Planning a UK road trip? Wondering where you can go on a scenic drive around Great Britain and want some ideas and itineraries for places to visit in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland? No worries- we've got you covered. Here are 12 of the best UK road trips and scenic drives- and how to make the most of them!
Don't forget to grab your FREE road trip planner to help
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UK ROAD TRIPS- getting started
Whether you're visiting the UK from elsewhere or planning a staycation during these uncertain times, I can assure you that there is LOADS to see and do on a self-drive tour of Great Britain.
If you're going for a weekend, a week or even a longer trip of 2 or 3 weeks, there will be plenty for you to enjoy.
We've been exploring the UK for years, both on motorhome holidays and before and we have lots of tips to share.
In this post, we're highlighting 12 of our favourite UK road trips of all times. If you'd like more help actually planning the trip, you might find these useful:
- How to plan an unforgettable UK road trip (step-by-step with map)
- The best FREE printable road trip planner
- How to tour the UK and Europe by motorhome
- Hiring a motorhome or campervan– essential things to know
- Some of the best motorhome sites in Wales (including near the beach!)
BEST UK ROAD TRIPS- 5 English scenic drives
We love roadtripping in England and have enjoyed many parts of the country, but it can take longer to drive around England than you might think.
It's been tough to choose, but here are a few of our favourites (to see more unmissable England road trip ideas, click here)
Cotswolds road Trip
One of the prettiest UK road trip ideas for England has to be the Cotswolds.
This entire area is full of picturesque villages, pretty roads and incredible views over the rolling English countryside- as long as it's a clear day!
Cotswolds road trip itinerary
I’d recommend starting in Salisbury, a beautiful cathedral city with plenty to do and see. There are great shops and plenty of bars and cafes to get you started.
Whilst there, you have to head out to Stonehenge and see the world-famous stone circle. You can see it quite well from the road, but there are often long queues as everyone slow down to take photos. We once spent an incredible night wild camping next to Stonehenge with our motorhome – the sunrise was one of the best we've ever seen!
From Salisbury, head into the Cotswolds ‘proper'. Some of the best places to visit in the Cotswolds include Bourton-on-the-Water and Castle Combe- both have been called the prettiest villages in England. You can drive around as many villages in the Cotswolds as you have time for and there are plenty of places to stay in the area if you want to explore for a few days.
Alternatively, head to Bath for an overnight stay (unless you're in a motorhome and can use Britstops or a campsite. Bath is another beautiful city, built from yellow stone which looks spectacular in the evening light. I highly recommend staying a night (or two) and enjoying afternoon tea at the Pump rooms (an English tradition), as well as exploring the city on foot.
Devon Road Trip
Famed for its scenery and cream teas, Devon is one of the most popular UK road trip destinations, especially for families. It's not too far from London or the rest of the UK and there's plenty to see and do.
Devon road trip ideas for one-week
There are so many options for road trips in Devon that it's hard to choose where to start. For me, my heart lies in the south as I spent a lot of my early adulthood there.
Picturesque towns like Salcombe and Dartmouth, Exmouth, Woolacombe and Ilfracombe all have a wonderful quiet charm. If you truly want to get away, park up and enjoy some of the best hikes in the UK up on the notorious Dartmoor.
For more life, head to Exeter or Plymouth- these cities have a huge range of activities and things to do. One of our favourites is the Dartmoor Zoo (home of the REAL ‘we bought a zoo' story)
If you are enjoying your UK road trip in a motorhome or camper, be careful where you stay overnight- motorhome wild camping is not easy in many places around here. But there are plenty of campsites and other places you can use.
Highlights and some of the best places to visit in Devon
- Dartmouth- one of the best towns in the county
- The incredible beaches at Westward Ho! or Saunton Sands
- Paignton- the beach with the red sand
- Salcombe Harbour
TOP TIP: If you have time, extend your holiday to include a Hampshire & Dorset road trip too- there are some amazing places to see on the South coast of England.
