17/06/2024

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For A Perfect Road Trip In England, Scotland, Wales, And Northern Ireland

17 min read
For A Perfect Road Trip In England, Scotland, Wales, And Northern Ireland

Are you looking for the best scenic drives in the UK? I live in the UK for more than a decade now and I have been around the British Isles and frequently on a long road trip with my husband or friends. I’m happy to share with you my recommended best scenic drives in the UK!

The beautiful landscapes around the UK are just a perfect way to unfold the things that tickle your traveling feet. UK road trip destinations are huge in numbers but let me share with you a few of the finest views of them.

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From the pleasing coastlines, quaint British towns, urban centers, historical sites, marvelous architectural establishments, popping British pubs, and food ventures, to the vast fields of greenery up to the peak of medieval mountains, the United Kingdom has all of it and it is offering it to you to explore.

Read more: Best UK Travel Itinerary for 2 Weeks

Here are the Best Scenic Drives in the UK:

1. North Coast 500 (Scotland)

Let’s hit the North Coast 500, Scotland, a sparkling white beach where you can spot dolphins and seals at the shore, also this is the best spot out of Scandinavia to witness the Northern Lights. The North Coast 500 is one of the most popular and best scenic drives in the UK.

The North Coast 500 (NC500) has been dubbed “Scotland’s Route 66.” It showcases the very best of the Scottish Highlands, from enchanting castles and dramatic coastlines to rugged mountains and quaint villages. You may even stay for a while to know the Scottish traditions. Here are some must-see spots along the way:

  • Dunrobin Castle: As you make your way north from Inverness, stop by the enchanting Dunrobin Castle. This fairy-tale-like castle, with its stunning gardens and fascinating history, is a great place to stretch your legs and soak in some culture.
  • John o’ Groats: This iconic spot offers impressive views of the surrounding coastline and is a fantastic place for a souvenir photo. John o’Groats is known for charity fundraising campaigns in the UK wherein the participants will traverse the route from John o’ Groats to Land’s End in Cornwall, England.
  • Smoo Cave: It is a geological wonder nestled in the coastal cliffs near Durness. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a guided tour to explore the depths of this fascinating attraction.
  • Applecross Peninsula: Here, you can enjoy the dramatic landscapes as you tackle the challenging Bealach na Bà pass, one of the highest roads in Britain.
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Ryazan Tristram in Loch Ness Scotland
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Ryazan Tristram in Loch Ness Scotland
  • Loch Ness: No trip to Scotland would be complete without trying to catch a glimpse of the elusive Nessie! As you loop back towards Inverness, take a detour along the shores of Loch Ness and keep your eyes peeled for the legendary monster. I have visited the Loch Ness and it’s truly wonderful to see the vast lake with the Urquhart Castle in the backdrop.

Read more: Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle: A Tale of Mystery and Scottish Heritage

Most travellers who are traversing the NC500 usually hire a campervan and set out to camp along the various Scottish towns in the highland. I think this is a very good way to experience the true Scottish heritage as well as witness the beauty of the landscape.

2. Yorkshire Dales (England)

Yorkshire Dales takes you through some of the most charming countryside landscapes and traditional villages. One example is the Buttertubs Pass. Buttertubs Pass is a 5.5-mile stretch of road which is located between the quaint towns of Hawes and Thwaite in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. This route is not only a pleasure to drive but also offers views of the landscape, and dry-stone walls. Here are some of the things that you must watch out for:

Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Yorkshire Dales National Park Ribblehead Viaduct
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Yorkshire Dales National Park Ribblehead Viaduct
  • The Buttertubs: The pass gets its name from the unique limestone potholes, known as “Buttertubs,” which can be found along the route. These natural formations are said to have been used by farmers to store butter during their trips to the market. Make sure to stop for a photo opportunity and to admire these fascinating geological features.
  • Hawes: At the southern end of the Buttertubs Pass, you’ll find the charming market town of Hawes. This is a perfect spot to grab a bite to eat, explore local shops, or visit the famous Wensleydale Creamery.
  • Muker: As you continue your journey, consider stopping at the picturesque village of Muker. It is known for its traditional stone buildings, beautiful countryside walks, and the delightful Muker Tea Shop.
  • Thwaite: Your journey along Buttertubs Pass concludes in Thwaite. Take some time to wander around this peaceful spot, admiring the stone cottages and surrounding fells, before heading off to explore more of the Yorkshire Dales.

