The best road trips in the UK have been selected from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. From isolated stretches of moorland to scenic coastal drives, the landscapes represented here will live long in the memory, so drive slowly, stop often, and don’t worry about taking a long way around.

    Summertime is the best time to embark on these adventurous drives, but you can enjoy many of Britain’s finest drives at any time of year – weather permitting. 


    Land of the Lakes, Lake District

    The Coniston Loop, via Eskdale and the Duddon Valley

    The Coniston Loop is a 42-mile-long drive that takes you through some rarely seen parts of the Lake District. It's an excellent way to see many different parts of the area in a day. Stopping frequently, you’ll visit Duddon Valley, an area so famed for beauty, poet William Wordsworth wrote The River Duddon, A Series of Sonnets in 1820.

    Other highlights of this road trip include Stanley Force waterfall, Dalegarth station on the miniature Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, and Hardknott Roman Fort. Every village and hamlet you pass will have coffee shops and pubs. Make a stop whenever one takes your fancy. 

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    Snowdonia to Anglesey

    A 26-mile drive to the west coast of Wales

    This scenic drive across 26 miles of the Welsh countryside takes you from the region’s highest peak, Snowdonia, to its westernmost point, Anglesey. The journey is packed with things to see and do along the way, including visits to Snowdonia National Park and Penrhyn Castle and Garden. After crossing the Britannia Bridge onto Anglesey, consider stopping to visit the town with the world’s longest name, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. There’s not much to do here, but it makes a great photo to send to your mates.

    The endpoint to your journey is South Stack Lighthouse on Holy Island. Come in summer and you can climb the lighthouse for fantastic ocean views out towards Ireland.

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    North York Moors National Park

    Helmsley to Whitby via the B1257

    The North York Moors has the world’s largest collection of heather moorland, which is a rough, windswept type of landscape that has a forgotten, timeless quality to it. In summer, you will find wide-open space filled with wildflowers. There are several journeys you could make through the moors, but this 50-mile route takes in some particularly rugged landscapes and interesting sights.

    Starting from the village of Helmsley, take the B1257 north, passing wide open fields and stone homesteads. Consider stopping at Rievaulx Abbey, an 11th-century abbey ruins. After 20 miles you will reach the market town of Stokesley. From here, head east towards the coast. You could choose to make a stop at Captain Cooks monument on the Cleveland Way hiking trail. It’s a further 30-mile drive through moorland until you reach Whitby. Celebrate with some of the UK’s finest fish and chips, sat on the harbour wall with your feet dangling off the side. 

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    Scottish North Coast, Scotland

    The UK’s northernmost road trip

    The Scottish North Coast trip is the ultimate circular route around Scotland, starting and ending at the historic Inverness Castle. The route covers over 800 km and includes the UK’s northernmost mainland coast. Be sure to stop by the village of John o’ Groats, famous as one of the furthest mainland points from Land’s End at the other far end of the country.

    The Scottish North Coast trip comprises 6 distinctive encounters. There are whiskies to sample at Easter Ross, and seals to spot off its shores. You might also see dolphins off Black Isle, where the local food and craft beer scene are worth a stop, too. That’s without even mentioning the mysterious lochs and stunning white-sand beaches of Wester Ross. 

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    Cheddar Gorge, Somerset

    Cheddar to Ashwick along the B3135

    The award-winning Cheddar Gorge drive twists and turns its way for 14 cliffhanging miles. It’s easy to reach from popular tourist spots in the southwest, like Bath, Bristol, and Weston-Super-Mare.

    Owing to its fame, this route through the gorge is particularly popular so expect plenty of traffic to contend with if you head here on the weekend or during the peak summer months. It’s best to set off in the early morning when you’ll have this winding drive mostly to yourself. 

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    The Black Mountain Pass

    Take the A4069 across the Brecon Beacons

    The Black Mountain Pass is a fantastic drive through an isolated landscape in south Wales, winding its way through Brecon Beacons National Park for 20 hair-raising miles. This road has plenty of hairpin turns to test your driving skills, rising up the side of an abandoned quarry to an altitude of 1,600 ft.

    This stretch of road links the towns of Llangadog and Brynamman. The scenery starts among pastures, before rising into desolate moorland. The view from the top of the pass is stunning but do watch out for errant sheep wandering across the roads. 

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    Snake Pass, Peak District

    Take the A57 between Sheffield and Manchester

    Snake Pass is a famous route in Derbyshire that cuts through the Pennines, past several small villages, with Ladybower Reservoir as a halfway point. Stop here to enjoy the panorama from the Bamford Edge viewpoint. As you head north towards Manchester, you’ll be treated to stunning views as you drive into Glossop town.

    Beautiful in summer but often closed in winter due to heavy snow, the weather up here makes driving rather hazardous. There are sharp bends and sudden drops to contend with, but that’s also what makes driving Snake Pass so fun. Be aware of cyclists who like to traverse this rugged pass. 

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    Causeway Coastal Route

    Belfast to Derry, the long way around

    The Causeway Coastal Route is a 130-mile road trip linking Northern Ireland’s 2 largest cities – Belfast and Derry. One of the UK’s most celebrated seaside routes, you will pass a collection of famous landmarks along the way so you should expect to stop often on this journey.

    The town of Ballycastle marks the halfway point of the route – it's just a few miles from Northern Ireland’s most famous tourist attraction, the Giant’s Causeway. Factor in some time to stop and gaze at this geological peculiarity but be ready for some extreme weather conditions. Other highlights along the way include Dunluce Castle and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. 

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    Ben Nevis to the Isle of Skye

    100 miles through the Scottish Highlands

    A road trip from Ben Nevis to the Isle of Skye is one of rugged adventure. All along the route from Scotland’s highest peak to the largest island of the Inner Hebrides archipelago, you’ll be treated to views of idyllic lochs, monolithic rocks and impressive landscapes. The 100-mile-long drive takes around 2 hours in good weather, but it's a good idea to stop frequently as there are plenty of incredible views to enjoy. 

    Once on the Isle of Skye, there's nowhere better to watch the sunset than at Neist Point on the far western coast. The rippling coastline is saturated in golden tones when the sun slips over the horizon at this rocky outcrop, located near the township of Glendale. 

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    Atlantic Highway (A39), South West England

    Barnstaple in North Devon down to Newquay in Cornwall

    The Atlantic Highways is a 70-mile section of the A39 that runs from Barnstaple in North Devon down to the seaside town of Newquay in Cornwall. This drive takes around 1.5 hours and presents many beautiful coastal views on one side with hilly landscapes on the other.

    Highlights on the Atlantic Highway include many beautiful beaches, such as Westward Ho! in Devon and Summerleaze Beach in Bude on Cornwall’s northern shore. If you have time, take a short detour along the toll road to the lighthouse at Trevose Head near Padstow.

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    photo by Nilfanion (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    Paul Smith | Compulsive Traveller

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    Attractions and experiences recommended in our guides may be affected. Please check local guidance before you travel.

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