If you ask the average Briton what the phrase ‘road trip’ means to them, chances are they’ll start dropping phrases like ‘Pan-American Highway’ and ‘Route 66’ or tell you at length about how they took their car over to France and spent a couple of months touring Europe.
It’s as though the obvious has escaped them: road tripping in the UK is a brilliant idea. What better way could there be to combine a love of driving with discovering the best bits of Britain? The opportunities for a great British road trip are endless, depending upon your personal interests. Do you enjoy the odd dram of whisky? How about a road trip that takes in some of Scotland’s more obscure highland and island distilleries? (Strictly no drinking and driving though). Are you into poetry, hillwalking and scenic beauty? Jump into the car and make for the beautiful Lake District.
What makes the UK so great for road trips is that it’s just so motorist-friendly. Whether you have an ambition to drive from Land’s End to John O’ Groats, follow the whole of Britain’s coastline as closely as you can by road or traverse the country east-to-west or west-to-east, Britain’s fine network of major and minor roads will let you and your car travel pretty much anywhere in the land.
It’s this accessibility by car that makes road tripping in the UK such an attractive proposition. With ‘staycations’ becoming increasingly popular and the ability to jump into your car and create a fantastic road trip at short notice there’s no reason not to get out and discover England’s, Wales’ and Scotland’s hidden gems. And if the weather’s bad at your first destination, driving gives you the freedom to turn around and head towards better weather.
Of course, part of the joy of road tripping in the UK is making up your own itinerary in accordance with the types of place you enjoy visiting the most. But if you need a gentle nudge to get started here are a few ideas for road trips that give a flavour of the diverse landscapes and experiences that the UK has to offer.
1. Fort William and Skye, Scotland
At 132 miles this circular trip isn’t huge by anyone’s standard but the beauty of a UK road trip is that you can lengthen it to your heart’s content. This little excursion is included simply because it adds in a ferry crossing to Skye with the return to the mainland achieved by crossing over scenic Loch Alsh on the Skye Bridge. Travelling in a clockwise circuit from Fort William the route takes in historic monuments, charming villages and, of course, sublime Scottish scenery.
2. The Southern Lake District, England
150 miles of Lake District magic, featuring a selection of minor roads and dual carriageways that wind through the dramatic and beautiful hilly terrain of the southern lakes. This route starts in historic Lancaster before heading up the Lyth Valley to Bowness, then continuing on to Windermere – home of the largest natural lake in England, Ambleside, Skelwith Bridge and Coniston. The return leg takes in Torver, Greenodd and the stately home Levens Hall before ending back in Lancaster.
3. The Atlantic Highway, England
No matter where you take your road trips, nothing beats a coastal route and the UK is no exception. The 135-mile section of the A39 between Barnstaple in Devon and Fraddon in Cornwall is referred to as the Atlantic Highway and winds along the south west coast of England offering spectacular coastal views on one side and a stunning hilly landscape on the other as it skirts the Exmoor National Park, where wild Exmoor ponies roam the moorland.