Read more: 15 Beautiful National Parks in the UK Worth Visiting

3. Peak District (England)

Peak District is England’s first national park, and it has the two most iconic routes: Snake Pass and Winnats Pass.

Best Scenic Drives in the UK: My friend and I at Peak District
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: My friend and I at Peak District
  • Snake Pass: A 20-mile stretch of road that meanders through the heart of the Peak District. As you navigate the twists and turns, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the moorland, reservoirs, and rugged hills. Here are two sights that you do not want to miss:
  • Ladybower Reservoir: A picturesque stop along Snake Pass, Ladybower Reservoir offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape. It’s a great spot for a leisurely walk or a picnic, and if you’re interested in history, be sure to check out the Derwent Dam, which played a role in the famous Dambusters training during World War II.
  • Pennine Way: Fancy a hike? Take a detour to the Pennine Way, a long-distance walking route that spans 268 miles. While you may not have time to tackle the entire trail, there are plenty of shorter walks that showcase the natural beauty of the area, such as the walk to Kinder Scout, the highest point in the Peak District.
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Winnats Pass in Peak District
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Winnats Pass in Peak District
  • Winnats Pass: For a shorter but equally impressive drive, head to Winnats Pass. This one-mile route offers a passage through a limestone gorge, with towering cliffs on either side. Make sure to take your time and enjoy the views as you wind your way through the pass. Look for these two:
  • Castleton: Famous for its caverns and Blue John stone, you can explore underground caves or browse local shops for unique souvenirs. Don’t forget to try some traditional Derbyshire oatcakes at a local tea room.
  • Peveril Castle: This castle is a historic site that dates back to the 11th century. Although mostly in ruins, it still offers incredible views of the surrounding countryside, making it well worth the climb.

4. Snowdonia National Park (Wales)

Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Ryazan Tristram at Snowdonia National Park in Wales
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Ryazan Tristram at Snowdonia National Park in Wales

Snowdonia National Park offers a diverse range of landscapes and attractions. This popular destination boasts rugged mountains, serene lakes, and picturesque villages. Here are some of the must-see stops that it offers.

I wrote another article about the 6 Best Snowdon Walk Guides in Wales, feel free to read through it. It will help you to plan out your trip when visiting the Snowdonia National Park and hiking to the summit of Mount Snowdon

Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Snowdonia valley landscape llanberis path
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Llanberis Path at Snowdonia National Park
  • Llanberis Pass: This pass will take you through the heart of Snowdonia. It offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains, including Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales.
  • Snowdon Mountain Railway: This historic steam-powered train takes you on a breathtaking journey to the summit, where you can soak in panoramic views of Snowdonia and beyond.
  • Betws-y-Coed: This is often referred to as the “Gateway to Snowdonia” which is an ideal stop for a leisurely stroll or a bite to eat. You can explore the local shops, grab a coffee at a cozy café, or take a walk along the River Conwy to admire the stunning Swallow Falls.
  • Harlech Castle: A visit to Snowdonia wouldn’t be complete without exploring one of its historic castles. Harlech Castle, perched on a hill overlooking the coast, is a UNESCO World Heritage site that offers a glimpse into Wales’ rich history. Please take your time wandering the castle grounds and enjoy the incredible views of the surrounding area.
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Ryazan Tristram at Portmeirion Wales
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Ryazan Tristram at Portmeirion Wales
  • Portmeirion: For a change of scenery, you have the Italianate village of Portmeirion. Designed by architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, this colourful and unique destination feels like a little slice of Italy in the heart of Wales. Wander the gardens, browse the boutique shops, or simply sit back and enjoy the atmosphere.

5. Lake District (England)

Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Stephen and I at Windemere Lake District
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Stephen and I at Windemere Lake District

The Lake District offers a diverse range of activities and attractions for visitors, which is why travelers choose this as a road trip destination. I wrote another article about the 13 Best Things to Do in Lake District for Couples and Families feel free to read through it to know more about this beautiful region of Northern England.

