Top United Kingdom Road Trip Ideas
If you want to escape day to day life, explore new destinations and enjoy travel freedom, then plan a road trip. And where better than in the glorious isles of the United Kingdom, where landscapes vary from the gentle to the dramatic, and roads thread through the patchwork countryside between quaint villages and historic towns? If you’ve got wheels, we’ve got the best UK road trip ideas for you!
UK Road Trip Resources
Information About Driving in the UK
Whether you’re road tripping in a car, camper or motorbike, make sure you’ve got all your documents handy and your spare tyre is in good condition.
Make sure you have a first-aid kit and lots of road trip snacks and water for longer drives, plus travel games if you’ve got kids with you. Download Google Maps to help with road trip planning and help you navigate the best routes.
Whether your UK road trip itinerary is five days or five weeks, you may want to consider a vehicle service before you go, and breakdown cover is probably a good idea.
- Drivers from non-EU countries may require an International Driving Permit. The general rule is that if your licence is not in English, then an IDP will be required. Check with your hire company or embassy if you’re in doubt.
- You must carry your passport or ID card at all times.
- You must have at least 3rd party insurance for your vehicle. Update August 2021 – you no longer require a green card to prove you have vehicle insurance cover if your vehicle is registered outside the UK.
- Your car must be considered roadworthy in the country in which it is registered.
- Your headlights must be adapted for driving on the right if you’re vehicle is registered outside the UK.
- Unlike France, the UK does not have laws that require you to carry certain equipment in your car, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. Being prepared in the event of an accident or a break down is invaluable. Ideally you should carry a reflective jacket, a warning triangle, a first-aid kit and a fire extinguisher.
- If you’re hiring a car, book well in advance and use a care hire booker like Rentalcars.com who will provide the best deals from all the top car hire companies. How? Because they have such a large market share, they’ve got way more buying power than individuals and can negotiate much harder on price.
- Understand insurance options, mileage limits and fuel policies before booking.
- Check the car for damage on collection and make sure anything you spot is noted, and the same again when you drop it off.
- Remember to drive on the left during your UK trip!
Best Time to Take a UK Road Trip
December to February
The winter months in the UK are often cold and wet, more so if you head to Scotland or Northern Ireland. Although other visitors will be thinner on the ground, the weather may hinder you seeing everything you want to, accommodation options may be limited and the driving experience will be a lot less enjoyable.
March to May
Late spring is a wonderful time to visit the UK, as the cold and wet retreats and gives way to kinder weather. Wild flowers appear, baby animals abound and life picks up a lively pace again. But, remember that the country is so lush because it rains frequently, so always be prepared for a downpour, or a few drizzly days when you plan a UK road trip.
June to August
Summer brings sunshine to all of the UK, with south Wales and the western coast of Scotland getting the best of the Gulf Stream. This is the perfect time to visit for outdoor adventures such as hiking and coasteering and ideal if you’re in a tent or motorhome wild camping.
September to November
Autumn is a fantastic time to explore the UK. The coasts will be quieter but still warm and the glorious colours of autumn bring vibrancy to the countryside. Don’t leave it too late, it will be cold and wet again by mid-October.
UK Road Trip Map
Devon & Cornwall
Barnstable – Rock – Padstow – Newquay – St Ives – Sennen – Porthcurno – Penzance
The most south-westerly county in England has some of the best beaches the country has to offer. You’ll also find plenty of quaint sea-side towns, stunning landscapes and lots of fantastic days out, which make Cornwall one of the best UK road trips for families.
The drive down the M5 or A303 can be long and slow, especially at the weekends when lots of self-catering accommodation providers have their change-over days. Try and head down mid-week and break up the journey before you get to the A30, the main arterial road through the county.
Visit the Eden Project on the way, an amazing place to explore, and not to be missed when you’re driving so close by.
Alternatively, take the Atlantic Highway from Barnstable to Newquay, which takes you into Cornwall on the A39 road, passing some of the best beaches in north Devon on the way. As you head south, enjoy the walking and cycling trails on North Devon’s aptly named Adventure Coast.
