Here in Britain, we’re a nation of motorists. Our roads are some of the busiest in Europe, and overall, there’s almost a quarter of a million miles of roadway in the UK. Impressive though this is, it doesn’t change the fact that for many, driving in Britain is a tiresome task, reminiscent of long delays, pesky speed cameras and dull scenery.
If you’re heading on a UK holiday this year, I’d wager that you’re dreading the drive. But fear not fellow motorist, for all is not lost. Should you choose to bypass the motorway and opt for a minor A or B road, you’ll often be met with charming views, sweeping bends and an endless supply of fascinating villages, hamlets and towns that you wouldn’t know existed from the comfort of the fast lane.
So if you love driving and want to escape the tedium of the motorway, take a look at our shortlist of the best scenic drives in the UK below.
Kendal to Keswick, the Lake District
The A591 is one of England’s favourite scenic routes, and can be busy at times; after all, it does link Keswick and Kendal, two of the Lake District’s most popular towns. Don’t let that put you off though, because this isn’t a drive you’ll want to rush. Must sees along the route include Grasmere, Ullswater and Glenridding.
Black Mountain Road, Powys
Meandering through the Brecon Beacons, the Black Mountain road has long been popular amongst motorists, and featured on an episode of the popular motoring show, Top Gear. Here, amid the timeless beauty of the Beacons, this glorious 27 mile road offers exhilarating bends, fast straights and plenty of scenic eye candy for both driver and passenger.
Alnwick to Kielder Water, Northumberland
Northumberland is home to one of England’s most dramatic coastlines, and thankfully, much of it is discoverable by car. By far the best route to take along the coast is the B-road between Alnwick and Kielder Water, which features evocative views over the coast, as well as a series of brilliant twists and turns through the Cheviot and Simonside Hills.
Ribblehead Viaduct, North Yorkshire
Thanks to its undulating terrain, North Yorkshire is a dream for motorists. Consequently, all that rolling countryside caused a real headache for Victorian railway builders, who were forced to tunnel and bridge their way across the county. Their most iconic construction is easily the Ribblehead Viaduct, a 400m bridge featuring no less than 24 stone arches; have your passenger snap a shot or two as you speed on by.
St Ives to Land’s End, Cornwall
The coast road from the cultural hub of St Ives to the striking spit of Land’s End is an evocative and dramatic route, taking in much of Cornwall’s untouched western territory. This is a place where deserted tin mines rise from rugged heathlands and craggy sea cliffs stand tall above the powerful Atlantic Ocean.
Cat and Fiddle, Peak District
The Cat and Fiddle scenic drive, aka, Buxton to Macclesfield, takes its name from a rustic country pub that just happens to be the second highest public house in the UK. This famously bendy route is hotspot for motorcyclists, but drivers will be in their element too thanks to the route’s stunning views over Greater Manchester, the Cheshire Plain and the Peak District National Park.
Chedder Gorge, Somerset
Chiselling through the Mendip Hills, Cheddar Gorge is widely considered to be one of the Britain’s greatest natural wonders. By far the best way to see this majestic limestone pass is via the meandering stretch of tarmac that runs through its centre; just watch out for slow lorries when you’re heading uphill.
Buttertubs Pass, Yorkshire Dales
Featured in the Grand Depárt of the Tour De France 2014, Buttertubs Pass is a very popular scenic road winding through the beloved Yorkshire Dales. This picturesque carriageway takes its name from the neighbouring potholes where dairy farmers would rest on their way to market, and features some superb sweeping bends.
Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland
At 1,500 miles, the Wild Atlantic Way is the longest touring route on our shortlist, but can easily be divided into shorter drives. For a dramatic snapshot of the Atlantic Seaboard, head for Donegal, whose coast features a mix of towering sea cliffs and sweeping beaches. Alternatively, take to the asphalt in Galway, where the mountainous landscapes of Connemara await.
Glasgow to Fort William, Scotland
Leave the city lights of Glasgow behind you and make for the wonderfully scenic Scottish Highlands, home to some of Britain’s favourite roads. The A82 from Glasgow to Fort William passes through the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, so expect sensational views and plenty of windy tarmac. To extend the route, make for Inverness, passing the iconic Loch Ness along the way.