ROUTES / DRIVES
Best for: Adventurers
Why do it? To take in the rolling hills & spectacular coastline.
Distance and ideal duration: 250 miles, 3-4 days.
What to expect: The 250-mile road trip taking you on an epic adventure across the land of dark skies, rolling hills & remarkable coastline.
Stop offs: Kielder Forest is the largest man-made woodland in England with three-quarters of its 250 square miles covered by forest.
Top tip: Check the tide times when heading to Holy Island. Access to the island is only available when it is low tide.
Did you know? Thanks to minimal light pollution and great conservation efforts, Northumberland proudly offers some of the best stargazing experiences and clearest night skies in England. With the naked eye, you'll see roughly 2,000 stars shining bright like diamonds on inky black skies and easily trace the fuzzy arc of the Milky Way.
BEST OF THE MOORS, YORKSHIRE
Best for: Open moorland roads.
Why do it? To take in the best of both coast & country.
Distance and ideal duration: 42 miles, 2-3 days.
What to expect: 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.
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. Whenever your pet wants to explore there are plenty of canine-friendly pubs and beaches available too.
Stop offs: Dalby Forest is a great place to stretch your legs or go for a bike ride if you have yours with you. If you stop off in Goathland you can go in search of Mallyan Spout, the tallest waterfall in the Moors.
Top tip: Take a map with you as sat-navs might not be 100% reliable due to the rural nature of the North York Moors.
Did you know? Goathland has featured in many TV shows and films, having doubled for Aidensfield in Heartbeat and Hogsmeade Station in the Harry Potter movies.
PEAKS & PASSES,
Best for: History Lovers
Why do it? Drive through one of the UKs top driving road
Distance and ideal duration: 60 miles, 1-2 days.
What to expect: The route encompasses 60 or so miles of exciting views, challenging bends, steep climbs and heartbeat-raising descents, with lots of opportunities to learn about historic buildings, bridges and viaducts along the way.
Next up on our list is this tour through one of the country’s most beloved national parks, the Peak District. Start at Holmfirth – to the north of the Peak District – then follow the A6024 as it soars over Holme Moss to plunge down towards Woodhead Reservoir on the A6024, right on to the A628 then left on to the B6105 to Glossop. Whizz high above Torside Reservoir then in Glossop, and head into the Pennines along the famous Snake Pass, one of the UK’s great mountain passes, hitting a high point of 510m above sea level.
Turn right on to the A6013 to Bamford, then take the A6187 via Hathersage and The Dale to wild beauty spot Stanage Edge. Follow the B6521 to Grindleford, then the A625/A623 past fetching Baslow, following the signs to Chatsworth House, the “palace of the Peaks”, then to secluded medieval Haddon Hall along the B6012 and A6.
Continue through Bakewell, turn right on the A6020 then left to Ashford-in-the-Water to admire ancient Sheepwash Bridge, where lambs were put in a pen on one side of the river and ewes were washed as they swam across to them. Take the B6465 and meander to Monsal Head to view distant Headstone Viaduct, then take your time along the B6465/A623, dropping down via Dove Holes and following the signs to the gracious spa town of Buxton.
Top tip: The weather in the Peak District can change pretty quickly and mountain roads are often closed off due to snowfall, so always check conditions before you set off.
Did you know? The Peak District was the UK’s first national park, established in 1951.
NORTH COAST 500, SCOTLAND
Best for: Grand tourers
Why do it? Experience a world famous route
Distance and ideal duration: 516 miles, 8-10 days.
What to expect: Scotland’s answer to Route 66 boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the UK, if not the world. It showcases the best of the Highlands, with ancient castles, windswept beaches and historic landmarks lurking around every corner.
The official route starts and ends at Inverness Castle and passes through idyllic towns and villages such as Ullapool, Durness, John O’Groats and Dornoch. It’s advisable to book accommodation in advance as options are limited.
Those looking for adventure can surf the reef breaks of Caithness or head to Corrieshalloch Gorge to try canyoning. The extreme sport combines mountaineering, climbing and diving and tour operators offer safe lessons for beginners.
Stop offs: Bask in the beauty of Achmelvich Bay, a stunning white sandy beach popular with hill walkers and water sports enthusiasts. Further north, spot dolphins and seals off the coast at Chanonry Point
Top tip: Although there are several petrol stations along the route, don’t underestimate how many miles you have to drive before you can fill up.
Did you know? This area of the UK is one of the best places outside of Scandinavia to see the Northern Lights.
LAND OF THE LAKES, CUMBRIA
Best for: Confident drivers with a head for heights.
Why do it? To test your driving skills with hills and hairpin bends of the Hardknott Pass.
Distance and ideal duration: 30 miles, 2-3 days.
