With a network of epic drives, superb scenery, and photogenic pit stops, there are plenty of epic road trip routes to discover in the UK. It's not all congested motorways and soulless service stations here in Britain. With careful planning, you can escape the gridlock and discover coastal routes, expansive highlands, and chocolate box villages.
The Best Road Trips in The UK You Simply Must Take
There's a real sense of freedom and romance to be had with a classic UK road trip. Hit the road to find seaside towns, historic villages, castles, proper pubs, and roadside attractions – with your favorite person in the passenger seat. Plug in the GPS, pack loads of snacks, create a banging playlist, and prepare for a driving adventure in Britain. Here's my list of some of the best road trips in the UK so that you can plan an epic journey through our weird and wonderful island.
The Cambrian Way, Wales
Experience the best of Wales via the ‘Cambrian Way' driving route. This captivating drive runs from south to north Wales, through the heart of the country, mainly following the A470. Your journey starts in the Welsh capital Cardiff, which has a range of swanky Spa Hotels, including the Landmark St David's Hotel in the city's waterfront area. Have a coffee on the hotel's terrace and enjoy the expansive marina views.
Drive onwards through the south Wales Valleys, where dramatic landscapes meet Colliery heritage and Welsh culture. Take the time to stop and explore the impressive landscapes and outdoor activities in the Brecon Beacons National Park. It's soaring peaks and undulating ridges bring a sense of haunting beauty that are perfect backdrops for road trip selfies. Stop for lunch at International Welsh Rarebit Centre in Defynnog and try a crispy Welsh rarebit. This traditional dish in Wales has hot cheese-based sauce slathered over toasted bread.
Continue through the peaceful reservoirs, dams, and countryside of the Elan Valley and towards the retro coastal town of Llandudno in North Wales, your final stop. Here, you can have sunset strolls on the Victorian pier or take glide up the Great Orme limestone headland in a cable car for two.
Causeway Coastal Route, Northern Ireland
The renowned journey along this route is increasingly becoming a favorite among travelers, with television series such as Game of Thrones and Derry Girls drawing attention to Ireland's captivating landscapes. This dreamy drive is over 200 miles from Belfast to Derry and features lush countryside, historic castles, welcoming towns, and coastal views.
Start your journey in lively Belfast and have a twilight stroll on fairy light-adorned Commercial Court before dining at the elegant Café Parisien for dinner. Head out of the city, drive towards the historic town of Carrickfergus, and visit one of the best-preserved Norman-style castles in Ireland, Carrickfergus Castle. This is perfect for a summer picnic or a stroll along the defensive walls.
Continue along the coastal route and take a slight detour to the famous Dark Hedges. This haunting, tree-lined road was the filming location of King's Road in season 2 of Game of Thrones. It's also an excellent place for fans to get a memorable snap for summer road trip memories. Try and reach Dunluce Castle at sunset to watch this ruined medieval castle be bathed in golden sunlight, a genuinely mesmerizing scene in the fading summer light. Head onwards through coastal towns and seaside hotspots, including Ballintoy, Port Rush, and Portstewart, until you reach your final stop, Derry. The only completely walled city in Ireland and one of the finest in Europe.
The Atlantic Highway, Devon
Embark on a seaside journey along the Atlantic Highway in the UK, where you can soak up the sunny coastal vistas while exploring the many highlights of Devon and Cornwall. Discover small fishing villages, unwind on sandy beaches, and traverse rugged national parks as you drive along this picturesque 77-mile stretch from Barnstaple in Devon to the surf haven of Newquay in Cornwall.
The route meanders along the coastline, occasionally veering inland, allowing you to discover quirky attractions, seaside towns, and surfing spots. Start your adventure in the historic town of Barnstaple, the vibrant heart of North Devon. Kick off your summer escapade with carefully crafted cocktails and dinner at 62 The Bank & Bar 62. This contemporary bistro has an impressive décor, including a Tudor frieze ceiling with elaborate biblical scenes.
The Atlantic Highway, Cornwall
Continue your journey by following the A39 towards Wadebridge and Bude, making stops to relish traditional cream teas, soak in dreamy sea views, and explore Cornish heritage sites. Stop at the small surf hub of Bude, where you can ride the rolling waves, take a scenic coastal walk, have a proper pub lunch, and kayak on the inland canals.
For an unforgettable summer evening with a unique twist, have a sunset dip in the Bude sea pool and a delectable seafood dinner at Life's a Beach Bistro. Head onwards, stopping at small villages and local pubs and cafes before arriving in Newquay– Cornwall's famed surfing hot spot, where your journey ends.
