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Sunday Telegraph 'Best 10 Drives in Europe'

From - The 10 best driving holidays in Europe - The Sunday Telegraph 5- The Military Road, Isle of Wight Front Image - Freshwater Bay Photo: AP/FOTOLIA It?s short, but it?s incredibly sweet. As you drive around the southern tip of the Isle of Wight from east coast to west, the A3055 coast road climbs to the lower reaches of St Catherine?s Down, curves above Blackgang Chine, and then, all of a sudden, reveals a panoramic view of the south-west coast of the Island curving away ahead and below you. Known locally as the Military Road, this stretch of the A3055 was built when there was a perceived threat of invasion from Louis Napoleon in the 19th century. Now it provides one of the most spectacular stretches of coastal road in southern England. On your right, the land rises above fields to a great backbone of downland, reaching to the sky like a beached whale. To the left are views of the cliffs and sea beneath, stretching to the white curve of chalk cliffs at Freshwater Bay. This is National Trust coast, with few buildings to spoil the scene (though look out for the turrets of J?B Priestley?s former house on your right). The road hugs the coast so closely that it feels like a roller-coaster ride at times ? increasingly so each year as the cliffs crumble away. So take this drive while you still can ? a major cliff-fall could close the road at any time. Starts: Just beyond Blackgang, above the village of Chale, then repeat the experience going in the other direction for an alternative view point. Length: About 12 miles. Time: Allow 30 minutes each way. Best driven in: Early evening on a balmy day in late spring or early summer, when the roadside is full of wildflowers. Tip: It?s well worth getting out of the car at Blackgang for the short, sharp climb to 14th-century St Catherine?s Oratory (car park below it). And from Freshwater Bay, footpaths take you up on to Tennyson Down with far-reaching views over the English Channel. More information: visitisleofwight.co.uk

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