A38 Devon Expressway

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Devon Expressway

Route of the A38 Devon Expressway

There's something very pleasant about the stretch of A38 that connects Exeter to Plymouth. The homely title helps — not many new roads are bestowed the honour of a title, but this one is, and the words "Devon Expressway" are proudly displayed on signs for most of its length.

Then there is the scenery; the lush, rolling Devon countryside is straight off a carton of Ambrosia custard (although, to be strict, the factory where it's made is actually on the old A30). It's a high speed dual carriageway, certainly, but the many grim miles of grey tarmac on the M5 are suddenly very far away when you make the transition to A38. The road is suddenly full of graceful curves and dips, interesting bridges, and glimpses from above into villages as they fly past.

Perhaps what really makes it stand out is the parade of unusual town and village names that zoom past. A journey southbound will take you past Chudleigh Knighton, Bovey Tracey, Mead, Buckfastleigh, and the unsurpassable Yealmpton. These are place names you have to chew. No journey down this road is complete, for me at least, without making the traditional joke on seeing the sign for Rattery by asking whether it's somewhere to leave your pet rat when you go on holiday.

On a slightly more serious note, the Devon Expressway never really feels like one coherent route, largely because it isn't. It's a series of connected bypasses, all of which were built separately, and the occasional run along an original section of A38 in-between. Many of the schemes were pushed through, with substandard curves and gradients, as a government drive to stimulate economic growth in this part of the world in the 1970s.

It remains a very enjoyable ride — and is considerably more cheery in appearance than the its counterpart, the A38 Midlands Section. Nonetheless it runs along the fringes of Dartmoor and can be subject to some very sudden changes in the weather — wind and rain out of a sunny day, and in winter, sudden snowstorms bring the road to an overnight standstill from time to time. Best take a scarf with you.


Start Exeter (M5)
Finish Plymouth (A38)
Passes Torquay, Paignton
Length 42 miles
Connects to M5

With thanks to Topov, Truvelo, Southwest Philip, Tim Lidbetter and Mick Wilding for information in this section.