The Camel Estuary
With pretty Padstow on one side of the estuary and trendy Rock on the other, this is a fantastic family destination with lots to do. Try your hand at surfing or body-boarding in Rock or just have fun in the waves. Eat delicious, locally caught fish in Padstow and enjoy strolling the charming harbour and town.
The most famous of all Cornish holiday and sea-side towns, St Ives is graced with a couple of superb beaches and a lively ambiance in the busy and picturesque town and harbour and is a must stop on any Cornwall road trip. With shops, restaurants and bars open long into the evening in summer, and several world renowned galleries, St Ives has a cosmopolitan feel and is perfectly placed for exploring the south of Cornwall. It can get very busy here in the high season, if you’re travelling as a couple, visit before UK schools break up for summer if you possibly can.
Porthcurno & Around
The tip of the Cornish peninsula has some amazing coves and beaches. Porthcurno is one of our all-time favourite beaches and is overlooked by the Minack Theatre, which you should visit, if only for the spectacular views. Get to the beach early in the summer months, the car-park fills quickly.
Elsewhere on the peninsula, Sennen Cove and the tin mines at Botallack provide a fascinating insight into Cornish history.
Head east for charming Mousehole (pronounced Mowzle), one of Cornwall’s hidden gems (as much as anything in this part of the world can be!).
Penzance, of pirate fame, and the splendid St. Michael’s Mount, accessible on foot when the tide is out, are all within a few miles of each other and well worth a visit.
Burford – Cheltenham – Painswick – Bath
Is there anywhere more perfectly English than the Cotswolds? The lush and rolling countryside of south west England is dotted with honeyed picture perfect villages set around duck ponds and greens, and the winding country lanes are lined with stone walls and hedgerows.
The region is recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and offers close encounters with wildlife, and birdwatching opportunities at the Slimbridge Wetland Centre.
If you prefer a bit more activity, paddle boarding, kayaking and archery are all available at the Cotswold Water Park, and there are lots of great cycling and hiking routes in the area. If you’re looking for a gentle escape and a slow pace, this is a perfect 1 week road trip in the UK.
The medieval town of Burford, just 30 minutes west of historic Oxford and an hour and 45 minutes by car from London, is on the edge of the so called ‘Golden Triangle’, bordered by the A40, A44 and A429.
The triangle is home to some of the most idyllic chocolate box villages of the Cotswolds, including Kingham, Churchill, Broadwell, Bledington and Oddington, and a perfect place to start a Cotswolds road trip.
Burford itself has changed little over the centuries, other than becoming one of the most popular tourist spots in the area. Stroll down the famous High Street, lined with half-timbered houses and Georgian architecture, as it descends to the River Windrush.
Dip in and out of the side streets and alleys for hidden treasures, more historic buildings and great places to stop for lunch.
Painswick, known as ‘The Queen of the Cotswolds’, is a beautiful and historic wool town. One one of the best-preserved settlements in the Cotswolds, built from locally quarried stone, Painswick is a great starting point to travel around the area.
Close enough to Cheltenham to make exploring easy, there are many small country roads and tiny villages between Painswick and Cheltenham to discover.
Sitting halfway along the Cotswold Way National Trail, Painswick is surrounded by fabulous hiking country and is a great base to start from. Painswick Beacon has spectacular views across the Severn Valley to the mountains of Wales.
End your road trip in the historic Roman and Georgian spa city of Bath. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bath is famous for its hot springs, Roman baths, Medieval heritage and elegant Georgian architecture.
Visit the fascinating Roman Baths which date from AD43, to see how the Romans liked to relax. At the more modern end of the scale, take a dip in the contemporary Thermae Bath Spa, which houses the only natural thermal hot springs in Britain.
Make time to admire the iconic Royal Crescent and the majestic Circus to see the fine period architecture which epitomises the city that was home to the author, Jane Austen.
Bournemouth – Swanage – Corfe Castle – Kimmeridge – Lulworth – Weymouth – Portland – Abbotsbury
This stunning coastal road trip in England takes you through the county of Dorset, which boasts a rugged UNESCO World Heritage Site coastline, traditional villages and some great bucket-and-spade resorts.
The cliffs of the 95 mile long ancient Jurassic Coast contain millions of fossils and there is even a forest of fossilised trees.
