Porlock Scenic Toll Road
Whether you are driving or cycling, the stunning 4.2-mile scenic route from Porlock village towards Lynton, with its unrivalled panoramic views across the Bristol Channel, is an experience you will not want to miss out on. This scenic road also offers vehicles a more gentle alternative to the infamously steep 1 in 4 Porlock Hill, never climbing at more than 1 in 14.
The toll road dates from the 1840s, and was dug out manually to provide work for local people following the Napoleonic Wars. Tolls were then taken at the bottom of the hill by staff at The Ship Inn in Porlock. There used to be a tollgate opposite what is now the village hall. At busy times of the day staff would run out from the bar to deal with travellers; at less busy times one of the boys would sit by the gate.
The bottom end of the scenic toll road starts in the village of Porlock (not Porlock Weir), forking right off the A39 (after the Ship Inn) before Porlock Hill. It twists for about 2.5 miles through ancient woodland, offering glimpses of Porlock Bay through the trees. As the road climbs, never at more than 1 in 14, it eventually opens onto heathery moorland, with elevated sea views across the Bristol Channel and South Wales beyond. Exmoor ponies can often be seen grazing alongside this upper, moorland section of the toll road. After 4.2 miles the scenic toll road eventually meets the A39 at Pitt Combe Head. This toll road should not to be confused with the neighbouring Worthy toll road, which is accessed from Porlock Weir, and runs north of the Porlock toll road.
It is possible to stop and take in the views at a number of different points along the toll road. There is a stopping point and picnic area on the upper section of the toll road, where you can park and soak up the scenery. From Pittcombe Head, travel down the toll road for just over 1km, and it is located up a small track on the right. There are also several picnic benches along the toll road for those wishing to spend a little longer admiring the sensational layered view of moorland, woodland and then sea.
For larger vehicles there is a decent sized viewing point and stopping place on top of the moor, about 1 mile due east of where the toll road meets the A39.
Ever since the early days of motoring Porlock toll road has enjoyed a unique place in the history of motor sport. In the 1960s it was used as an RAC Rally stage, one of the fastest drivers at the time being the late Pat Moss – sister of Stirling Moss – who completed it in 3 minutes and 56 seconds. Today it forms one of the most exciting stages in the Somerset Stages Rally taking place each Spring.
The road is not only used by traffic wishing to avoid Porlock hill, but also by cyclists and walkers who want to enjoy the unrivalled views and enjoy a bit of a work-out at the same time! Exmoor Adventures, based in Porlock Weir, rents mountain bikes for £25 a day. In mid-week, during quieter times, it is possible to get a free lift up to the top of the hills to avoid the long climb. They also now hire e-mountain bikes (which have a motor that kicks in when you pedal) to help you with the ascent. They can be rented for between £50 and £65 a day.
Cars with caravans, van, motor caravans £5
Lorries and coaches £10