Here are some of the sights in the Lake District National Park that you should not miss:

Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Water sports and activities in Windemere Lake District
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Water sports and activities in Windemere Lake District
  • Windermere: As the largest natural lake in England, Windermere is a must-visit destination in the Lake District. The bustling town of Bowness-on-Windermere, located on the shores of the lake, offers a range of activities, including boat tours, water sports, and a variety of shops and restaurants. I wrote another article about 12 Best Things to Do in Windemere (Lake District, UK).
  • Kirkstone Pass: Kirkstone Pass is a winding road that connects Ambleside and Patterdale. You should stop at the Kirkstone Pass Inn, which is one of the highest pubs in England, if you want a well-deserved break and stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
  • Grasmere: This village is once home to poet William Wordsworth. It is definitely the perfect spot for a stroll or an afternoon tea. When you are here, you should visit Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s former residence, or sample the famous Grasmere Gingerbread from Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread Shop.
  • Keswick: Keswick offers plenty of attractions for visitors. You can explore the local shops, take a boat trip on Derwentwater, or visit the nearby Castlerigg Stone Circle, an ancient monument dating back to around 3000 BC.
  • Honister Slate Mine: For a unique experience, head to Honister Slate Mine. You can take a guided underground tour, try your hand at slate mining, or, for the more daring, tackle the Via Ferrata, a climbing route that offers spectacular views.

6. The Cotswold (England)

Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Ryazan Tristram at Bilbury Cotswold UK
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Ryazan Tristram at Bilbury Cotswold UK

The Cotswolds and its villages offer a charming and tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, which makes it interesting for a road trip. Here are some of the must-visit stops in the Cotswolds. If you want to, you also check out the best things to do in Cotswold.

  • Burford: Begin your journey in the historic town of Burford, often referred to as the “Gateway to the Cotswolds.” Wander down the High Street, lined with quaint shops and tearooms, and take in the stunning architecture of St. John the Baptist Church, a masterpiece of Gothic design.
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Arlington Row Cotswold Villages
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Arlington Row
  • Bibury: Continue on to the picturesque village of Bibury, once described by William Morris as “the most beautiful village in England.” Don’t miss Arlington Row, a row of 17th-century weavers’ cottages that have become an iconic symbol of the Cotswolds.
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Ryazan Tristram at Bourton-on-the-water in Cotswold UK
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Ryazan Tristram at Bourton-on-the-water in Cotswold UK
  • Bourton-on-the-Water: Known as the “Venice of the Cotswolds,” this charming village is traversed by the River Windrush and features a series of elegant stone bridges. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the riverbanks, visit the Cotswold Motoring Museum, or explore the Model Village, a miniature replica of Bourton-on-the-Water itself.
  • Stow-on-the-Wold: This bustling market town is the perfect place to stop for a bite to eat or to explore local shops and galleries. Be sure to visit St. Edward’s Church, where you’ll find a unique door flanked by ancient yew trees.
  • Castle Combe: Often regarded as one of the prettiest villages in England, Castle Combe is a must-see destination in the Cotswolds. Wander the narrow streets, marvel at the picturesque cottages, and visit the 14th-century market cross, a testament to the village’s rich history.

7. Elan Valley (Wales)

Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Craig Goch Dam at Elan Valley Wales
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Craig Goch Dam at Elan Valley Wales

The Elan Valley offers an escape from the fast-paced modern world, making it an ideal destination for a ride through the Welsh countryside. With its landscapes, history, and opportunities for outdoor adventures, there’s something for everyone in this region. Here are some of the highlights of the Elan Valley:

  • Elan Valley Visitor Centre: In here, you can learn about the history of the area, including the Victorian engineering marvels that created the valley’s reservoirs.
  • Claerwen Reservoir: As you drive through the valley, take the opportunity to visit Claerwen Reservoir, a serene and picturesque spot perfect for a leisurely walk or a lakeside picnic. The Claerwen Dam is an impressive sight which showcases the incredible engineering that went into creating this vast reservoir.
  • Craig Goch Dam: Another must-see stop in the Elan Valley is the Craig Goch Dam, often referred to as the “top dam.” This dam offers fantastic views of the surrounding landscape and is a popular spot for photographers.
  • Walking and Cycling Trails: The Elan Valley offers a network of walking and cycling trails that allow you to explore the area at your own pace. You can choose from gentle strolls along the reservoirs or more challenging hikes through the rugged hills.
  • Red Kite Feeding Station: For a unique experience, you can go to the Red Kite Feeding Station at Gigrin Farm. Here you will witness the spectacle of dozens of majestic red kites swooping down to feed.