With Bournemouth, Swanage and Weymouth providing good old fashioned sea-side entertainment, there’s a lot to recommend on this England road trip itinerary.
Swanage & Around
Swanage is a traditional English sea-side resort that was ‘discovered’ by the Victorians when sea bathing became fashionable.
At the far eastern end of the Jurassic Coast and Isle of Purbeck, Swanage boasts a safe sandy beach, steam train, nearby Corfe Castle, great wreck diving and Durlston Country Park, so there’s a great deal to keep you busy and entertained.
Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door
At the other end of the Isle of Purbeck, Lulworth Cove is an almost perfect circle and considered one of the best examples in Europe of this type of marine erosion.
Whatever the reason for Lulworth Cove, it really is a wonderful holiday spot, perfect for kayaking, stand up paddling or just messing about in the water.
Literally next door is Durdle Door, a natural limestone arch in the sea, caused by millions of years of erosion. Durdle Door is backed by a beautiful pebble beach and the imposing limestone cliffs that the Jurassic Coast is famous for.
Both places are on the glorious South West Coast Path, which starts in Minehead in Somerset and ends in Poole harbour. The longest long distance footpath in the UK, it snakes along the coast for 630 miles. Follow the path west from Lulworth for wild clifftop views free of people, and the geological wonder that is Kimmeridge Bay.
Chesil Beach & Around
An eighteen mile long shingle barrier beach made up of 180 billion pebbles, the iconic Chesil Beach stretches from West Bay to Portland, on the western side of Dorset.
Head for Abbotsbury Gardens for one of the best views of Chesil Beach from above, stretching miles in either direction. Pop in to see the mute swan colony at the Abbotsbury Swannery, also a little known filming location for the Harry Potter movies.
Energy levels permitting, drive south to the instantly recognisable Portland Bill lighthouse at the tip of Portland, for more wild sea scapes.
The Lake District
Ullswater – Keswick – Grasmere – Ambleside – Windermere
The rugged Lake District in Cumbria is known as ‘Wordsworth country’ and is home to some of the most scenic roads in UK. This English road trip has something for everyone, whether escape or adventure is on the agenda, and is one of the best road routes in the UK for active families and couples.
Head for the busy towns of Ambleside and Keswick or find peace and quiet by one of the sixteen beautiful bodies of water in this stunning national park.
Enjoy great hiking, biking and outdoor activities in the warmer months, or spend time on the water, with boat hires, kayaking and SUP all on offer.
Start your Lake District road trip at Ullswater, the second largest of the national parks lakes. Ullswater is nestled amongst some of the best fells the area has to offer and is home to the stunning Aira Force waterfall.
With hiking and water sports on your doorstep, this is a perfect spot for road trippers to enjoy nature and outdoor activity, and some of the best Lake District hikes.
To the west of Ullswater, Keswick is a busy market town that lies between the natural beauty of Derwentwater and the imposing Skiddaw mountains.
Hike up to the prehistoric Castelrigg stone circle, literally surrounded by fells and sky in every direction, or try an easy trail like Catbells, which also has the added benefit of incredible Lake District views of the rugged and far-reaching landscape.
Honister Slate Mine
At the southern end of Derwentwater is the valley of Borrowdale, leading to the Honister Pass and the home of the Honister Slate Mine, the last working slate mine in England. The mine has a visitor centre which provides underground guided mine tours and a range of adventure activities including a Via Ferrata (by ropes) course, a ropes course in the mine and a daring infinity bridge – kids big and small will love it here!
The New Forest
Fordingbridge – Lyndhurst – Brockenhurst – Lymington
The historic New Forest in Hampshire, planted in 1079 by William the Conquerer, retains a strong sense of tradition. Home to New Forest wild ponies, roaming pigs, Highland cattle and deer, the forest is a haven for wildlife and offers peace and tranquility to all who visit.
It is a particularly special place to visit in autumn, when the crowds have gone, and the colours are spectacular. You might also spot rutting deer if you visit at this time of year.
Also a hub for outdoor activity, including water sports, cycling and hiking, you can find the top New Forest outdoor activities here.
Just a few hours from the capital, the New Forest is one of the best road trips from London and perfect for an activity focussed long weekend.
