A UK road trip is a fantastic way to explore this beautiful country. There is simply so much to do and to see.
From dramatic mountains, to cobbled hamlets to windswept beaches, the UK has spectacular scenery in abundance, and one of the best ways to see it is on a road trip.
A road trip gives you the freedom to explore exciting destinations you might not get to see otherwise.
But how do you choose where to go?
Fear not, in this post, I countdown 8 of the country’s best routes.
This list of ultimate UK road trip routes has everything.
There are striking coastal routes, mountainous adventures, and quaint village trails.
Whether you want to escape normality for a couple of weeks, or simply get out for a day trip, you are sure to find something you’ll like.
Without further ado, let’s begin the countdown of the best UK road trips out there…
THE SNAKE PASS AND THE PEAK DISTRICT
What better way to start off our list of the best UK road trips than with a road trip through one of the country’s most impressive national parks – the Peak District.
The famous Snake Pass is one of my favourite roads in the UK.
Beginning in Glossop, just outside Manchester, the road winds through The Pennines all the way to Sheffield.
The drive itself may only take an hour (depending on the weather), however the stopping opportunities en route are aplenty. Take a moment to enjoy the views of the huge reservoirs and rolling moors. There are also excellent trekking opportunities in the area, with the legendary Pennine Way crossing right across the Snake Pass.
The road also runs alongside part of the photo-worthy Ladybower reservoir (pictured above).
A slight detour takes you to the Blue John Cavern, beautiful cave system with educational guided tours.
The weather in the Peak District is temperamental. Check conditions before you set out on your trip, especially if you plan on trekking in the hills.
A UK road trip around Norfolk is a fantastic way to soak up England’s peaceful eastern coastline.
Start with some sight-seeing in Norwich including the Romanesque Norwich Cathedral and the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell.
Next, head to The Broads National Park. Here you’ll find dramatic landscapes, fascinating wildlife, and a plethora of activities.
It would be easy to spend several days here walking, cycling, and exploring the countless waterways by boat.
From here, drive north up the coast towards towards Norfolk’s beautiful beaches, dramatic clifflines and tidal saltmarshes. Sheringham and Wells beaches are particular highlights. There are several quaint traditional seaside towns worth a stop en route, such as Cromer, and plenty of isolated beaches and coves to explore.
Don’t forget to stop at the Instagram-worthy red and white Happisburgh Lighthouse for a classic seaside photo.
Ah, the Cotswolds.
Miles of beautiful British countryside dotted with postcard-perfect traditional villages and quaint tea-rooms.
There is nowhere more quintessentially British, and it is the perfect place a for a UK road trip.
Start your trip in the north in Broadway, home to Broadway Tower which boasts fantastic views of the surrounding counties.
When you’ve finished soaking up one of the UK’s most beautiful high streets, wind your way south, stopping at any village that takes your fancy. If you have a few days, stop to enjoy the many traditional country pubs, medieval churches and indie boutique shops. Notable villages are Arlington Row and Tetbury.
Each year, the Cotswolds hosts a number of quirky and distinct festivals, from beer and cider fests to country shows. Check the calendar and try to coincide your road trip with one that sounds fun.
Officially known as the A39, the Atlantic Highway is the picturesque 77-mile stretch between Barnstaple in Devon and Newquay in Cornwall.
While this certainly one of the shorter UK road trip routes in this list, there are plenty of interesting detours and breath-taking views to enjoy.
Although the name would suggest otherwise, the road itself doesn’t get that close to the coast. The route travels inland through much of Cornwall, eventually arriving back at the coast in Newquay.
You can travel in either direction, although East to West might make the most sense. You can always come back if you haven’t had enough.
Notable stop-offs and detours include:
- Hiking in Exmoor national park (East of Barnstaple)
- Cream tea in Bideford
- Surfing in Bude
- Tintagel Castle
- Seafood in Padstow
- The lively atmosphere in Newquay
THE CAMBRIAN WAY
The Cambrian Way is a journey spanning the length of Wales running 185 miles from south-coast to north-coast.
Beginning in Cardiff – the capital of Wales – the route mainly follows the A470 along the mountainous spine of Wales and ends in the Victorian seaside town of Llandudno.