While in Newquay, why not treat yourself to an indulgent spa day in the luxurious Headland Hotel, a grade II listed property overlooking sandy Fistral Beach?
The North Coast 500, Scotland
The North Coast 500 (NC500) is a wildly popular driving route around the wilds of Scotland and is known as “Scotland's Route 66.” Driving this highland route is a fun way of reaching the northernmost point of Scotland via its more remote locations. Experience an ever-changing landscape of crumbling castles, rolling farmlands, and crashing waves along rugged coastlines.
This lengthy 500-mile route starts and ends at Inverness and takes in a variety of Scottish sights, including sandy beaches, expansive sea lochs, and John O'Groats. Along the route, you can stay in various accommodations from castles to campsites, and attractions range from royal residences to puffin lookout spots to ancient iron-age burial grounds.
Visit the stately Dunrobin Castle with its turreted architecture and manicured gardens, or explore the ancient ruins of Ardvreck Castle, perched on the shores of Loch Assynt. You can also visit plenty of beaches, coastal villages, and towns along the way, including the port town of Ullapool to the picturesque villages of Dornoch and Applecross. This isolated route also lends itself to wild camping in the Scottish wilderness. Wild camping is legal in Scotland, so long as you follow all the rules and respect the local environment; you can set up a makeshift camp in some pretty Instagram-worthy spots.
Northumberland Coastal Route, England
One of the shorter routes on this list, but no less spectacular, this coastal drive is around 30 miles of impressive Northumberland scenery. This short but sweet drive goes between Alnmouth and Lindisfarne along the B1340, B1339, B1342, and A1. Cruise through coastal towns, castles, and rural views and still have plenty of time to stop for photos, lunch, and castle visits.
Begin your drive in the coastal village of Alnmouth, where you'll find sandy beaches, quaint tearooms, and seaside strolls. Continue on the coast road to Boulmer, a tranquil fishing village on the dune-hemmed coastline, where blue cobles still go out to catch local crab and lobster. Spend time walking the Northumberland Coast Path and enjoy delicious scones at the fancy Earl Grey Tea House in Howick Hall Gardens.
There is an impressive number of castles on this drive, including Dunstanburgh Castle, just north of the village of Craster. This dramatic, 14th-century fortification is a gorgeous spot for a picnic or watching a colorful sunset. Make sure to also call into Seahorses, an attractive village on the coast where you can take a boat trip to the Farne Islands, one of the UK's top wildlife experiences.
Classic Cotswold Route, England
Drive through the timeless, quintessential English villages of the Cotswold area, one of the most beautiful regions in the UK. There are plenty of routes to choose from in this area, which gives you lots of flexibility for a summer driving holiday. The Cotswolds are extremely popular, so I recommend visiting during the shoulder season.
A popular route is a 45-mile circular drive that begins and ends in the village of Broadway – a charming village full of independent shops, restaurants, boutique hotels, and antique stores. This route passes through honey-colored stone villages and visitor hotspots, including Bourton on the Water, Stow on the Wold, and Lower Slaughter.
Charming English Villages Along The Route
Head out of Broadway and towards Stanton, an unspoiled 17th-century village with little sign of commercialization. Stop for lunch at the Mount Inn, a traditional village pub serving homemade dishes packed with local produce. Drive onwards through Stanway, Hailes Abbey, and Guiting Power and then towards Upper and Lower Slaughter. Stop at the quaint village of Lower Slaughter to visit Copse Hill Road, which was voted to be the most romantic street in Britain in a poll for Google Street View.
Head to Old Mill riverside tearoom for the most delicious ‘ploughman's lunch’ in the Cotswolds. Continue your road trip towards Bourton-on-the-Water, the ‘Little Venice of the Cotswolds.' Walk alongside the flowing River Windrush and the village's many shops, restaurants, and tea rooms.
The Coastal Way, Wales
The 180-mile Coastal Way is a national trail in Wales that is the entire length of Cardigan Bay, with ocean views on one side and majestic mountains on the other. It's undoubtedly one of the more intriguing and challenging routes in the UK, especially as there are many rural roads and single-track lanes. Discover sandy beaches, secluded spots, and wild headlands on a summer road trip through the most serene parts of Wales.
Drive from St David's in South Wales to Aberdaron in the north and experience harbor towns, exhilarating activities, and the UK's only coastal National Park. Start your journey at Britain's smallest city, St David's. Best known for its beautiful Cathedral and the resting place of Saint David, or ‘Dewi Sant' in Welsh, the patron saint of Wales. Spend a few hours exploring the Cathedral and the independent shops, cafes, and galleries.