A charming village to the south of the forest and and an excellent base for cycling and walking, Brockenhurst has a few good pubs and a seriously good takeaway fish and chip shop. An excellent hub from which to explore, you can hire bikes in the village or bring you own; download this helpful map for routes.
New Forest Water Park
On the western fringes of the forest, the New Forest Water Park offers wakeboarding and a giant inflatable aqua park, the best fun you can have in a wet-suit and a perfect family day out. Try your hand at wakeboarding, kayaking and stand up paddle before running the gauntlet on the aqua park course …its a lot, lot harder than it looks!
Right on the south-western edge of the New Forest, Lymington is a traditional bustling market town. With a busy modern harbour and easy access to the Solent, this is a haven for sailors.
From your base in Lymington, take a trip to Hurst Castle, built by Henry VIII and situated on a shingle spit stretching into the Solent.
On hot days, take a dip in the seawater swimming baths on the edge of Lymington town.
Lymington also makes a great base from which to visit the Isle of Wight. Sitting guard in the Solent, at the entrance to one of the UK’s busiest freight ports, the island is famous form being the one time home of Queen Victoria and having the sunniest beach in the UK, amongst lots of other things.
You can get the car ferry there and back in a day, making it a road trip within a road trip!
Norwich – Wroxham – Hemsby – Cromer – Blakeney – Hunstanton – Kings Lynn
One of the most beautiful counties of England, Norfolk enjoys an incredible and unspoilt heritage coastline and the famous Norfolk Broads, where you will find huge skies and mesmerising landscapes.
A national park and a haven for birds and wildlife, the Broads are a nature lovers paradise and can be explored on foot or by boat.
The historic city of Norwich is a hidden gem and a must-visit if you’re in Norfolk. Considered the UK’s best preserved medieval city, Norwich delivers a fine Norman cathedral with the second highest spire in England, a lively and well-respected bar and restaurant scene, and the Norwich Lanes, a muddle of pedestrian alleys full of independent shops and boutiques.
As you follow the coast north from the Broads, you’ll come to Blakeney. This pretty coastal village lies in an area of outstanding natural beauty which boasts a nature reserve of spacious landscapes with salt marshes, sand dunes and horizons stretching far out to sea.
Practice your crabbing skills in the harbour, or take a trip out to Blakeney Point to to see the Common and Grey seals that breed here in winter.
South of The Wash lies the royal estate of Sandringham. Set in beautiful woodlands, perfect for walking, you can also visit the house, gardens and transport museum before heading to see the St Mary Magdalene church where the Queen attends services when she is staying at Sandringham.
There are often events here too, such as farmers markets and craft fairs, check the Sandringham Estate website for details and dates.
The Peak District
Chesterfield – Bakewell – Buxton – Castleton – Glossop
Nestled between the cities of Manchester and Sheffield is the glorious Peak District. Straddling the Pennines’ southernmost hills lie ancient stone villages, hillsides dotted with grand stately homes and rocky outcrops in every direction, but no peaks, despite the name.
To the north, the Dark Peak area is dominated by exposed moorland and gritstone ‘edges’, while to the south, the White Peak is made up of rolling limestone dales. The diverse and soaring landscapes of the Peak District mean some seriously good drives, making for one of the best road trips in England.
Known as the ‘Palace of the Peak’, this huge stately home three miles northeast of Bakewell has been the family seat of sixteen generations of earls and dukes of Devonshire. Inside, the lavish apartments and mural-painted staterooms are filled with priceless paintings and period furniture.
Head outside for 25 square miles of grounds and ornamental gardens, including water features, a maze, sculptures, and splendid Victorian glass houses. Some of the grounds were landscaped by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.
Full of history, Chatsworth House was founded in 1552 by the formidable Bess of Hardwick, who came from modest beginnings to become the second most powerful woman in Elizabethan England after the Queen. It was with Bess’ second husband, Sir William Cavendish, that the Cavendish line, which continues today, was established.
Finish your Chatsworth House visit with lunch or dinner a few miles up the road, at the highly rated Prince of Wales in Baslow, one of the best fine dining pubs in the Peak District.
Caves and Caverns
The Peak District is littered with caves and caverns, some entirely natural and some created as a result of historic mining activity.
