One of the best things about Britain is that everywhere is within road trip distance, regardless of where you set out from. For a relatively small island, Britain is teeming with diverse landscapes and incredible roads (no not the M25), so it’s no surprise then that British families embark on an average of 19 roads trips every year.
Whether you want national parks, mountains, countryside, seaside or cities – Britain is packed with history, culture and adventure.
Here’s five of Britain’s best road trip destinations to inspire you this summer.
Tucked away in the far reaches of the Scottish Highlands, the Isle of Skye is one of Britain’s hidden treasures. At 50 miles long, Skye is the largest isle of the Inner Hebrides and getting around by car is a must. Yet even during high-season months, avoiding busy roads is never a concern.
With very few roads and a tiny population of just 10,000, driving through Skye evokes the feel and mood of a western film with vast empty plains, sat against a dramatic mountainous backdrop.
If you’re a keen walker, then make sure you take a drive off-the-beaten-track too. Head to the Quiraing landslip which offers spectacular landscapes and views. Similarly, the iconic Old Man of Storr rock formation, the magical Fairy Glen of Uig and Skye’s many castles are well worth seeking out on an island that will surprise you at every turn.
Perhaps Skye’s greatest surprise is the coral beach in Claigan, located towards the north-west of the island. Catch it on a clear, sunny day and it feels more like the Caribbean than Britain.
Restaurant pick: Skye Pie Café (north of Portree) for the best pie in town.
Each year, people from all over Britain load up the car and flock to Cornwall and Devon for a luxurious coastal road trip. And with golden sandy beaches, beautiful coastal villages, famous moorland and tons of history it’s no wonder.
Aim for Land’s End, the most south-westerly point of mainland Britain, and you’ll have the opportunity to drive through – and stop off in – the very best that Devon and Cornwall have to offer. Through Devon, you’ll encounter multiple Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and huge national parks in the form of Exmoor and Dartmoor – all between two glorious coastlines.
It’s these coastlines that give both Devon and Cornwall their unrivalled reputation for hosting the very best of British surfing beaches and fishing towns. To name just a few, Port Isaac, Padstow, Newquay, St. Ives and Penzance are perfect stop-off points to really soak up the Cornish culture and beauty – before a fitting end to a memorable road trip at Land’s End.
If you are a keen surfer, a family SUV fitted with a roof-rack for your surfboards would be ideal for this type of road trip.
Restaurant pick: Stein’s Fish & Chips (Padstow) for a celeb chef level chippy. Try the squid!
The Lake District encompasses a vast network of beautiful roads, lakes and market towns amongst the dramatic scenery of England’s largest – and most loved – national park.
Towns such as Windermere, Ambleside and Keswick are hot-spots for food, shopping, history and lakeside views. But it’s the drives between the Lake District’s towns and lakes that make this the ideal road trip destination.
The Kirkstone Pass, which forms part of the route between Ambleside and Ullswater, is one of the Lake District’s most scenic drives. At an altitude of 1,489 feet, you’ll weave through this dramatic mountain pass for miles on end before reaching the glorious Ullswater Lake – the second largest lake in the region. Be sure to park up at the Aira Force Waterfall before you reach Ullswater for some great waterfall walking trails.
Buttermere is one of the quietest, finest lakes in the area. Drive from Keswick via the Honister Pass for a more adventurous route, which will have you meandering up and down one of Cumbria’s highest summits.
Mountains and huge lakes make for the most picturesque road trips – whatever the weather.
Restaurant pick: Holbeck Ghyll (Windermere) for stunning hill-top views of Lake Windermere. It also features on popular BBC road trip comedy show, The Trip.
Rarely will you find an array of amazing cities, beaches and landscapes within such close proximity as you do in Somerset. This is why the Mendip Hills is such a great place to drive around.
Depending on where you come from, Bath – famous for its Roman history and natural hot-springs – is just 40 minutes outside of the Mendip Hills and is well worth a detour for a day.
A drive through the Mendip Hills, rather than the around the outside, will take longer but it is undoubtedly more immersive, allowing you to really absorb the limestone-filled hills. On the south side of the hills, you’ll reach Wells – a beautiful cathedral city with great museums, pubs, attractions and film history (if you’re a Hot Fuzz fan).
Take a 20 minute detour south and you’ll find Glastonbury which has a unique historical, cultural and spiritual heritage outside of the festival. Also very close to Wells are the Wookey Hole limestone caves, which are a must-visit if you have kids. So too is Cheddar Gorge, just up the road from Wookey, which offers incredible scenery, cliff-top walks and famous cave tours.
Finally, just outside of Mendip is Western-super-Mare, and what better way to finish then with an ice-cream at the seaside. After all, beaches are Britain’s favourite family road trip destination.
Restaurant pick: The Crown at Wells (Wells) for a great Sunday lunch. It also features regularly in the film Hot Fuzz.
Snowdonia National park is a real Welsh icon, not least for Mount Snowdon, the country’s highest mountain at 1,085 metres above sea level. Naturally this will attract road trippers from all over for Britain who want to climb the mountain or enjoy a family holiday amongst the copious lakes, adventure and activities.
However, getting there is where most of the fun is. If possible, break your trip to Snowdonia up with a stay in the Brecon Beacons. Here you’ll find the Black Mountain Pass (A4069), nicknamed the “Top Gear Road” thanks to its affiliation with the BBC TV show. This road has some of the best stretches, swooping bends and beautiful scenery you’ll find on any road in Britain. So if you have a car that excels in both acceleration and handling, then you’ll have some real fun on this road.
Getting to Snowdonia from the Brecon Beacons by car will then take you on the A470, which has previously been voted Britain’s favourite drive. The A470 will take you up to – and through – Snowdonia offering over 100 miles of glorious Welsh countryside away from the crowds of the city.
Restaurant pick: T H Roberts Coffee Shop (just off the A470 in Snowdonia) for delicious coffee and cake in a quirky setting.
Find much more road trip advice on the Jardine Motors blog page, including a breakdown of the best cars, vans and motorbikes for different road trips.