At this time of year so many British people travel abroad for their holidays and many will either drive when they get there or hire a car. Depending on where they travel, they might drive a well-known scenic route.
Some of us forget, however, that the UK has some incredibly beautiful roads. These are not just a means of getting from A to B, but they also make for a picturesque journey.
The Buttertubs Pass is one of the most beautiful drives in England. Going through the Yorkshire Dales, this 5.5-mile route is the shortest route on the list, but it makes up for that with its spectacular scenery. It is no coincidence that it has been featured in Top Gear on a number of occasions.
The route starts in Thwaite, and the first two miles are a steep climb on the Cliff Gate Road. Soon the visibility improves and the views open out before you. On the way, you will pass by the Buttertubs, which are deep limestone potholes.
According to local legend, farmers used to rest at this spot when going to the market, and they would lower their butter inside the potholes to keep it cool on hot days, thus giving the potholes their name.
The drive will take you no more than 10 or 15 minutes, but in that short time you will enjoy a fantastic driving experience as you go down fast descents, turn tight corners and enjoy the beautiful scenery all around.The route ends in Hawes, where you can stop in a local pub for lunch. You can enjoy this drive at any time of year, but don’t attempt it in the snow.
Castle to Castle – Alnwick to Lindisfarne
This 35-mile trip in Northumberland links two remarkable but very different castles, and provides you with a stunning coastal journey along the way. The route takes about half an hour from start to finish.
It starts in Alnwick, which is home to
Alnwick Castle. This historic castle may look familiar to you, and that is because it has featured in countless films and TV programmes, including Downton Abbey and Harry Potter.
From here, drive up the coast along the A1, passing by fishing villages en route. As you approach Lindesfarne, you will be able to enjoy views of the ocean.
When you arrive at Lindisfarne, which is also called Holy Island, you can only get out to the island when the tide is low. So check the times before crossing to avoid getting stuck, and then cross the impressive causeway.
The island is home to the historic
Lindisfarne Priory, which was once home to St Oswald and was where the Lindisfarne Gospels were made.
It is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and you will be able to enjoy the peace and quiet of the
Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve during your visit. Also take a look at the castle, the place where the first Viking invasion in Britain took place in 793.
Lindisfarne Castle is closed from November to January, so you may prefer to drive this route in the spring, summer and autumn.
Causeway Coastal Route
This driving route is one of the most famous in Northern Ireland. It starts in Londonderry and ends in Belfast, and in between it takes in 130 miles of some of the most beautiful coastal scenery you will ever see. In fact, there is so much to see that you may well want to complete the journey in stages and take your time over it.
As well as the main route, there are a number of shorter picturesque circuits that you can also do, such as the route off to Dunglven from Limavady or the route that goes to Ballymoney from Coleraine.
On the way, you will see three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty: the Glens of Antrim, the Causeway Coast and the spectacular cliffs of Binevenagh.
Giant’s Causeway is one of the most famous natural sights in Ireland, but you will also enjoy tiny villages and picture-perfect views along the way, making this one of the best road trips in the world.
While it is possible to drive this route in the winter, you will find there is more to do during the warmer months of the year, especially if you want to stop off and enjoy some walks on the way.
Glasgow to Fort William
Discover Scotland on this 140-mile journey from Glasgow up to the Highlands. The trip will take you about three hours in total, but you can make it last longer by stopping off on the way. The road is generally kept in good condition, although you should avoid driving in heavy snow. The best time of year to drive this route is the summer.
The route takes you northbound on the A82, and on the way you will see such famous natural attractions as Loch Lomond, Ben Nevis and the world-famous Loch Ness. The route is simple to follow, and it is one of the principle routes to the Highlands.
You will start by leaving Glasgow (after enjoying some sightseeing in the city of course) and heading up to Loch Lomond. From here, head north through Tarbet, Crianlarich, Tyndrum and Rannoch Moor, before you reach the spectacular scenery of Glen Coe. Loch Leven and Loch Linnhe are also on the route before you reach Fort William, so you will want to make sure you take your camera.