Peak Cavern at Castleton is the largest cave system in the Peak District and is almost all entirely natural. Known as the ‘devil’s arse’, the cave was inhabited by rope making cave dwellers until the early 20th century and 40 families lived in two rows of cottages in the cave entrance, along with stables, a pub and a few small shops! You will also find Speedwell Cavern, Blue John Cavern and Treak Cliff Cavern in Castleton.
The Heights of Abraham opened in the 1780 and is one of the oldest tourist attractions in England. Alongside the cable car ride and parkland with lots of attractions are two 350 million year old caves, Rutland Caverns and Great Masson, where you can experience what lead mining in the 17th century was like.
In the heart of the rugged North Peak area of the Peak District, lies Snake Pass. Winding its way through the valley connecting Sheffield and Glossop, this is one of the best roads to drive in Europe. Following the river Ashop, Snake Pass crosses the Pennines at Ashopton and reaches a high point of 512 metres above sea level.
With stunning views in every direction and surrounded by heather carpeted moorland, deep valleys, reservoirs and lush woodland, the scenic Snake Pass makes for a truly memorable drive. With its sharp twisted roads, moulded around the rugged landscape, Snake Pass really is a drive to be celebrated by road trippers.
Just a word of warning though, this road is considered one of the most dangerous in the UK, so take it slowly, stop for photos, and savour the drive.
Harrogate – Malham – Hawes – Richmond
In ‘God’s own country’ of Yorkshire, the roads ribbon between glacial valleys, patchwork fields, flat-topped hills and rocky outcrops, punctuated by pretty villages with quaint pubs, and windswept hiking trails.
There’s history aplenty too, in this land that was once host to the War of the Roses, the bloody struggle between the royal houses of Lancaster and York.
Be aware that the Yorkshire Dales National Park is a mecca for tour buses which cause major headaches both on the roads and in car-parks at the most popular spots. Avoid the summer months if you possibly can.
Start in the well-heeled and elegant Georgian town of Harrogate, known then as ‘The English Spa’. On the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, this is a great starting point for your Yorkshire road trip.
Malhamdale is in the Pennines, at the southern end of the Yorkshire Dales. Malham itself is a pretty village, surrounded by the limestone buildings and the dry-stone walls so common in the Dales, with a stream bubbling through the centre of the village.
Malham is best known though for the glacial lake, Malham Tarn, and the majestic Malham Cove, a vast curving amphitheatre shaped cliff formation of limestone rock.
The vertical cliff face is about 80 metres high. If you’re lucky, you may see Malham Cove waterfall, which appears in the centre of the cliff face in spring and after heavy rain.
The lush sweeping valley of Wensleydale is distinct for its wooded hillocks and rushing waterfalls, the most famous being the triple flight Aysgarth Falls and Hardraw Force, Englands largest single drop waterfall.
The capital of Upper Wensleydale, Hawes, is a lively market town with many hotels and tearooms. Local craft and artisan industries thrive making pottery, wooden toys and the famous Wensleydale cheese, Wallace and Gromit’s favourite.
The Dales Countryside Museum is an essential visit for anyone interested in traditional countryside life in Yorkshire.
One of the northernmost dales in the national park is Swaledale, a deep and winding valley that is home to the pretty cobbled market town of Richmond, which boasts a rich and vivid history.
Sitting high above the town, Richmond Castle dominates the skyline. The views from the top of the massive keep are far reaching between the hills of Swaledale to the west, the Vale of York to the south and in the far distance to the east, the stunning North York Moors.
Famous for its hardy breed of horned sheep, Swaledale also puts on a spectacular wildflower display in its meadows, which are a riot of wildlife and colour in June and early July.
Spring comes late to this part of England, but you’ll find it an excellent time of year to hike the trails criss-crossing the rugged countryside.
More UK Road Trip Ideas
The Causeway Coastal Route
Ballycastle – Bushmills – Portrush – Portstewart – Castlerock – Londonderry
This picturesque and unspoilt country of the United Kingdom may require a ferry crossing if you don’t live there, but it is a coastal road trip in the UK that’s worth making the effort for.
From the breathtaking natural beauty of the Giant’s Causeway to the huge Benone Beach, the coastline is studded with Game of Thrones locations and pretty seaside towns.
