The UK’s most beautiful road trips  holiday cottages

The UK’s most beautiful road trips

Jemima Kirkwood 17 February 2022

There are lots of ways we can travel and see new places, but there is no way more flexible than exploring a new place by car. The freedom you get with a car is unbeaten, there are no time schedules and you can reach untouched places much more easily.

Whether you are travelling in a family wagon, campervan, motorbike or open-top car, the road is yours and you can do whatever you like with it. But where can we find the most beautiful places to drive, you ask? This question got us looking into the different parts of the UK and wondering which parts hold the most beautiful road trips for its visitors. And when it comes to ‘most beautiful’, how do you measure that?

Feel great whilst driving the UK's most beautiful road trips

We’ve done the research, looking into routes that take in National Parks, coastal roads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and have narrowed it down to six amazing routes to take on throughout the UK. They will lead you into some of the most remote parts where scenery, nature and wildlife reign. Read on to discover these amazing road trips and start planning your UK holiday today.

All of the routes featured are around 100 miles long (give or take) with an average of 3 hours driving, so these can easily be done with a lunch stop in the middle, a few stops to take in some landmarks along the way. The Northumbrian route featured can be enjoyed from the doorstep of your self-catering cottage

Berwick-upon-Tweed to Kielderhead Nature Reserve via the Northumberland Coast

Distance: 98 miles

Time: 3 hours 

Northumberland National Park | Northumberland Coast AONB | 25 miles of coastline | 21 miles through national parks

Taking in the north-east coast, this route in Northumberland takes in the best of what this county has to offer. Known for its amazing coastline and the many traditional fishing villages that grace it, Northumberland has a wealth of beaches, historic castles, a number of nature reserves and one of the UK’s largest colonies of migrating sea birds. This all makes up the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it is waiting to be explored. 

Take on a road trip in Northumberland

Starting in Berwick-upon-Tweed in the north of Northumberland, the road takes you south on the A1. Sightings of the Holy Island to the left of you and the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve will get you in the mood for adventure as you plan your next stop. Just past here, you want to follow signs to Easington and Bamburgh, taking you further south east on the small coastal roads which allow you to tour through the villages and soak up the culture.

Take in amazing sights on this Northumberland road trips

Take in Bamburgh, Seahouses and Beadnell, driving past beaches and harbours whilst smelling the fresh sea air and spotting seals. Stop off at Embleton Bay and take a stroll towards Dunstanburgh Castle, an impressive historic ruin. Alnwick Castle is but a short drive south of here and offers broomstick lessons and a look into Harry Potter's life at Hogwarts. After that, head inland towards the Northumberland National Park. End at Kielderhead National Nature Reserve: a land of woodland and grasslands with a wealth of wildlife to discover on the many walking trails and picnic areas.

Sightseeing suggestions along the way:

  • The Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle
  • Bamburgh Castle
  • Howick Hall Gardens
  • Druridge Bay Country Park
  • Rothley Castle
  • Hindhope Linn
  • Annstead Dunes Nature Reserve

Snowdonia National Park - Anglesey (loop)

Distance98 miles

Time: 2 hours 45 minutes

Snowdonia National Park | Anglesey AONB | 15-20 miles of coastline | 15 miles through national parks

This North Wales loop offers the perfect balance of national park, countryside driving and coastal adventures. It even takes in the town with the longest name in the UK - ‘Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch’ -  can you pronounce it?

Road trip from Snowdonia National Park to Anglesey in Wales

Start off in Snowdonia National Park on the A5 from Pentre Du and head north west, taking in the sights of Glyder Fawr (hill), Llyn Ogwen (lake) and Carnedd Llewelyn (hill). The surrounding landscape offers beautiful backdrops for photos and making memories, and you will love the wildness of the scenery and woodland you drive through. Turn off the A5 onto the A4244 to avoid travelling on the motorway, take in the small towns and villages that are dotted along this road before looping back north to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, crossing Britannia Bridge. You are now on Anglesey, a Welsh island, and this is the start of the loop.

Head north on Anglesey, taking the road that goes as close to the coast as possible. You will be spoilt for options when it comes to visiting a beach: Llanddona Beach, Traeth Benllech, Traeth Bychan and Traeth Port Wen Beach to name a few. Follow the A5025 until you join the A5 at Valley and make your way to Port of Holyhead on Holy Island. This is a ferry port which mainly serves ferries between Anglesey and Ireland. You can get some amazing views out over the ocean from here and take a break to stretch the legs, grab some food and rest before taking on the last stretch of the journey. Keep an eye out for any sea life and seabirds which may come to say hello. You can get all the way back to Llanfairpwllgwyngyll on the A5 which takes you back through more countryside and Welsh towns and villages.

Take in amazing coastal views on this Wales island loop.

