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The Best Driving Road Trips in the UK

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For some people, driving is the bit you do before a holiday, but if you love to drive, or love to indulge in motorcycle touring holidays, then here are some locations where the journey is as fun as the destination.

The Lake District, Cumbria 

When the sun shines in the Lake District you could mistake your surroundings for a summer’s day in the Alps. There are glistening waters, sandy lakeside beaches, and rocky mountains to adore. There are also plenty of Alp-like activities, like canyoning, hiking and “via ferrata”. Of course, if you would prefer to take in views from the car window with quaint little café stops along the way, there’s plenty of that too.

Frankly, you can piece together a trip to and from any town in the Lakes and find yourself on some of the best driving roads in the country. For the truly adventurous drivers, you can hop off the M6 motorway and begin a big loop from Kendal to Buttermere and back. Kendal will start the journey on the edge of the Lakes in a historic and vibrant town. After that, move to Ambleside so you can stop at lake Windermere and admire the boats. Continue to Ullswater to drive over Kirkstone Pass, then on to Keswick for a glimpse of Derwentwater lake and the Castlerigg Stone Circle. Finish at the waterfall in Buttermere. Head back to the M6 via Kendal and you will pass over Honister Pass and skirt around Helvelyn mountain. Finally, grab yourself some homemade gingerbread from Grasmere and visit Dove Cottage (the historic Wordsworth house and museum) to complete your loop back to Kendal in around 100 miles.

Honister Pass, the Lake District
Honister Pass, the Lake District

Fort William, Scotland 

The classic route would be to go from Glasgow to Fort William. This route takes you northbound on the A82 where you will drive along the edges of Loch Lomond and past Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the UK. You’ll also drive through Glen Coe, a stunning set of black mountains that reflect in a myriad of mini lochs and rock pools either side of the road. Fort William is not the prettiest of places to stop, but it is easy for accommodation. Alternatively, lap up rural life in nearby Kinlochleven to take in sea loch views from the nearby hills. For the really adventurous road tripper, you absolutely must drive up to Torridon. There you will find an abundance of quaint country roads that meander around the coast. Torridon Hotel often has vintage car rallies that you could plan your trip around. The Highlands are also awash with mountains to climb and national parks to explore.

If you’ve got all week, be sure to take a detour from Tornapress to Applecross. The journey will treat you to the Bealach na Ba pass, with hairpin corners that’ll make you think you’ve accidentally driven to the Alps. 

Bealach na Ba, Scotland
Bealach na Ba, Scotland

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Snowdonia, Wales

Driving enthusiasts among may already be familiar with the EVO Triangle; three roads comprising of the A5, the A543 and the B4501. These three roads are popular amongst car and motorbike drivers alike, made famous as regular test circuits for motoring magazines. If you link Rhydlydan with Llan Festiniog, then back north via From-Goch, you create a 100 mile loop to take in a number of reservoirs and winding, mountainous roads. You will also be an hour's drive from Snowdon, Wales' highest mountain, if a 1,085m high walk is on the bucket list. You can stay at a local bunkhouse or park up just off the A470 to take a walk around Llyn Trawsfynydd lake for stunning views of the mountains from the water. Add another 30 mins to your drive (or a day to your trip) and head to the coast to enjoy the sandy Harlech beach, sea views from the road and a touch of history in Harlech Castle.  

Snowdonia National Park

Dartmoor National Park, Devon 

Dartmoor National Park is situated in the heart of Devon with easy access from the M5 motorway. If you take the B3212 from the cathedral city of Exeter, the road will guide you right through the middle of Dartmoor via Moretonhampstead. Switch to the B3357 at Two Bridges and then follow the signs to Tavistock to lengthen the drive through open countryside with views for miles either side of the road. 

Two Bridges is as charming as it sounds, and the local hotel can provide accommodation to weary drivers. Dartmoor is ideal for an out-and-back day trip, but the more daring weekend warriors can cram in some city life in Plymouth too. Alternatively, Dartmouth is nearby and will provide coastal cliff walks, ice-cream lined streets, and a fish supper before heading home. Create a unique loop back to Exeter with a ferry ride in your car. Crossing the Dartmouth channel by ferry will allow you to absorb quintessentially English seaside views at a relaxed pace from the water.

Sunset Dartmoor.

The Peak District, Derbyshire 

If your journey is as important as your destination, then the Peak District holds some of the most famous and challenging routes in England. The road from Buxton to Macclesfield is about 12 miles long and takes less than 30 minutes, but it features a series of dramatic mountain bends with stunning scenery either side. The views of open moorlands are particularly stunning from Goyt's Moss. The difficult choice is whether to stop off for lunch at the Cat and Fiddle Inn (the second highest pub in England) or wait until you get to the café culture of Macclesfield.

If you’re sticking around the Peaks for other activities, there are endless hills to climb, unusual rock formations to explore, and historic towns to mooch around. Bakewell is a beautiful little town that you can’t pass without picking up a coffee and a Bakewell tart. Bolsover Castle is one of many fairy-tale mansions to investigate with superb views over Derbyshire. The Heights of Abraham in Matlock offers a hilltop park above a limestone gorge, a cable car to fly above 60 acres of hillside woodland, and guided tours underground in caverns and showcaves. All these activities will keep you busy for a long weekend, and that’s before mentioning the historic halls, dams, museums and visitor centres scattered around this national park. The only trouble is knowing when to come home. 

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