End your trip in the walled city of Londonderry, a popular tourist destination in its own right.
If you don’t live in Northern Ireland, why not start your road trip in the fun city of Dublin, before heading north across the border to Belfast and making your way up the coast – if you have to take a ferry or plane, you might as well make the most of it!
The Giants Causeway & Around
Forged by volcanic nature some 50 to 60 million years ago, these 40,000 columns of basalt spilling into the wild North Atlantic are simply unmissable.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of Northern Ireland’s most famous historic and natural landmarks, as well as being an awe-inspiring place that really gets you thinking about man’s insignificance in the grand scheme of things.
Climb the Shepherd’s Steps to hike along the clifftop trail for an aerial view of the dramatic sea views, or take the road less travelled on a five mile hike along the stunning cliff-top path for uninterrupted views.
Don’t miss the tiny harbour at Ballintoy (also a Game of Thrones location) before heading along the coast to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and testing your courage as you cross between mainland and island.
Portstewart & Portrush
Literally next to each other, both Portstewart and Portrush are pretty sea-side holiday towns.
With souvenir shops, restaurants and bars, Portrush is livelier and has a night club and amusements.
Portstewart has a more laid-back vibe with some interesting independent shops along the prom.
Both have superb beaches and excellent golf courses. If you like motorbikes, head here in May for the infamous North West 200, when bikes race along the roads you are driving, but at twice the speed.
Benone Beach & Around
A favourite of surfers, kite flyers and walkers, the vast beach stretches from Magilligan Point in the west to Castlerock in the east.
From here you can see, and then visit the Mussenden Temple on the headland and the Downhill Demesne.
The mighty Binevenagh mountain sits to the south and is excellent for hiking, with stunning views of the coast, Loch Foyle and Donegal from the summit, if you pick a clear day.
Make time to pop in to the Sea Shed Cafe for their legendary Spanish hot chocolate and home made cake right on the beach!
Want to plan your own road trip?
Click here for our complete step-by-step road trip planning guide to help organise your perfect trip.
The Argyll Coastal Route
Loch Lomond – Inverary – Lochgilphead – Oban – Glen Coe – Fort William – Glenfinnan
Starting at the tip of Loch Lomond and following the coast from Inveraray to Fort William, this west coast of Scotland road trip is for seafood gourmets, sunset lovers and those that want to get under the skin of Scotland, and feel it’s turbulent history in the air and glens of the incredible landscapes.
We’ve added an extra stop to the official route at Glenfinnan – you’re so close to this historic village at the end of the trip, we just couldn’t resist.
Cultural Glasgow and historic Edinburgh are also both within striking distance at the start or end of your road trip, if you fancy a few days of city life.
Spend a fantastic car-free day wildlife watching from Easdale Island. Make the five minute passenger ferry crossing to this tranquil part of Scotland, where you can take a whale spotting trip, an excursion to the Corryvreckan Whirlpool or a tour of a local seal colony.
Other areas of interest include the historical remains of what was once the centre of the Scottish slate mining industry.
The still pools, which are a defining feature of Easdale, were once active slate quarries, and together with the wide variety of flora and bird life make Easdale unique.
With magnificent views of towering mountains and glens, Glen Coe is a landscape full of natural wonders. Explore the Glen Coe Geotrail to learn more about the ancient volcanic history of this other-worldly place which was shaped by glaciers and fiery volcanic explosions millions of years ago.
In the picturesque village of Glencoe you can learn about local history, including the Massacre of Glencoe in 1692, when members of the Campbell clan murdered members of the MacDonald clan on the orders of the English Crown.
At the top of this road trip lies Glenfinnan, the historic spot in which Bonnie Prince Charlie called for the local clansmen to assemble in 1745, proclaiming the throne of Great Britain to be denounced and rightfully returned to his family, the Stuarts.
His actions and the subsequent Battle of Culloden led to a seismic change in the Highland way of life and caused a long rift between Scotland and England.
You’ll also find the magical Glenfinnan Viaduct here, made famous by the Harry Potter films. This railway viaduct has carried trains on the West Highland Line since 1897.
