Whether it’s just for a change of scenery and a weekend away, or part of a longer adventure which takes you further afield, a road trip is a great way to explore the unknown at your own pace and really get to know the places and the people. The UK has plenty to offer the road traveller with lots of amazing road trip opportunities, so here are just a few.
When it comes to beautiful, typically English scenery, you can’t get much better than the Cotswolds. From the winding country lanes to the neat little cottages, all made with the same creamy Cotswold stone and set against the lush English countryside, there is always something to admire in this region which is, unsurprisingly, a recognised Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. An ideal area for a small road trip, you can meander from one village to the next, and whether you start in the northern part with Chipping Campden and its quaint pubs and churches, or in the south with the much larger city of Bath, full of beautiful streets and artsy shops (and of course Bath Spa!), you are guaranteed a beautiful journey from start to finish. The town of Broadway is worth a visit as it boasts not only one of the UK’s prettiest high streets, but also Broadway Tower from which you can get a birds-eye view of 16 counties! The Cotswolds is also home to plenty of local fairs and festivals, so be sure to check what’s on before you go.
Distance and recommended duration: 70 miles, 3-4 days.
2. Norfolk Coast
If you’re looking for sea views to accompany your road trip then Norfolk and the east coastline of England has what you’re looking for. Starting with the bustling county town of Norwich with its cobbled streets and 11th century cathedral, you can then head further east to the Broads with plenty of scenic waterways and a rich variety of wildlife. Traditional seaside resort Cromer offers the UK’s only remaining end-of-the-pier variety show, as well as some fantastic fish and chips, so is definitely worth a stop! Further along the coast you can find wide windswept beaches like Brancaster Beach, and with more than 40 miles of sandy shores and six Blue Flag beaches in North Norfolk (more than any other region in the UK) there is plenty to explore. You can also go and say hello to the largest seal colony in England at Blakeney Point, or visit the picturesque red and white Happisburgh Lighthouse.
Distance and recommended duration: 90 miles, 2-3 days.
3. Lake District
The same countryside that inspired the romantic poetry of English poet Wordsworth, among others, of course provides the ideal background to a road trip. Starting in Kendal, you can head north into the Lake District National Park towards Windermere, which boasts England’s largest lake and is a popular tourist resort. Further north from Windermere you can find the beautiful lakeside villages of Ambleside and Grasmere. Grasmere is not only home to William Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage where he wrote the famous ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’, but also to the famous Grasmere gingerbread. The beautiful region of lakes and countryside is great to explore by water (you can hire a boat or join a cruise) and by land (on foot, by bike or even steam train).
Distance and recommended duration: 30 miles, 2-3 days.
4. Snowdonia National Park
Snowdonia National Park is home to some of the UK’s most impressive scenery and so makes for a great road trip location. Heading out from Betws-y-Coed across to the Menai Strait to Anglesey, you can explore places such as Swallow Falls and mount Snowdon itself. Make sure you stop off to explore the mountain, even if you don’t fancy walking, the Snowdon Mountain Railway runs to the summit and offers amazing views. Once outside the National Park, if you take the scenic route on your way across the Strait you can pass by the historic Caernarfon, one of North Wales’ smartest towns which has a stylish waterfront and spectacular castle and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can then cross over the water and explore the beautiful Isle of Anglesey.
Distance and recommended duration: 50 miles, 1-2 days.
5. Peak District National Park
Another beautiful National Park which provides a great setting for a road trip, and was in fact the UK’s first national park, established in 1951, is The Peak District. A good start point is Glossop, east of Greater Manchester, and from there you can head into the Pennines along the famous Snake Pass, one of the UK’s great mountain passes (so check the weather forecast!). Further south towards the reservoirs and the popular Derwent Dam there are great trekking opportunities if you want to get out and stretch your legs. A short detour west will take you to Blue John Cavern, an underground network of caves which offers guided tours. The Heights of Abraham in Matlock also offer tours where you can retrace the footsteps of miners at the Great Masson Cavern, or if you’d rather stay above ground there is the famous cable car over the Derwent Valley. The amazing scenery of rocky hillsides and lush woodland, with quaint northern towns dotted throughout (be sure to try the famous Bakewell tart in Bakewell), make for an incredible adventure through dramatic countryside.
Distance and recommended duration: 40 miles, 1 day.