Sightseeing suggestions along the way:

  • Holy Island at Holyhead
  • Tre-Gwehelydd (historic landmark)
  • Porth Tywyn Mawr beach
  • Porth Trwyn beach
  • Cors Bodeilio National Nature Reserve
  • Parc Arfordirol Coastal Park
  • Isle of Anglesey coastal path
  • Llanfairpwllgwyngyll train station

Loch Lomond to Mallaig via Glencoe and Fort William

Distance: 113 miles

Time: 2 hours 40 minutes

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park | 7 National Scenic Areas | 16 miles of coastline | 22 miles through national parks

National Scenic Areas include: Trossachs, Mallaig, Morar, Loch Lomond, Glencoe, Ben Nevis, Loch Shiel - close by to Knoydart (north) and Loch Moidart (south)

Scotland has a wealth of beautifully scenic areas throughout, but one of the most breathtaking parts exists between Loch Lomond National Park and the small fishing village of Mallaig on the west coast. Be prepared to take in forests, mountains, craggy coastlines, and sea lochs as you tour your way west to some of the wildest parts known to the Scottish people. Taking in one national park and seven National Scenic Areas, as well as the coast - you will be blown away by this drive!

Loch Lomond to Mallaig on west coast Scotland

This route is planned from the shores of Loch Lomond which is easily reached from the city of Glasgow if you are travelling up from the south. It takes you north through the national park along the 24 miles of Loch Lomond, taking in idyllic villages and waterside vistas. Just over halfway up, you can stop at Firkin Point, which is a well-known viewpoint offering a great spot for taking photos of the loch. If you plan your time well, you can explore the loch by taking a boat trip or tie a pit stop in with a spot of lunch.

Head further north, passing through the small towns of Tyndrum and Crianlarich, and on to Glencoe mountain. This lies in the Glencoe valley, an area known for waterfalls, trails and peaks. Keep an eye out for eagles soaring overhead as you travel through this wild country, passing Fort William at the head of Loch Linnhe, Loch Eil and the Glenfinnan Viaduct. As you reach Lochailort, you will come to a magical coastal section as you twist and turn your way up the route. Take the scenic route via Arisaig and Morar and discover white sand beaches and secluded coves where seals laze about catching up on their sleep. Mallaig awaits at the end with a host of eateries and pubs with great food and drink on the menu!

Soak up amazing views as you travel over Scotlands west coast.

Sightseeing suggestions along the way:

  • The Trossachs (NSA)
  • Loch Linnhe, Loch Talla and Loch Eil
  • Glenfinnan Viaduct
  • Arisaig
  • Glencoe (NSA)
  • Pulpit Rock
  • Falls of Falloch
  • Rannoch Moor Viewpoint
  • Silversands beaches

Aviemore to Pitlochry via Grantown-on-Spey and Braemar

Distance99.5 miles

Time: 2 hours 40 minutes

The Cairngorms National Park | 4 National Scenic Areas | 73 miles through national parks

National Scenic Areas include: Highlands, Lochnagar, Glen Lyon and River Tay

Aviemore is the skiing capital of Scotland and is particularly popular with visitors keen to get up the mountains for a day of snow sports in the winter. But in late spring, summer and autumn, the national park is the perfect backdrop for all sorts of outdoor pursuits. There is one main road that runs through the Cairngorms and this is the one the route follows. 

Aviemore to Pitlochry through the Cairngorms National Park

Starting in Aviemore, head north on the A95 to Grantown-on-Spey where you will pass through rolling hills, farmland and grassland framing the River Spey. After taking a right at the Grantown roundabout, you will come to an old train station called ‘Grantown East’, a trendy pizza restaurant offering a great food stop! From here, take the A939 and follow signs to Tomintoul as you wiggle and weave through some of the most beautiful and wild Scottish landscape. Keep an eye out for deer, squirrels and hares which scamper across the surroundings. Note the climb up to the Lecht ski centre, remember to pull in and take in the 360-degree views over to Aberdeenshire and back to the west to Ben Macdui.

When you get to Braemar, you will be near the royal residence of Balmoral Castle. Pop into the local butcher and baker in Ballater and pick up some fresh local produce to enjoy later. There are nice country lanes around here to stretch your legs and take a stroll before heading south to the Spittal of Glenshee and Pitlochry via the Highland village of Blacklunans. You have made it to your final stop - Pitlochry - a Victorian town full of amazing architecture and history.

The Highlands of Scotland offers up amazing scenery on road trips in the Highlands

Sightseeing suggestions along the way:

  • Loch Garten
  • Abernethy Nature Reserve
  • Speyside Whisky Trail
  • Knock Castle
  • Braemar Castle
  • Ben Vrackie (Hill)
  • Faskally Forest
  • River Tummel
  • Glen Lyon (NSA)

Ambleside to Harrogate via Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales National Park

Distance90.6 miles

Time: 3 hours 

Lake District National Park and Yorkshire Dales National Park | Nidderdale AONB | 73 miles through national parks

Starting in Ambleside, this idyllic route takes you through the south of the Lake District and east to Harrogate - a Victorian spa town in North Yorkshire. Avoiding the main motorways, this route sticks to the smaller roads taking you through the Lake District National Park, the Yorkshire Dales National Park and also the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - there will be lots to see!