En route, you’ll weave through Brecon Beacons National Park and Snowdonia National Park.
Devote at least a day to exploring the Brecon Beacons National Park. Here you’ll find some of the best walking in the country, along with other activities such as caving, watersports and horse riding. There are also charming market towns and romantic castles scattered around.
For a bit of old-fashioned fun, explore the area on the Brecon Mountain Railway. Restored steam trains run the 9-mile return journey from Merthyr to the foothills of South Wales’ highest summits.
Next, explore Snowdonia National Park. A hikers paradise. The towering Mount Snowdon offers views across the sea to Ireland, while the national park is home to an extensive network of trails (both biking and hiking) and over 100 lakes. The views are spectacular.
Finish your road trip in Llandudno, Wales’ largest seaside resort.
THE CAUSEWAY COASTAL CIRCUIT
This scenic UK road trip is steeped in the mystery of ancient myths.
Hugging the Atlantic coast, the 195km route between Belfast and Derry is part of Lonely Planet’s number one region to visit in 2018 and is not to be missed.
The drive takes you past several of Northern Ireland’s main tourist attractions as well as offering detours to small lesser-known villages.
Head for the Gobbins Cliff Path, an adventurous pathway that carves through caves, down cliffs and over bridges.
Next, photograph the Dark Hedges in Antrim, made famous as ‘The King’s Road’ in Game of Thrones.
Cross the jaw-dropping Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
Sometimes you can just about make out Scotland on the horizon.
If you have time, take a ferry over to Rathlin Island – Northern Ireland’s only inhabited offshore island – and go bird-spotting at the RSPB reserve where you might see guillemots, razorbills and puffins.
Finally, enjoy the awe-inspiring view of the 40,000 basalt columns making up the Giant’s Causeway. Reward yourself with an Irish whiskey at Old Bushmills Distillery.
FORT WILIAM TO THE ISLE OF SKYE
This scenic UK road trip begins with the 74km drive between Fort William and Mallaig on the Scottish mainland, before crossing the water to the Isle of Skye where the adventure continues.
Fort William is the access point to Ben Nevis – the U.K.’s highest peak – and Glen Nevis valley. Here you’ll find a huge network of forest trails, perfect for biking and trekking.
Venture westwards and you’ll discover the Glenfinnan Viaduct – the bridge the Hogwarts Express famously crosses in the Harry Potter movies.
Near the crossing point, you’ll encounter the mystic Loch Morar, the deepest freshwater lake in the UK. Here you can stop and enjoy the spectacular vews, or continue across to the Isle of Skye.
To get across, you have 2 options. Either take the ferry from Mallaig, or double back and follow the A82 and then A87 to drive directly onto the Isle. You’ll pass the striking Eilean Donan Castle on your way.
Once on the Isle of Skye, spend as much time as you can exploring the picturesque fishing villages, marvelling at medieval castles, soaking up the dramatic landscapes, and tucking in to fresh-caught seafood.
You might find you need longer than initially planned…
NORTH COAST 500
The North Coast 500 is quite simply the best UK road trip out there. The UK’s answer to the infamous Route 66 boasts some of the best views in the world.
The circular route winds through backroads for a spectacular 516 miles.
As the route is a round trip, you can start where you like. However, officially the route starts at Inverness Castle.
En route, you’ll see the jaw-dropping views of the Highlands, gothic ruins, ancient castles, idyllic seaside towns, white sand beaches, tiny fishing villages and classic scotch distilleries.
Keep an eye out for the Northern Lights. The region is one of the best places outside Scandinavia to spot them.
From Inverness the route heads to the west coast to Applecross. Take in the views from Bealach na Bà before soaking up the dramatic peaks of Loch Maree and taking part in some water sports at Achmelvich Bay.
From the west, you’ll venture to some of the most northerly coastal points in Scotland, including John o’ Groats before heading south again down the east coastline.
Look out for dolphins and seals off the coast at Chanonry Point.
UK ROAD TRIP – NOW IT’S YOUR TURN…
There you have my top 8 UK road trip routes.
Which one are you most excited to go take?
Or do you have any other great UK road trip recommendations?
Either way, leave a comment below and let me know.