The Abergwesyn Mountain Pass
There are many beautiful places to go driving in Wales, but the Abergwesyn Mountain Pass has to be one of the most impressive. This 18-mile journey is not long, and it will only take you about 45 minutes to drive, but the range of scenery you will drive through is incredible. For the best experience, attempt the route on a clear spring or summer day.
Start your journey in the small village of Tregaron, from where you will drive up through the Cambrian Mountains. Visibility is not great as soon as you leave Tergaron, but after a few miles the views become clearer and you will suddenly find yourself surrounded by picturesque hills.
The road can be a bit rough, so watch out for potholes, and this is really more of a summer drive (don’t try it in the snow!). This becomes even more apparent when you reach the Devil’s Staircase, a collection of hairpin bends and steep roads that is quite a challenge to drive.
Wide lakes, dense forests and empty valleys create a splendid backdrop to your journey, which takes you along a historic cattle drover’s track.
There are also lots of smaller roads that go to various villages that you may want to explore on a detour, including the road to Llyn Brianne, where you will find a beautiful reservoir. The journey finally ends in Abergwesyn, a small hamlet.
The Black Mountain Pass
The Black Mountain Pass has long been known as one of the most exciting and picturesque roads in the UK, but it was only when it featured on Top Gear that this Welsh driving route really grew in popularity.
The route starts in Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen and ends in Llandovery, covering a distance of about 27 miles and taking about 45 minutes to drive. The route is easy to follow because you just go along the A4069 the whole way.
The Black Mountains offer some of the most beautiful scenery you will find in Wales. Located to the west of the
Breacon Beacons National Park, they provide you with some spectacular views along the way.
However, this is not a road for the faint-hearted. It has many tight corners to negotiate, so make sure you don’t go too fast – and mobile speed cameras are waiting to catch anyone who is tempted to speed.
Another hazard is posed by livestock, so keep an eye out for wandering sheep. For these reasons, avoid driving the route in wet weather, and don’t attempt it during the winter. A clear summer’s day is the perfect time to drive the route, when the views will be at their most stunning.
Cat and Fiddle Route
This 12-mile driving route will take about 25 minutes from start to finish of actual driving – but the length of your journey depends on how long you stop off at the
Cat and Fiddle Inn, which gives the route its name.
This is one of the most famous routes in the Peak District, and it will take you from Buxton in Derbyshire to Macclesfield in Cheshire. Start off on the A53, then join the A54 followed by the A537.
This will take you up in a dramatic sequence of tight bends, and you may also notice the steep drops to the side – so drive carefully. It is also a good idea to avoid driving in ice or snow, and the views will be at their best on a clear day, especially in the summer when the lush surrounding countryside is at its best.
The stunning views will open up to you as you get to the moorland of Goyt’s Moss, and at the summit you will find the Cat and Fiddle Inn. Stop off for lunch and enjoy the views before heading back down to Macclesfield.
Discover the best of the beautiful Somerset countryside in this drive that takes you through the famous Cheddar Gorge, which is the deepest gorge in the UK, and through the Mendip Hills. The journey starts in Cheddar and ends in Ashwick, making it a total of 14 miles, and it will take you about half an hour to drive.
You can drive the route at any time of year, but it can get busy with hikers and cyclists during the summer, so perhaps aim to attempt this in the spring or autumn.
The first section after you leave Cheddar is the most dramatic, and it is here that you will pass through the incredible gorge. This is also the most demanding part of the route where the road is at its tightest and most twisty, so take it slowly and watch out for cyclists.
After the gorge, there are fewer tight bends, and the route becomes easier to drive from here. Now you can sit back and enjoy the countryside passing you by as the road winds through it.
You may also want to stop and go for a walk in the surrounding countryside. And if you are looking for a good place for a bite to eat en route, Hartley’s Kitchen is a great option.