Perfect for Wildlife Lovers
Head up the coast and drive through small towns and coastal communities, including Fishguard, Cardigan, and Aberaeron. If you love wildlife, Cardigan Bay is one of the best places in Europe to spot bottle-nosed dolphins. Take a bracing wildlife boat trip from Aberaeron's historic harbor and see if you can spot dolphins leaping from the crashing waves.
Continue your journey along the coastal route and stop in Barmouth for excellent walking and cycling routes. Keen walkers should attempt the 9.5-mile Mawddach Trail, a scenic route between Dolgellau and Barmouth along a disused railway line. The dog-friendly George III pub in Penmaenpool is a good stop for lunch; their epic Sunday roasts are incredibly moreish. Drive towards the endpoint of the coastal route, Aberdaron, located at the western tip of the Llŷn Peninsula. After a long road trip, you'll want to relax on its sandy bays or take a summertime trip to wildlife-rich Bardsey Island from nearby Porth Meudwy.
Isle of Skye Driving Loop, Scotland
This Isle of Skye driving loop starts and ends in Fort William and covers approximately 310 miles of rugged Scottish landscapes. It's an Inner Hebrides road trip that takes you through craggy peaks, sea stacks, and windswept Scottish towns. On this round-trip route, you can take the bridge to the Isle of Skye in one direction and return to the mainland via the ferry to Mallaig. Leaving Fort William, the route takes you through the Glencoe Valley, famous for its dramatic mountains and rich history.
As you drive along this scenic Scottish route, you'll be greeted by impressive vistas of towering peaks, cascading waterfalls, and peaceful lochs. Continuing the journey on the A87, you'll pass through the picturesque village of Kyle of Lochalsh, where the Skye Bridge awaits. Cross over to the island and discover the ethereal landscapes of the Isle of Skye. Skye captivates visitors with its jagged cliffs, secluded coves, and tumbling waterfalls.
The Old Man of Storr, the Fairy Pools, and the Quiraing are just a few of the highlights of Skye, and it can get very crowded during summer – so aim to arrive early! Driving along Skye's coastal roads, you'll have panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Cuillin Mountains, providing endless opportunities for scenic stops and snaps.
Black and White Villages Trail, England
This trail takes you through a historic collection of historic Black and white villages in the northern part of Herefordshire County. These Medieval villages are famed for their half-timbered black-and-white structures with plenty of ‘chocolate box' appeal. You'll also find delightful country pubs, galleries, and quaint independent tea shops where you can stop for a brew and admire the English countryside.
The Black and White Villages trail is a 40-mile circular trail set in a clockwise direction that begins and finishes in Leominster. It takes road trippers through several villages and towns, including Leominster, Eardisland, Pembridge, Weobley, and Eardisley. This charming trail can be traversed by car over one to two days, with plenty of time to stop and sample Herefordshire's famous cider and hearty food. Make sure to visit Pembridge on the trail, a quintessentially English Village with blooming flower boxes and picture-perfect timber-framed buildings that line the main street. Stop for a coffee and cake at the Pembridge Cafe and pick up road trip snacks and candy from the 500-year-old Ye Olde Steppes Village Shop.
The North Wales Way, Wales
Take a seascape journey along The North Wales Way, which traces the ancient trading path along Wales' northern coastline – leading you to the blustery island of Anglesey. Travel by car or camper along the A55 and explore the picturesque landscapes of Wales' panoramic north and glacier-carved mountain ranges. Visit the Vales of Clwyd and Conwy, the mountains of Eryri (Snowdonia), the Menai Strait, and the allure of Anglesey – the largest island in Wales.
Castles reign supreme as you venture along this epic Welsh trail, each telling a tale of grandeur and pivotal points of Celtic history. Marvel at the flawless concentric design of Beaumaris Castle, be awe-inspired by the polygonal towers of Caernarfon Castle and be impressed by the sheer might of Conwy Castle and its encircling town walls. Discover retro seaside towns as you continue along the North Wales coast, including Llandudno – ‘the queen of Welsh resorts.'
These classic coastal destinations offer a perfect blend of Victorian piers, ice cream parlors, and amusements, adding a touch of side nostalgia to your Welsh road trip. While road-tripping in North Wales, take the time to traverse the mountain trails of Eryri (Snowdonia) National Park. One of the most popular hikes is to the misty summit of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon in English), the crown jewel of the park and the highest mountain in Wales. It stands at 3,560 feet above sea level and has a 360-degree panorama at the top that sweeps across the undulating Welsh countryside.