Cornwall road trip
If you’re looking for a UK road trip ideas, head to Cornwall.
This beautiful county is one of the best destinations in the UK— the weather is often better than elsewhere in the UK, the beaches in Cornwall are spectacular and the local food includes mouth-watering pasties, cream teas and ice cream (now is NOT the time to be on a diet!)
There is so much to do, you’ll never see it all in a weekend or even a week, but there are some highlights you should definitely visit.
Highlights of a Cornwall road trip
- Tintagel Castle and Merlin's Cave– home of King Arthur!
- Land's End
- Boscastle- the village of the witches!
- Minack Theatre
- St Michael's Mount
- Newquay for surfing and general coolness
- St Nectan's glen- one of the best and most beautiful waterfalls in Europe
For a full list of the best places to visit on a Cornwall road trip, visit our Cornwall Road Trip Itinerary & Guide
Yorkshire Road Trip
Yorkshire is England's largest county and the perfect place for the road trip. There are many attractions quite close together, so you can explore a lot in a short period of time. You could ‘cover’ Yorkshire in a couple of days but to truly appreciate all it has to offer we recommend at least one full week.
Highlights of a Yorkshire one-week UK road trip
- England's highest single-drop waterfall- Hardraw Force
- The longest show cave in England- White scar
- Ribblehead Viaduct
- Stand on Hogsmeade station (or at least the station which played it in Harry Potter!)
- Numerous castles and ruins to visit
Yorkshire Road Trip Itinerary ideas
Start your road trip in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. Visit the 11th century Skipton Castle or descend underground to see the formations in White Scar Caves, the longest show cave in England.
Choose between the waterfalls of Ingleton, Aysgarth Falls or Hardraw Force- England’s highest single-drop waterfall. Before leaving the Dales, visit the impressive monastic ruins and landscaped gardens of Fountains Abbey.
Be sure to visit York. This pretty city is an ideal location for history buffs. You can visit Viking, Roman, Georgian and Victorian sites all in one day! Be sure to stroll along the cobbled Shambles, which has been voted the ‘Best Street in Britain.’
Head onto the moors to end your Yorkshire road trip. Stop at Goathland train station which doubled as Hogsmeade station in the Harry Potter movies. Alternatively, stretch your legs with a hike at the Hole of Horcum, a huge ancient natural amphitheatre.
Lake District Road Trip
The Lake District National Park is a perfect UK road trip idea. A UNESCO site, it's beautifully maintained and the scenery is incredible.
Many people hurry past on their UK road trip itineraries from England to Scotland, but it's well worth making the time to stop if you can.
Best scenic drive destinations in the Lake District
The Lake District has some of the worlds best scenic drives and a trip along the Honister Pass and Kirkstone Pass are a must, as are the pretty towns of Keswick and Cockermouth.
The Castlerigg stone circle is also worth a stop and the views across Derwent Water are spectacular.
In the South Lakes, Grasmere is delightful. This is the region of William Wordsworth (famous poet) and there's plenty to see here to remember him. Be sure to also enjoy Sarah Nelson's delightful gingerbread and visit one of the many tearooms.
If you love Beatrix Potter, you can learn more about her at her home in Hawkshead and also at Wray Castle, where she enjoyed her holidays. There is also Beatrix Potter World in Bowness- on- Windermere.
If you're not exploring in a motorhome or campervan, there are plenty of places to stay, from rustic B & Bs to breathtaking hotels. There are also loads of outdoor activites to enjoy, whatever the weather.
NC 500- one of the most famous UK road trips
The NC500 has been voted one of the UK's most scenic drives, with spectacular scenery, incredible beaches and unmissable views across the Highlands.
The route is just over 500 miles long, will take around 3 or 4 days and takes in parts of the Highlands in the north-west of Scotland. Some of the roads are very narrow, but there are plenty of passing places, even if you're motorhoming or campervanning in Scotland.
