Take it Easy with SW660. Travel Visionaries and Environmental Stewards.

Slow and sustainable travel has rapidly emerged as the eco-friendly way to unwind. In today’s busy world, there is an increasing need for restful holidays. Rather than dealing with delayed flights, crowded airports, and long lists of tourist attractions, people are increasingly opting for slow and sustainable travel. This concept arose in Italy when people protested against McDonald’s opening in Rome, shouting for “slow food” not fast food, in the hope of maintaining Rome’s authentic food culture. When applied to travel, this ethos allows visitors to leisurely absorb our beautiful environment, eat local foods made and served by businesses that have served the area for generations. This not only boosts local economies but has a huge impact on reducing the average carbon footprint of a holiday. The benefits do not just end with the environment; this type of break is a fantastic tonic for body and mind. Spending time in nature, breathing fresh air, and gazing into the horizon are fantastic ways to calm the nervous system and reduce stress. Travelling off-season is encouraged and ticks both boxes – supporting local businesses and reducing travel stress.

We explored the South West 660 in the new Audi Q8 EV (www.audi.co.uk)

South West 660: A Sustainable Driving Route

Inspired by the Scottish road trip North Coast 500, Ruud Jansen-Venneboer, Mark Godfrey, and Chris Jackson wanted to create something similar for the South West. In 2022, South West 660 was born. This 660-mile driving route covers 12 unique sections, each around 50 miles long, from Poole in Dorset to Watchet in Somerset. With this slow and sustainable option, each route takes you off the beaten track, and off from the main path. You will get to experience breathtaking countryside, visit local attractions, and some of the best places to eat and stay in the UK. The routes are listed on their website, but to get a detailed map with step-by-step directions and numerous discounts at hotels, restaurants, and attractions along the path, you can sign up for a yearly membership for just £20. Future plans include developing an app to make this process even more efficient.

Sustainable and Ethical Businesses

A huge part of the SW660 spirit is about slow and sustainable travel. All partnered businesses function ethically, reducing waste, lowering CO2 emissions where they can, and recycling.

River Cottage

The first stop on the route is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s, River Cottage. At first glance, this is reminiscent of a quaint farmhouse. Inside is a cosy cafe with a gorgeous terrace overlooking rolling hills. Next-door are two organic farms that supply some of their produce. At the River Cottage Kitchen and Store, you can get lunch for under £20 and buy one of Hugh’s many amazing cookbooks. A short walk down the hill takes you to the River Cottage teaching kitchen, where you can book a range of fascinating courses from butchery and bread making to nutrition and beekeeping.

The Masons Arms

Stop two on Route 660 takes you to The Masons Arms, a quaint thatched country pub with rooms. Think comfort food with flavour. I opted for the Sri Lankan lamb shank. The meat fell off the bone, the delicately spiced sauce was thick and unctuous. The richness was perfectly complemented by the sharpness of the yoghurt and the freshness of red onion and coriander. The Masons Arms stocked a wide range of non-alcoholic drinks to satisfy those wanting a healthier, more refreshing holiday. Being owned by St Austell Brewery, this pub offers an impressive selection of locally-brewed beers, fine wines, and top-shelf spirits to complement your stay. Rooms are traditionally designed, and the external characteristics are sensitive to the look and feel of the environment. The mattresses and bedding are exceptionally comfortable, making for a truly restful night’s sleep.

Lily Farm Vineyard

Next on the route is Lily Farm. This local family-run vineyard produces award-winning world-class still and sparkling wines made only with the grapes that they grow and pick by hand.

Darts Farm

Darts Farm is another family-run business on the route with a focus on sustainability and quality. The farm shop is massive and stocks their organic grass-fed meat and freshly harvested seasonal produce. There is an extensive deli offering a range of cheeses, charcuterie, and delicious salads and 3 cafes to cater to your fancy. It would be easy to spend several hours just looking around the shop and deli!

The Dart Marina Hotel

Next, head across the River Dart to The Dart Marina Hotel. This stylish hotel exudes calm with a modern decor, open spaces, and spectacular views of the marina. Inside, find the Zephyr Bistro, which manages to combine classic style with a modern twist. Chill House music plays in the background, giving serious holiday vibes without being too intrusive.

Menus showcase Devon’s finest in-season native ingredients, with a strong focus on local produce. Begin with half a dozen oysters, try the local mussels, share the soft-shell crab tempura and crispy calamari. The day’s catch is seared a la plancha, service is seamless. Meats include char-grilled rib eye steaks, braised lamb shanks, and gourmet cheeseburgers, all organic and local. If you are embracing a regenerative retreat, you will not be disappointed. There are plenty of nutrient-dense options on the menu, with vegans and vegetarians well catered for. I had the fillet of wild sea bass with seafood & tomato ragout, butter & parsley crushed Cornish new potatoes & broccoli, which only cost £26. The portion size was generous, and the meal was nutritionally balanced. It is incredibly rare to get a decent portion of vegetables with a meal and not as a side dish. A three-course meal with a cocktail and a glass of wine will set you back around £75.

The luxury bedrooms come with Nespresso machines, and several of them have balconies overlooking the Marina. Morning coffee with a view is the best way to start the day. If you fancy something more active, there is a small gym on site, and a morning run along the waterfront can do wonders for your mood. A short walk down the road brings you to Sea Kayak Devon, where you can hire a single or double kayak and view the coast from the water with an expert guide.

The Seahorse and Rockfish

Stroll along the water to The Seahorse and Rockfish, owned by chef Mitch Tonks. Mitch is not only a restaurateur but also a food writer, CEO, and ambassador for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a global non-profit group. The aim is to spread awareness of the value of sustainable fishing methods and promote the use of sustainable seafood both in the restaurants and at home. In 2020, Mitch co-founded the Devon Environment Foundation, and in that short time, over £200,000 has been raised and funded grassroots social enterprises. He has funded and championed a “Brixham Litter-free Sea project,” an innovative program pioneering sea booms and large-scale sea bin sculptures in Brixham to remove plastics under the stewardship of Rockfish employees. His determination to heal our environment is equaled by his passion for quality food. Expect to find freshly caught and beautifully prepared fish served with equally tasty seasonal vegetables.

Slow and sustainable travel is undoubtedly a great way to unwind and there is so much to take in at a leisurely pace in the South West of England. An off-season trip to this part of the world will allow you to lower your carbon footprint without sacrificing luxury, all while improving your well-being and boosting the UK’s economy! The best part is that South West 660 has done the hard work and collated the itinerary for you. Their friendly team can even put you in touch with travel experts who can book everything you need.


About Author

Natalie Shanahan

Natalie Shanahan has a BSc in Genetics and a MSc in Bioinformatics. She worked as a lecturer, teaching genetics and biochemistry, before moving to Australia to work for their first Bioinformatics company. Here she managed their marketing as well as working on their numerous educational resources. Natalie left her career in science to follow her passion and now works as a personal trainer and nutrition consultant, helping individuals and employees of large organisations, better understand their health and wellbeing.

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