The best UK road trips

The Cotswolds, England

houses near pond during daytime

If you’re looking for a quintessentially British experience, look no further than the Cotswolds. The huge area is home to 800 square miles of lush countryside, which runs through five counties (Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire).

Although each area has its own identity, they all share those defining Cotswold features: golden stone and rolling hills – the ‘wolds’. The wolds are scattered with perfectly-preserved villages and winding country lanes – the perfect place for a village-hopping road trip brimming with gorgeous scenery.

There’s no end of places to explore here. You can take in lively market towns; great palaces, castles and country houses, or marvel at the natural world in acclaimed nature reserves.

Some highlights include the stunning Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, as well as Broadway Tower- from the top of which you can see a staggering 16 counties!

If you prefer a more action-packed day out though, paddleboarding, kayaking and archery are all available at the Cotswold Water Park.

The Dragon’s Spine, Wales

green pine trees near brown mountain under white clouds during daytime

This famous route doesn’t just have a great name – it offers up one of the most thrilling road trips the UK has to offer. The coast-to-coast route starts in the Welsh capital of Cardiff, home to amazing eateries, Cardiff castle, and the world’s oldest record store!

You’ll then head up through the South Wales Coalfield to the Brecon Beacons, a national park packed with mountains, moorland, standing stones, castles and stunning waterfalls. As well as being a hiker’s dream, it’s also home to the Geo park, which features four of the longest limestone caves in Britain – you can even crawl through them!

The Brecon Beacons also features the famous Black Mountain Pass (A4069), a spectacular driving road that twists, climbs, wriggles and dips for 19 miles between Llandovery and Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen. Often featured on Top Gear!

After your time in the heart of Wales, you’ll pass the gorgeous Llyn Clywedog reservoir – the tallest mass concrete dam in Britain, standing at 236 ft! Soon after, you’ll come across the market town of Dolgellau, before reaching the majestic northern mountains of Snowdonia. Known as the land of contrasts, Snowdonia has a stunningly varied landscape, with lakes, beaches and of course, Mount Snowdon – the tallest mountain in Wales and England.

Your journey along the Dragon’s Spine comes to an end at Conwy – a beautifully rugged medieval town on the coast, and the perfect spot to reflect on your trip. Perhaps with a spot of fish and chips!

Causeway Coastal Route, Northern Ireland

empty road between trees during daytime

Myths and legends are intertwined with this jaw-dropping route, which hugs the Atlantic coast from Belfast to Derry. The route is actually made up of nine scenic drives, making it easy to break down into smaller journeys, so you can take your time enjoying the sights.

Along the way, you’ll come across many of Northern Ireland’s main tourist attractions and landmarks. You’ll visit the Giant’s Causeway itself, the world-famous basalt columns that have inspired artists and scientific debate for centuries.

Continue your journey to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge – a stunning 250-year old rope bridge that connects the mainland to a coastal island. Not for the faint of heart!

Next up is Dunluce Castle, an iconic 500-year old structure that’s a delight to explore. If you fancy, you can discover it’s violent history, with tales of a banshee and how the castle kitchens fell into the sea one stormy night in 1639.

From the castle, drive on to reach The Dark Hedges – a hauntingly beautiful avenue of beech trees, planted by the Stuart family in the eighteenth century. This magnificent corridor of twisted limbs looks like a scene from a fantasy story – which is why it was used as a filming location in HBOs Game of Thrones!

Afterwards, you’ll pass through the Glens of Antrim – an area of outstanding beauty that’s just begging to be explored.

To finish, you may want to make the short ferry trip to Rathlin Island for a tour of the upside down lighthouse built into a cliff face. The island is also home to the Old Bushmills Distillery, which is the world’s oldest licenced working distiller – producing Bushmills Irish Whiskey since 1608!

North Coast 500, Scotland

bridge on ocean

Launched in 2015, this newly built route is quickly becoming Scotland’s answer to Route 66. Proclaimers fans will be disappointed to hear that it’s not precisely 500 miles, coming in at a mighty 516 miles!

The journey boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the UK, and showcases the very best of the Scottish Highlands. There are crumbling castles, windy beaches and historic landmarks lurking around every corner.

The official route starts and ends at Inverness Castle, the iconic red sandstone structure that lies in the heart of the Cultural Capital of the Highlands. Legend has it that the castle is the one featured in Shakespeare’s famous Scottish play, Macbeth.

From Inverness, the road passes through many idyllic towns and villages such as Ullapool, a picturesque fishing town and Durness, home to stunning beaches and coastal walks. You can also visit the world-famous John O’Groats, known for its dramatic coastline and plethora of wildlife, such as dolphins, puffins and seals.
If you’re feeling adventurous, stop off at Caithness to surf the reef breaks, or head to Corrieshalloch Gorge to try canyoning. The extreme sport combines mountaineering, climbing and diving. It may sound daunting, but safe lessons are available for beginners!

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