You can start the route wherever you want, go clockwise or anticlockwise and do all or just part of it. We chose to do half of it before heading off to explore other things to do in Perthshire and the surrounding areas.
Along the NC500, you will encounter beautiful white sand beaches with incredibly clear water, incredible mountain views, the Smoo Cave, one of the largest in Scotland and the Kylesku bridge.
There are plenty of lovely hotels and B & Bs along the route, many of which provide views across the sea or the Scottish highlands. Traditionally, the route begins in Inverness, although you can join and leave it anywhere. We include part of it in our complete Scotland road trip Itinerary, which is a great option for those who want to see as much of Scotland as possible in a limited time.
Planning a trip to Scotland?
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Highlights of the NC 500 include:
- Inverness- the most northerly city in the UK
- Smoo Cave
- Bealach Na Ba- the UK's steepest road. Do NOT attempt this with a motorhome (or if you're a nervous driver!)
- Clachtoll Beach
- Kylesku Bridge
- John o'Groats
Isle of Skye road trip
The Isle of Skye is one of the most famous islands on the west coast of Scotland and attracts a lot of visitors each year.
Highlights of an Isle of Skye road trip include:
- Fairy Pools
- Talisker Distillery
- Old Man of Storr hike
- Dunvegan Castle
- Neist Point
It's possible to add Skye onto the NC500 and visit for the day, but it's well worth spending 3 days in a road trip here to really see some of the incredible sights.
SWC300 – hidden UK road trip gem
The south of Scotland is an excellent destination for a UK road trip or staycation as it's far off the ‘popular' tourist track.
The South West Coastal 300 (SWC300) is a scenic drive around the south-west of Scotland. It passes through parts of Ayrshire, runs along the coast of Dumfries and Galloway and crosses into the Moffat and Galloway Hills.
SWC300 road trip itinerary ideas
It can take 4-5 days to see everything, but the best part is the drive around the Mull of Galloway peninsula, so focus your time here.
Start by exploring the southernmost point of Scotland and visit the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse – from the top, you can see the coast of Northern Ireland, the Lake District and the Isle of Man.
The picturesque harbour of Portpatrick offers plenty of places to enjoy dinner. Other highlights on the SWC300 include Culzean Castle on the coast and the Dark Sky Park in the Galloway Hills.
Brecon Beacons – Perfect UK Road Trip idea
The Brecon Beacons is one of three national parks in Wales and is full of scenic drives perfect for road trippers looking for an adventure. It’s one of the most under-rated road trip destinations in the UK.
The Gospel Pass- one of the most scenic drives in the UK
The highest driving road in Wales is called the Gospel Pass- snaking over the Black Mountains from Abergavenny to Hay-on-wye on the east of the Beacons.
From Abergavenny, turn off the A465 at Llanvihangel Crucorney and follow signs for the ruins of Llanthony Priory. From Hay-on-Wye, the Gospel pass is sign-posted.
CAUTION- The Pass is 22 miles of often single track, very steep (1/4) and is rarely cleared in winter. Motorhomes might find it tough and snow chains are essential in winter.
Driving the Top Gear Road
You can also drive to the west of the Brecon Beacons (the A4069,) This is the road made famous by Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear (no, this is NOT the same road as the Gospel Pass!) The road runs from Brynamman to Llangadog.
Planning a trip to Wales?
Grab your FREE guide to the Wales Way road trip routes, including:
- suggested routes around Wales
- best places to see on your trip
- campsites to stay at along the way
- and other tips for touring Wales
Gower Peninsula – Wales
The Gower peninsula is a perfect stop on UK Road Trip. It's a small peninsula on the southern Welsh coast, just west of Swansea.
Highlights of a Gower road trip include:
- Worm’s Head.
- Gower beaches- including Caswell and Landland, where you can find everything you need for a day on the beach: ice cream, parking and shops.
- Also, don’t forget to go on a proper coastal hike. The easiest of them all is actually the hike between the two aforementioned beaches.
