The best road trips in the UK
There’s something thrilling about loading up the car boot, sticking on the driving soundtrack and heading for the open road. And this country of ours offers some spectacular routes to get you out of the city and exploring from behind the wheel.
Travel bible Rough Guides have picked six of their favourite road trips around the UK, whether you’ve got four wheels or two. Scottish and Northern Irish coastal routes, Welsh mountains, as well as England’s moors and dales all feature. So, what are you waiting for?
Scotland’s North Coast 500
The Proclaimers would walk it but you can drive this circular route covering 500 miles taking in Scottish castles, beaches, fishing villages, and even whisky distilleries. The trail begins and ends at Inverness Castle and follows the natural path of the North Highland’s coastal edges.
Good to know: Rough Guides recommend giving yourself 4-7 days to travel the route. It can be quite a distance between accommodation options so book in advance.
Between the moors, dales, villages, and the sites of the War of the Roses, Yorkshire is a perfect location to explore by car. Take three days to take in the beauty of England’s north, sampling the delicacies like the local cheeses and park up for the night to sink an ale from a local brewery.
Good to know: Rough Guides suggest starting off in Harrogate before heading for the historic town of Grassington and then taking in the picturesque Aysgarth Falls, which featured in Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves, along your trip.
The Atlantic Highway
Southwest England’s Atlantic Highway stretches 170 miles from Bridgewater to Bude and along the coasts of Devon and Cornwall. Take the time on the way to detour on the many offshoot roads from the main route which lead road trippers to a plethora of coves, beaches, villages, and headlands that are dotted all over this corner of the country.
Good to know: Whether for a surfing break in Cornwall, or a trek through Exmoor National Park, the Atlantic Highway has something for everyone. Follow the A39 and take in the views - rolling hills on one side, and the majestic ocean on the other.
Northern Ireland’s coastal route
Follow in the footsteps of giants between two modern cosmopolitan cities on the 120-mile trip from Belfast to Derry/Londonderry. A must-see on the route is the Giant’ Causeway - over 37,000 basalt columns caused by volcanic activity - jutting out from the Antrim coast. Legend says the causeway was a bridge built between Northern Ireland and Scotland so that two feuding giants could face off.
The isles of Scotland
Rough Guides’ fifth recommendation is the road to the isles of Scotland. Marvel at mountains and lochs for 45 scenic miles between Fort William and Mallaig. Historic canals and railway lines meander through natural beauty spots. The Jacobite Steam Train travels along the trail on the West Highland Railway Line, dubbed “the greatest railway journey in the world”. The steam locomotive moving along this iconic route doubled as the Hogwarts Express for the Harry Potter movies.
Good to know: Venture westwards from your starting point at Ben Nevis and take in Glenfinnan Viaduct, also famous for its appearance in the Harry Potter films.
Wales’ Black Mountain Pass
View the stunning scenery of the Brecon Beacons as you head from Llandovery to the village of Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen. Winding roads give you magnificent views of the Tywi Valley. The route is just 20 miles long but the Black Mountain Pass will lead you to a peak of 1,600 ft before twisting and dropping through valleys and over narrow bridges.
Good to know: The route is sometimes known as the ‘Top Gear road’ thanks to its appearances on the hit show which has also made the road popular with test drivers. Take extra care as there are no guard rails along many of the steepest sections.