The Midlands Tick
The name of this route is due to the tick-like shape that it takes, going down in a more or less straight line all the way from Bingham to Market Harborough, then returning to Uppingham where it finishes. The countryside is at its most attractive in the summer months, but the drive is possible any time of year.
The route is one of beautiful scenery in the very heart of the UK. It is made up of long, straight stretches of road as well as the occasional sharp corner, but driving it is not too challenging.
In total, the route is 50 miles long, and it should take you over an hour to complete it from start to finish.
From Bingham, head down to Langar, Harby and then Eastwell. There are two old RAF bases on the route, and you may well see a few gliders hovering about in the sky above, so keep an eye out for them.
Head down south towards Melton Mowbray, where you may want to stop and enjoy one of the world-famous pork pies. From here, head onto the B6047 towards Great Dalby, Twyford and Tilton on the Hill.
Go onto the A6, then the A427 and finally onto the B664 that will take you all the way up through Sutton Bassett and Stockerston until you end the journey at Uppingham.
St Ives to St Just
Discover the beautiful southwest of England in this one of the most well-known of Cornwall’s road trips. This is the ultimate road trip in the area, and if you enjoy coastal driving you really will not want to miss it.
The route is 13 miles from start to finish, with a journey time of about half an hour, but there is every chance that you will want to make a whole day of it by stopping off in various locations along the way.
The summer is the high season in Cornwall, which means the route is likely to be busier. As this is not a route you particularly want to attempt in winter, go in late spring or early summer for the best experience.
This is a route of tiny villages, wild coasts, narrow winding roads and lots of bends. It takes you along the B3306, past farms and villages, and along some of the most spectacular scenery in the region.
From St Ives, head down to Zennor, where you can see the church of St Senara. This is also the perfect place to get out and go for a walk down to an isolated beach.
The road then goes on through moorland scenery, and you will be taken through an ancient landscape seemingly untouched by time, which provides plenty of opportunities to explore on foot when you feel like a break.
Head on to the Gurnard’s Head and various small hamlets until you reach Morvah. You will then go on to Pendeen, where you will find the
Geevor Tin Mine, which is now a museum.
From here, go on to Trewellard and then on to St Just, where you can again go exploring, and you may want to visit the Brisons, some dramatic coastal rocks.
Aberystwyth to Llangurig
Go on a journey through the Welsh countryside on this road trip from Aberystwyth to Llangurig. The route is 25 miles long, and it takes you along the A44 from start to finish, making it an easy drive – although there are some bends that can be challenging. In total, it should take you about 40 minutes, and it is best attempted from late spring to early autumn.
The views are the main reason for driving this route. The scenery truly is magnificent, and you will be tempted to stop off on numerous occasions to take it all in. Start by exploring Aberystwyth and all its attractions, including
You will find when you begin your drive that it starts off quite slowly with nothing particularly impressive to see, but at Cwmbrwyno you will suddenly head up high from where the views become breathtaking.
Photo Credit: Aberystwyth from the top of the cliff railway by Charles D P Miller under CC attribution license
You may later want to stop off at the
Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre to break the journey up a bit. Another good place to stop is Devil’s Bridge, where you will find a beautiful waterfall. Towards the end, enjoy the sweeping curves in the road before ending the trip in the village of Llangurig.
Crianlarich to Oban
This route will take you through the dramatic scenery of the west of Scotland on a 40-mile route that starts inland at Crianlarich and ends at Oban on the western coast. The route is fairly easy to drive with lots of long straights, but there are a few bends to negotiate.
It should take you about an hour from start to finish, and the countryside is at its most beautiful in the summer months, when it is also warm enough to stop off along the way and explore the area on foot.
Before you start at Crianlarich, you may want to explore nearby Loch Lomond. Once you get started on the route, the drive starts off with lots of narrow lanes for a few miles, but after Clifton the drive becomes better and turns into long straight roads that are perfect for cruising and taking in the scenery.
You will pass Loch Awe and some beautiful waterfalls along your way. When you finally reach Oban, celebrate with a seafood meal, which the town is famous for.