THIS route through glorious, unspoilt countryside provides a magical driving experience.You pass through small, pretty towns that prospered and flourished in the Middle Ages, only for the Industrial Revolution to pass them by.Then you weave between ancient burial mounds and sacred sites that pre-date the Egyptian pyramids.
Once past the roaring A303, the road widens a little, but still seems to enter Gillingham by the servants' door.
Should you wish to see the surprising number of elegant brick houses, or the King's Court Palace earthworks, you must get out and walk.
You can pick up speed on the way to Shaftesbury, but the final ascent into the town is steep and severe.
A walk to the castle earthworks gives wonderful views over the majestic sweep of the Blackmoor Vale while, nearby, the abbey ruins evoke images of Shaftesbury's distinguished past.
Leave Shepton Mallet on the A371 and after crossing the Fosse Way, the B3081 heads towards Evercreech, an attractive village whose church has a fine perpendicular tower.
The B3081 ducks and weaves round Creech Hill, climbing to more than 600ft before descending to Bruton, a little gem tucked into the Brue valley.
The 15th-century church, packhorse bridge, 16th-century grammar school, 17th-century hospital and Dovecote overlooking the town are splendid reminders of its prosperous past.
Thereafter, the B3081 really gets into its stride and climbs and winds past pretty houses of golden stone, but take care to follow the B3081 to Gillingham, rather than the B3081 to Wincanton.
But for sheer unspoilt beauty, Gold Hill is aptly named.
Hovis famously transformed this West Country lane into a northern street to promote its brown bread.
From Shaftesbury, the B3081 continues south-eastwards. Though you have negotiated plenty of hills thus far, nothing will have prepared you for the ferociously steep, narrow and aptly named Zig-Zag Hill.