10 UK Road Trips To Plan For This Summer

If you’ve always wanted to explore some of the best the UK has to offer, this summer – when staycations are looking like our safest bet to get away – would be a great time to hit the road. Whether you’re after a two-day trip around the English countryside, or want to head further afield to Scotland or Northern Ireland, here are ten of the best routes to start planning now… 
UNSPLASH / ALEX FORESTIER

North Coast 500, Scotland

Distance: 516 miles
Time: 5-8 days
Best for: Wildlife enthusiasts 
 
The North Coast 500 route covers over 500 miles of beautiful coastal scenery and is frequently voted as one of the best road trips in the world. Stretching across a large area of the north Scottish Highlands, it takes between five and eight days to complete, depending on how many stops you want to take, so bookmark the route for a week-long trip. The summer months are a great time to make the journey where visitors can spot seabirds nesting and even dolphins and whales along the coastline. One of the most popular routes, which spans much of the NC500 motorway, starts in the beautiful Inverness before heading down to Loch Ness and Dornoch. From there, the route continues to Wick, where there are several archaeological sites to visit, before reaching Togue, one of the northernmost spots in mainland Britain. At this point, you can make a detour to the beautiful Orkney islands (home of the puffin) or continue towards Lochinver for some dramatic scenery. The last leg of the route goes through Ullapool and Kinlochewe, before circling back to Inverness. 

The Atlantic Highway, North Cornwall

Distance: 170 miles
Time: 4-5 days
Best for: History buffs
 
This 170-mile route is a picturesque drive that passes some of the best bits of Cornwall and Devon. This grand stretch of road, otherwise known as the A39 motorway, passes several pretty villages with plenty of places to stop off, so set aside four to five days to complete it. The most popular route starts in Exmoor National Park – spend a day in the beautiful park before continuing towards Quantock Hills on the Devonshire Coast. Clovelly Village, which has a lovely pebble beach is next, followed by Mouthmill Beach where you can climb Blackchurch rock. The route then continues to Bude, a beautiful coastal town in Cornwall which is worth exploring, and Tintagel – home to the famous St Nectan’s Glen Waterfall and Merlin’s Cave. From there, head to Port Isaac for some of the best restaurants in the south west, before finishing the trip in Newquay. There are several good beaches to explore here but be sure to book accommodation early which gets snapped quickly during high season.

North Lakes Scenic Drive, Lake District

Distance: 71 miles
Time: 3 days
Best for: Walkers & climbers
 
For the ultimate camping trip, set aside three days for a road trip around the Lake District. There are several routes to choose from, but the North Lakes Scenic Drive has some of the best vistas of the national park. Starting in Penrith, head for the village of Glenridding – a great spot for mountain climbing. From there, you’ll visit the largest town in the Lake District, Keswick, which has some of the best views. Don’t miss the mysterious Castlerigg Stone Circle, a collection of megalithic stones, or Derwentwater Lake. From there, continue via the Honister Pass, one of the highest roads in Cumbria, before reaching Whitehaven on the coast. Here, there are plenty of good pubs and restaurants to choose from, as well as some lovely inns if you want to finish the journey with a cosy stay overnight.

UNSPLASH/CALLAM BARNES
North Coast 500, Scotland
UNSPLASH/DENISE SEDDON
North Lakes Scenic Drive, Lake District
UNSPLASH/OLIVER ASH
The Atlantic Highway, North Cornwall

Norfolk Coast     

Distance: 85 miles
Time: 4 days 
Best for: Families
 
See the best that Norfolk has to offer during the summer months with a road trip around the pretty coastline. With long stretches of golden beach, salt marshes and mud flats, the landscape varies from beach to beach, so there’s plenty to see during a four-day trip. Start your journey in the seaside town of Hunstanton and continue along the A149 towards Thornham and Brancaster. Take an excursion to the Holme Dunes National Nature Reserve and Titchwell Marsh to spot the local wildlife. The route then continues through Holkham, home to a stunning coastal landscape and several pretty beaches, and the remote village of Stiffkey – an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Stop off at some of the other beaches nearby, before driving to Salthouse and Weybourne. Enjoy a day at the traditional seaside town of Sheringham, before finishing the trip in Cromer. 

Yorkshire Moors

Distance: 415 miles
Time: 4-5 days
Best for: Photographers
 
For a route a little further north, head to the Yorkshire Moors for a stunning drive around the national park and surrounding towns. Set aside four to five days to complete the trip, which starts at Harome on the southern edge of the North York Moors. Stop off at the famous Castle Howard, then continue on the route towards Wensleydale. From there, you’ll ascend the Buttertubs Pass, a beautiful high road in the Dales, before reaching the town of Richmond. Drive through the stunning York Moors for some of the best views on the route, then descend to Rosedale Abbey and head to Whitby and the coast. Continue towards Ripon, a historical cathedral city, but don’t miss the glacial lake in Malham en route. The trip finally loops back to Harome where you can stay overnight at one of the many pretty countryside inns.

