flowery Fri 23-Aug-13 08:17:05

Really good tips, thanks all.

Helpful about services domesticslattern, will have to look for some alternatives as we will need to stop fairly often I think.


PartyFops Fri 23-Aug-13 08:19:48

There is a big sainsburys and shopping centre literally 1min off the M5 at Taunton, that's always a good stop off for dinner, petrol etc.

bodiddly Fri 23-Aug-13 08:23:16

We go every year and find that if you leave as early as possible (5am at the latest) then we sail through. If you go m4 m5 at that time of day you sail through. Any later and your journey could take double the time. Take some breakfast and eat on the way. Audio story CDs for the kids or a DVD. If you put them in the car in their pjs they will probably go back to sleep for an hour or so. You see plenty of people at the services that have done the same thing. Have a lovely holiday!

flowery Fri 23-Aug-13 08:27:47

Ooh yes supermarkets for stopping a good idea, they have toilets and parking and can buy supplies!

We have DVDs in the car bodiddly, they are a godsend! Boys are briefed that they have to go back to sleep in the car- course the problem is at this time of year it will be daylight but even if they don't go straight to sleep I'm sure they will at some point.

This is all really helpful thank you.

pinkpiggy Fri 23-Aug-13 08:30:25

I agree to go Bristol way on the motorway as early as possible. I would avoid the A303 and smaller roads, you can easily add hours onto your journey. Good luck!

thobblywighs Fri 23-Aug-13 08:35:21

For the last two years we have stopped off here
It's free and there are playgrounds and bits and pieces for the children to do and plenty of opportunities for them to stretch their legs. There are places to buy food and also space for a picnic.
I love Cornwall.
Have a great holiday.

missmapp Fri 23-Aug-13 08:37:19

Agree about the services. we left at about 4am a few years ago, reached a services at Exteter about 7am, walked in expecting it to be deserted and was greated by Boden overload!!! It was packed, and queues for everything.

Now, we stop at a little café and it is much better!

RegainingUnconsciousness Fri 23-Aug-13 08:40:27

I live on he A30. Give us a wave on the way past grin

Even we've made the mistake of going 'into town' on a Saturday and then taking well over an hour to get home.

Small price to pay to live in such a lovely place though.

Have a nice holiday!

TheDoctrineOfPositivityYes Fri 23-Aug-13 08:46:19

Can you leave at 8pm tonight, drive for four hours whilst the kids sleep in the car, stop wherever that gets you (hopefully past Bristol?), carry them into a Travellodge and then set off again at 6-7am

flowery Fri 23-Aug-13 08:51:15

grin at Boden overload!

Will wave Regaining!

*Doctrine we did discuss that, but discounted it, because last time we did something similar, DS1, aged 2, didn't sleep at all in the car, managing to stay awake until 11.30pm when we got on the ferry, so we've not done it since!

BoffinMum Fri 23-Aug-13 08:54:30

I haven't done the trip but from what people are saying here. I would be tempted to stay in a Travelodge near Bristol and take my time TBH.

Wish there were more trains to places like this.

PartyFops Fri 23-Aug-13 08:55:33

Agree that Heartlands is Fab!

TheDoctrineOfPositivityYes Fri 23-Aug-13 08:56:36

At 6 and 3 I'd've risked that it might go better this time, I think! Good luck whatever you do!

MorningHasBroken Fri 23-Aug-13 08:57:01

Tesco in Exeter is off the same junction as the services - go straight past them and follow signs to the superstore. Kids now say it doesn't count as a holiday unless we've had a tesco fry up on the way grin

RegainingUnconsciousness Fri 23-Aug-13 08:57:14

"Wish there were more trains to places like this"

Oh yes! There is talk of rebuilding a couple of lines near here, but nothing concrete still. Fingers crossed!

MrsHoratioNelson Fri 23-Aug-13 09:00:46

There is also a pub called the Blue Ball just of the M5 at Exeter (same junction as the services) which isn't bad and has a large garden.

ExasperatedSigh Fri 23-Aug-13 09:11:05

Good tips here. We're leaving from Surrey on Tuesday, will the roads be as bad do you think?

neffi Fri 23-Aug-13 09:15:29

We left London at 4.30 with a 3 and 8 year old. M3 and A303 then A30. Stopped once and arrived in North Cornwall at 10.30. Only way to do it.

NoComet Fri 23-Aug-13 09:19:57

No, anything other than Friday-Sunday is normally much better. I too have family in 'pasty land' . Saturdays being cottage change over days are worst. Then the rest of the weekend with campers and people visiting family who can be more flexible, but still need to get back to work.