Ambleside in the Lake District to Harrogate in Yorkshire

The first stretch of the journey starts in the pretty Lake District town of Ambleside and takes you down the eastern side of Lake Windermere. It is never too early for a photo stop, so make sure you find a viewpoint on the lake to get a nice snap - perhaps opposite Wray Castle across the lake. There is a small detour you could take to Queen Adelaide’s Hill which offers an elevated view. We are bypassing Windermere this time and heading straight for Kendal on the A591, a pretty market town and the home of Kendal Mint Cake. You can stop off here and explore the network of streets and the shops and boutiques that adorn them. Known for its great shopping, there is no doubt you will find some treats to take away with you. You will find cafes and eateries to grab a bite, or stretch your legs around Kendal Castle before hopping back in the car.

Continue east towards Garsdale and Hawes on the A684 which takes you into the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The road is smooth and steady, offering a nice chance to sit back and relax, and take in the views as you travel through tumbling countryside, forest and moors. The road follows the route of the Clough River and you will pass working farms and small towns like Sedbergh and Hawes. If you have taken a picnic with you, a nice place to enjoy it would be Cotter Force, a secluded waterfall which you can easily walk to.

Take in beautiful views whilst travelling through the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Park.

After Aysgarth, head south towards Kettlewell and Grassington, driving through beautiful wilderness, and then continue round the south of Nidderdale. Take another break at Coldstones Cut, where you can park up and stretch the legs whilst admiring a modern sculpture and surrounding views. From here, you are 30 mins from Harrogate, your final stop! Travel through more farmland, passing Thruscross Reservoir with more photo opportunities, eventually getting into the historic town for more exploring, a relaxing spa session, and investigating where to get your next meal! 

Sightseeing suggestions along the way:

  • Arnside & Silverdale AONB (south)
  • Lake Windermere
  • Stock Ghyll
  • St Margaret’s Tower
  • Levens Deer Park
  • Edwardian Rock Garden in Aysgarth
  • Ingleton Waterfalls Trust
  • Dales countryside museum
  • Seven Bridges Valley
  • Ripley Castle

Dartmoor National Park to Christchurch in New Forest National Park

Distance: 112 miles

Time: 3 hours 25 minutes

Dartmoor National Park and New Forest National Park | East Devon AONB, Blackdown Hills AONB, Dorset AONB |10 miles through national parks | 10 miles of coastline

This is a route between two national parks with heaps of exploring to be done at both ends, and in between! Whether you are staying in Devon or Dorset, you can county-jump during your holiday to explore another national ppark with ease. Simply hop in the car and explore this coastal route to your heart’s content! There is an amazing mixture of countryside roads and city sections so you get the best of both worlds.

Dartmoor National Park to New Forest National Park - take on the south coast.

You want to start your route at Buckfastleigh heading for Exeter, a trendy city surrounding the River Exe, on the A38. The road cuddles the edge of Dartmoor National Park, taking you through the towns of Ashburton and Chudleigh with oodles of countryside and farmland in between. If you have time and fancy a detour, you could visit Bovey Tracey, a small town on the edge of Dartmoor, or Becky Falls Ancient Woodland Park for a gentle stroll. After Exeter, head east on the A3052 towards Sidmouth and Lyme Regis which takes you to the coast; from this road, you can find smaller country roads to take you closer to the sea if that’s your scene. Here you are within the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and you can take in all the lovely sights from the comfort of your car.

From here, you are on the final stretch to the New Forest National Park in Dorset and you will be travelling through Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and heading towards the coast via Corfe Castle and Studland Bay. You can take the toll ferry over to Bournemouth and Poole Harbour, getting out of the car whilst crossing, and this is the perfect way to get some fresh sea air and cool photos. Christchurch adjoins Bournemouth city and the New Forest National Park, and is a nice place to explore after a long drive. From here, you can decide to stay put, or continue on into the New Forest to adventure some more!

Take in beaches along the south coast along with moorland and countryside on this road trip.

Sightseeing suggestions along the way:

  • River Axe
  • Blackdown Hills AONB
  • Sidmouth
  • South Devon Railway
  • Belle Isle Park
  • Bicton Park Botanical Gardens
  • West Dorset Heritage Coast

We hope you have enjoyed learning about these six beautiful UK road trips and we have inspired you to get out and hit the road. You can see so much from the car, and change the route as you go to make sure you fit in everything you want to see! Taking on Road Trip 1: Berwick-upon-Tweed to Kielderhead Nature Reserve, you will see the best of the Northumbrian countryside. We challenge you to it today!

Explore from our Northumberland cottages and make it a holiday to remember.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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