The Dragon’s Spine, Wales

Distance: 186 miles
Time: 5 days
Best for: Adrenaline junkies
 
It’s no secret Wales is home to some of the most stunning scenery in the UK, so heading on a road trip during the summer is a no brainer. A great option for lovers of the outdoors, the famous Dragon’s Spine route, which covers nearly 200 miles of beautiful landscape and two national parks, takes around five days to complete. Starting on the A470 in Cardiff, head to the Brecon Beacons where you can enjoy a range of outdoor pursuits such as climbing, mountain biking, fishing and horse riding. From there, continue through Llyn Clywedog (a huge reservoir) and the market town of Dolgellau. Eventually you’ll reach the iconic Snowdonia National Park where you can make the most of the excellent climbing and walking routes. Between the parks and the cities, there’s a lot to see, so it’s best to make a detailed itinerary to make the most of your trip.

The Dragon’s Spine, Wales
UNSPLASH/JULIA ZOLOTOVA
Norfolk Coast     
UNSPLASH/JOEL HENRY

Snake Pass, Peak District

Distance: 20 miles
Time: 2 days
Best for: A long weekend
 
For the ultimate road trip you can complete in just a couple of days, head to the stunning Peak District to drive along the famous Snake Pass. Although the drive can be completed in an afternoon, factor in the time it takes to get to Derbyshire and back and make a weekend of it. Passing through Peak District National Park, the pass is a steep drive with an elevation of 510m – not for the faint of heart. But, if you’re up for the thrill, head to the town of Glossop and follow the road towards the Pennine Way walking route. You’ll wind through a beautiful woodland area, before passing the River Ashop and the famous Ladybower Reservoir. Here, the area has some of the most stunning views on this list, so take your time to drive through the pass and make the most of the impressive vistas. For a longer trip, spend a day at Peak District National Park – ideal for mountain climbing, horse riding and cycling.

Black Mountain Pass, Brecon Beacons

Distance: 20 miles
Time: 1 day
Best for: Experienced drivers
 
The Black Mountain Pass in Wales is one of the most famous road trip routes in the UK. Featuring a combination of bends, dips, twists and climbs, only experienced drivers should opt for the route as it can be challenging in places. It can be completed in a day, but it’s worth stopping off at some of the nearby towns to make the most of the area. Starting in Brecon, take the A40 to Llandovery to head to the start of the pass. From there, it’s a 20-mile scenic drive through an alpine landscape with breath-taking views of the Black Mountains. The route is best driven during the week when the roads are quieter, though make sure to look out for stray sheep on the road.

Oxford & The Cotswolds

Distance: 180 miles
Time: 4 days
Best for: Pretty villages
 
For a four-day trip around Oxford and some of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds, this popular route passes the best highlights in the area. Starting in Oxford, make the most of the cultural landmarks and historical buildings before heading west to Blenheim to see the iconic palace. From there, continue to Chipping Norton, just a 20-minute drive away and stop off at one of the many pubs or cafés in town. Once you’ve taken in the cobbled streets, head to Stow-on-the-Wold where there are plenty of good walking routes to explore. Continue along the A4 to Cheltenham before making your way to Gloucester – famous for its medieval buildings and cathedral. On the final leg of the journey, continue to Winchcombe to visit Broadway Tower for stunning views of the rolling countryside and meadows. Heading further north, you’ll then reach Stratford-Upon-Avon and Warwick where the route finishes.

UNSPLASH/RUMMAN AMIN
Oxford & The Cotswolds
UNSPLASH/THOMAS KELLEY
Causeway Coastal Route, Northern Ireland

Causeway Coastal Route, Northern Ireland

Distance: 120 miles
Time: 2 days
Best for: Natural beauty
 
If you want to explore the beautiful coast in Northern Ireland, the Causeway Coastal Route is a stunning drive. The route has won several awards for the most beautiful drive in the UK, so bookmark it for a long weekend away. Starting in Belfast, take a tour around the city before heading to the Antrim countryside where you can stop off at Carrickfergus Castle and the Gobbins Cliff Path for a scenic walk. On day two, hit the coast and head for the stunning Murlough Bay and Tor Head where you might be able to catch a glimpse of Scotland on a clear day. Raithlin Island, a ferry ride away, is also worth a visit where you can take a guided tour around the historic lighthouse. On the final stretch of the trip, the route passes Ballintoy Harbour and the Giant’s Causeway – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don’t miss Dunluce Castle further along the coastline, before finishing the trip in Londonderry.

CREDIT: UNSPLASH / ALEX FORESTIER
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