The drive is the destination: Explore the most scenic routes in the UK
July 25, 2023
Across its four nations, the United Kingdom boasts of some of the most breathtaking coastlines, woodlands and natural parks in the world. Be blown away from the comfort of your own leather cocoon and steer to whichever direction the wind takes you. Here are five scenic UK drives to help you plan your next journey.
THE APPLECROSS ADVENTURE
Route: Applecross to Tornapress through the Applecross Pass
Distance: Approximately 11 miles
Time: Approximately 30 minutes
Top tip: It’s best to go early in the morning or evening when there’s plenty of light and the roads will be at their quietest.
Regarded as one of the most challenging drives in the country, the Applecross Pass or Bealach na Bà (Gaelic for ‘Pass of the cattle’) is also one of the most thrilling and rewarding. Among the narrow and windy roads, the views of the mountains and the open water accompany you through the twists and turns.
Bealach na Bà has the steepest ascent of any road climb in the UK, rising above sea level to 620 metres. The country lanes demand confident and careful drivers that can reverse with ease to let oncoming traffic through. But once you reach the highest point, you can park up to take in the views. The mountains on the Isle of Skye are visible across the loch, while on land the zig zag road with their distinct hairpin bends can be seen leading down.
If you’re lucky, you might even be greeted by some deer and Highland cows along the way.
THE COUNTRY-TO-CITY SNAKE
Route: Snake Pass, Glossop to Sheffield on the A57 Snake Road
Distance: Approximately 23 miles
Time: Approximately 45 minutes
Top tip: Time your drive so that you approach Sheffield at nightfall to see the play of city lights against the darkening sky.
If you’d like to get closer to the woodlands while still being within reach of the city, the Snake Pass could be the perfect drive. The A57, or Snake Road, connects Manchester to Sheffield right through the lush forests of the Peak District. And if you fancy taking a break from steering, there are plenty of picturesque walking trails with parking lots that lead from the main road. Or for something more leisurely on foot, you could take the route along the Ladybower dam from Heatherdene, Hope Valley before continuing the drive.
This trip is the perfect excuse to see the wonderful sights of the beloved Peak District, where you can wander off the beaten track before finding your way back to an iconic northern city.
THE HISTORIC CAUSEWAY
Route: The Causeway Coastal Route from Belfast to Londonderry
Distance: Approximately 120 miles
Time: It’s up to you
Top tip: Make the tour last as short or as long as you please. Hop from one destination to the next, or spend time in each town to discover some Irish hidden gems.
Take a trip along the Irish coast to discover the historic destinations of Northern Ireland. Start off in Belfast to immerse yourself in the country’s culture and history before heading along the coast to some mystical and mesmerising sights.
Get as close to the rough seas as possible at the Gobbins cliff. Go on a quaint outing to the Walled Gardens of Glenarm. Be transported to Game of Thrones’ Seven Kingdoms at the Dark Hedges. Witness the 60 million year-old basalt formations at the Giant’s Causeway. Bask in the sunlight at the beaches of Portstewart or Portrush before arriving in Londonderry. Wherever you decide to stop en route, you’re sure to be captivated by the Causeway’s Irish charm.
THE WAY IN BETWEEN
Route: Aberystwyth to Llandudno, cutting through Snowdonia
Distance: Approximately 86 miles
Time: Approximately 2.5 hours
Top tip: Break up the journey by hunting for the Fairy Glen in Betws-y-coed, a rocky stream where mythical sprites are said to dwell.
Drive straight through Snowdonia’s heartland from the university town of Aberystwyth which sits near the centre point between north and south Wales. Amble through the shops and cafes or walk up to Constitution Hill for the best view of the town. And when you’re ready, embark on a drive that will take you through forests, valleys, lakes and small villages in the middle of Snowdonia. And of course, within touching distance of Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales.
Along the way, there’ll be plenty of opportunity to pull in, grab a bite and stretch your legs to power you through a satisfying and varied drive. Finish the trip in Llandudno, a large seaside resort right at the top of Wales, where the wide roads will give your vehicle some space to breathe.
THE END OF THE ROAD
Route: Land’s End to the Lizard, along the Cornish Coast
Distance: Approximately 34 miles
Time: Approximately 1.5 hours
Top tip: Pay a visit to the Minack, an incredible open-air theatre teetering on the edge of a cliff and overlooking the turquoise expanse of the sea.
Starting at the highlands and ending at the tip of the UK, the Cornish Coast is the final and unmissable leg of the UK tour. At the most Westerly point of the coast – and of England – is the aptly named Land’s End, a famous headland that faces out into the North Atlantic Sea. On a bright sunny day, driving with the top down from Land’s End is the perfect way to cool off and feel the salty sea breeze on your skin.
From here, you can cruise all the way towards the Lizard, the most southerly point of Britain, giving you the perfect opportunity to hunt for hidden coves as you go. Cornwall has exquisite sheltered bays dotted along the route for you to explore, including local favourites Kynance Cove and Prussia Cove.
Wherever you journey in the UK, you’ll be sure to discover beautiful settings for your own unique travel story.