Generally, mid week is better. Of course, better is a relative term on British motorways. As someone is always digging something up!

Supertrooper88 Fri 23-Aug-13 09:28:47

We set off in the very early hours and then stop for a huge nosh up breakfast at a Brewers Fayre restaurant because the kids eat free. Its £8.50 per adult for breakfast which is unlimited and lovely. They do cooked to order, just eggs anyway you like them,toast, porridge cereals, pastries, fruit, yogurts, costa coffees, tea, hot choc, herbal teas, juices etc etc all help yourself as much or as little as you like.

So for a family of 4 to really fill up including drinks for £16.50 is a bargain. It also is actually very nice (nicer than the Toby breakfast).

We have stopped here just off the M5 before www.brewersfayre.co.uk/brewersfayre/our-pubs/bristol/king-sedgemoor-inn/find-us.html and we have used this one further down just off the A30 in Cornwall www.brewersfayre.co.uk/brewersfayre/our-pubs/plymouth/penhale-round/find-us.html

flowery Fri 23-Aug-13 12:10:46

Thanks for the Tescos, pub and Brewers Fayre recommendations, that's all really helpful.

Will be printing this thread off and have it with me in the car - isn't MN fab?!

beingagoodmumishard Fri 23-Aug-13 12:30:30

There is a fab cafe on the A303 just before Yeovil. Doesn't sell itself on its name, Wayne's Bistro blush, but does really good reasonable food. Can have a proper meal or just sandwiches etc.

We live in Devon and normally aim to stop off there on the way back on long journeys. So much better than services or Little Chef

MrsOakenshield Fri 23-Aug-13 12:34:13

we've done London to Falmouth.

Leave at about 3/4 am. With luck you'll be at Exeter services for about 8am, where you can all have a wash and brush up and breakkie (along with a trillion other people). Then potter your way down to Cornwall (potter is the word. That road, can't remember which, the A road which does all the way down through Cornwall, across Bodmin Moor - it's full of people who don't understand about every lane bar the slow lane being overtaking lanes.).

Good luck!

PeppermintPasty Fri 23-Aug-13 12:41:31

I live in Cornwall and we use the A303 to get up to London. Go as early as you can bear, pack up a picnic and stop somewhere.

We tend to stop at the Cartgate picnic area which is in Somerset and is a welcome relief from the road. Lots of green, good seating, nice little caff etc. The postcode for satnav is apparently TA14 6RA. I just googled "cartgate picnic area" and it came up.

FreddieStarrAteMyHamster Fri 23-Aug-13 12:41:54

Agree set off early, the earlier the better. We set off at 8 (late for us) a few weeks back and it took us 6.5 hours from North London. Which was too long, the A30/39 was snared up with caravans and traffic generally. So I would be tempted to leave at 4/5am. Coming back it took us 8.5 hours!! 3 hours leaving Cornwall because we left at 10am which is kick out of Cornwall/Devon time, so again go early or stay for the day and go later. I should have known better having grown up in devon.

LittleBearPad Fri 23-Aug-13 12:46:38

We left London at 11am took the A40, M25, M3 and A303 and the A30. We arrived near Fowey at 5.30ish having stopped twice for lunch and a break for DD (10 months). It was fine.

I'd avoid the motorways as the M4 is horrible and so is the M5. A least with the A roads there are more places to stop so you aren't compelled to use Membury services etc.

mummymeister Fri 23-Aug-13 14:34:50

Keep away from the A30 as long as possible. the A38 through Plymouth and Bodmin is never as bad as the dreaded A30. the signs try and send you onto the A30 buy keep right when the motorway ends and take the A38 instead. we try and stay in places with Friday rather than Saturday changeovers now as it is much easier driving down then. you can get trains from Paddington into Plymouth and on into cornwall and quite a few places give you money off if you arrive by train.

vez123 Fri 23-Aug-13 19:58:03

We are going to Cornwall next week Saturday. Since the school holidays will have finished by then do you reckon that traffic will still be really bad? (sorry about thread hijack)

chocolatelime Fri 23-Aug-13 20:28:17

I agree that it is better to leave as early as you possibly can!

vez123 The traffic will still be busier then than it normally is, but it will not be nearly as bad as it is going to be this bank holiday weekend. We normally have the older couples/families with young children holidaying in Sept & then everything gets back to 'normal' in Oct! It has been particularly busy in Cornwall this year as the weather has been so good.