What to expect: Dive into Wordsworth country with an adventure along some of England’s most picturesque roads. Starting in Kendal, head north into the Lake District National Park towards Windermere, England’s largest lake and a picture-postcard resort that attracts all sorts of visitors.
From Windermere, drive north and drink in the beautiful lakeside villages of Ambleside and Grasmere. Head back towards Skelwith Bridge where you can visit Chesters by the River to fuel up before heading towards Little Langdale & Hardknott.
If you’re dreaming of a road-trip challenge, Wrynose and Hardknott Pass is ready and waiting. Featuring some of the steepest roads in Britain (Hardknott Pass has a 33% gradient at one point), this route is not for the faint-hearted.
Start at Little Langdale and warm up your motoring skills on twisting Wrynose Pass; you’ll know you’ve reached even tougher Hardknott Pass when you see those signs. Then you begin to climb in earnest, via a network of hairpin bends. Now and again, you will feel the urge to pull into a handy lay-by to catch your breath – and capture the heady views on your camera. Eventually you will reach the final, daunting descent – a test of driver, machine and brakes.
Stop offs: If you want to learn even more about the UK’s greatest writers, a short detour will take you to Beatrix Potter’s Farm in Near Sawry, the inspiration for Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck and others.
Top tip: Rain, fog and gradients (not to mention ice and snow in winter) can make conditions dangerous, so this drive is best tackled at the height of summer. When you reach the end, you can turn round and do it all again, the other way – just for fun.
Did you know? As well as being home to England’s highest peak, Scafell Pike, the Lake District is where you’ll find the country’s deepest lake: Wastwater, which is over 74m deep.
NORTH EAST 250, SCOTLAND
Best for: Real Scottish experience
Why do it? Visit parts of Scotland often forgotten about
Distance and ideal duration: 250 miles, 3-7 days
Experience a journey of stunning scenic contrasts & explore the rich heritage & culture of the heart of Scotland - all in one amazing route!
The North East 250 explores everything for which Scotland is famous in a unique Scottish road trip taking you through the whisky distilleries of Speyside, the spectacular mountain passes of the Cairngorms National Park, the famous castles of Royal Deeside, the Granite City of Aberdeen, the rugged North Sea coastline to the east, and the picturesque seaside villages of the Moray Firth Coast.
Stop offs: Balmoral Castle, since 1852, this has been a private residence for the British Royal Family, who traditionally holiday here every July.
ISLE OF ARRAN COASTAL ROAD, SCOTLAND
Best for: Escapists.
Why do it? It’s like Scotland in miniature, with a hint of the Med.
Distance & ideal duration: 56 miles, as long or little as you like
What to expect: This leisurely 56-mile drive around the circular coastal route offers craggy highlands to the north, rolling lowlands to the south, with ever-changing sea views all the way. Arran is a bewitching island, full of mystery, history, remote hidden glens and charming coves. On a sunny day, its sublime light and cottages tumbling down to the shore conjure a hint of the Mediterranean. When it’s stormy, brooding clouds lend extra majesty to heather-covered hills, while racing waves heighten the dramatic sense of other-worldliness.
The route: Start where the 45-minute ferry from Ardrossan on the mainland drops you, at Brodick, then drive anti-clockwise starting on the level, winding coastal route. Half-an-hour of driving brings you to remote, beautiful Lochranza Castle sitting serenely on a promontory and silhouetted against the waves. Now plunge south, enjoying breathtaking views to the Mull of Kintyre before the A841 snakes around to the wide beaches of the south – and back to Brodick.
Top tip: Don’t feel obliged to stick to the coastal route; there are soaring, deserted mountain roads, too, if you head inland – so make time for both.
VILLAGE HOPPING IN THE COTSWOLDS
Best for: Open moorland roads.
Why do it? To travel back in time as you pass through perfectly preserved English villages.
Distance and ideal duration: 80 miles 3-4 days
What to expect: This 80-mile exploration packs in fabulous bends, far-reaching views and forgotten back roads that let you believe you are the only tourist in the Cotswolds.
Is there anywhere more quintessentially English than the Cotswolds? Miles and miles of lush countryside are scattered with perfectly-preserved villages and winding country lanes often marked out with iconic Cotswold stone walls.
We recommend starting in Chipping Campden, towards the north of the Cotswolds, before heading south, hopping from pretty 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.
Stop offs: As well as having one of the UK’s prettiest high streets, Broadway is also home to Broadway Tower, from the top of which you can see a staggering 16 counties.
Top tip: Don’t be afraid to vary your route, relying on sat-nav to hop from village to village. It’s part of the fun.
Did you know? The stunning Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, was apparently earmarked by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler to become his home after invading Britain.