8. North Devon (England)

Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Ryazan Tristram at Ilfracombe Devon
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Ryazan Tristram at Ilfracombe Devon

North Devon’s coastal towns offer a diverse blend of scenery, history, and seaside charm, making them an ideal destination for a road trip with your friends. Take note of some of the must-visits in North Devon:

  • Ilfracombe: This is a seaside resort with a rich history and plenty of attractions. You can admire the historic harbour, visit the impressive Damien Hirst statue “Verity,” or explore the tunnels beaches, hand-carved in the 19th century, for a unique beach experience.
  • Woolacombe: Next, you can head to the popular seaside village of Woolacombe, known for its award-winning sandy beach and ideal conditions for surfing. Make sure to enjoy a leisurely walk along the shore, try your hand at water sports, or simply relax and soak up the laid-back atmosphere.
  • Croyde: Now, if you want a small, more intimate beach experience, the village of Croyde is for you! This spot is popular among surfers and has a beautiful beach, surrounded by sand dunes and rolling hills.
  • Appledore: Next is Appledore where its narrow streets and colourful houses create a charming atmosphere. Here you can visit the Maritime Museum to learn about the area’s rich maritime history, or take a scenic walk along the river to admire the stunning views.
  • Clovelly: End your journey in the unique, privately-owned village of Clovelly. It has cobbled streets and charming cottages that can transport you back in time. By the way, cars are not allowed in the village, so be prepared for a stroll as you explore this enchanting destination.

9. Jurassic Coast (England)

Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Durdle Door Dorset Jurassic Coast in the UK
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Durdle Door Dorset Jurassic Coast in the UK

The Jurassic Coast is a great place for a road trip through the English countryside. You’ll find many beautiful natural sights, such as unique rock formations and stunning cliffs, as well as charming coastal towns to explore. There’s plenty to do, like looking for fossils on the beach. Don’t forget to check out the top attractions along the way.

  • Exmouth: Start your adventure in the seaside town of Exmouth. This marks the western end of the Jurassic Coast. Here you can enjoy the two-mile-long sandy beach. You may also take a stroll along the seafront promenade or visit the Exmouth Museum to learn about the area’s rich history.
  • Sidmouth: Known for its Regency architecture and striking red cliffs, you must also visit Sidmouth. Here you can wander the picturesque streets, relax on the pebble beach, or visit the Sidmouth Museum to learn about the region’s geological past.
  • Lyme Regis: Known as the “Pearl of Dorset,” Lyme Regis is a must-visit destination on the Jurassic Coast. You can explore the historic harbour, known as the Cobb, hunt for fossils on the beach, or visit the Lyme Regis Museum for a fascinating insight into the area’s geology and history.
  • Durdle Door: Durdle Door is a natural limestone arch that has become a symbol of the region. Enjoy the walk along the coastal path to admire this stunning geological formation and admire the breathtaking views of the surrounding coastline.
  • Old Harry Rocks: Complete your journey at Old Harry Rocks, a series of chalk formations located at the eastern end of the Jurassic Coast. Stroll along the clifftop for stunning views of the rocks and the surrounding landscape. Better yet, join a boat tour for a unique perspective on this fascinating natural attraction.

10. Cornwall (England)

Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Lands End in Cornwall UK
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: My family at Lands End in Cornwall UK

Discover the captivating beauty of Cornwall, a region in southwest England. Known for its coastlines, fishing villages, and landscapes, it’s definitely the perfect destination for a road trip. You’ll find fascinating history, natural wonders, and unforgettable views along the way. Take a look at some of the highlights of Cornwall!

  • Scenic Landscape: As you drive through Cornwall, you’ll be greeted by the enchanting landscape, from rugged moorlands and rolling hills to golden sandy beaches and dramatic cliffs. Be sure to stop at popular spots like Bodmin Moor and the Roseland Peninsula to take in the beauty of the region.
  • Coastal Towns and Routes: Cornwall is home to a variety of charming coastal towns, each with its own unique character and charm. You may want to visit popular destinations like St. Ives, Penzance, and Falmouth, and enjoy the scenic coastal routes, such as the Atlantic Highway and the South West Coast Path, which offer breathtaking views of the coastline.
  • Land’s End: Now, you have to make your way to Land’s End, the most westerly point of mainland England, for a truly awe-inspiring experience. Here, you can admire the dramatic cliffs, watch the waves crash against the rocks, and take a photo with the iconic Land’s End signpost.
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: St Michael's Mount in Marazion Cornwall
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: St Michael’s Mount in Marazion Cornwall
  • St. Michael’s Mount: A visit to Cornwall wouldn’t be complete without exploring St. Michael’s Mount, a tidal island accessible by a causeway during low tide. Home to a medieval castle and a small community, this fascinating island offers stunning views of the surrounding coastline and a glimpse into the region’s rich history.
  • Tintagel Castle: For a dose of history and legend, head to Tintagel Castle, perched on the dramatic Cornish cliffs and believed to be the birthplace of King Arthur. Take a look at the castle ruins, take in the breathtaking views, and immerse yourself in the myths and legends that surround this enchanting location.