CorrieDale Fri 23-Aug-13 21:11:32

Audio CDs are brilliant. Harry potter is going down well with my 8 and 6yo. We are doing falmouth to Torquay tomorrow and aiming to be well out of cornwall by 9. From what we saw coming down, the return journey is worse than the one down here!

flowery Sat 24-Aug-13 08:05:27

We just stopped at Exeter to get the boys dressed and get petrol etc and I would like to say a HUGE thank you to those who recommended Tescos and directed us there. Absolute GENIUS! In and out v quickly, virtually empty.

RegainingUnconsciousness Sat 24-Aug-13 09:01:27

You'll have passed us already. Did you wave?!

TheDoctrineOfPositivityYes Sat 24-Aug-13 15:36:19

Wow, when did you leave??

flowery Sat 24-Aug-13 16:08:04

We left at 4.20 and arrived in Newquay at 9.30!

No traffic problems at all, which was brilliant. We took mummymeister's advice and ignored the satnav telling us to go on the A30 and took the A38 instead.

Thanks so much to everyone, you undoubtedly made our journey much quicker and more bearable, and thanks to the tip about return journey, we will be making sure we leave early on Saturday as well!


flowery Sat 24-Aug-13 16:12:03

Oh, and can I just say, I LOVE IT here!

SDhopeful Sat 24-Aug-13 16:19:27

Cornwall is definitely worth the trudge to get there! In previous years we have set off no later than 6 am from SW London, and had a reasonable journey - this year lulled by our previous experience we set off at 8 - never again! But apart from the bottlenecks near Bodmin, actual driving not too bad, but the service stations - aaargh!
Will definitely be following advice on here re pubs and Sainsbo's next year.

lisalisa Sat 24-Aug-13 23:10:56

flowery - I drove back from cornwall 2 weeks ago to london and it took 9 hours! I got stuck on the m5 - the traffic just literally stopped moving and I took thekeys out of the ignition. AFter it started again we crawled 1 juntion in 2 hours! Then I had a bright idea to come off the motoroway at bridgewater I think and take the A3 all the way to south london so avoiding the rest of the M5 and M4. This was a terible mistake. Delayed over 4 hours on motorwsay. Ws so bad I had to do a poo blushat the side of the road!!! the culprit is app[arently stonehenge where traffic is back ed up and delayed for hours. So my advice is avoid weekend travela nd try to travel late at night or v early monring

DorisIsWaiting Sat 24-Aug-13 23:38:19

If you're going back on the A38 flowery Stover at Newton Abbott is a lovely stop off (country park with toilets) (No shop tho').

TheDoctrineOfPositivityYes Sun 25-Aug-13 01:08:50

That's brilliant flowery!

MrsHoratioNelson Sun 25-Aug-13 05:05:02

Flowery try the Plume of Feathers at Mitchell.

Kathsmum Mon 26-Aug-13 18:17:01

Agree with pp about exeter services - hell on earth. Have just done Cornwall with 5 yr old, left 4am and she slept until 7, found it all great fun.

Once there Eden project great but v little kid food. Lunch box with ham or cheese sandwich, cookie, juice, apple was it. Take yr own snacks. But we loved it. ( much cheaper to book tickets in advance too)


FootOfOurStairs Mon 26-Aug-13 20:35:58

I typed this yesterday but it seems to have disappeared - apologies if it's duplicated.

There are 2 farm shops within 5 mins of junction 39 m5 - Kenniford is signposted off the sidmouth road before westpoint, it's a small farm with a few animals to look at, cafe and play equipt/ride ons.

Greendale is further on on the sidmouth road (but not far) and is bigger with an instore butchers/bakery and cafe, animals you can feed and tractors to climb on.

Both infinitely better for a rest break than exeter services!!

ExasperatedSigh Mon 02-Sep-13 09:16:36

Just wanted to say thanks again for this thread, we had two completely smooth sailing journeys there and back smile Went M4/M5 on the way there, left at 5.30am and stopped for breakfast at the big Sainsbury's - brilliant tip that was, clean quiet cafe, nice big store, got the kids fed and dressed and then picked up all the bits we needed. Got to the campsite at midday!

Did the A303 way yesterday coming home, left at 11.15am and got home (inside M25) at 5.30pm shock I have never had such an easy journey on a Sunday before, not one snarl-up anywhere. And that included a 1.5hr lunch stop at a brilliant pub in Ilchester, the Ilchester Arms - highly recommend it for anyone travelling that way, the food was lovely and reasonably priced, friendly service, nice garden with play stuff for the kids, even wipes and nappy sacks in the (very clean) toilets. And free parking nearby. Really good.

Holiday was nice too grin

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