Credit: Castle Combe - Charlie Ross - Great West Way

It’s 125 miles long. It boasts three World Heritage Sites, Bridgerton filming locations, royal palaces, Britain’s oldest road, canals, rolling English countryside and gastropubs with a Michelin star or two. This is England’s newest touring route the Great West Way, which can be explored by car, train, bike and even better, on foot.

THE ROUTE was officially unpacked from its suitcase by Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston as part of wider plans to boost the image of England’s regions to overseas travellers.

Following ancient roads between London and Bristol, the 125-mile corridor leads visitors out of the capital through Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Bristol to explore areas they might otherwise have overlooked.

It’s hoped it will become one of the great touring routes in the world with treasures to discover along the way such as Stonehenge, Bath, the Cotswolds and also Windsor Castle, where the Queen has been living throughout the pandemic. It’ll also help increase visitor numbers to gardens, wildlife parks, market towns and restaurants.

The route can be covered as a three-day self-drive holiday or by train using the Great West Way Discoverer pass which combines GWR train travel and local bus services in one ticket.

Chalkmarks: Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston
Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston

Mr Huddleston said the initiative, which was part of the £45 million Discover England Fund, had been a great way to brand and package England to sell to consumers and “something that many other countries seem to have done incredibly well and we need to do a lot better.”

Initially conceived back in 2016 to attract American, Dutch and German tourists, the launch of the Great West Way couldn’t have come at a better time, with holidays in England set to return on 12th April due to the successful UK vaccine rollout. 

With pent up demand and international travel looking increasingly unlikely as Europe faces a third coronavirus wave, many Britons are planning to holiday at home. If bookings recover as forecast, this summer is on track for a staycation boom, with more destinations and attractions open than last year.

Mr Huddleston recognised that the travel and tourism industry had been gone through an “incredibly difficult time” during the pandemic and said he was optimistic for the future due to the vaccination programme and the government’s road map out of lockdown to restart travel and reopen borders.

He said the government is also working on a Build Back Better tourism recovery plan to stimulate visitor demand. “We want to future proof the tourism sector, it’s been hit really hard. We need to make it more sustainable. We need to make it more innovative. We need to use data and information in a more collaborative way,” said Mr Huddleston.

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