11. Causeway Coastal Route (Northern Ireland)

Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Giant Causeway in Northern Ireland

The Causeway Coastal Route offers a diverse and captivating blend of natural wonders and charming coastal villages, making it an ideal destination for a road trip through Northern Ireland. This road trip will also showcase stunning landscapes. Explore some of the highlights of the Causeway Coastal Route!

  • Carrickfergus Castle: Begin your adventure in the historic town of Carrickfergus, where the impressive 12th-century Carrickfergus Castle stands guard over the harbor. Admire the castle grounds and learn about its fascinating history before setting off along the coast.
  • The Gobbins Cliff Path: For a thrilling coastal experience, the Gobbins Cliff Path is a must-visit. It is a dramatic walkway that clings to the cliffs and offers breathtaking views of the ocean. It will test your nerve as you navigate the narrow path, suspended bridges, and hidden tunnels.
  • Ballintoy Harbour: Ballintoy Harbour is a charming fishing village with a small harbor nestled between rugged cliffs. Enjoy the serene atmosphere, take a leisurely stroll along the coast, and keep an eye out for filming locations from the popular TV series, Game of Thrones.
  • Giant’s Causeway: No trip along the Causeway Coastal Route would be complete without a visit to the Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its unique hexagonal basalt columns. Marvel at this incredible natural wonder and learn about the legends of the giant Finn McCool who is said to have created the causeway.
Carrick-a-rede rope Bridge in Northern Ireland
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Carrick-a-rede rope Bridge in Northern Ireland
  • Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge: End your journey with a visit to the famous Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, a thrilling 66-foot-long rope bridge that hangs 100 feet above the crashing waves below. Cross the bridge to the tiny island of Carrick-a-Rede for stunning views of the surrounding coastline and a truly unforgettable experience.

12. Cheddar Gorge (England)

Cheddar Somerset UK
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Cheddar, Somerset, UK

Are you looking for a scenic road trip destination that offers stunning views and quaint towns? Look no further than Cheddar Gorge in Somerset, England. Here’s what you can expect to see on your journey:

Cave Mature Cheddar Cheese in Cheddar Gorge
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Cheddar Gorge
  • Cheddar Gorge: This natural limestone gorge is over three miles long and 400 feet deep, making for an impressive sight. As you wind your way through the gorge, you’ll be surrounded by towering cliffs and lush greenery. Keep an eye out for the resident goats that can often be spotted scaling the rocky cliffs.
  • Caving: Next, take a guided tour of the caves and learn about the history of the gorge. Be amazed at the underground rock formations and perhaps even spot some of the rare wildlife that lives there.
  • Rock Climbing: If you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand at rock climbing or abseiling. With various difficulty levels, there’s something for everyone.
Rock formations inside the cheddar gorge in somerset
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: Rock formations inside the cheddar gorge in Somerset
  • Cheese: Cheddar Gorge is famous for its namesake cheese. For this, you may visit the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company and sample some of their delicious cheeses, or even take a cheese-making course and learn how to make your own. You can also discover the pre-historic story of the “Cheddar man”.
  • Relaxation: For a more leisurely experience, taking a walk through the gorge and soaking in the natural beauty are good options. Breathe in the fresh air, listen to the sounds of the wildlife, and appreciate the peacefulness of this stunning location.
Best Scenic Drives in the UK For a Perfect Road Trip in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland pin
Best Scenic Drives in the UK: For a Perfect Road Trip in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Everything Zany Dual Citizen Travel Blog

Everything Zany

Travel Blog

Everything Zany Travel Blog exploring the UK and beyond. Sharing travel guides, tips, history, and culture. Our travel media brand is founded by travel and hotel industry expert – Ryazan Tristram, a Dual Citizen (British – Filipina) based in Birmingham, UK. Everything Zany is a reputable and award-winning travel blog. Our work and contributions have been featured in Huffington Post, CNBC, Discovery Channel, GMA, Readers Digest, and Lonely Planet. Our missions are to build a great travel community and resource of travel tips, visas, and travel guides for travelers. Join us as we travel around the UK and beyond with a mission to share the best of the world.

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