Top 10 driving routes in the UK
With a warm summer approaching, what better time to get out in your classic and explore the beauty that the UK has to offer. From coastal roads to rural streets, we have compiled a list of just a few stunning driving routes.
There aren’t many places more English than the Cotswolds. It’s one of the most beautiful parts of the country, overflowing with miles and miles of incredible countryside, and scattered with perfectly preserved villages and winding country lanes often marked out with iconic Cotswold stone walls. Chipping Campden is a good place to start, towards the north of the Cotswolds, before heading south, cruising from village to pretty village as you take in quaint pubs, medieval churches, and all manner of local curiosities on your way to Bath at the southern tip.
This is an opportunity to take in some of England’s most picturesque roads. Consider starting in Kendal, then head north into the Lake District National Park towards Windermere, England’s largest lake and a picture-perfect, real life postcard experience that attracts visitors from all over the world. From Windermere, drive north and drink in the beautiful lakeside villages of Ambleside and Grasmere, the latter home to William Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage and where the poet wrote the famous ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.’ The calm lakes offer the perfect opportunity to get on the water either by hiring a boat or joining a cruise. If you prefer to stay on dry land the area can be explored by bike or steam train along one of many scenic railway routes.
Wales must be experienced by driving from coast to coast. The A470 runs all the way from Cardiff in the south to Conwy in the north, taking in two beautiful national parks. Your journey would begin in the Welsh capital, then you’d head up through the South Wales Coalfield to the Brecon Beacons. As you reach the heartland of Wales, you’ll pass the gorgeous Llyn Clywedog reservoir and market town of Dolgellau, before heading over the indescribably beautiful northern mountains of Snowdonia to Conwy. Top Gear fans may recognise the A4069 Black Mountain Pass – the route otherwise known as ‘Top Gear road’ is a favourite with motorists including the outspoken presenter, Jeremy Clarkson. If you’d also like a slice of culture, Carreg Cennen Castle and Dinefwr Castle are both nearby.
What makes a great road? Low traffic, beautifully curving, cambered bends and scenery stretching as far as they eye can see? The Evo Triangle has it all – and then some! Buried deep in the heart of North Wales it has been a mecca for motoring aficionados ever since Evo magazine began conducting road tests there. Stretching 20 miles along the A5, A543 and B4501, the Isosceles triangle sweeps through dramatic rolling countryside, with only sheep to witness your driving prowess – that was until 2019, when the triangle sadly succumbed to the average speed camera, following the deaths of four motorists.
Roads: A9, A386, A838, A894, A837, A385, A832, A396, A390, A832
Easily the newest road to make our round-up, the North Coast 500 was created solely to bring tourism to Scotland’s nether regions. And what a job it has done. Since its launch in 2015, hundreds of thousands of motorists have embarked on the 516-mile round trip, which begins at Inverness Castle and loops through the counties of Inverness-shire, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland and Caithness. Passing John O’Groats, Cape Wraith and the Point of Stoer (if you follow the route anti-clockwise), the road encompasses the very best that the Highlands have to offer, from beautiful lochs to huge sea stacks and the stunning scenery that comes between. In fact, such is its beauty that the NC500 regularly features on lists of the world’s best coastal drives.
A drive around tranquil Norfolk will have you wanting to return over and over again. Start this trip by checking out Norwich (the 11th century cathedral is a must-see), then head east into The Broads. With scenic waterways and a rich variety of wildlife, it’s well worth really taking in the amazing roads, and beautiful scenery surrounding you. From there, take the coastal roads north towards Cromer, a traditional seaside resort and home to the UK’s only remaining end-of-the-pier variety show. Further along the coast wide, windswept beaches like Brancaster Beach are perfect for an afternoon relaxing by the sea. North Norfolk is home to more than 40 miles of sandy shores and six Blue Flag beaches, more than any other region in the UK. The golden sands are also enjoyed by the largest seal colony in England at Blakeney Point.
There is nothing quite like the Giants Causeway, a UNESCO heritage site comprising around 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, thought to be the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption. Located in County Antrim on Northern Ireland’s North Coast, the incredible rock formation usually draws countless visitors each year. And accompanying the Causeway in the beauty books is a 120-mile Causeway Coastal route, which hugs the coastline between Belfast and Derry-Londonderry, taking in the rock formation plus many more natural and manmade wonders – the beautiful Ballintoy Harbour, for example. And, if you have the time, why not continue down the Wild Atlantic Way, which promises one of the world’s most dramatic coastlines and an abundance of incredible Irish heritage.
Get ready to drive through one of the country’s most beloved national parks, the Peak District. Starting in Glossop, east of Greater Manchester, and heading into the Pennines along the famous Snake Pass, one of the UK’s great mountain passes, and reaching an altitude of 510m above sea level. You could also decide to head further south towards the reservoirs around the popular Derwent Dam. A short detour to the west will take you to the Blue John Cavern, an underground network of caves which offers guided tours – ideal if you feel like an alternative to hill walking on your way ever southwards. If there is a keen adventurer in you, the Heights of Abraham in Matlock offers tours to help retrace the footsteps of miners at the Great Masson Cavern.
With dense forests, meandering streams and vast swathes of heather moorland, the North York Moors National Park makes for a spectacular road trip. Although the journey from the market town of Helmsley to the seaside village of Staithes is short and sweet, you can stretch it out over a couple of days if you fancy an overnight stay in a village B&B. Pass moss-covered drystone walls and grazing sheep as you take the A170 towards Pickering and Thornton-le-Dale. Then take the A169 for a scenic journey up to the coast through Goathland and Grosmont. The Moors are one of the most dog-friendly regions to visit in the UK, with B&Bs, glamping and other accommodation options welcoming furry family members.
The A39 is one of the longest roads in Southwest England, connecting Bath to Falmouth. While you can drive the entire road, we’re focusing on a particularly picturesque stretch between Barnstaple in Devon and the popular Cornish seaside resort of Newquay. While the road itself doesn’t get that close to the coast, you’ll be able to take in plenty of breathtaking views of the Atlantic as you pass through Bude, Camelford and Wadebridge. The region is perfect for families, with Newquay often voted the nation’s favourite seaside town. Active families will love the walking and cycling trails on North Devon’s suitably named Adventure Coast.