If you want to escape day to day life, explore new destinations and enjoy travel freedom, then take 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!
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If you’re taking your own car, camper or motorbike, make sure you’ve got all your documents handy and your spare tyre is in good condition. If your UK road trip itinerary is longer than a few weeks, you may want to consider a vehicle service before you go, and breakdown cover is probably a good idea. 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.
If you’re hiring a car or renting a motorhome, and driving in the UK for the first time, here are a few tips;
- 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.
- To hire a car and travel in England (and the rest of the UK) you need a valid drivers licence and may need to be over 21 to avoid a large premium.
- Check the car for damage on collection and make sure anything you spot is noted, and the same again when you drop it off.
- Use a UK road trip planner like this one to work out where you want to go. With fifteen of the top road trips in UK, you’re sure to find something that ticks all your boxes.
- Remember to drive on the left during your UK trip!
UK Road Trip Map
Thanks Google Maps!
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 along the north coast of Devon and into Cornwall on the A39 road. 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. 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 in Oxfordshire, just 30 minutes west of Oxford itself, 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.
Bournemouth - Swanage - Corfe Castle - Kimmeridge - Lulworth - Weymouth - Portland - Abbotsbury
Swanage & Around
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
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
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.
New Forest Water Park
Not technically in the New Forest, but right on the south-western edge, 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.
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.
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.
Snake Pass crosses the Pennines at Ashopton and reaches a high point of 512 metres above sea level.
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, and views from the top of the massive keep are far reaching between the hills of Swaledale to the west, and the Vale of York to the east and south.
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.
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
Portstewart & Portrush
Benone Beach & Around
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The Argyll Coastal Route
Loch Lomond - Inverary - Lochgilphead - Oban - Glen Coe - Fort William - Glenfinnan
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.
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.
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.
The Sleat Peninsula
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.
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.
Snowdonia & Anglesey, Wales
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.
Highlights & Where to Stay
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.