- The Mumbles is where we spent our very first night ‘wild camping off-grid' in our motorhome. DEFINITELY worth a visit.
Pembrokeshire Road Trip
The Pembrokeshire Coast is in the far south-west of Wales. The road follows the coast with numerous little beaches, beautiful castles and small towns. The further west the smaller the roads become and more rugged the landscape.
Highlights of Pembrokeshire road trip include:
- Caldey Island
- Pembroke and Pembroke Castle
- Manobier Castle
- Skomer Island (puffins!)
- St David's- the smallest city in the UK
Pembrokeshire road trip itinerary ideas
Tenby is a small seaside town and has beautiful beaches. If you have time, a visit to Caldey Island is highly recommended.
A short distance from Tenby is Pembroke. This is one of the larger towns and you can't miss Pembroke Castle. Even more impressive is the nearby Manobier Castle that looks over a small bay perfect for surfing.
If seeing puffins is on your bucket list then visit Skomer Island. This small island is home to thousands of puffins and it's practically guaranteed to see them in summer.
The final destination to visit in Pembrokeshire is St David’s. This is the smallest city in the UK and has a beautiful cathedral and small winding streets- as well as one of the best pasty shops we've ever found!
Snowdonia – one of the UK's best road trips
If you’re looking for a weekend UK road trip idea, head to one of the prettiest National Parks in the UK- Snowdonia in Wales.
Snowdonia is amazingly well connected to most places in the UK- the drive from Manchester takes around 2 hours (80 miles)
Pretty much everything in Snowdonia involves being outdoors, so make sure you bring appropriate clothing for the time of year. You should always expect rain in Wales, even in mid-summer, but it can also be surprisingly warm. There are plenty of great roads with spectacular scenery and the stars at night are unreal. If you don't have a motorhome or campervan, there are plenty of hotels or glamping spots in North Wales to enjoy.
Be sure to add the Swallow Falls to your itinerary – it’s one of the prettiest waterfalls in the UK and well worth the easy hike and the small fee to visit.
Want more tips for planning the ultimate UK road trip, including a map and how to make the most of your time? Here you go!
Northern Ireland Scenic Road Trip idea
The Causeway Coastal Route is in the north of Northern Ireland. Highlights include:
- Giants Causeway
- Carrick-a-rede rope bridge
- Dunluce Castle
- Dark Hedges (you can actually drive down this road)
Northern Ireland road trip itinerary idea
Head early to the famous Giants causeway to get there at opening time. It's about a 90 minute drive from Belfast.
The nearby Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bride connects the mainland to the tiny Carrickarede island and crossing on foot is an exhilarating experience. Expect to queue for a while to get across, but it's worth the wait.
Another unique stop on the route is the clifftop ruins of Dunluce Castle which hang precariously above the sea below.
Don't miss the Dark Hedges. This road of arching 18th Century beech trees features in the HBO Series Game of Thrones and is one of the most beautiful roads in Ireland. It can be easy to drive right past it as it was surprisingly badly signposted when we visited- and expect crowds. LOTS of crowds. You can also drive down it- if you're motorhoming in Ireland be VERY nervous about this- I'm not even sure you'll make it in a campervan!
How long does it take to drive the Causeway coastal route?
You can comfortably drive the whole route in one weekend as it's quite a short route- only 200 miles.
Planning a UK ROAD TRIP? Tips to help
If you're planning a UK road trip, there are a few things to know which will make your life easier.
- It rains. A lot. Whenever you're coming, bring a coat.
- The best weather is usually May-October. In 2018 it was blissful from April all through the summer. In 2019 I was still wearing my winter coat during May.
- School holidays are around Easter, during end of July and throughout August and a week in mid-October. Try to avoid planning your UK road trip during these if you can.
- We drive in ‘miles' (imperial), but we buy fuel in litres (metric).
- Currency is in GBP- not Euros.
- Carry small coins (anything from 10p to £1) Many car parks require change to pay.