There’s nothing quite like an adventure on the open road. Be it a few hours or a few days, a road trip is a chance to escape the crowds and explore exciting new destinations. Epic playlists and amazing company: all you need now are pit stop suggestions and stunning scenery. So buckle up while we steer you through our five best road trips in the UK.
Dreaming spires and picture-postcard villages
Journey from Oxford through the rolling Chiltern Hills to ‘the other place’, Cambridge. Start where the rivalry all began, in the older of the two universities (by about 200 years). Tour some of the 39 colleges and discover the world of Alice in Wonderland. Forget about the boat race; instead, cruise down the Thames on an Edwardian river launch.
Then drive at a leisurely pace through hills, hamlets and villages as you make your way across the Chilterns. Why not stop at Henley-on-Thames, home of the famous Royal Regatta? Or the cathedral city of St. Albans, dating back to the Iron Age? You could visit the Roman Theatre of Verulamium, the only visible example of its kind in Britain. Just outside is the Warner Bros Studio Tour London, and half an hour north is Whipsnade Zoo.
Continue to Cambridge, where you can stroll the city with a graduate guide, taking in the ancient architecture and history of the UK’s second-oldest university. Cam down, it’s not a competition…
The long and winding road
Start in the border city of Carlisle, North West England. Established by the Romans to serve the forts on Hadrian’s Wall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Carlisle was a military stronghold. Visit the castle, used to imprison Mary Queen of Scots in 1568. You’ll be head over heels for the history here.
Drive south through the Lake District and stop off for a scramble. Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England, will take you 5 hours to climb – but the 3210ft-high panorama over the lakes is worth it. Water view! Get off the beaten track on a full-day tour from Windermere, or wander lonely to Wordsworth’s cottage and see where the poet wrote his famous lines.
Begin in Newcastle, the birthplace of famous Geordies Sting, Ridley Scott, and the X Factor’s Cheryl. ‘Gan doon the Toon’ as they say, and you’ll see the iconic Tyne Bridge, Sage Gateshead music center, and the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art. Or visit the city’s Norman castle and learn about the North’s turbulent history.
Head south down the coast, past picturesque places like Saltburn-by-the-Sea (home to the Cliff Lift, one of the world’s oldest water-powered funiculars). Try Whitby for the best fish and chips but be careful: Dracula might also want a bite! Nom. One of the best scenic drives is across the wild and wonderful North York Moors National Park, where you can hop on a steam train from Harry Potter’s Hogsmeade Station.
Finally, arrive in York. Let someone else take the wheel as you unwind on a River Ouse City Cruise. Or why not stretch your legs with a walking tour of the cobbled streets and winding alleys? Either way, you’ll see the best of this beautiful city without needing to navigate for a while.
If you like Bridgerton, you’ll love Bath. Pass Pulteney Bridge on a boat tour of Georgian grandeur. Discover the world of Jane Austen, Roman baths, then hop in your car and head down through the blissfully unspoiled Cotswolds. Just 30 minutes south is one of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments, Stonehenge. Volcanic rock? You’ll lava it.
Carry on through Cranborne Chase, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and head down to explore the stunning Jurassic Coast. Book into Bournemouth for a family holiday, or unwind in Weymouth for a bit more peace and quiet.
I’ll take the high road
Last but not least, we give you the ultimate Scottish experience. Start in Edinburgh; discover its darker side on a walking tour of hidden secrets and ancient alleyways. Settle your nerves with a sweet treat (or ten) at the Chocolatarium, where you can create your own candy.
Then hit the tarmac through the Cairngorms National Park for Inverness and the North Coast 500 for a 1-week road trip. Without a doubt, this is one of the best road trips in the UK. See bright blue water at Durness, charming village life in Ullapool, and dramatic mountain passes at Bealach na Bà. If you don’t have time to do the whole route, why not get a flavor of it in a day tour to John O’ Groats?