For the best views, take the Glenfinnan Trail to the view point, where you’ll see the steam train crossing the famous viaduct. Turn around for a magnificent view of Loch Shiel and the Glenfinnan Monument which commemorates the Jacobite uprising.
The North Coast 500
Inverness – John o’Groats – Durness – Lochinver – Ullapool – Inverness
This ultimate Scottish route is a 516 mile spectacular circular trip around the north coast of Scotland, starting and ending at Inverness Castle and passing through some of the most beautiful places in Scotland.
Do a bit of it or tackle the whole iconic route, for which you’ll need at least two, if not three or four, weeks to do the trip justice. You’ll find incredible landscapes, myths and legends, welcoming Scottish hospitality and the thrill of the open road.
The NC500 is one of Europe’s best known road trips and it will be busy in the summer months – head there in late spring or autumn for quieter roads and better deals on accommodation.
Both the start and finish point of your driving holiday in Scotland, this ancient cathedral city is full of history and interest. Go hunting for monsters on Loch Ness, take a trip to the haunting and emotive battlefield at Culloden and visit Inverness Castle.
Home to John O’Groats and Dunnet Head, the most northerly village and northerly point of mainland UK respectively, Caithness is right at the top of Great Britain.
It is so far north that in favourable conditions, it’s possible to see the northern lights from here. The coastline features soaring sea-stacks and towering headlands, home to puffins and other sea birds.
One of the last great wilderness’ of Europe, quite a few miles of the NC500 pass through Sutherland’s raw and natural beautiful.
The coast of this part of the route is unspoilt and diverse, from huge sandy beaches in the west to the rugged and aptly named Cape Wrath cliffs, the most north-westerly point of mainland UK and only accessible by boat or special transport.
Kyle of Lochalsh – Portree – Duntulm – Dunvegan – Armadale
The Isle of Skye is Scotland’s second largest island, a 50 mile long stretch of heather carpeted moors, jagged mountains, sparkling lochs and dramatic sea cliffs.
This incredible landscape is the main attraction, but there is plenty to do when the mist descends, including castles, museums, craft studios and even fairy pools.
Follow this popular UK road trip route out of season for real solitude and remoteness, some of the best hiking in Scotland, and to breath the clear air and remind yourself of why life is good.
In a beautiful position at the edge of Loch Dunvegan, Skye’s most famous historic building, Dunvegan Castle, is the seat of the chief of Clan MacLeod and has been so for over 800 years.
The castle itself is fascinating and the formal gardens make a wonderful contrast to the stark beauty of the surrounding landscape. It’s a busy tourist attraction though, and best visited outside of the peak months of July and August.
The Sleat Peninsula
Commonly referred to as ‘the garden of Skye’, the Sleat peninsula is home to verdant gardens and thick forests, surrounded by glorious beaches and sparking seas.
This eclectic corner of Skye not only has nature on its doorstep, it also has some of the best restaurants on the island and of course, a whisky distillery, for that wee dram you must have when visiting.
The Trotternish Peninsula
Trotternish is the most northerly peninsula and enjoys Skye’s most striking and dramatic landscapes. As you drive north your attention will be captured by The Storr and The Old Man of Storr, a 50m high lance of rock that sits at the foot of the cliffs.
Head for The Quiraing for some fantastic hiking and to see the best of these ancient landscapes in this remote and stunning part of the island.
Hay-on-Wye – Brecon – Libanus – Llandovery – Gwaun-Cae-Curwen
Undulating dramatically across the landscape, the Brecon Beacons National Park (Parc Cenedlaethol Bannau Brycheiniog) encompasses some of the most spectacular scenery in southern Wales.
High mountain plateaus and glacial hollows rise above forested valleys, hidden waterfalls and gorgeous rural landscapes that echo to the sound of rushing waterfalls, making this a a varied and exciting Wales road trip.
The relatively short distance from London to Wales, just three hours and 40 minutes driving, makes this one of the best weekend road trips from London.
Starting at the northernmost tip of the national park, Hay-on-Wye is famous the world over for books and the annual Hay Festival of Literature and Arts, a reputation that belies its small size.
Known as Hay by locals, this charming town in Wales sits on the gently flowing river Wye and abuts the Wales-England border.
The town centre is made up of skinny sloping lanes characterised by a shabby elegance that suits the quirky bookshops and antiques emporia that thrive in Wye’s independent and cosmopolitan vibe.
Known as ‘the Beacons’ to hikers, there are many trails to choose from in these mountains. Pen-y-Fan, which just misses out on ‘Furth’ status (the equivalent of a Munro in Scotland), is a favourite of many.
The route is a challenging ten mile slog through forest and moorland to the steep ridge of Pen-y-Fan. The views from the top, at 886m, are superb, especially in the winter when the landscape is dusted with frost and snow.
But there is more hiking here than just Pen-y-Fan; an online search will reward you with many options, including Sugar Loaf in Monmouthshire and the four waterfalls walk which starts in Porth yr Ogof.
The Black Mountain Pass
One of the most scenic drives in Wales, this epic mountain road of Top Gear fame gives unrivalled views of the surrounding valleys and mountains, and enough hairpin bends and switchbacks to satisfy any dangerous road enthusiast.
For the best experience, drive the A4069 road from north to south. Starting in Llandovery, the pass snakes between breathtaking viewpoints as you cross the twin humps of Pont Aber and Herbert’s Pass, before descending to the village of Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen.
Be aware that sheep will cross the road indiscriminately – not uncommon for roads in Wales! It is known that mobile speed cameras are sometimes along the route in objects such as horse boxes or small trucks.
Since its exposure by Jeremy Clarkson, the route has become incredibly popular – save this one for a weekday if you can.
Fishguard – St Davids – Marloes – Pembroke – Tenby
Famous for its rough cliffs, huge beaches and remote islands, the coast of Pembrokeshire offers limitless opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, and is one of the most beautiful places in the UK.
From the Victorian sea-side town of Tenby to the puffins of Skomer Island, this road trip in Wales has something to suit everyone, outdoor adventurers and nature lovers alike.
Pembrokeshire boasts that it invented coasteering, so how could we leave it off the list? The sport of jumping from land to sea, cliff scrambling and swimming between rocks will stretch you mentally and physically but give you hours of fun.
You can find a pace to suit you, there are guided expeditions and courses for beginners of all ages, some of which include marine biology education along the way.
The wild island of Skomer is a haven for migrant birds such as puffins, razorbills and guillemots. You may also see seals here, which come to moult in April, along with owls, buzzards and peregrine falcons.
In the spring, wild flowers cover the island, making it a truly beautiful and fascinating place to visit.
Working on a first-come, first-served basis, numbers and tickets are limited so make sure you get to Lockley Lodge visitor centre early.
Tenby is one of the most iconic seaside towns in Wales, steeped in history and surrounded by an imposing medieval stone wall. With several excellent sandy beaches, a colourful harbour and narrow cobbled streets with a fantastic selection of gift shops, cafes and pubs, this charming town is perfect for a day out.
Snowdonia & Anglesey
Betws-y-Coed – Bangor – Newborough – Holyhead – Benllech
Head for spectacular Snowdonia in north Wales for drama, huge skies and outdoor adventures.
Cross the iconic Menai suspension bridge to reach the beautiful Isle of Anglesey, home to some of the best beaches in Wales, fantastic coastal hiking and cycling paths.
With a good dose of remoteness, this is one of the best travel routes in the UK to escape the hustle and bustle of urban life.
Set in a beautiful valley, Betws-y-Coed is a typical mountain town, full of companies offering outdoor adventures and shops selling outdoor gear. Pubs are full of hikers talking about the day’s adventures.
The town is a great base for outdoor sports and activities such as climbing, hiking, abseiling, zip-lining and mountain biking.
You’ll also find natural beauty spots such as Fairy Glen and Swallow Falls to visit in the nearby area.
Snowdonia National Park
Test yourself by climbing to the peak of Snowden, the highest mountain in England and Wales, some 1,085m above sea level.
If you still want to enjoy the views but don’t fancy the hike, take the train up and hike down!
Newborough Beach & Llanddwyn Island
Newborough beach is our favourite beach on Anglesey, backed by the tranquil Newborough Forest, where you might see red squirrels.
Take a walk through the forest and dunes to the peninsula of Llanddwyn Island to see the fascinating lighthouse and pilots cottages.